B2B buying has changed significantly in the past few years. Advancements in tech and AI have placed considerably more pressure on buyers and sellers. What used to work then, likely doesn’t work now. If you’re approaching B2B sales with a 2015 mindset, you’re going to be surpassed by your competitors, who are using a modern strategy with modern tools.
Recently, we had the pleasure to co-host a webinar with Steve Woods, Co-founder & CTO of Nudge.ai and Matt Amundson, VP of Marketing & at EverString. The two sales experts shared power prospecting advice for how ABM teams can identify and engage their ideal customers for stronger, longer results.
Understanding Changes In B2B Sales
The B2B sales landscape has always been hard, but now it’s getting harder. There are some great sales tools out there, like SalesLoft, that make it easier to automate a sales cycle than ever before. However, unfortunately in the wrong hands, and this becomes relentless sales spam.
Understanding the value of the tools at your fingertips is a key step to ensure your customers want to engage with you versus trying to avoid you.
B2B buyer decisions are shifting away from top-down, and towards front-line buyers, for two main reasons:
1. WHO: To make a positive difference in an organization, teams must understand how a tool is going to fit into and be embedded within the existing business operations. It’s really front line people vs. strategic leaders that understand this level of detail better.
Most businesses have the majority of their tech stack puzzle filled in. That means account-based sales and marketing teams are selling something that can make the existing tech stack better. Therefore, teams should strive to understand all the pain points at as many organizational levels as possible.
2. WHAT: The B2B mindset is moving towards a trial-based perspective that is often very tactical. With so many options available, teams think “Let’s try it out and test drive it. We can always change it up next quarter year.”
Selling strategic benefits can be difficult in this shorter-term thinking. To move out of tactical conversations and engage in more strategic decisions, teams can start to explore “What would get bought with a more strategic conversation”.
Identifying & Engaging Your Ideal Customer
DEFINE: Find Gold With FIRE
When you use data to define your ideal customer profile, you can use that model to surface high-fit accounts. From there, cultivating relevant, real-time engagement is the name of the game.
To operationalize this, EverString developed the FIRE methodology, which means:
- Fit – The account meets your criteria for an ideal customer (tech stack, size, etc.)
- Intent – There’s a project building towards making a purchase around something
- Recency – The intent behavior is something that’s happening now, not a year ago.
- Engagement – Do they know your brand? Have they been to your website?
With the right data, you can identify when the right accounts are ready to make a purchase and ready to engage with your team further.
Below we’ll explore these factors in more detail.
MONITOR: Track Executive Interest
Once you know who you’re targeting (fit), it’s time to monitor buyer behavior and see who is actively researching your solutions in your target market (intent). But individual consumer engagement is different than “intent”.
The difference between intent and engagement data is:
- Engagement data is about an individual. It is more narrow than intent data. Engagement data is about how an individual, lead or contact has engaged with your company, and what they’re interested in.
- Intent data is about an organization, team or set of teams performing a coordinated research effort. Intent data is broader than engagement data, as it tells the story about what’s going on in the business as a whole.
Using both types of behavioral data (engagement and intent), helps teams craft a more thoughtful approach to going after prospects. Intent data helps marketing understanding there’s a global initiative being researched by that account, and through the engagement metrics sales can understand exactly what the business is looking for, thinking about, concerned with, etc.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Once you’ve identified fit and intent, now is NOT the time for sales to intervene yet. It’s time for marketing to drive engagement with your brand. Once engagement occurs, then it’s time for sales to engage with a nice, warm prospect.
VISUALIZE: Don’t Get Stuck at the Front Line
Visualize account relationships to deepen connections and improve close rates. Buying dynamics are typically front-line led, but they don’t always know the nuances of their leadership teams’ motivations.
Sales teams should act as a Solutions Guide to help the entire organization understand how to use your product.
Try and understand what each person in the buyer stage might think, feel, do, or care about. Think about what initiatives the front-line team is working on, and consider it from a more strategic perspective.
Usually, executives’ intentions differ from front-line team intentions. But when analyzing the data strategically, the tactics of the front line can play into the executive’s intentions as well.
