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How to effectively do sales prospecting in B2B

Jenny Romanchuk
Author
Jenny Romanchuk
Updated:2023-11-09
Reading time:13 m
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There’s no way around it: Your successful B2B cold emailing campaign starts with thorough sales prospecting. Prospects sourced by those who have a deep understanding of ICP (ideal customer profile) and buyer intent convert 4 times better. This statistic matches what we’ve seen for the last 5 years and will remain the case as long as cold sales exist.

Why?

Effective B2B sales prospecting allows you to expose prospects’ pain points, personalize great sales pitches, and, therefore, achieve high conversion rates.

But sales prospecting doesn’t end in creating lead lists. It also encompasses communication as well as your company and personal brand.

So how do you set up the prospecting process for maximum efficiency?

Read on to discover 8 powerful B2B sales prospecting methods we use at Belkins.

What is a prospect in B2B?

A B2B sales prospect is a person within a company qualified as a potential customer. For example, a B2B prospect for Belkins would be a new-business salesperson within a renewable energy company.

What criteria do we look at?

  1. The company operates in the B2B sector.
  2. The company has large, enterprise-level checks.
  3. Their salespeople work on new business opportunities, so chances are high that they’re responsive to our appointment setting and sales development services.

B2B sales prospects vs. leads: What is the difference?

Note there’s a significant difference between a lead and a prospect.

A good sales lead displays a genuine need for your service by filling out a contact form on your site, signing up for a trial, etc. Basically, they are people at the top of your sales funnel who show their interest in your company or service through specific actions. The marketing team is in charge of lead generation.

For Belkins, a marketing-qualified lead is simply a person who’s proved that they deserve a personal sales outreach.

Alternatively, a sales prospect is deemed likely to buy. Sales development representatives (SDRs) evaluate the likelihood of a lead converting into a sale using a set of predefined criteria. The sales team is responsible for sales prospecting.

Sales prospecting Lead generation
Led mostly by sales teams Led by marketing departments
People qualified as potential customers People who have expressed interest
Process of finding customers Process on what attracts clients
Relies on manual efforts Relies on an automated process

πŸ“š Related post: How to choose the right SDR outsourcing partner

3 advanced B2B prospecting methods

The term “B2B prospecting” has two notions: lead research and the process of finding, connecting with, and guiding a lead through the sales funnel. In this section, we’ll break down 3 best practices for lead research — the first step of B2B prospecting.

1. Look for solid buying intent data to strike while the iron is hot

There are weak sales triggers like fundraising or a job change that every prospecting tool out there brags about. While you can use these, it’s better to deepen your research and find prospects displaying rock-solid buying signals

Examples include:

  • Executives post on LinkedIn or engage in relative discussions about an issue your company is able to solve effectively.
  • Your ICP attends industry-relevant offline and online events.
  • You know that the technology a company uses is outdated, and your solution comes with undeniable ROI.
  • Your ICP interacts with your social media posts, reveals problem X, or signs up to receive free stuff like templates or e-books.

All of these you can track with influencer marketing and sales prospecting tools, such as Tweet Hunter, Taplio, PhantomBuster, or SalesIntel.

Belkins recommends: We prefer to use PhantomBuster because it empowers us to capture all the necessary information from a search filter on LinkedIn. This helps our lead researchers save significant time on manual operations.

Case in point:

We had one particular client selling solar panels in Connecticut. Their ICP was astonishingly narrow with lots of constraints. So we had to come up with an out-of-the-box solution to identify and prospect leads.

First, we assumed that we needed to talk to building owners. However, we discovered that all building owners collaborated with real estate brokers. These brokers were more accessible and willing to discuss solar panel installations to save on electricity bills, which indicated strong buying intent.

Next, we had to understand which buildings would benefit from our client’s offer. So our team used Google Earth to measure roof square footage and other specs to estimate the average monthly electricity bill. This information helped us contact only those leads who could gain from our proposal.

Granular lead research

This strategic approach to buying-intent data led us to 55 appointments, 23 potential customers in the pipeline, and 2 closed deals in 6 months.

2. Scrutinize your prospect’s website and the company’s last updates to craft highly personalized opening lines

Though everyone talks about great personalization for skyrocketing cold email reply rates, most people still regularly receive spammy emails. We at Belkins personalize every single email we send out using agile templates and meticulous prospect research.

The most accessible tool is already at your fingertips.

"Google is a researcher’s best friend. There are many open sources with lists of companies, grants, conferences, etc. that contain valuable information for qualified research. One should be careful with all open information and question it. But a well-formulated search query is the key to success.

Most specialists are afraid to use open sources, believing that all the information they need is contained in LinkedIn. But this is not true. Most companies and organizations do not create accounts or simply do not use them, which can complicate the search process for us, as professionals. Most often, this applies to nonprofit companies, government organizations, or more specific industries related to production. In these situations, we have to be more creative in our search for prospects."

