Selling Smarter: Expert-Recommended Strategies for Nailing Every Step of Your Sales Process

Author's avatar Sales UPDATED Apr 9, 2024 PUBLISHED Oct 5, 2023 15 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Do you really need huge sales teams to be successful? Or can you achieve great results by simply implementing the right processes and developing strong habits?

    For many small business owners, the latter is entirely possible… but it’s not easy.

    So, how do you actually develop a well-oiled sales machine without relying on dozens of sales reps?

    For starters, you could steal the strategies of companies that have already done it and consistently work on fine-tuning each stage of their sales process.

    So far, we’ve talked to 100+ of these companies that have each stage of their sales process down to an art and got them to share some of their most relevant insights that businesses may find helpful.

    We’ve organized their answers based on each stage of the sales process:

    This article is part of Databox’s broader research with Carole Mahoney of Unbound Growth on “The Sales Habits of Highly Successful Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs.” We’re still open to contributions and would love to hear your insights. Take the survey now to access the preliminary results and have a chance to be featured in our final report. We also invite you to join Unbound Growth’s Sales Benchmarks for B2B Business Owners Who Sell.

    HubSpot Sales Manager KPIs Dashboard Template

    Sales Benchmarks for B2B Business Owners Who Sell

    The number of new leads a B2B business owner can generate in a month can vary widely depending on several factors – including the industry, target audience, marketing strategies, and the size and resources of your business.

    While there are no one-size-fits-all benchmarks you can adhere to, we did pull out some general considerations to help you set realistic expectations based on our Benchmark Group data.

    According to data provided by the partner’s Benchmark Group, the median number of new leads created in July 2023 was 40 (305 contributors). 

    New Leads

    What about the number of leads that convert into customers? How successful are B2Bs at closing?

    Well, according to data provided by the same Benchmark Group, the median number of deals closed won created in July was 3 (208 contributors). 

    Deals Closed won

    Are you a B2B business owner who sells and doesn’t rely on huge sales teams? You can join our partner’s Sales Benchmarks for B2B Business Owners Who Sell for free and instantly compare your performance to similar businesses.

    Prospecting to Generate Leads

    First things first – we have to identify potential customers who have a genuine need or interest in the products and services our business offers.

    With this, we lay down the foundation for building a sales pipeline and ultimately closing deals at the last stage of the process.

    Interestingly, for over 50% of our respondents, generating leads is the stage they’re most confident in.

    Generate leads

    That said, there’s no universally right method for prospecting and lead generation. Different industries and target markets may require unique strategies and channels for effective lead generation. What works for one business may not work for another, adding complexity to the process.

    John Reinesch of Asset Growth talked about creating a good process for lead generation and shared some of his best tips:

    “We use a combination of outbound email and inbound marketing through SEO and LinkedIn to get prospects into our pipeline. We start by defining our ICP and buyer personas. Then we’ll create email copy and LinkedIn messaging that addresses their pain points and how our solution can solve those.

    As we start getting outreach data we look at open rates, reply rates, and discovery call booking rates to make adjustments to our campaigns. Once all 3 metrics are above our benchmarks we look to scale the campaigns and increase the daily volume.”

    For Lydia Sugarman of Venntive, “personalized lead generation on LinkedIn” is the go-to strategy.

    She starts by “identifying people who fit our ICP, studying their profiles, engaging in comments, following, and then connecting with a personable, unique request. Once they accept (acceptance rate is nearly 100%), follow up with a disarming DM including a reference to a fact on their profile or recent post/comment, then ask if they’d be interested in genuinely getting acquainted with a call or Zoom. Again, the success rate using this *human* approach is nearly 100% successful.”

    Nicolas Tranchant of Vivalatina Jewelry says that generating leads is “the easiest part in my case.”

    “Sales and pricing are a number game. The more prospects I am able to get in touch with, the easier it is to close sales and manage pricing at my will. To do so, I focus on market analysis on the web through keyword research. I look for money keywords related to my niche for which the SERP shows competitors’ websites with an inferior DA to mine. The more websites with a DA inferior to mine, the easier it will be to be visible on the first page of Google.”

