Due to the global pandemic, today’s marketers and sales teams are faced with unprecedented B2B prospecting challenges.
In-person events and trade shows are cancelled. Business travel is postponed. And physical distancing mandates virtual communication or mask-clad discussions to take place at least 6-feet apart.
Even before these additional obstacles, more than 40% of salespeople said that prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process. According to one study, the top three barriers include:
- Gaining appointments
- Adding value & insight to customer conversations
- Becoming a trusted advisor
Although it’s now more challenging than ever, B2B prospecting is extremely important. That’s because prospecting plays a critical role in filling your sales pipeline with potential customers.
So how can sales and marketing effectively prospect to potential B2B customers in today’s “contactless” society? Here are a few digital marketing tactics to get you started.
LinkedIn For B2B Prospecting
Not so long ago, B2B prospecting methods included cold calls, face-to-face meetings and networking over lunch. But even before coronavirus, many of these tactics were already going by the wayside.
Case in point: roughly two-thirds of B2B buyers make purchase decisions based on online content.
- 75% of the B2B buyers use social media to make purchase decisions
- 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchase decisions
- 76% of B2B buyers prefer to work with recommendations from their professional network Source: IDC Social Buying Study
When it comes to B2B, there’s a strong chance that most of your prospects are on LinkedIn. That’s why it’s a good idea to establish a strong LinkedIn presence. Plus, use LinkedIn Lead Generation Ads to fill your sales pipeline with qualified leads for prospecting.
Your marketing team can use data to target the right people, entice them with relevant gate-worthy content and maximize form completions with the auto-fill features. The sales team can then use the leads to gain appointments with potential B2B customers.
B2B Prospecting Emails
Email is an important prospecting tool for longer B2B sales cycles. In fact, according to the 2020 Chief Marketer B2B Marketing Outlook Survey, respondents say that email is the largest source of lead generation.
However, prospective customers are concerned about the health of their businesses—with good reason. In the US, consumer prices are falling, the unemployment rate is projected to peak at 25% and economists say that more than 100,000 small businesses have shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March.
With the fate of B2B businesses still hanging in the balance, prospecting emails provide the opportunity to reach out and let potential customers know that you can help them out. But when you send prospecting emails, you may need to adjust your pre-coronavirus messaging and tone.
Rather than coming off as “salesy,” a prospecting email should be helpful and educational. Connect with prospects by showing empathy and acknowledging their anxiety, but don’t go overboard. Keep a calm, objective tone throughout the email and make sure messaging clearly communicates the value you offer their business.
Better yet, if you use a marketing automation platform, personalize your prospecting emails. Send potential customers only the information they want to see based on content they’ve interacted with on your website.
Engage B2B Prospects With Live Chat
Live chat is a valuable customer service tool for B2C websites. Although it’s often overlooked, live chat can also be a successful prospecting tool for every stage of the B2B buyer journey.
As mentioned before, the majority of the B2B buyer journey takes place online, may be long process and typically takes careful planning. In the beginning, prospects conduct online research to define their needs and evaluate options. As they research, they are bound to have questions or concerns.
Live chat happens real-time, allowing your salespeople to provide immediate answers to queries. They can give specific details, in-depth explanations and supporting content to remove barriers to purchase consideration. This helps qualify your company as an option early in the buying process.
Although physical distancing makes it extremely difficult for salespeople to make face-to-face contact, live chat helps form a connection between prospects and salespeople. This enables your sales team to start building a relationship with prospects right away, so they can influence their decision when it finally comes to buying.
B2B companies—big and small—can successfully use live chat for prospecting. This website tool can help you turn prospects into customers, and provide data that can be used for future marketing and sales.
B2B Prospecting Using Content Marketing
First and foremost, B2B buyers are consumers. The experiences they have as consumers shape and influence their behaviors as B2B buyers. That’s a key reason why the majority of the buyer journey takes place online. In fact, 70% of today’s B2B buyers define their needs on their own before ever engaging with a salesperson. (CMO Insights)
In today’s zero-contact society, sharing compelling content online in those early stages is extra important for B2B prospecting. The right content at the right time can help marketing and sales build awareness of the brand, establish credibility, and sell the value of your company’s product or service.
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But content use shouldn’t end at the top of the sales funnel. Even after sales has engaged interested buyers, they can use content to help prospects navigate the complex B2B sales cycle. In the final stages of a deal, content—such as case studies—can increase confidence in your product and help the prospect sell your solution into their organization.
Content plays an important role throughout every stage of the B2B sales process. When executed well, content marketing enables you to communicate the value of your company and helps you close the sale.
When it comes to B2B prospecting, leads don’t just magically appear. You must take action and use the digital marketing tactics to bridge the gap between prospects and sales—but do so responsibly. Because the way you treat B2B prospecting now will impact your ability to retain those same customers in the future.
Corporate and agency experience gives Mary Ellen a unique perspective on clients’ businesses. She uses her knowledge and expertise to ensure marketing plans deliver positive results for clients.
Mary Ellen Ellar, VP of Client Strategy