Solving Backwards: An Underrated B2B Sales Prospecting Strategy

February 20, 2018

B2B Sales Prospecting

Many talk about the art and science of B2B sales. But what about the math?

In arithmetic, you can solve a problem by beginning with the answer and applying operations in reverse to find the starting number. Your sales team can do the same when it comes to sales prospecting, working backward from your solution to find people whose problems it can solve.

Here’s a formula for arriving at the best possible answer and making the most out of that insight.

Reverse-Engineering the Purchase Process

Every high-performing sales organization and salesperson analyzes its sales funnel. However, many overlook key signals.

The experiences and inputs of your sales reps can surface many revelations. Instead of strictly reviewing metrics, make your analysis a thoughtful exercise focused on gaining new perspective about what drove a win and why. Put another way, follow the clues that customers leave along their path to purchase, then identify key buying patterns and triggers.

In most cases, the standard B2B purchasing process looks like this:

Company experiences challenge -> Company recognizes need for a solution -> Company researches potential solutions -> Company engages sellers -> Company makes a purchase

Now let’s flip the order. A sales organization can examine all the data it gathers in the course of closing deals and reverse the order of operations to surface new insights:

Company makes a purchase -> Company engages sellers -> Company researches potential solutions -> Company recognizes need for a solution -> Company experiences challenge

Pick one or two of your highest-value customer segments and map their purchase decision journeys. As you review your closed sales – especially your biggest deals – answer these questions:

  • What influenced their decision-making?
  • What were the precursors to the account recognizing a need?
  • What triggered the account to seek out a solution?
  • What specific problems were they trying to solve by purchasing your solution?
  • What were the preliminary steps in their research?

The goal is to zero in on common factors that ultimately trigger conversations and conversions. In other words: which buyer actions, behaviors, preferences, and habits add up to a sale? The end result will be a hypothesis about the variables affecting the purchase decision, and a more substantive list of indicators your sales team should look for to catch prospects as early as possible in the consideration phase.

Turning Insight into Action with Target Accounts

By working backward, your organization and reps can become more predictive and anticipatory. Recognizing key purchase triggers equips your sales team to actively seek out people in similar situations.  

Assume for instance that after scrutinizing the sales funnel from this perspective, your company discovers that the customer success teams are playing an important behind-the-scenes role in influencing the decision to select your marketing-focused solution. It’s not that unusual for an ancillary group to sway a purchase decision. However, in the excitement of pursuing an opportunity, it’s easy to become blind to the key influencers who don’t have as much visibility.

To complement their typical account nurturing and engagement, your reps could use LinkedIn to uncover key customer success personnel at target accounts. The next step would be scoring a warm introduction, either directly through an existing connection within the account, or by finding a colleague – using the TeamLink function in Sales Navigator – who can make the intro.

If no introduction is possible, your reps should look for other ways to engage the individual in question. Study the contact’s LinkedIn profile to glean how active they are on the platform. If they post content and comment on other members’ posts, that social savvy makes them more likely to welcome interactions via LinkedIn. If this is the case, look for chances to engage through a shared LinkedIn Group or by commenting on a contact’s post, or even recommending content that might interest them.

Connecting Through Referrals

In other instances, your reps will discover a brand-new prospect that isn’t on their radar. Here’s where the power of referrals comes into play. The first step is for your reps to determine who is already connected to this prospective account by combing their LinkedIn network to find a connection and possible referral path.

Whether the rep is trying to connect with the prospect via a colleague or existing customer or partner, they should explain the reason for wanting the referral. They should also make it as easy as possible for their connection to make the introduction, ideally by sending a message the person can use in their outreach.

Once the introduction is made, your reps can follow up with the new connection, using details from the prospect’s LinkedIn profile to connect with relevance. That might mean mentioning a shared interest or alma mater, or commenting on recent activity in the prospect’s feed.

No matter how your salespeople identify and connect with a potential deal influencer, they should save pertinent keyword searches and get notified of timely trigger events.

Guide Buyers Down the Purchase Path

If your organization sells to a buying committee, it’s critical to determine who influenced what as you work backward through the purchase process. One of the biggest barriers to selling to multiple stakeholders is getting everyone to agree. The better that sales pros understand the typical buying team’s makeup and dynamics, the better they can spot roadblocks and account for them.

In most cases, your target account will appreciate your guidance in driving consensus. After all, one or more buying committee members were likely given marching orders to find a solution to their organization’s challenge.

In fact, you may be working an account that is entirely new to the complex “purchase by committee.” In those cases, you can serve as a welcome guide, sharing your experience and knowledge to help them get through the process.

Don’t Leave Deals to Chance

It goes without saying that it’s better to focus on the most promising deals. However, it’s not all up to the prospect to determine how auspicious an opportunity is. By deconstructing the path to purchase and analyzing it from end to beginning, your sales organization will uncover new insights that it can apply to steer prospects toward your solution.   

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