When selling to new prospects, you might feel like you have to spend a lot of time in sales discovery—getting to know your buyer’s short-term needs and long-term goals, as well as taking time to build rapport.
But when you’re trying to move deals to the finish line fast, you can’t waste time on activities that produce unnecessary drag.
Prolonged discovery, scripted demos, and multi-step complex sales processes might seem like good ideas for B2B selling, but they often add delays to the sales process that could ultimately stall your buyer’s decision.
The good news is, these common sales practices aren’t always required.
You can apply some simple selling tips and tricks, based on research and psychology, to shorten your sales cycle and win more revenue. Not only will you guide your buyers to a decision faster, but you’ll also increase your win rate and boost your profitability.
Here are 12 science-backed tips to help you sell faster to new prospects:
1. respond immediately to inbound leads
Your prospects are digitally savvy, well-informed, and often well into their buying journey before they reach out to learn more about your product or services.
When prospects decide to contact you, they’re likely already narrowing their options. They’re not just evaluating your solution—they’re also evaluating your competitors’ product or service. If you don’t respond quickly to their inquiry, you’re far less likely to win the deal.
In fact, a recent field trial from Frank Pinder and B2B DecisionLabs found that when prospects received a response within 24 hours:
- Sellers won twice as many smaller-than-average deals, and 1.7 times as many larger-than-average deals.
- Sellers won 21 percent more larger-than-average deals.
Responding to an inbound prospect immediately can not only double your win rates, but the size of those deals will likely increase, too.
So, how do you ensure you’re responding immediately to prospect inquiries?
- Build automation rules to route leads to the right person right away. Processes that might take someone hours or days to manage manually can potentially happen in seconds.
- Send an automated email to acknowledge your prospect’s interest immediately, and then follow up several times within the next 24 hours.
Keep in mind that prospects don’t respond to only one call or email. Sometimes it can take multiple attempts to get your prospect to respond, even if they filled out a form.
So, utilize a semi-automated sales cadence that includes several attempts on day one and multiple touches over the next 16 days.
Want to build your 24-hour response plan? Get this template.
2. target the problem, not a persona
Many sales and marketing leaders express a strong affinity for buyer personas. And it makes sense. You don’t want to waste effort targeting the wrong people with your product or service.
The problem with this sales strategy? The most commonly used criteria—role, title, industry vertical, company size, and past purchase history—are the least effective for prospect targeting, according to behavioral research from B2B DecisionLabs.
The study, led by Dr. Leff Bonney, identified two other criteria that are significantly more effective for predicting your buyer’s journey:
- Problem profiles – the characteristics of the problems that buyers are dealing with.
- Trigger events – what caused the buyer to realize they have a problem.
When you identify problem profiles and trigger events, research shows that you can better predict your buyer’s journey. As a result, you can identify and remove any roadblocks during your buyer’s decision-making process.
So, the next time you talk to a prospect, ask them specific questions to find out:
- Does the prospect understand what their problem is?
- How confident is the prospect about the cause of the problem?
- Do all stakeholders agree they have the same problem?
- What motivated them to seek a new vendor?
That’s it. You don’t need to spend time learning every detail about your buyer’s demographics. Focus on their problem profiles and trigger events, and use that information to speed up the sales process.
Get the research report, The Problem with Personas, to learn more.
3. guide the sales discussion
Your buyers are going to ask a lot of questions. Chances are, they’ve never bought a solution like yours before.
The problem is, when you only have 30 minutes on a call together, prospects can easily fill that space with their laundry list of questions to vet your solution against their needs (or at least what they believe they need).
Don’t fall into the trap of responding to every single question on the call. If you do, you’re letting them lead the discussion. That kind of open-ended discovery can quickly diverge into areas that have nothing to do with the product or service you’re selling.
It wastes time, and getting the conversation back on track isn’t easy.
Remember: your buyer isn’t the expert in your solution—you are. So you need to take the reins and guide the discussion in a productive and organized way.
Use your time to bring attention to the problems you know your prospect is facing based on your experience. Have a clear destination in mind of the issues you want to explore and direct the sales conversation so it naturally flows to your solution.
By guiding the discussion (not responding), you not only save time, but also position yourself as the expert. You’re driving the flow of conversation—not them.
4. introduce Unconsidered Needs to the prospect
According to customer data from Primary Intelligence, a leading win-loss-no decision analysis company:
- 35 percent of the time, buyers see no difference between vendors.
- 79 percent of the time, they only see a minimal difference.
Think about that. In four out of every five deals, your buyers are having trouble differentiating how your solution is better than your competitors’.
That’s a problem—a problem that stems from the tendency to rely on your prospect’s stated needs—what they believe their needs are, rather than what they might not know or haven’t yet considered.