Alina Pets, Middle Research Specialist at Belkins

Here’s how it works in practice. For example, you’re looking for private investors or philanthropists in the public sector. Your dream and business project is to build a recreation zone on a riverside. So how do you build relationships with investors through cold emails?

You do the legwork and study their sites and social media profiles on completed or ongoing projects. You find news on the project launch and the motives behind it. Next, you craft subject lines referring to those projects and the latest news, like “I’m utterly impressed by {{ProjectName}}!”

In the body text, don’t start with the introduction. Instead, use the first few seconds to hook the recipient. Talk about specific details that you like about those projects (or an investor portfolio) and that you’ve already designed a roadmap or a minimum viable product (MVP) and are looking for people interested in {{CityName}} development. 

And that’s why you believe you could partner up and talk about XYZ. Or ask for their advice on XYZ to break the ice and naturally pitch your project.

A personalized email can be either relatively lengthy or succinct and on-point, like this great example crafted by the Belkins team:

Hi {{FirstName}},

I’ve seen your interview on {{MediaName}}. It’s great to hear that {{Company}} is on track with its revenue plans!

Are you open to discovering the power of strong leadership alliances in driving {{Company}}’s growth strategy? These alliances foster [value 1], [value 2], [value 3], [value 4], and a [value 5].

If you’re interested, let’s connect for a brief chat.

πŸ“Œ Note: Personalization boosts reply rates on average by up to 56%. Similarly, subject line personalization also boosts open rates by 50%. People are eager to engage with cold emails when the subject line and body text reflect your target prospect’s current challenge and show your genuine interest.

3. Invest in prospecting tools to speed up your lead research and not miss out on new opportunities

Our Belkins sales toolkit totals 12 software chosen from 60+ alternatives. We’ve also tested 23 B2B sales prospecting tools and hand-selected 5. Here’s how we use them and immensely benefit from their features.

1. LinkedIn Sales Navigator 

  1. Set up a lead alert feature for all your searches. Save your custom filters and get notified every time a new prospect is added to your search. Integrate Sales Navigator with your CRM to never miss out on a new opportunity.
  2. Use the Boolean search to classify your results using “and,” “or,” and “not” words. For example, you can search for “[your keyword] AND Chief Revenue Officer NOT VP of Sales” to limit results to CRO profiles.

Inside of LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Use the “Posted on LinkedIn in 30 Days” filter to 2x acceptance rates. Within LinkedIn Sales Nav there is a feature inside “Activities and Shared Experiences” to filter for only leads who have posted on LinkedIn in the last 30 days. This way, you filter inactive LinkedIn users out of your prospecting.

Below is an example of two campaigns we ran. The bottom campaign did not use this filter. As you can see, we had a 2x higher acceptance rate and a 5x higher reply rate.

Campaign's performance

Aman Ghataura, Head of Growth at NUOPTIMA

2. BuiltWith

This is our go-to tool for analyzing website technologies, web technology spending, and publicly listed contacts. It is shockingly accurate as it updates on a weekly basis.

Use LeadsEye to upload a list of websites and eyeball those you want to explore further. It pulls out the homepage of a website and its technologies. This feature saves time on manual vetting.

BuiltWith in action

3. Hunter.io

It retrieves contact information from public sources and adds links to where it was captured from.

Hunter.io lead prospector

  1. Use Hunter to find prospects’ social media, business emails, and phone numbers without violating General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  2. Verify emails with Hunter to ensure you target the right person.

Want to hand over all the B2B prospecting legwork to a trusted partner? Here’s how to outsource sales to the right vendor.

Quality vs. quantity: How granular sales prospecting influences your sales conversion rates

We’ve been talking a lot about scrupulous lead research and personalization, but there’s a fine line between just enough and too much effort. For example, if you’re limited to a very narrow or niche market, you don’t want to risk losing opportunities due to launching general campaigns. Likely, every prospect needs a tailored approach, so you can’t afford to overlook this step.

Conversely, when you have an infinite pool of prospects, such as if you’re selling a prospecting tool, you don’t need to go overboard with tracking buying triggers, etc. Your offer is likely to resonate just fine using slightly personalized emails.

Also, small-sized deals require only basic personalization, such as first name, company name, job title, city, and industry. 

How to set up an effective B2B prospecting process

Let’s distill 8 components of a robust B2B sales process:

  1. Refine your ICP to compile the most granular sales prospecting list.
  2. Assess your market size (lead pool) before strategizing email campaigns.
  3. Select sales tools to automate mundane work and decrease the risk of human errors (e.g., one can forget to follow up on time).
  4. Be careful with your tone of voice and forcefulness.
  5. Share your expertise and grow your social media presence.
  6. Multithread with stakeholders to increase the odds of positive replies.
  7. Develop a lead nurturing strategy if you receive either no response or a negative one.
  8. Use the referral method to identify key decision-makers.

