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B2B Technical Sales FAQs

B2B Technical Sales FAQs

Launch hosted a series of sales training workshops with customer service and engineers who have a hand in sales. Together, we discussed tips for successful B2B technical sales. Key strategies from the sessions include optimizing prospect qualifications, managing no-bid situations, and getting a response from potential clients. We emphasize understanding customer needs and strategic positioning to focus on customer-centric sales strategies.

Sales Training for Everyone Involved in Technical Sales

In speaking engagements, workshops, webinars and start-up accelerator coaching sessions, the most frequent question we get is: “If you had to choose, would you hire a salesperson with no technical background or expertise, or a technical expert with no sales experience?”

The reality is customers do not want to be sold to, and yet sales are critical to your growth and profitability. Developing sales skills and processes for technical experts and customer service people is one of the most important factors in both customer satisfaction and growth. In short, I’d take a technical expert willing to sell any day. We can teach the rest, in a way that’s in tune with your customer’s needs and buying process.

In a series of sales training sessions, we worked with engineers and customer service who have a role in sales. Here are their questions:

How do I better qualify prospects?

Especially if you are in a sales role in addition to operational or engineering responsibilities, you have to create sales efficiencies. A huge part of that is qualifying prospects so you can focus on the right ones. Too often companies have a disconnect between challenging and ‘fun’ projects, and those that are profitable.

First, know what you will and won’t take on. Gauge the opportunity against your company’s market position and target customer profile. Qualify the long-term value of the opportunity to see if it justifies the time investment, both for you in sales and for engineering post-sale:

  • Understand the prospect’s existing market share and track record — do your homework
  • You can’t ask too many questions — test for a realistic view of ramp-up, vendor selection process, etc.
  • Does the project create leverage in key R&D areas? Credibility in an emerging market?

Broadly, whatever your specific criteria, qualification comes down to:

  1. Problem we can solve.
  2. Working with the decision maker/person with authority.
  3. Understand their evaluation process
  4. Understand timeline and feel like we can meet it.
  5. Have access to what we need from them in the sales process.  
  6. Understand their budget process — have one or need to set one?
  7. Told the prospect how we work and they are open to our process.
  8. Do you want to work with the customer?

Every step is a go/no-go. If the prospect can’t or won’t share the information you need to help them, doesn’t respond, or won't show up for scheduled meetings, it will be difficult to serve them successfully or provide them with an accurate quote. It is also a good indicator that they just need a competitive quote to validate their supplier of choice.

How do I no-bid an opportunity?

Whether the request for a quote isn’t a fit due to current capacity or backlog, profitability, or you don’t have the manpower to invest engineering time in developing a project outside core capabilities, you can actually build your value to a prospect with appropriate no-bidding.

A no can be “no not now”. No is also a good way to:

  • Restate your positioning to the customer (“We’re focused on XXX – I hope we can work together on an upcoming project.”)
  • Give a referral, creating value for the prospect and building a long-term relationship
  • Free up more budget or rescope the project in a way that is a better fit.

What are the best sales tactics for getting a response from a prospect?

There is no magic bullet. It now takes 8 touchpoints on average to close a B2B deal, and far more to make contact. Respectful, customer-focused and consistent follow-up is critical and harder than ever. Here are a few tips.

  • Always schedule the next touchpoint in the meeting
  • 7-10 day wait as a general guideline — don’t be needy
  • Ask what they prefer: text, call, etc.
  • Text to ask for 5 minutes at the end of the day — a small ask
  • Avoid emails that say “checking in”
  • Be specific and don’t put too much weight on them — suggest a specific time & day
  • Don’t keep doing what isn’t working — if they haven’t answered your first 8 emails, they won’t answer the 9th. Mix it up.
  • Phone etiquette is changing fast. Don’t presume anyone listens to voicemail.
  • LinkedIn messages can be successful with people you already have a relationship with.
  • People will ghost to avoid saying no. Give them the out and make it easy for them to reach out when it’s more appropriate. — is your team no longer working on this project or have you gone in another direction?
  • Recognize it’s uncomfortable to admit they’re not the decision maker – ask, "Who else should be at this meeting, and what else do you need to share with your team?"
  • Show expertise and coach them through their purchasing and decision processes they may not know. “Typically in companies we’ve worked with like yours, the first step is…”

How can I increase leads at tradeshows? 

First, recognize that the real value of tradeshows has changed in the last several years. As digital marketing and inbound have overtaken in-person leads, tradeshows still have a valuable place in marketing strategy--but are more important for growing opportunities and building relationships with customers, many of whom you haven't yet met in person. That said, if you're working a booth: 

  • Consider the 'hook and anchor': have one person out in the aisle or meeting people elsewhere on the tradeshow floor, bringing people in
  • Train your booth staff: make sure the greeter knows who is the expert on each technology. Make sure everyone has key talking points, a clear elevator pitch and is trained to give a customer-focused and concise demo. 
  • Keep a group calendar so everyone has a chance to attend educational programming and take meetings. Standing in a booth is exhausting work! Plan for breaks.
  • Remove barriers, physical or psychological. If you're on your phone or laptop in the booth, prospects may hesititate to interrupt you. Remove tables that stand between you and visitors, clear out the clutter, and make it more welcoming to step into the booth for a deeper conversation. 

What are best practices for pre-show and post-show sales outreach?  

  • Make a plan with specific goals. Consider more than just number of leads, but also number of new contacts for networking, strengthening relationships, and face-to-face time with customers. 
  • Consider customer visits and geographic prospecting around the tradeshow area to capitalize on your travel expenses and time. 
  • Start planning 2 months your outreach in advance to make sure you have a web landing page, email promotions, demos, and materials ready. 
  • Get your most important meetings on the calendar early--2-3 weeks ahead. That said, 1:1 outreach even 2-3 business days before the show can be effective. 
  • Ask for referrals: "Who should I meet?"
  • Post-show, plan on connecting via LinkedIn and uploading contact information right away--even before leaving the show.
  • Week 1 post-show: prioritize and assign leads. Week 2: outreach to "A" leads with any specific information requested and meeting invitations. Week 3-4: Work "B" and "C" leads, follow up on A's. We typically see prospect activity 2 weeks after the show, so don't be afraid to follow up. In months 2-6, plan for drip marketing or lead nurture--make sure you're adding value with personalized, value-add information. 

Any networking tips for non-sales people? 

Yes! Not everyone is an extrovert. There's always someone shyer--befriend them and introduce them around. Ask to join a table where you don't know anyone. "Hi, I'm Michele" will suffice as an opening line. Food and bar lines are great places to meet new people, as you're waiting together. There's no need to feel like you have to "work the room"--deeper, more interesting conversations will help others get value from the event and beat small talk any day.  

Check back for more FAQs from our series, or contact us if your team could benefit from similar training.

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