Sales tactics encyclopedia: 15+ strategies for prospecting, qualifying, and closing

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.

Prospecting

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 called 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:

Cold Calling

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:

Cold Emailing

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. The articles below will help you create the perfect cold email:

Warm Calling

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.

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:

Direct Mail

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 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:

Generate Referrals

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.

(via referralsaasquatch.com)

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:

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Lead Generation

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

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.

Why is content marketing 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 ton of different types of content you can create such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • YouTube videos
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • SlideShares
  • 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.

To discover the best types of content to create and come up with your own ideas, we recommend checking out the following articles:

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:

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:

  1. Attract your target audience using content
  2. Create a lead magnet to entice people to provide their contact info
  3. 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:

Qualifying

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:

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:

Consulting Call

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:

  • 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)

To learn more about the different sales frameworks you can employ and the questions to ask your potential buyers, we recommend the following:

Closing

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.”

Example:

“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.

Examples:

  • “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.

Example:

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:

And finally, here are some significant sales closing statistics from SalesHandy that can help you close more deals.

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:

Following Up

Lastly, it’s 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:

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:

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