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Word-of-mouth is the most powerful purchase influencer for consumers – and it works in B2B too. A new study [download page] from ValueSelling Associates finds salespeople pointing to referrals as the most effective method for reaching prospects, far ahead of any other method.

Getting targeted prospects to engage is the top B2B demand generation challenge, per recent research, so it’s interesting to get the salesperson’s perspective on reaching prospects. Presented with a list of methods, fully 77% counted referrals as being among their top-3 for reaching prospects, far ahead of the phone (46%), groups (39%) and trade shows (30%).

These findings support previous research from Bizible, in which word-of-mouth/referrals were said to have the biggest impact on revenue.

As a result, getting an introduction via referrals is considered one of the most important skills for salespeople to connect with new prospects, per the ValueSelling Associates research. Even more important, though, is doing research to identify target prospects who are decision-makers.

Interestingly, a recent survey of B2B decision-makers found that they were more likely to initially engage with a vendor if the salesperson offered specific information relevant to their current job than if the salesperson referenced a colleague they both knew.

Together these results suggest that a referral is extremely important, but that the saleperson must also be speaking with the right contact and be armed with relevant, personalized content. Encouragingly, respondents to the ValueSelling Associates study indicated that the average representative rates relatively highly in terms of doing research to identify target prospects and leveraging content to establish credibility.

Meanwhile, in other highlights from the report:

  • The majority (54%) of salespeople surveyed said that it takes at least 5 attempts to get an initial meeting, and 10% believe it takes more than 10;
  • The biggest challenge in securing an initial meeting isn’t getting a referral or an introduction, but rather getting the prospects to respond; and
  • The top challenges to outbound prospecting are being organized and consistent with outreach efforts and giving up too easily when cold calling.

About the Data: The survey was conducted by Selling Power among 160 sales professionals.

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