Let’s take a closer look at 5 of these elements.

1. Assess your market size (lead pool) before strategizing email campaigns

Remember that the cold email approach differs for enterprise-level and small-sized deals? Quality versus quantity. So your first step is to understand how many opportunities you have for a cold email campaign.

Open up Sales Navigator and use the Boolean search to specify relevant titles. Filter the results by industry, headcount, location, and other criteria. Write down the number of leads found and move on to Crunchbase for the same research.

Estimate Your Pool of Leads Using Crunchbase

Once you’ve estimated the number of opportunities, choose an appropriate strategy:  mild or hyper-personalization.

2. Adjust your tone of voice to your ICP

Use different slang and tone of voice when speaking to different ICPs, especially when entering new markets. Your language should also differ based on the seniority level of your prospect. For example, we recommend greeting VPs and CXOs from classic businesses (e.g., manufacturing) with “Dear {{Name}},” rather than a casual “Hi/Hey,” which is better suited for the digital sphere.

Don’t be forceful. To assume that all B2B leads in your database are interested in your services is to make a big mistake. No matter how detailed your research is, you cannot invite yourself into your recipient’s private space and act like they have been expecting you all this time and will sign a contract with you immediately. 

Your mission is to first test the waters to confirm that your prospects don’t work with any current vendors, are open to new opportunities, and are ready to pursue their goals.

3. Share your expertise and work on your social media presence

During a discovery call, position yourself as an expert in your niche. Start a conversation by outlining the most relevant pain points and describe the solution commonly used to solve those issues. It will show your prospects that you care about their work — and that they can actually discuss it with you.

Or mention that your team built a whole solution to resolve similar tasks so the prospect feels comfortable sharing their needs and challenges openly. Then, you can go over solutions together and pinpoint what will help your prospect grow.

You can naturally intertwine one of your case studies at this stage. 

Also, grow your personal brand on social media to be seen as a subject-matter expert. Not only does it increase trustworthiness and credibility in your prospects’ eyes, but it also attracts inbound leads.

4. Multithread with stakeholders to increase the odds of positive replies

Reaching out to 2–4 people from one company yields a reply rate of up to 7.8%, according to our research on B2B cold email response rates.

There are 2 ways to approach multithreading:

  • One by one: Email one prospect within a company at a time, either only moving on to the next once your email sequence is complete or switching when the first sequence is on the third follow-up.
  • Engage 2 at once: Send your first email to 2 recipients, then engage the recipient 3 on the third follow-up. 

Which performs better? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but our team saw double the positive reply rates when reaching out to 2 contacts at once for enterprise sales and fundraising. As for other niches, we didn’t spot disparities between them. 

5. Use the referral method to identify and easily sell to key decision-makers

We usually use the referral approach to see whether we’re knocking on the right doors. To get a sense of this method, take a look below at the exact email template we use. 

Sidenote: {{ReferralName}} is the name of a real prospect we’ve invited for a call.

Subject line: join {{Referral_Name}} for a call with me

Hi {{FirstName}},

I have invited {{Referral_Name}}, the {{Referral_Title}} at {{Company}} to discuss expanding your offerings with our [title] solutions. But I realized you, too, might be interested in a conversation given the growing need for [product] across industries.

The {{OurCompany}} products are sought after by coworking and office spaces; education, healthcare, and government institutions; large enterprises and SMBs and are available through {{Partner}}.

Each of our {{Products}} [list of product's benefits and values].

Sounds like a plan worth considering? I’ll be happy to dive into details next Tuesday at 3 PM. I appreciate your time and attention.

Best,

{{Sender}}

What we like is that the referral method works immediately and brings numerous leads.

Refine your B2B prospecting to double your outbound sales

If you’ve reached that far, you found some advice immensely useful. Otherwise, who reads the entire article? πŸ™‚

On a serious note, we at Belkins have helped over 1,000 clients launch outbound sales in under 6 years. All our advice is an extract of 200,000+ generated leads. Start implementing these tactics to watch your revenue growth.

Certainly, prospecting takes a huge part of the sales manager’s efforts. If this resonates with you, consider outsourcing B2B prospecting. You can even use our ROI calculator to see if B2B prospecting is a sound move for your company.

Contact Belkins’ team today to discuss your project.

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Jenny Romanchuk
Author
Jenny Romanchuk
B2B Copywriter
Jenny is a freelance B2B writer with over 6 years of hands-on experience in content marketing & sales for B2B SaaS. Besides Belkins, she writes for HubSpot, MarTech, Smartlook, and Userpilot.