The Startup’s Guide to B2B sales

5 min read

Rocket launching surrounded by B2B sales icons

Do you know the story of Uber?

In 2008, two friends were in Paris ranting about how it’s impossible to catch a cab when you need it the most. The pair ended up brainstorming an idea which gradually evolved into what is now one of the world’s leading transportation services.

Today, Uber’s valuation is rolling in the billions (yes, billions) and the company’s reach seems to be ever-expanding – like with their latest addition: UberBike.

But before all the fame and glory, Uber was just another struggling startup. They had to research sales just like you are now, they had to attend events, build a list of prospects and get hung up on more times than they could count. And that’s not even the half of it.

The inescapable truth about growing a startup is that without sales, your business simply doesn’t grow. While Uber isn’t strictly B2B, they used the same sales tactics you’ll need to take your own business to the next level (and beyond).

So, to help you get on the right track, here are some of the best approaches startups like yours can take to close more B2B deals and begin making your business profitable.

Target specific personas

This may sound like an overdone tactic, but it’s the most important thing you’ll ever define for your business. The goal is to identify the people (personas) who are likely to be interested in what you’re selling. Then it’s a matter of finding as many of them as possible (or make it easy for them to find you) and work to convert them into profitable customers.

Building one persona is great, but building two or more is ideal so you’re not skipping over a potential audience. You’ll catch a lot more flies with a targeted web, so start narrowing down your search with aspects like:

  • Company size
  • Location
  • Industry
  • Technologies used
  • Funding
  • Challenges

Once you have this information, you can create an ideal customer profile (or various profiles) and use them to guide your search on LinkedIn or filter data using automated prospecting platforms like Triggr to build a list of your B2B targets.

If you’re drawing a blank and don’t actually know how your persona thinks or what their pain points are, the internet is your playground. Contact people in the industry with a few questions, ask around, send out surveys, etc.

One particular goldmine is Amazon Books. Search for books within the industry you’re trying to break into, and check the 3 and 4-star reviews. You’ll find a wealth of complaints, challenges, wants and needs that you can also integrate word-for-word in your outreach materials – so the message really hits home.

Here’s everything you need to know before you build an ideal customer profile.

Events, events, events

Let’s circle back to Uber for a second. The two guys standing in the dark streets of Paris were only there because they were attending the annual LeWeb tech conference. It’s an event known for ‘bringing digital disruptors together to plot the future’, making it a rather fitting birthplace for Uber.

The point is, events are where the magic happens. Participating in industry events is a powerful way to get your brand name out there and begin establishing authority for your startup. You’ll also have the opportunity to network with prospects over casual coffee or happy hours.

Research five events happening this month. Then dig deeper until you find a list of valuable attendees that you can reach out to before the event. Squeeze yourself into their schedule by actively setting up meetings during coffee and lunch breaks that don’t interfere with the event’s itinerary. Then, keep in touch with them so they don’t get a chance to forget who you are.

You can even mention an event you’re attending or speaking at to potential prospects so they can go as well. DiscoverOrg found that 75% of 1,000 executives polled were prompted to attend an event as a result of a cold call or email. (Doesn’t hurt to ask.)

Cold calling (yes, it still works)

“If you’re cold calling and three out of ten say ‘let’s meet’, you’ve got something.” – Travis Kalanick (Founder of Uber)

Contrary to current belief, cold emailing is not dead. In fact, guess how Uber jumped from zero to a $17 billion valuation? You got it. Cold calling.

Frankly, cold calling is still an incredibly effective tool to reach out to potential customers and close deals. But it’s not just about picking up the phone and hoping they hear you out. There are dozens of techniques you can use to bring your sales calls home. Here are a few cold-calling essentials:

  • Do your homework. Make it sound like you know the person you’re talking to.
  • Throw in the name of a mutual connection or interest to get your foot in the door.
  • Create a great sales script. Make sure it answers the question ‘why should I care?’.
  • Ask qualifying questions and listen more than you speak.
  • Avoid pitching prematurely or pitching to the gatekeeper.
  • If possible, record your first sales calls to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t.

To find the right people to call, you have no shortage of options. As a tip, aim to automate this process early on so you’re not one of the sad sales reps who spend up to 40% of their time looking for somebody to call.

Cold emailing

Even with social media kicking up a storm, sending an email out of the blue is still a widely-recognized way to make your outbound prospecting more effective. You can use an array of tools to find your prospect’s email address like Hunter, Voila Norbert, or–you guessed it–Triggr (to find emails at scale).

Whether you want to send a killer outreach email or reheat a cold lead with a convincing proposal, here are some tidbits to keep in mind.

  • Always provide value before asking for their time/money.
  • Keep it short and to the point – 40% of emails are opened on mobile.
  • Personalization increases CTR by 14%, so always use their name.
  • A/B testing your subject line can increase open rates by 49%.
  • If your response rate is below 5%, ask for feedback to improve.

Offer a demo/test of your product

Call it old-fashioned, but a free sample is always welcome and also the best way to bring your new product into relevance.

For startups, a demo is one of the most effective ways to nab a prospect’s attention. Bonus points if you embed an explainer video of your product in a cold email and then offer a link to the demo.

In short, demos are a fantastic way to attract potential customers, get them interested in setting up a meeting and also to collect feedback you can use to improve your service/product.

Leverage social media

Here’s a fun stat: 55% of B2B buyers search for information on social media. This means if you’re not strengthening your company’s social presence and establishing your reputation as an authority, then you’re likely losing out on some major deals.

When it comes to helping you get in touch with the right people who have the right connections for your business, LinkedIn is almost unparalleled. It’s swarming with potential customers with profiles you can follow, concerns you can answer and groups you can join to meet similar leads. (Read this post to learn how to find fresh prospects on LinkedIn.)

But it’s not just LinkedIn you should be focusing on. Research your customers and find out which social channels they live on the most, then make your presence known on those channels. Not only can you engage and interact with potential prospects (before moving over to a phone call or email), you can also post valuable content to reel in those inbound leads.

Prioritize in-person meetings

Sure, we’re in the age of texts and emails, but there’s nothing quite like face-to-face time with prospects to instill trust and offer a glimpse of the careful attention they can expect from you.

According to Blender, 65% of customers are lost because of indifference, not mistakes. Remember that professional doesn’t have to mean impersonal. For young companies, in particular, the human connection is invaluable when building long-term relationships, so stretch your budget if you must and get yourself in the same room as your prospect.

Don’t feel pressured to go alone if you feel unprepared to take on any specific questions or objections. If you’re giving a presentation for a use case, have relevant team experts tag along to back you up. The reality is that 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared, so don’t skimp on the details you need to knock your meeting out of the park.

Chat with us

Okay, you got us. This isn’t part of the list. We don’t pretend this short compilation is a comprehensive guide to B2B sales for startups, but it is a start. (And there is much more on the way!)

In the meantime, if you’re looking to automate your sales workflows, find top-of-funnel prospects at scale, and generally make your startup journey much easier on yourself– get in touch. We built Triggr for people just like you and we’re offering a special discount solely for startups.

To find out if Triggr is right for you, schedule a demo with us here and ask every question you have. No strings attached.

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