When you base your messages on your buyer’s stated needs, you end up delivering commoditized messages that won’t differentiate you.
All of your competitors are using the same inputs from their prospects and customers. You’ll be responding with similar capabilities to meet those identified needs.
The result is a commoditized conversation. Because prospects hear very similar things from you and your competitors, they see no contrast between their choices. Prospects also tend to stick with the status quo because they see no urgency to change.
If a prospect does decide they want to buy but don’t see the full value of your solution, they’ll try and add value to their decision by asking you to lower your price.
To avoid these commoditized conversations and amp up the urgency to change, you need to venture beyond known problems and stated needs and introduce your prospects to their Unconsidered Needs—problems, deficiencies, or missed opportunities that your prospect doesn’t know about or hasn’t addressed, but are holding them back from reaching their business goals.
If you can bring an Unconsidered Need to your prospect, it provides valuable insight that your competitor isn’t talking about. And when your buyer hears an Unconsidered Need, they feel more urgency to solve that need as soon as possible.
This makes you not just another solution, but the right solution to implement now.
Read this article to learn more about Unconsidered Needs.
5. add context to your data
Behavioral and neuroscience research from B2B DecisionLabs has shown that to increase your persuasive impact, it’s important to present data and insights before asking the prospect questions.
To do so effectively, you must follow a specific sequence of steps: Data, Insight, Question (DIQ).
- Data – Begin by sharing relevant data related to an external factor that’s important to your buyer’s business.
- Insight – Next, turn that data into an insightful message by placing the information within the context of your buyer’s current situation.
- Question – Only after presenting an insight should you ask a reflective question to provoke a dialogue.
This approach encourages self-persuasion and transfers ownership of the challenge to your buyer. They immediately begin to think about how it applies to their business, and how they can solve it.
Data is just information unless it’s accompanied by a relevant and provocative insight. By presenting these provocative insights with data, you encourage your audience to think differently about their current approach and become more receptive to your proposed solution.
Using the DIQ framework will also create a more engaging and memorable dialogue with your audience, rather than simply delivering a one-way monologue.
Get this DIQ checklist to learn the research behind this tactic.
6. show clear contrast
Telling your prospects what they can gain by choosing your product or service is good. Adding quantified results to those benefits is better.
But numbers alone aren’t enough to sway your buyer on an emotional level. If you really want your prospects to act, you also need to tell them what’s at risk if they don’t choose your solution.
Why does this matter?
Too many sellers assume that their product is a solution. But to your prospect, it’s not a solution—it’s a change management project.
People are naturally wired to stick with their status quo. So unless you can show your prospect the value in undertaking that change, they won’t do it—they’ll decide to do nothing at all.
To overcome that inertia and persuade your prospect to change, you need to:
- Frame their current situation as unsafe and unsustainable.
- Show them how their future will look when your solution resolves the risks.
People don’t change to achieve the same results they’re getting today. So you need to help them visualize the gap between “before” and “after” your solution. Show them how much pain they can avoid by choosing you.
Your value lies in the contrast they see. The greater the gap between the “before” and “after” states in your story, the more willing your buyer will be to take action.
Check out this example of how to show contrast in your messaging:
7. control your 10% message
Your prospects will forget about 90 percent of the information you share after 48 hours.
And to make matters worse, the small amount they do remember will be completely random—unless you control your “10% message.”
A 10% message is a crisp and concise statement about the most important takeaway that you want your buyers to remember and act on.
The most effective 10% messages meet the following criteria:
- Focused – Do you have one main message with no more than three to four supporting points?
- Rewarding – Is your message linked to something your prospect finds rewarding?
- Differentiated – Can someone else in your field claim your message, or is it unique to you?
- Repeatable – Does your message come to mind easily so your buyer can share it with someone else?
- Actionable – Is your message phrased as an action you want your buyer to take?
If your 10% message isn’t explicitly clear, each person on your sales call might walk away with a different understanding of what they just heard. But if your goal is to drive consensus around a specific buying decision, you need to make sure those stakeholders don’t just remember something—they need to remember the right thing.
See an example of how to create a 10% message in this video:
8. leverage your industry knowledge
You talk with industry leaders every day. You’ve heard from them about the problems they’re facing and the external factors that are shaping their business decisions.
You know who doesn’t have that knowledge? Your prospect.
You have a wealth of industry knowledge that’s incredibly valuable to your prospects. They want to hear about the trends, challenges, and insights you’ve gleaned. And they want to know how others in the industry are grappling with the problems they’re facing.
How does sharing industry knowledge help you sell faster?
This is exactly the kind of information executive buyers are looking for. And considering that 80 percent of your deals will require a VP or higher-level signoff, if you can get executive support at the beginning of the sales process, you can save a lot of time later on.