    “I focus my search on keywords with purchase intent, a decent amount of traffic, and showing at least 4 inferior competitors on the first page of Google. This way I can expect my new product pages or services pages to generate traffic and leads in a few weeks.”

    He says that “in 2022, using this method, I was able to grow the traffic on the product pages of my online boutique by 30%.”

    As for getting the most buyer-ready leads, Nathan Bliss of Kinsta recommends adding a live chat to your website:

    “For us, adding live chat to our website was a game changer. That channel produces the most buyer-ready leads of anything that we do.”

    Don’t forget to track your opportunities and prospects on a regular basis. You can use Free Databox Pardot (Opportunities & Prospects Overview) Dashboard Template and get a holistic view of their growth so you can ensure your campaigns are hitting all goals.

    Pardot Dashboard Template

    Research and Outreach

    Are you thoroughly researching your leads before reaching out to them? And when you do reach out, how personalized are your messages?

    These two processes aren’t exactly a secret sauce and everyone talks about their importance, but still, many drop the ball somewhere along the way.

    Omkar Pandit of The Laminate Flooring Site especially emphasizes the importance of researching your customer in detail.

    He says that “When I deeply understand my customer, I find that almost every other aspect of the process can be more easily optimized. When I know my customer inside out, I can tailor my sales messages to resonate with their concerns, motivations, and needs. This significantly improves my conversion rates at the end of the sales process.”

    Daniel Osman of Balance says that research is also key to “staying on top of market changes, ahead of competition, and attuned to customer preferences.”

    “Companies should work on market research and analysis to identify emerging trends and opportunities. Additionally, effective communication and collaboration within the sales and marketing teams are crucial for a cohesive and successful strategy. At the end of the day, a comprehensive and customer-centric approach will differentiate a company and drive its success.”

    As for reaching out to prospects, it seems like personalized outreach is still the way to go, according to Michael Chien of 101Karaoke.

    “One aspect of my sales and marketing process that consistently yields positive results is personalized outreach. Tailoring my communication to address the specific needs and pain points of potential clients significantly enhances engagement and conversion rates. By conducting thorough research on each prospect and understanding their unique challenges, I’m able to craft compelling messages that resonate on a personal level.”

    He also mentions that this approach “not only demonstrates a genuine interest in their success but also establishes a strong foundation for building trust. The result is more meaningful conversations, increased receptiveness to our solutions, and a higher likelihood of establishing long-term partnerships.”

    Qualifying Leads

    Not all leads are created equal and this phase is where sales professionals evaluate the potential of a lead to become a customer.

    This part can be challenging for several reasons.

    For starters, distinguishing between leads who are merely curious and those who are genuinely interested is a complex task. Sales reps need to ask the right questions and analyze responses carefully to assess a prospect’s level of commitment.

    Furthermore, the criteria for lead qualification may vary between organizations.

    Deciding what qualifies a lead as “sales-ready” can be subjective, and this lack of standardization can make the process even more challenging. It often involves a collaborative effort between sales and marketing teams to define these criteria effectively.

    Now, one evergreen strategy in qualification that seems to always bring good results is using discovery calls.

    David Ellis of Teranga Digital Marketing LTD shared how he uses discovery calls for qualification:

    “1. Introduction to Teranga: Before diving into the call, leads are directed to our discovery page. This page comprises an engaging intro video showcasing our offers, demonstrable case studies, and authentic social proof, setting the stage for a fruitful conversation.

    2. The Discovery Call: This is where the magic happens. Instead of immediately pushing for a sale, our primary aim is to assess the potential client’s compatibility with our offerings. We delve into their existing knowledge about our services, their budget and its alignment with our packages, and a brief about how our SEO campaign operates, distinguishing between the foundational elements and our comprehensive 12-month campaign.

    3. Analysis and Consultation: Should the client seem promising, the next step is a detailed demonstration. Leveraging tools like Ahrefs, we conduct a thorough website and competitor analysis.

    4. Pricing and Offer: Our pricing strategy is tailored, ranging from foundational packages to extended 12-month campaigns. But the one consistent factor is transparency. Every cost, every value addition is broken down, leaving no room for ambiguity.”

