Top sellers don’t wait.

At least 57 percent of the buying process is complete before buyers ever contact your company. If you believe this widely quoted but ill-advised statistic, your lead generation techniques are doomed from the start.

Stats like this suggest that buyers don’t really need salespeople anymore—that we should just wait around for prospects to do their research and then call us when they’re ready to buy. That’s not selling. That’s order-taking.

Top sellers aren’t reactive. They know how to prospect for sales, and it’s not sitting back and waiting for marketing to send them leads. They’re proactive, disciplined, insightful, and great at building relationships. They have one job and one job only—to get in early, ideally before prospects even know they have a need. And none of their lead generation techniques involve waiting for the phone to ring.

Busting the 57 Percent Myth

Our prospects still need us just as much as they did before, but their needs have changed. They don’t need us to give them demos or canned sales pitches, because they can get all that online. What they do need is our expertise, industry experience, and insights about what does and doesn’t work.

In other words, they don’t just want to hear from sellers at the end of the buying process. They want to talk to smart salespeople who can help guide them through that journey.

The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research studied 488 B2B buyers who represented $4.2 billion in purchasing power across 25 industries. When they asked, “When do you want to hear from sellers?” here’s what they found:

    • 71 percent of buyers want to talk to sellers when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger business results
    • 62 percent of buyers want to talk to sellers when they’re actively looking for a solution to fix what’s broken or to solve a problem

The research goes on to report that buyers want to talk to sellers when they are:

  1. Future-seeking—looking for possibilities to drive stronger results
  2. Problem-solving—looking for a solution to fix what’s broken

Sellers assume buyers in problem-solving mode know how they want to fix things. They don’t. That’s why reps with proactive lead generation techniques win deals.

What B2B Buyers Are Really Buying

In B2B sales, customers buy more than just our products and services. They buy our ideas—our visions for scaling their businesses and improving their bottom lines.

Gartner puts it this way:

Research shows that conversations that offer customers a new way to think about or improve their business … tend to be more effective at driving both retention and growth. These conversations enable account managers to provide customers with new perspectives on how they might operate their business (i.e., new ways to make money, save money, mitigate risk, manage inventories) that customers have yet to execute themselves. When these types of customer improvement conversations are leveraged, sellers can also reduce the likelihood that buyers will consider a competitor when renewing or purchasing again.

According to Gartner, the salespeople who win the most (new and repeat) business are the ones who:

  1. Provide customers with a unique perspective on their business
  2. Offer customers a vision of improvement for their business
  3. Explain the potential ROI of taking action on an improvement opportunity

Simply put, buyers want to work with the best of the best—salespeople who know their stuff, ask the right questions, and deliver tailor-made solutions that get them the ROI they deserve. But you can’t put that expertise to good use until you score meetings with people who count—prospects who are open to challenging the status quo and who have the power to do so.

Want Lead Generation Techniques That Work? Get Referrals

The biggest challenge sales reps face is getting a meeting at the right level. The pace of business has picked up, and decision-makers are less willing to meet with salespeople. A recent HBR study of hundreds of technology buyers found that only 18 percent of salespeople are trusted during the sales process.

It’s not hard to understand why. Think of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry, Glenn Ross and his famous ABC motto: “always be closing.” Buyers are primed to resist salespeople. They expect a pitch and an intense push at the end of a quarter or year. The used-car salesperson comes to mind—sleazy, arrogant, pushy, and always going for the close. No wonder our sales profession has a bad reputation.

However, when account executives get referrals, they’ve earned the right to have a conversation, because they’ve already earned their prospects’ trust. They get an introduction and get the meeting—in one call. They get in early and offer solutions to problems that buyers didn’t even realize they had. They have the inside track, cement relationships, become trusted advisors, and knock out competitors before they even have a chance to call. They close deals well more than 50 percent of the time. No other lead generation techniques do all this.

I regularly meet with many sales leaders and CEOs because I’ve been introduced by someone they know and trust. Because that person has referred me, my prospect knows it will be a valuable conversation. I don’t always get a client, but I always learn. For example, I learned from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company that he expects salespeople to deliver insights—no product pitches, no talking about themselves, and no asking what keeps him up at night.

Let your competitors believe the 57 percent myth. While they’re waiting for the phone to ring or for LinkedIn connections to come through—or cold calling people who don’t want to talk to them—your sales reps will build trusted relationships, uncover real needs, get referrals, and craft solutions in collaboration with clients. That’s true salesmanship. That’s how to prospect for sales.

Want to empower your team with the most effective lead generation techniques for B2B sales? Invite Joanne to speak about referrals at your next sales meeting, conference, or event.