Ask your customer “Have you talked to Joanne? I’m thinking she might be thinking about X through the lens of Y. What do you think?”
It opens up a conversation. Ideally, you’d go arm-in-arm and have a broader conversation with the executive team.
Internal peer-to-peer worries can bog down enthusiasm. Your customer may have concerns like “What will operations say?” or “What will security want to know?”.
To help address this hurdle, name the objection. Who and what. Something like “I bet you’re wondering what [dept A] might think of this?”, or “I wonder if you worry about the effects of [data set]?” Doing this shows you can speak their language.
IMPORTANT NOTE: After Discovery, the next step should be to involve more people. Don’t just keep it to the same person from the last meeting. Keep on discovering with broader groups, teams, challenges. Leading organizations are beginning to use relationship dynamics as a litmus test on discovery success.
ENGAGE: Have Many Irons in the FIRE
Engage key decision-makers with timely, meaningful messages that resonate and convert.
Be involved with as many people in the org as you possibly can. If you aren’t getting a broader audience, the likelihood of a sales cycle is low (unless it’s a transactional, low-price-point type of sale).
With most deals, there are several buyers and must juggle multiple relationships. Imbrue yourself in their organization. Meet people, understand roles, speak their language. What are their goals? Who are they? What do they care about?
You want to be able to paint a clear picture of the above so that you can confirm:
- Yes, the marketing team is interested.
- Yes, the sales team is interested.
- Yes, the operations team is giving a thumbs up
Taking this approach helps you find strategic reasons why your solution fits within their business. Understand what’s happening amongst the broader group. Don’t limit to just that one individual. It helps you sell faster, check more boxes faster.
Developing broader relationships are the best way to ensure you can provide great value and get a sales cycle going, where your competitors can’t.
Developing Your Best Accounts
Instead of ‘Land & Expand’, Try ‘Meet & Exceed’
Land and expand is a common approach, yet many teams struggle to make it happen. There’s a common pitfall that happens when sales teams seek to land a big account with a smaller deal, then hoping to expand to larger deals later on, as the relationship progresses.
Although it adds a great logo to your pitch deck, these don’t always result in actually expanding and up-selling.
If you’re single-threaded working with a small team, then seeking to transact fast and gain the logo credibility could backfire if the relationships that really matter aren’t there.
If you don’t connect with other Executives, you won’t expand. Instead of “land and expand”… think “meet and exceed”. In order to sell Enterprise deals which are typically valued at $500k+, you’ve got to focus on strategic victories over tactical wins.
Strategic victory is bringing multiple departments, having them understand your value and how you can help them. Build consensus within the organization that your solution is a good thing for their business.
Don’t Stay Single-Threaded
If there’s a single metric you can look at… it’s the risk of being single-threaded.
Often it’s psychology related to one of fear. You may have a great relationship with one person at an organization, but since that person doesn’t know the intent of others (peers, executives), they are often hesitant to bring new ideas forward.
Sales may hear “This is great. I love it. Let’s do something”, but if no one else gets brought in, that means the intention isn’t understood and objections haven’t been communicated.
Developing multiple connections or “threads” within an organization takes many conversations around different departments, and lots more time but typically also results in closing a bigger deal.
If you see this late-stage in the sales pipeline, it’s a sign you have significant risk the deals won’t close. Or if they do close, they likely won’t expand into a further strategic relationship.
Consider Ways To Sell More
Think about your organization differently. Don’t just consider the customer as supporting/maintaining the existing relationship, but also growing the relationship by finding new features to support them, expand usage of our product, consolidate other vendors with us, etc.
It can’t just be talk. You can’t just hope for it. It has to be all about providing actual value. Just like an origination deal, you have sales, sales development, and marketing all working together on the same account.
If you have an existing relationship there, or if you have an understanding of what’s going on in the broader organization, it’s easier to talk about how to grow the business vs. finding a brand new account. Getting introduced to other departments is way easier.
For example, if you’re creating content for a broader global organization, and you promote content about the success you’ve helped a particular division achieve, it’s a great way to get a greater share of the wallet and expand in existing customer accounts.
