Breaking Down B2B Sales: Updates from the Hatcheries
Through the Butler Launch Pad, the Blank Center awards graduate and undergraduate student entrepreneurs access to professional and semiprivate workspace to grow their businesses. Known as the hatcheries, these spaces encourage ideation and collaboration. In a series of blog posts, this semester’s hatchery teams will go beyond the four walls of their offices and share their experiences, advice for other entrepreneurs, and industry expertise with us.
The following post is written by Sean Wirth MBA’19 and Hatchery entrepreneur.
An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business to Business Sales
As a senior in College, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career and limited job prospects. Desperate to have a job by graduation, I began applying to every job posting I could find. After a grueling number of interviews and countless rejections, I got my first job offer as a Sales Associate. I thoroughly enjoyed working in sales and learned a tremendous amount during my 7 years. I hope you find the tips below helpful in any of your future sales endeavors. They will be most helpful to those in business to business sales with large numbers of prospective customers.
- Find a CRM and use it!
Finding the right CRM for your business and using it is imperative if you want to increase sales. It requires 100% buy-in from the entire organization because even one person not using it properly will compromise the entire system. Yes, it takes more time after each call, email, or meeting to update, but the reporting functionality has tremendous long-term value. For startups on a tight budget, there are CRMs that you can use for free such as HubSpot and more customizable (and expensive) options such as SalesForce. Understand what your sales cycle is going to look like and find the option that best fits your needs.
- Aim for Warm Leads whenever possible.
I believe that Cold-Calling is still an effective means of reaching key decision makers that is very inexpensive. However, you should jump at any opportunity to start with a warm lead rather than going in cold. If you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn, consider asking your mutual connection to introduce you if you feel comfortable. You can also consider paying for LinkedIn Premium which allows you access to more information about prospects. It also allows you to use InMail to send messages to prospects on a platform that gets significantly fewer sales inquiries than traditional email.
- If you don’t know who you are trying to reach, don’t be afraid to call and ask!
It is always better to know who you are looking to speak with when making a sales call, but the person answering the phone will almost always know who you should speak with once you explain who you are and what product or service you are selling. Ask them politely for their name and you have gathered a crucial piece of information for the next time you call. If they won’t disclose the person’s name, I always ask for their voicemail which brings me to my next tip…
- When you get a prospect’s voicemail, pay close attention to the name and number they provide.
The best-case scenario when you get someone’s voicemail is that they provide their direct number and your chances of reaching that person go up significantly for future calls. In addition, pay close attention to the pronunciation of their name and put their name and number in your CRM. It is also helpful to include a phonetic pronunciation in your CRM so you can pronounce their name correctly when you call them back. For example, if a prospect’s last name is Levy and they pronounce it Lee-Vie, an entry into your CRM could be Steve Levy (Lee-Vie).
- Do not rush your sales pitch!
With any sales call, you have a potential customer’s attention for a short period of time. New sales people tend to rush their pitch and try to deliver it before they lose a prospect’s attention. However, in my experience if a prospect answers the phone and gives you the first 5 seconds after they realize it is a sales call without hanging up, they are likely going to give you the time you need to let them know who you are and what you are selling. Be concise and to the point, but don’t speak any faster than you would in a normal conversation.
- A/B Test your sales pitch
When you are just starting out, you should be constantly tweaking your pitch and using data to measure results rather than your gut. Set up campaigns or ways to designate which pitch you used on a group of customers and make a few hundred calls/emails with each pitch and track the results. Your CRM will be able to tell you empirically which pitch worked better if you have a large enough sample size. Continue to go through this process until you find the best pitch.
- Try guessing the email address
If you know a prospect’s first and last name as well as anyone else in that company’s email address, try using the same format to reach a prospect. For example if you know Melanie Smith’s email address at XYZ company is MSmith@XYZ.com and you are trying to email Brian Kelly try BKelly@XYZ.com. The higher up in the organization the prospect is, the more likely they will have a unique email address that differs from the rest of the organization. You’ll usually get a notification if the email bounces and you can try guessing again. Certain CRMs such as SalesForce can show you whether an email was opened and what device it was opened on. These are very powerful tools when you are trying to guess an email because you can know for certain if the email was read by the intended recipient.
- “No” is not always a bad thing
Finding out if a prospect is not interested or not a good fit early on will save you time in the long run. A “maybe” can be much worse if they continue to be indecisive which will waste your valuable time. When you hear “No”, thank the prospect, note it in your CRM and try again in a few months.
- Follow up
This is essential to your success and a good CRM will make sure that you do it properly. After a call or email exchange, set a reminder in your CRM for when you want to follow up with that prospect. Setting the reminder dates in your CRM can help you avoid being overly aggressive in your follow up and annoying the customer which will practically guarantee you won’t close the sale.
- Sales is a numbers game
Your success is going to be largely dependent on the number of prospects you reach out to. Use your CRM to understand what your percentages look like in terms of number of calls/emails per meeting and the number of meetings per sale. Use this information to understand how many calls/emails you need to make to hit your sales goals.
- The worst they can do is hang up.
At some point you will get hung up on while making sales calls. Fortunately, it happens a lot less than you would think, and after a few times it won’t be a big deal. When this happens always remember that every business needs sales to survive so don’t get discouraged. Make a note in your CRM and try back another time.
Sean has held numerous Sales positions throughout his career. In his last role prior to attending Babson College, he was the Vice President of Sales for an organization that made the Inc. 5,000 list for fastest growing privately held companies in the country.