    He mentioned being “so confident in our process and outcomes that we offer result guarantees, further cementing trust and demonstrating our commitment to our client’s growth. Since implementing this refined sales process, we’ve seen a significant increase in conversion rates, higher client satisfaction scores, and a remarkable enhancement in our service delivery efficiency.”

    Perry Nalevka of Penguin Strategies utilizes the “discovery process during the sales process to provide incredible value to a prospect that it either closes the deal or helps them solve their issue that they will either come to us next time or recommend us to others.”

    Brian Casey of IMPACT also shared an interesting approach to qualification:

    “We send content throughout the sales process to educate people before our conversations. We really try to use the time between conversations to help the buyers qualify or disqualify themselves so they’re able to come into our conversations feeling educated and prepared. It’s helped us to close deals more quickly and close at a higher rate. Most of the prospects that end up going on to become clients actually end up loving and emulating our sales process (and that’s a reason they use us).”

    “We send content throughout the sales process to educate people before our conversations. We really try to use the time between conversations to help the buyers qualify or disqualify themselves so they’re able to come into our conversations feeling educated and prepared. It’s helped us to close deals more quickly and close at a higher rate. Most of the prospects that end up going on to become clients actually end up loving and emulating our sales process (and that’s a reason they use us).”

    Brian Casey

    Brian Casey

    Head Coach at IMPACT

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Lead Nurturing

    People need time to build trust, gather information, and overcome doubts – which is why lead nurture is a crucial part of the sales process.

    Lead nurturing is a strategic journey where you shower your prospects with attention and relevant information, helping them grow from initial interest to a point where they’re ready for conversion.

    But why go through all this trouble? Well, because lead nurturing recognizes that not every prospect is ready to buy the moment they show interest.

    Anthony Barone of DailyGroomingTips says that one tactic that worked well for him is “integrating content marketing with our lead nurturing strategy.”

    “We create valuable, relevant content that resonates with our target audience’s pain points and interests. This content is shared through various channels, including our blog, social media, and email newsletters. By providing actionable insights and solutions, we position ourselves as thought leaders in our industry.

    Next, we use marketing automation tools to segment our audience based on their interactions with our content. This allows us to send personalized follow-up emails and offers that align with their specific needs and stage in the buying journey. The results have been remarkable.”

    He says that this strategy “has not only increased our engagement rates but also significantly improved our lead conversion. We’ve seen a 30% increase in qualified leads, and our sales team has been able to close deals 20% faster. The content acts as a trust-builder, and the personalized follow-ups ensure that we’re addressing the right concerns at the right time.”

    Paul Eddison of Instant A.I. Prompt also praises content marketing when it comes to nurturing leads:

    “Being a content editor myself, content marketing is where I feel most at home. Because it nurtures audiences, addresses their concerns, and earns their confidence, content marketing enables organizations to produce better leads, higher conversion rates, and more sales.”

    Paul says that the “main goal of content marketing is to draw ideal customers to a brand. It’s not about shoving any certain goods or services in their faces. The fact that modern consumers like to interact with and learn about organizations through content marketing has led to a staggering 97% of brands already using it.”

    Related: The 6 Most Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies that Work Right Now

    Overcoming Objections

    While no part of the sales process is exactly easy, this one especially requires finesse and skill because it directly impacts the likelihood of closing a deal.

    One reason why handling objections can be difficult is that objections come in various forms and can stem from a multitude of sources. They may range from pricing concerns, competition comparisons, doubts about product functionality, or even personal biases.

    You must be prepared to address them effectively, regardless of their nature.

    Sometimes, objections can catch sales professionals off guard, especially if they haven’t thoroughly researched the prospect.

    Effective objection handling involves active listening, asking probing questions to uncover the root of the objection, and offering tailored solutions or information that directly addresses the concerns raised.

    It’s also important to remain calm, confident, and professional during this phase, as a pushy or defensive response can strengthen the objections rather than resolve them.

    Deniz Doganay of Digital Debut says that you “need to know the product you’re selling inside and out.”

    “You need to get your hands dirty if you want to sell well. Customers know when you talk nonsense just to try and get business. If you really know what you are talking about you can easily handle all of their questions and objections.”

