Life as a B2B salesperson can be rough and unforgiving. Among the greatest perceived challenges for sales reps is finding the right decision-makers to speak with at a prospect organization.

But, finding these folks doesn’t have to be difficult. With the use of customer relationship management (CRM) data, you can gain extensive insight into who calls the shots and who influences purchase decisions at a given prospect company. 

Here is a list of recommendations that can alleviate the burden of finding and engaging with the right stakeholders in your B2B sales outreach. 

Start with buyer personas 

Buyer personas are hypothetical profiles of your ideal buyers. They outline this person’s role in the prospect organization, including whether they are a user with limited influence over the decision, a middle manager with significant influence, or the actual decision maker. 

Buyer personas also include demographic information, challenges, goals, pain points, interests, etc. In the B2B sales, you need multiple buyer personas as there are several people involved in the decision-making process. 

More people are involved in the decision than ever before

Research from 2017 indicates that the number of people involved in a B2B purchase decision is growing. In 2016, 5.2 people were involved on average. That rose to 6.8 people in 2017.(1) And, according to Gartner, “Today’s B2B buying involves more stakeholders than ever before. The median B2B buying group involves six to 10 decision makers.(2)

The importance of buyer personas

Buyer personas are critically important to a streamlined sales process. They help sales and marketing identify prospects that appear to be the best fit for your product or service.

Creating accurate buyer personas requires some legwork, but the end result is worth the effort. When you know your target buyers, it’s exponentially easier to identify and qualify them.

Use your CRM data to find the right decision-makers

CRM solutions like Insightly collect and store loads of data that can be referenced to make informed decisions. CRM data includes information and insight into previous won and lost opportunities. Use that data to find opportunities for similar organizations in your CRM solution and inspect the results and notes included for each respective opportunity. 

Which contacts were added to that opportunity? How are they connected/related to other contacts in the same organization? How did each contact contribute to the decision-making process? Identify common reservations expressed by those contacts. If many of the contacts associated with a won opportunity align with the roles of your buyer personas, dig deeper into that opportunity to reveal additional insights.

Use your CRM data, and features like relationship linking, to gain a full picture of each opportunity and you’ll start to understand why some were won and others lost. Avoid mistakes made by reps who lost opportunities and focus instead on tactics that led to won opportunities. This will lead you to identify the contact roles that had the greatest influence on the company’s final decision, and ultimately who the key decision-makers were.

Know your target prospect before reaching out

It is important to conduct substantial research into a target prospect’s organization and its industry before you ever reach out. If your organization adheres to a strict data collection process, your CRM can provide important data about your prospect. This data can even indicate who the key decision-makers might be.

Social media research

Use social media to identify those in your prospect organization that fill the roles outlined in your buyer personas. Read up on them to see what makes them tick so you can more easily and quickly form rapport and trust with your initial outreach. 

Look for common connections

LinkedIn is the best social platform for prospect research. As you conduct research and identify the contacts you wish to reach out to, look for shared connections. If you spot one, you can reach out to your contact and request an introduction. An introduction from a known contact is highly effective because it comes with a dose of trust by default.

Read customer reviews to augment what you already know

Look for company reviews on social media and sites like Google My Business to see what your prospect’s customers have to say. This can help you discover variables that are holding the company back so that you can address them in your outreach. 

Identify primary pain points & explain how you’ll eliminate them

As you conduct your research, you will form a detailed profile of your prospect and its key decision-makers. Focus on what the organization needs but does not have. Identify key challenges and pain points that are stifling the company’s growth. Pinpoint the daily problems each relevant participant in the decision-making process faces on a daily basis. Do the same for the organization as a whole. 

Zeroing in on those pain points, challenges, and problems provides a more accurate picture of the prospect’s needs. With this insight, you can tailor your outreach to explain how your product or service will eliminate those headaches. Educate the decision-makers—and those involved in the decision-making process—about a problem they potentially don’t know they have. Then form your outreach in a way that provides a solution to it. This is one of the best ways to capture a prospect’s attention.

Make a list of qualifying questions for your first conversation

Once you convince a contact to speak with you, use that initial conversation to qualify the company’s need for your offering. You can do this by asking pre-defined qualifying questions developed specifically for your prospect and its use case. These questions will vary depending on your industry, product, and the makeup of your target audience. 

However, certain questions are relevant and important to ask in virtually every industry. For example:

  1. What is the primary business challenge you’re trying to address?
  2. What are your overarching goals and what is your ideal timeline for accomplishing them?
  3. What are you looking for in a new partner?

PRO TIP: Use specific language when making first contact with a new prospect. Make it clear that you seek to be their partner in success. Personalize the conversation by speaking in terms of “you” and “I” rather than “we.” This makes the conversation more informal and interpersonal, which lets you develop trust and rapport much quicker. 

To learn more about sales qualifying questions, take some insights from this article.(3) 

Why qualifying questions are key to success

It’s crucial to quality a prospect’s need for your offering as early in your dialogue with them as possible. Qualifying questions help sales validate the purchase intent of each prospect and confirm that the company is a good fit for your product. 

If you don’t qualify from the outset, you can waste hours of time courting a prospect that will never convert. Qualifying questions eliminate that risk and allow salespeople to focus their time on the prospects with the highest win probability.  

Final point: Don’t forget the decision influencers

The person who gives the final green light for a B2B purchase decision typically holds an executive position. However, digging into all the nitty-gritty details of a particular product or service is often too far in the weeds for them. They typically don’t get involved at such a granular level. Instead, they rely on their team leaders and power users (of a product or service) to conduct evaluations and provide recommendations. B2B decision-making is a multistep process. 

While a team manager or director may be a key decision influencer, the person behind the curtain, or the power user, may be driving the entire decision. If you can start your outreach with decision influencers and form a strong rapport, you can turn them into advocates for your product or service. 

 

Read more like this:

 

Sources:

1. “The New Sales Imperative,” Harvard Business Review, 2017

2. Gartner for Marketers “Marketing-Fueled Buyer Enablement,” 2019

3. “25 Sales Questions to Qualify Your Leads Faster,” Neil Patel, 2020