We focus a lot of attention on B2B sales prospecting because sales teams understand its importance in achieving long-term sales success. They also know, at least intuitively, that it takes time and tenacity to continuously find and convince prospective buyers to select your solutions. Unfortunately, too often sales professionals aren’t as dedicated to outbound prospecting as they should be.
A new study on B2B outbound sales prospecting indicates sales professionals are giving up too quickly on cold calling, often out of fear. Those that do the appropriate outreach say it typically takes five or more touches across multiple channels to land that initial meeting. They also are not devoting enough time, in general, to adequately prospect. The research indicates that the biggest barriers revolve around organization, consistency and persistence.
According to the survey of 160 sales professionals conducted by media company Selling Power on behalf of ValueSelling Associates:
- Consistently making cold calls ranked lowest-scoring among skills used to prospect.
- More than half (54%) of initial meetings required more than five touch points—such as email, phone calls, social media outreach—before a rep got the desired response. Another 10% reported it taking 10 or more touches.
- Only 18% of sales reps spend nine or more hours on weekly prospecting.
We conducted the survey to better understand the current challenges sales reps and sales managers face in filling their pipelines. Those that are landing initial meetings appear to stay dedicated and determined, displaying what we call “respectful persistence” – properly pacing their outreach and staying steadfast in keeping opportunities “warm” until buyers are ready to talk.
Based on those research results, here are three ways anyone, from entry-level to executive, can achieve long-term outbound prospecting success.
Stay organized: To pique a prospect’s interest you must conduct sufficient research on a specific company and industry to craft messages that motivate someone to engage and ultimately choose your goods or services. You must devote enough time in days and weeks to doing your homework, creating captivating messaging and making sure it reaches the right person. These tasks can easily consume many hours or be ignored if the sales rep is not well organized. To keep from being overwhelmed, prioritize prospecting tasks and carve out space on the calendar for different facets of outbound prospecting. There are tools available to assist you with these tasks too.
Be consistent: Committing dedicated blocks of time daily to focus only on calling prospects is critical. Our clients tell us an average of two hours daily or 10 hours weekly of proactive prospecting should be the baseline. Being consistent in your efforts has the added benefit of improving competency and confidence – which also helps alleviate that fear of cold calling that so many sales professionals appear to suffer from.
Be persistent: As mentioned, it now takes more effort and touch points to gain access and engage with a company’s decision-makers. A multi-channel, cadence-based approach that includes different communications channels and networking opportunities is proven to increase the numbers of connections made and meetings set. In sales, persistence still pays off. Just make sure you are directing your efforts to the right people who are in a position to make or heavily influence purchases.
It’s a good idea to periodically pull back from managing daily tasks to reflect on how we truly spend our time. This is especially true when it comes to outbound prospecting. If you aren’t well organized, consistent in your efforts and persistent in a respectful way, more than time is at stake. Long-term, successful sales careers can come down to how well and how often someone managed their prospecting to keep their pipelines flowing with warm leads and opportunities.
Sell with value!