Executive decision makers don’t want another seller asking what’s keeping them up at night—they want you to tell them what should be keeping them up.
This again is where Unconsidered Needs are so powerful. You can provide a fresh perspective on their business based on what you have seen that they need to know about.
Using your industry knowledge, you can provide these insights and establish yourself as a valuable advisor who thinks on an executive level.
9. build urgency on their terms
A quarterly discount or end-of-year sale won’t motivate your prospect to act now. And they certainly won’t care whether you hit your quota this month.
In other words, your timetable isn’t going to convince your buyer to close the deal.
If your prospect doesn’t see a reason why they need to purchase right now, the sale will stall. If it isn’t important to their upcoming business goals, it isn’t going to be a priority.
So what will convince your prospect they need to act now?
You need to figure out something related to their business needs that will drive urgency.
- Determine a compelling event for their business—something like the end of their fiscal year, an annual company event, or an internal launch. Ultimately, it needs to be something that has a concrete date and it makes sense why your solution needs to be purchased or implemented before that event.
- Create a “setback schedule”—a timeline for what needs to happen when, so they don’t miss hitting the deadline you set for the compelling event. This concrete timeline provides exact steps to take and makes it clear why it will be bad for their business if they don’t complete them.
Making the timeline for purchasing all about their business needs (not yours) will make buying your solution more urgent to your prospect.
10. frame the decision
Very rarely is only one person making a buying decision.
You usually need to convince a group of people, often from different departments and levels, to all agree that your solution is the best.
Trying to achieve consensus from this diverse buying committee is often the biggest roadblock in a sale.
What can you do to get those decision makers on the same page more quickly?
Most businesses usually have similar stakeholders involved in the decision-making process.
You’ve gone through the sales cycle for your product countless times and you probably know who needs to be involved and what questions they have. But your prospect hasn’t. So you need to share your knowledge of how the decision-making process can run best.
Walk your primary contact through what you’ve seen before. Tell them who is usually involved in deciding to buy your solution. And prep them about what questions these stakeholders will have, so they can provide answers to each person.
Together you can build a roadmap to involve the right people at the right time and provide information that addresses those common questions in advance. You’ll avoid surprises and slowdowns by setting expectations and enabling a consensus-driven decision.
11. make first offers
Your prospects will anchor on the first number they hear during price conversations.
Where does that anchor come from? If you’re messaging it right—you.
By making the first offer and setting the reference point for your buyers, you’re better able to influence their perception of your solution’s value.
This happens because of a cognitive bias known as the “Anchoring Effect,” which causes you to rely heavily on the first piece of information you receive. When you’re faced with a decision that involves some type of uncertainty, you’ll naturally anchor on a reference point and ascribe value based on that.
Anchoring works even when you know you’re being anchored. People’s brains can’t help but take that mental shortcut.
So, whoever provides the first number places the anchor for which all future negotiations happen. If you wait for your buyer to make the first offer, it will almost certainly be low, and you’ll be forced to try and negotiate back up.
But if you make the first offer, you can set the anchor high. Prospects can negotiate the price down, but you still gain more than if you let them start the process.
Watch this video to learn more about the Anchoring Effect:
12. use time outside of the sales call
Prospects don’t have unlimited time. You’re lucky to get 45 minutes with them on a call.
With these time constraints, you can’t give them too much information all at once. Prospects won’t read all the resources you send them, and they’ll remember very little of the information you share.
That’s why you need to use your sales presentation time as efficiently as possible. Consider:
- What is your 10% message?
- What is the one commitment you expect from the buyer after the call?
- What’s the most important information your prospect needs to understand?
- What information will help you make progress more quickly?
Because you don’t have unlimited time, use asynchronous time wisely. Use time outside of the call to share additional information that they can review on their own time.
If they request content, use the content you already have available. Don’t waste your time creating bespoke content when you don’t have to.
sales tips backed by science
“I sell by being a trusted advisor.”
You’ve probably heard someone say it. You might have even said it yourself.
It seems like a fine enough selling mantra on the surface. But probe a little deeper, and you’ll discover that when people say this, they mean that they ask their buyer a lot of questions, use those questions to diagnose needs, and then present a solution that fits the criteria.
This approach does you and your buyer a disservice—and it’s the antithesis of what it takes to master sales conversations today.
It’s no longer enough to say, “Tell me what you want; I’ll get it for you.” Buyers want you to tell them what they should want. They don’t want to sift through all the information—they need you to deliver insight into what they’re missing that will improve their performance.
When you understand how your buyers frame value and make decisions, and you apply some foundational sales tips and tricks, you can begin to guide your sales conversations more confidently, avoid potential roadblocks, shorten the sales cycle, and win more revenue.