There are hundreds of different sales tactics that you can use to find prospects, qualify leads, and make a sale.
But how do you decide which ones make the most sense for your business?
To point you in the right direction, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and most popular B2B sales tactics from general practices to specific sales techniques you can use to close more of your deals.
What is prospecting?
Prospecting is the process of finding and reaching out to potential customers for your business. It’s typically an outbound marketing method that salespeople or sales development reps (SDRs) are tasked with.
Routine prospecting activities include cold calling, cold emailing, or following up with a lead that has gone cold. The end goal is to identify leads that can be moved to the next step of your sales funnel, and eventually, result in a sale.
Finding Qualified Leads
The first step of prospecting is to research and find a group of qualified people to reach out to. There are many ways to find potential buyers. You can:
- Buy lead lists from a company like Lime Leads or InfoUSA
- Browse LinkedIn for qualified leads or use LinkedIn Sales Navigator
- Ask your current customers for referrals
- Scour Yelp for potential prospects
- Attend networking events
The list goes on and on. Finding the right method that works for you will require a bit of trial and error. To get you started, here are a few helpful resources that cover researching and finding potential leads:
- “6 Sales Prospecting Strategies You Should Be Using” by PhoneBurner
- “12 Sales Prospecting Methods to Use as Alternatives to Cold Calling” by LeadFuze
- “How to Get 200 Targeted Leads Daily on LinkedIn” by Neil Patel
- “How to Get Leads and Customers at Events” by Social Media Examiner
A cold call is an unsolicited call to a potential buyer to introduce them to your business and eventually move them towards a sale. This type of sales tactic usually has a low success rate and it’s difficult for even the best salesperson to master.
At glance, here why’s cold calling can be so difficult:
- Only 1% of cold calls ultimately lead to appointments (Source).
- Around 90% of top-level B2B decision makers do not respond to cold outreach (Source).
However, with the statistics as bleak as they are, B2B companies still frequently rely on cold calling to generate sales opportunities. If you want to step up your cold calling game, check out the following resources:
- “The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling” by Nutshell
- “Cold calling 2.0: Why your cold calling strategy needs to evolve” by Nutshell
- “5 things you should do before every sales call” by Nutshell
A cold email is an email sent to a potential buyer who has no prior relationship with you or your company. The contact has never met you, nor have you been mentioned as a referral. You simply found their contact information and sent them an email out-of-the-blue hoping for a reply.
Just like cold calling, it’s tough to get a response or book an appointment via cold emailing. However, with the right email scripts, strategy, and follow up methods, you can improve your reply rates.
"We have to send a lot of cold emails as part of link building for SEO, or when we try to market our courses to people," says Balazs Hajde, Content Manager at Authority Hacker. "We found that losing the salesy language and being casual goes a long way, both with marketing professionals and the average customer.
"So, for example, a common subject line we use is 'Could you take a quick look at this?' It's friendly, something you'd get from a friend or a co-worker, so you instinctively open the message.
"We also like to be self-aware, so we write things like, 'I know, I know, this is like, the 7,543th email I'm sending you...' Marketers appreciate the transparency, and everyone likes the friendly tone."
The articles below will give you some more great tips for crafting the perfect cold email:
- “16 B2B cold email templates that sales experts swear by” by Nutshell
- “How to write a killer follow-up email sequence that draws replies” by Nutshell
- “The one cold email that actually gets everything right (and three that come close)” by Nutshell
- “The five (or so) worst cold emails we’ve ever seen" by Nutshell
- “26 Cold Email Examples Broken Down To Help You Write Your Own” by Criminally Prolific
A “warm” call is a sales call that follows up an initial form of contact or introduction. You may not have had a proper conversation with the potential buyer, yet they are familiar with you because of this initial introduction. (See also: warm email prospecting.)
Examples include sending them a white paper prior to the call, being mentioned as a referral from another client, commenting on some of their social media posts, or shaking their hand at a networking event.