Activate Your Brand Advocates
Within the organization, who knows them? Consider how many job changes people have over time. Who has moved on to new organizations?
Relationships are very personal (someone that really saved their project or was the hero with something special)… that’s the relationship. But when also armed with intent data behind the organization’s goals and intent, it’s a powerful way to start the conversation.
Understanding How To Leverage New Data
By 2025, IDC predicts the global datasphere will grow to 175ZB (currently it’s around 33ZB). That’s a massive growth in data over a short time.
For a lot of people, this more data they get, the more confused. It’s all about making sense of the data and harnessing that data to make it actionable for your sales team.
More Data or Better Decisions?
Nucleus Research reports that when data is more readily available, teams can close a deal on average 8-14% faster. Most business leaders know they need quality data and lots of it.
The trouble is this: Many organizations understand there are new types of data, so they make a purchase, looking for a silver bullet to help their team close deals more rapidly.
But if you’d don’t take the time to understand how it fits with your sales cycle or time to educate your team about how to use all the features properly, you see really disappointing results.
For example, one inside sales leader was working with a vendor that recommended anytime shows intent, sales should reach out right away. He said it was going “terrible”. We couldn’t find exactly who was doing the searches. Plus, if we connect with them, people feel like it’s creepy, they’re uncomfortable and question where you got that sensitive info.
But instead, marketing can offer a message like “A lot of businesses are searching for xyz…”. This becomes a softer way to engage and provide something relevant, while not coming across too creepy. Follow it up with something like: “Here’s how we’ve helped with some initiatives like xyz…”.
- Define your ideal customer profile
- Spend the right time with the right accounts.
- Avoid wasted time.
- If you’re spending resources on accounts that can’t buy from you, you’re wasting your time
- Monitor who is engaging
- You may start with a front-line manager with a particular initiative.
- Understand if that’s tied with a larger initiative
- Strive to go from single-threaded to multi-threaded
- Visualize the overall buying group
- Nudge has a great solution to structure a flow chart of the org based on your relationships
- Engage with relevant messages at the right time
- Know the right message, timing, and persona for each communication
Q: How do I start a conversation with an anonymous buyer that has shown intent data?
A: Approach that person with a super personalized message. Then craft a strong subject line (think of your subject line as a digital advertisement).
Make it as much about them as much as possible. Understand what signals about an individual (Linkedin, Twitter). If they’re putting that interest on their profile, they’re inviting connection points about that topic.
But quickly pivot to their business objectives vs. just that 1 individual person.
- Develop a super relevant, personalized email subject line. If you notice they like golf…
- Then tie it into your product “Hit a hole-in-one with your data”
Q: How do you avoid the risk of single-threaded?
A: The best way to think of single-threaded… it’s an outcome of other problems. Its a symptom, not a cause.
Think about why you’re single-threaded? It usually means that a person has not seen it fit to bring you to the rest of the organization. Likely from some fear or worry. They’re not sure the other’s motivations.
It’s time for you to work as their Sherpa. Understand their organization’s needs and why they’d care about your solution. Identify the other departments’ goals. (that’s where using intent comes into play).
Identify initiatives or top concerns they may be exhibiting through search patterns. Then, mention it subtly, like this: “We’ve seen other organizations are pushing towards xyz. Is that something you’re team is looking at? Is that led by these types of individuals I see on the org chart? What do you think they’d be thinking about? Maybe this, or that? Who would be working on that?”
Q: If you’re going as hard as you can, how can you understand an account is a good fit. How do you find that data?
A: If you don’t have a tool like EverString to help you identify which accounts are high fit high intent, you can sit with sales and marketing. Identify 6-7 attributes of a good-fit account. Work with your operations team to add that as fields in your CRM. Then, work with Data or Operations Teams to ensure each field gets filled out.
Whether or not you have intent data, as long as you know it’s a good fit, you know it’s worth your effort.
It doesn’t have to be you alone trying to do this. Use your support team and advocate for them to bring in this type of data for you.
Watch The Webinar Replay
Watch the webinar replay to hear how to remain deeply knowledgeable about accounts and relationships in order to identify and engage your ideal customer.