    “You need to know the product you’re selling inside and out. You need to get your hands dirty if you want to sell well. Customers know when you talk nonsense just to try and get business. If you really know what you are talking about you can easily handle all of their questions and objections.”

    Deniz Doganay

    Deniz Doganay

    Managing Director at Digital Debut

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Andre Oentoro of BreadNBeyond approaches this part of the process using “case studies and success stories.”

    “By identifying clients who’ve achieved remarkable results with our videos, conducting interviews, and presenting compelling narratives, we’ve boosted credibility, expedited decision-making, and increased conversion rates. These stories not only showcase our impact but also provide concrete examples for addressing objections and further fostering trust.”

    Closing the Sale

    The moment of truth – will the customer make a purchase or will they move on?

    Closing requires a high level of interpersonal skill and finesse. Sales professionals must strike a balance between being persuasive and not coming across as too aggressive.

    This can be difficult because every customer is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to closing a deal. You need to adapt your strategies to each individual’s personality and needs, which demands a deep understanding of human psychology and behavior.

    But the good thing is, it really does get easier with time.

    Tim Connon of ParamountQuote shared one strategy that helped him close more leads – presenting a few differently priced options.

    “The tactic that works well for me during closing is presenting three different priced options to the client. This enables me to close at 30% of our leads. Instead of presenting them with one choice, they get three choices, which increases the closing rate. If something is too expensive they have the other two choices to consider.”

    Charles Musselwhite of Musselwhite Marketing says that you need a change of philosophy – you’re not selling, you’re educating.

    “This philosophy has not only set me apart in the crowded marketplace but has also cemented genuine, lasting relationships with my clients. Gone are the days of ‘dog and pony’ shows. When I engage with prospects, it’s as a fellow business owner, not as a salesperson. This peer-to-peer connection fosters mutual respect, trust, and understanding. When I converse with a prospect, we’re not discussing just products or services; we’re exchanging visions, values, and strategies.”

    Related: 22 KPIs Every Sales Reps Should Try to Improve in 2023

    Follow-Up and Continuing the Relationship

    The significance of following up with your customers post-sale and continuing the relationship is often underestimated.

    From a psychological perspective, most customers have anxiety about their purchase after they go through with it.

    Did I make the right decision? Will this really work for me? Or did I just pour my money down the drain?

    By following up with them after the purchase to see if they tried out the product and if everything was okay with the delivery, you can easily mitigate all of these anxieties.

    What’s more, you’re continuing your relationship with them and showing them that you value them as a customer. This is essential in customer retention and selling more things to the same people over time.

    During your follow-ups, it’s always a good idea to ask for a testimonial.  

    Christopher Trotter of Trotter Law says that “getting favorable reviews on Google and other online sources is a great way to get new clients.”

    “Clients tell me time and again that this is what made them decide to pick up the phone and call me. Because of this, I continually ask clients to post online reviews for my business.”

    HubSpot Sales Manager KPIs Dashboard Template

    Get Featured In Our Final Report and Access Preliminary Results

    Turning your sales process into a cash-printing pipeline takes a lot of time, effort, and constant restructuring.

    And while it’s certainly possible to get some great sales results without building a dedicated team, the truth is that it’s not going to be easy.

    Luckily, there are those who’ve done it and are willing to share their best insights and strategies for the rest of us to try and replicate.

    What do you think about these strategies? Are there any effective ones that we didn’t mention?

    If so, we’d love to hear them. We’re still gathering insights from small business owners and entrepreneurs and will release a final report in a few months with our partner, Unbound Growth.  

    You can take the survey and get a chance to be featured in our final report, plus access all of the preliminary results as soon as you complete the survey.

    Our partner, Unbound Growth, also launched a free Benchmark Group Sales Benchmarks for B2B Business Owners Who Sell. You can access it to instantly see how you compare against other small businesses.

    And if you’re interested in some specific metrics or another industry, you can still join our Benchmark Groups for free and find the cohort you’re interested in.

    Instant insights, free of charge.

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    Filip Stojanovic

    Filip Stojanovic is a content writer who studies Business and Political Sciences. Also, I am a huge tennis enthusiast. Although my dream is to win a Grand Slam, working as a content writer is also interesting.

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