The idea is that since the person is already aware of you, they will be more receptive and likely to speak with you about your business.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of warm calling and how to use the tactic effectively, we recommend checking out the following articles:
- “Warm Calling vs Cold Calling: Which is Best for You?” by LeadFuze
- “Why Warm Calling is 99% Better Than Cold Calling” by BoomTown
- “8 Tips to Turn Cold Calling into Warm Calling” by Inside Sales Box
Mailing information and offers to potential buyers is still a great way to make an initial contact with a new business. If you aren’t convinced, here are a few interesting direct mail statistics to consider:
- 70% of Americans say that mail is more personal than the internet (Source).
- 79% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately, compared to only 45% who say they deal with email immediately (Source).
- Targeted B2B direct mail has a response rate of 4.4%—nearly 37 times that of email (.12%) (Source).
If you haven’t tried using direct mail for your business yet, the following resources will help you build a successful direct mail campaign:
- Direct Mail for Sales: Why Physical Mail Still Works and How to Use It by Nutshell
- “The 5 Types of Direct Mail Campaigns in B2B Marketing” by Bizible
- “3 Dos and Don’ts If You’re Considering Direct Mail Marketing” by Fivestars
- “Direct Mail Marketing: Is It Worth the Cost?” by Business.com
Referrals are an incredibly effective way to find qualified buyers. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know and are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.
While some referrals will come naturally, there are a few ways you can entice your current customers to refer your business more readily. The following resources will get you started:
- “6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get More Referrals” by KickoffLabs
- “The Best Way to Get Tons of Referrals” by Inc
- “How to Generate More Referrals For Your Business” by Nick Reese
For an even deeper look at prospecting strategies, check out this sales prospecting guide from G2Crowd.
What is lead generation?
You will find many different definitions when it comes to lead generation. However, lead gen essentially boils down to two activities:
- Attracting qualified buyers to your business and;
- Collecting their contact information (so that your sales team can follow up)
Lead generation is typically an inbound marketing strategy. In other words, you get qualified buyers to come to you, versus prospecting, where you have to spend time finding and reaching out to prospects.
Building a successful lead generation process can take time, but once set up, leads should filter in consistently and reduce or eliminate the need for prospecting.
To build a successful lead generation process, you need a way to attract your target audience and a way to collect their contact information. We’ve outlined strategies for both:
Content marketing is an insanely popular marketing and sales strategy. In fact, according to Hubspot, 53% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
Simply put, content marketing is the practice of offering something of value to potential website visitors, with the goal of introducing them to your brand or collecting their email address. Content marketing is so popular because it works to attract people to your business or more accurately, your website. Getting traffic is the first steps to collecting leads.
There are a many different types of content you can create, including:
- Blog posts
- YouTube videos
- Email newsletters
- White papers
- Pinterest graphics
The list goes on and on. The important thing is to find a type of content that works for you and attracts consistent, qualified traffic. From there, you can employ lead capture tactics.
"One sales tactic that works very well for me is what I call the Free Giveaway Technique," says Rishit Shah, Owner of TallySchool. "I sell a course on my website which is paid. In order to sell the course, for the first seven days I give my subscribers three free lessons each day via email. In total, I give them 21 free lessons over a period of seven days. After seven days, I ask them to sign up for the paid course.
"Because of this technique, trust is built between me and the subscriber as I am offering free lessons every day and they can also see the quality of the lessons that I am providing. Even if they don't buy the course, I earn their trust and they send their friends to my website which means new leads are generated for free."
To discover the best types of content to create and come up with your own ideas, we recommend checking out the following articles:
- “The Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content” by Ramit Sethi
- “How To Come Up With 50 Content Ideas in 30 Minutes or Less” by Kim Garst
- “How to Create a Content Strategy for the Web (2018 Beginner’s Guide)” by Jawfish Digital
- “101 Ways to Source Content Ideas” by Neil Patel
Create Lead Magnets
A lead magnet is an incentive that you offer to your website’s visitors in exchange for their email and any other contact information you’d like to collect. Typical lead magnet ideas include:
- An ebook or whitepaper download
- A coupon/discount
- A checklist
- A cheat sheet
- A template
A lead magnet might also be referred to as a “signup incentive,” “signup offer,” “freemium,” or a “content upgrade” (this is typically a lead magnet that is specific to one blog post).
