5 "Early Interaction" Mistakes to Avoid in B2B Sales

Posted by Alex Chapman


Unfortunately, there are many opportunities to make mistakes in a B2B sales process.  Many can be fatal.  Here are 5 potential mistakes that can determine how well your first interactions go with your contacts.  Everyone wants to get those first contacts off to a positive, friendly and social start.  But B2B social niceties are contingent upon business-to-business realities.   Most of these realities are easily knowable with a little bit of homework.  So why risk saying the wrong thing to the wrong contact at the wrong time?   

b2b sales

Mistake 1.
Not having a "public" understanding of your prospect's business.  Most prospect businesses have sufficient public information available. You can easily get a sense of who they are, what they do, and how long have they been around.   In the B2B world, prospects can be irritated by questions that have answers plainly visible online.  And try to have at least a general financial sense of how the company is doing.  Is your prospect losing money every month, or are they growing so quickly that they are dealing with growing pains.  Knowing this alone should influence every move and comment you make with a prospect.  A good rule of thumb is to learn all you can online before ever entering into a conversation with a B2B prospect.  Then you are in a position to impress your prospect with informed questions. When you do you homework the prospect is in a better position to tell you what you need to know to be successful.
Mistake 2.  Not having a "public" understanding of your prospect LinkedIn and social media are golden tools to help you avoid saying or doing the wrong thing with the person you are prospecting This can include simple things like not telling cat jokes to a prospect whose social media is full of their work as a kitten rescuer.  You can also gain insights into the way your prospects thinks. It's easy to get a sense of how they fit into their organization, and what their motives may be. For example, whether your prospect has been with the company 5 days or is a 5 year veteran. You might approach the new person differently.   Similarly, if your prospect is an engineer you might approach them differently than if they are a sales manager. If your prospect is from another culture, it is helpful to do a bit of research on how that culture makes decisions.  In all the above cases, the approach to decision-making can vary wildly. Yet, with a little bit of preparation you will better see your prospect's "wheels turning" as they interact with you and your team. Make sure you work to carefully define your MQLs to get the best insight. Understanding your MQLs will help you before the initial reach out.
Mistake 3.  Sailing against the CEO winds.  Often a CEO publicizes where he wishes to lead the organization.  Why, how and when he plans to accomplish that are also frequently available online.  Understand how your product or services fit into the CEO's vision!  In a complex B2B sales process, this can be overlooked. After weeks or months of hard work and investment--from both sides--overlooking this may spell disaster.  Keep in mind, the prospects you deal with may or may not be aware if their department is moving in line with the CEO.  That's right.  In some cases, your prospects do not see the forest because of all the trees they need to focus on.  Make it your responsibility to position your sale to support and fit in with the CEO's publicly stated vision--before the CEO says it does not.
Mistake 4.  Engaging in We-We Conversations.  We-we conversations stink.  This is where your prospect speaks as the pronoun "we," as meant to represent his employer and not himself as a real person.  Then you respond as "we," the supplier.  The only good thing about this is you can use it to measure how long it took you to improve the relationship! You are only having a human-to-human chat once your prospect says  "I."  Keep in mind, in these early interactions, prospects may keep you at arm's length. They occasionally have to fend-off aggressive salespeople.  The we-we conversation is a tool that helps prospects to do that.  To counter it, separate your personal self by saying "I."  And call your company by name.   Your prospect will follow your lead when you ask a couple (unintrusive) personal questions (e.g. Have you lived in this city most of your life?).  In a B2B sale, key relationships between individuals must be developed. Relationships that transform the B2B formalities into individuals working toward a win-win.
Mistake 5.  Not spending 90% or more of the time speaking about the prospect, company and challenges.  Let's face it.  It is easier to talk about ourselves and our business.  We know a lot about these things.  It is comforting and can even boost our confidence when we say something smart that we know for certain.  The trouble is that little of this matters to the prospect. Except that it ate into your time with the prospect.  And the clock is ticking.  Look at it this way: there is little or no chance that you walked into a B2B meeting fully understanding the prospect's situation or challenges.  In fact, most prospects don't yet understand fully either.  And they have the inside information!  So these early interactions are about passing the test and earning enough of the prospect's trust. The more trust the more they begin to open up about the real challenges--and the consequences of not meeting those challenges.  
Avoiding these 5 early B2B interaction mistakes will help to position you for the next step. Remember we want meaningful diagnostic interactions and discussions to identify the real challenges.  And to help find opportunities for the businesses and individuals involved. The difference between B2B and B2C is explained in our B2B Marketing guide. 


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