For more lead magnet ideas, these resources have you covered:
- “101 Lead Magnet Ideas to Skyrocket Your Email List” by Entice
- “69 Highly Effective Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List” by OptinMonster
- “What Is a Lead Magnet, How to Create and Market It” by Infusionsoft
- “50 Lead Magnet Ideas and Examples to Convert Visitors Into Leads” by HelloBar
Utilize Lead Captures
A lead capture can be a popup form or landing page used to collect emails and other contact information from visitors on your website.
Using a lead capture is typically the third step of the lead generation process when using a combination of content and lead magnets:
- Attract your target audience using content
- Create a lead magnet to entice people to provide their contact info
- Present the offer using a lead capture form or landing page
Once you have the visitor’s info, you can add them to a lead nurturing process and move them through your sales funnel. Or, your sales team can follow up with them directly. This will depend on your sales process and how you choose to connect with qualified leads.
The video below provides a deeper understanding of lead captures:
If you want to learn how to create an effective lead capture, check out the following resources:
- “What Is a Lead Capture Page?” by Instapage
- “10 Highly Effective Lead Capture Page Examples & Best Practices” by Venture Harbour
- “15 Steps to the Ultimate Lead Capture Landing Page” by Unbounce
What is qualifying?
Qualifying is an important part of the sales process. Without qualifying leads, you could spend countless hours reaching out to and following up with people who are not interested in your solution, don’t have the power to make a decision, or are simply not a good fit for your business.
Qualifying solves this problem by identifying which leads actually have the potential to become customers and which ones aren’t worth pursuing.
There are a number of ways to qualify leads both automatically and manually. We’ve outlined a few of the top methods below:
Build a Sales Pipeline
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of each stage of your sales process:
Most CRM platforms enable you to build a pipeline and visually see where each prospect is in relation to the stages you have set in your pipeline.
Every company will have a different pipeline with any number of stages based on what needs to happen before a sale is made. However, a simple pipeline might look like:
There are four stages in the above example (Qualification>Meeting>Proposal>Closing). Sales or marketing team members can move leads from one stage to another when the buyer has met certain criteria (i.e., their company has sufficient annual revenue or number of employees) or the sales team has completed certain tasks (like scheduling a meeting).
A pipeline allows sales and marketing to easily keep track of the status of each potential deal. It also allows team members to qualify leads by setting criteria that each lead must meet before moving to the next stage.
Learn more about sales pipelines and how to build an effective one your company:
- “Do you know the difference between a sales pipeline and a sales funnel?” by Nutshell
- “Want a Sales Pipeline That’s ALWAYS Packing Piping Hot Deals? Follow These 6 Steps” by Sales Hacker
- “How to Build a Sales Pipeline for Your SaaS Product” by SaaS Club
Use Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is a technique used by sales and marketing teams to determine the value of a lead by assigning a score based on specific actions they take. A lead with a high score would be seen as “hot” or “warm” whereas a lead with a low score would be seen as “cold”.
Lead scoring helps sales and marketing teams prioritize which leads are worth following up with and which ones are not ready to make a decision or may not be a good fit altogether.
Lead scores are calculated based on the actions a lead takes and the values you assign to those actions. For example:
- Visiting your product page may result in 5 points
- Downloading an ebook may result in 10 points
- Scheduling a call or product demo may result in 20 points
Some actions can also deduct points (such as a lead unsubscribing from your email list). The point value assigned to each of these actions is completely custom. Meaning, your team will have to decide how many points each action is worth.
Many CRMs have the ability to automatically score leads. Some can even move leads from one stage to another in your sales pipeline based on their scores. This process of scoring leads cuts down on the manual work required to qualify potential buyers.
To learn more about lead scoring, visit the following resources:
- “What’s the difference between lead scoring and lead confidence?” by Nutshell
- “The Complete Guide to Lead Scoring” by Wishpond
- “The Basic Science Behind Lead Scoring” by Salesforce
The point of this call is to simply have a conversation and ask the potential buyers questions in order to find out if they’re a good fit for your business. It is not the time to make a sale.
Additionally, this call differs from a cold or warm call since this buyer should have already expressed an interest in your business (ex. Filled out a form, sent you an email, visited your pricing page, etc.).
There are a number of frameworks for qualifying leads on a consulting call:
- BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing)
- GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Negative Consequences and Positive Implications)
- CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization)
We won’t cover all of these frameworks in-depth but if you follow the BANT framework, you want to ask questions that revolve around
- Do you have a budget in mind you’re trying to stick to? (Budget)
- Is there anyone else that needs to sign off on this decision? (Authority)
- What challenges is your team facing at the moment? (Need)
- When are you looking to make a decision by? (Timing)
“If your organization isn’t the best fit to help them address their needs, tell them and tell them early," says Dirk Engel, Account Executive at BizLibrary. "Even better, point them in the right direction if you can. They will appreciate that you respected their time and were transparent. I’ve had multiple cases over the years where I’ve been honest and up front with prospects that we weren’t the best fit, and two years later they come to me because they’re now at a new company and remembered me.”
To learn more about the different sales frameworks you can employ and the questions to ask your potential buyers, we recommend the following:
- “The Three Frameworks You Need to Kick-start Sales” by First Round Review
- “How to Build a Sales Process: The Complete Guide Part 2” by Nutshell
- “10 Best Sales Questions to Ask on a Sales Call” by LeadFuze
- Why "No" Is the Second-Best Answer in Sales [VIDEO] by John Barrows
What is closing?
Closing refers to everything a sales rep or sales team does to sign a deal or make a sale official, including the collection of payment. While it’s important to allow the buyer time to evaluate your product or service, there are ways to create urgency to speed things along when a buyer is taking too long to make a decision, on the fence about your solution, or anything else that would prevent them from choosing your company.
We’ve outlined a few specific closing strategies as well as general best practices to close a sale:
The Time-Limited Close
The time-limited close is a sales technique where you try to make a sale by presenting a time-limited offer like a discount or promotion. This tactic works well for potential buyers that say they need time to consider your solution.
This may also be referred to as the “urgency close” or “now or never close.”
“I understand you need time to consider our solution carefully, however, we do have a 25% discount which expires tomorrow. Buying today would be a great deal and save your company $X.”
The Assumptive Close
The assumptive close assumes that the sale has been made. Rather than asking an open-ended question like “what solution would you like to go with?”, you present a question specific to an exact solution and usually with a limited number of options.
- “What day would you like to receive your shipment?”
- “Would you like the product in blue or green?”
- “Will 20 units be enough to start with?”
The Custom Close
The custom close works well if you’ve established a relationship with the potential buyer and understand their needs and wants. The idea is to propose a solution that will fully meet their needs yet still ask if the buyer requires any additional features.
This may also be referred to as “suggestion close” since you are suggesting a solution specific to their needs.
First, you cover the features the buyer needs and ask if there’s anything else:
“So, you want X, Y, and Z. Do you need any additional features?”
If you understand the buyer’s needs well and covered all the features they’re looking for, they will reply with “no,” at which point you can follow up with:
“Great, then our [name of product or solution] is a perfect fit. It comes with [explain benefits] for $X. All I need is your signature.”
For more closing techniques, we check out the following resources:
- “The Definite Guide to Sales Closing Techniques and Strategies” by NetHunt
- “The 8 Best Sales Pitch Closing Techniques” by The Balance
- “Modern Sales Closing Techniques To Help You Close More Deals” by Klenty
The Sales Pitch
Sometimes making a sale isn’t as simple a closing a deal over the phone or via email. Sometimes you actually need to “pitch” or present your proposed solution in a meeting.
If that’s the case, these articles will steer you in the right direction and help you to create the perfect sales pitch or presentation:
- “Expert advice: 19 ways to nail your next sales presentation” by Nutshell
- “The 5 must-have elements of a killer sales proposal” by Nutshell
- “How to Write a Winning Sales Pitch in Less than 10 Minutes” by SuperOffice
It’s critically important to continue to follow up with potential buyers. These people have busy schedules and may have missed your initial few calls or emails.
“The average person can get a few hundred emails a day. That makes it pretty tough to respond to all of them, and things naturally fall to the bottom of the list. If you don’t get a response, it doesn’t mean that someone is ignoring you—it just may mean that he or she is too busy.” (Elliott Bell, Director of Marketing, The Muse)
Additionally, it’s a good practice to check-in from time to time to ask if there’s anything else you can do or if the buyer has any questions or concerns you can address.
To help craft the perfect follow-up process, check out the following:
- "How many sales emails should you send before giving up?" by Nutshell
- “Perfecting The Sales Follow Up: How to Gain Momentum and Win Deals Without Being Annoying” by Sales Hacker
- “How to write a killer follow-up email sequence that draws replies” by Nutshell
Upselling and Cross-Selling
Upselling is a sales technique in which a seller attempts to convince their buyer to purchase a more expensive version of the product they’re interested in, while cross-selling involves selling a customer complementary items to enhance the original purchase.
Think of a customer coming into a bicycle shop: Upselling would mean convincing them to buy a higher-end bike than the one they were looking at, while cross-selling would be selling them a helmet and bike pump to go with their new bike.
“More often than not, upselling comes from having a friendly conversation with someone that goes beyond what they initially say their needs are,” says Ryan Miller, CPRW, Client Success Manager at Employment BOOST. “There’s a great chance that a person could use an additional service from you, but they might not even know it or may not even know you offer it.”
“You should try to figure out the why of what they’re looking for to get more information before agreeing to provide your solution. Too often are we transactional and trying to get the quick sale and close it, but asking broader conversations could lead to more opportunities for greater revenue and relationships.”
If you’re looking for a deeper dive on upselling and cross-selling, these resources will help:
“15 Upselling Tips & Examples Proven to Boost Average Order Value” by OptinMonster
“How to Use Upselling to Increase Customer Happiness, Retention and Revenue” by GrooveHQ
“How to Up-Sell Without Turning Off Your Customer” by Jeff Mowatt
“7 Tips Your Sales Reps Can Use to Master Cross-Selling and Upselling” by Brooks Group
Build a Genuine Relationship
Even after you’ve made a sale, the selling process doesn't stop there. It’s important to not only establish trust and build a solid relationship with the buyer before they make a decision, but also after they’ve decided to go with your company.
You want to make sure the buyer is happy with your company, they feel like they’ve made the right decision, and that they feel important.
To help build long-lasting relationships with your customers, we recommend the following resources for continuing the sales process long after you’ve made an initial sale:
- “Customer relationship management: the 4 human touchpoints of sales” by Nutshell
- “How to Stop 'Selling' and Start Building Relationships” by The Balance
- “4 Ways to Build Relationships and Avoid 'One-Night Stands' With Your Customers” by Inc
- “How to Build Strong Customer Relationships to Boost Retention” by Crazy Egg
And the most important sales tactic of all...
"It’s not much of a quick and dirty tip, but the most valuable sales tactic for us is honesty," says Ian Clark, Head of Americas at Frank Recruitment Group. "We always look at long-term goals rather than immediate results, which means placing an emphasis on building trust, in order to develop relationships with clients and candidates. It sounds like an overly simple way to achieve this, but the easiest advice is don’t lie. That’s not just when it comes to the big objections, it’s the little things too.
"If there’s a gap in your knowledge, go away and get an answer rather than making it up. You never know when a customer is genuinely unsure or simply testing you to gauge how trustworthy you are. If you don’t know your product, get to know it, and don’t be afraid to tell a customer when you have a knowledge gap. That vulnerability can be a great way to engender trust, and should be looked at as an opportunity rather than a weakness.
"If we can’t help, or the situation isn’t right, we will hold our hands up and be honest. We might take a small hit now, but it means showcasing our knowledge and expertise as well as having confidence in the quality of our product in the long run. Even if you have to tell someone that we might not be right for them at the moment, the next time you touch base you’re likely to have a warm lead. There’s nothing more satisfying than picking up the phone to someone who believes in you. It makes the job far easier and enjoyable."