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Winning at B2B: using the personal touch

In the final part of a series on how small businesses can sell to larger organisations, PwC’s Jonathan Hollis talks about how business referrals and building industry recognition can drive sales.

Jonathan Hollis

July 2019

In the early stages of winning business, the most successful proven way of selling is through referrals. In fact, referral leads convert four times better than marketing leads. 

When someone makes an introduction, they are putting their personal brand on the line, as well as going out their way to write the intro. This makes subsequent follow-ups impactful, if not expected. 

You can pursue this strategy by firstly using you and your team’s network of existing relationships by asking for warm introductions to people who match your customer profile. Try using LinkedIn’s Lead Generator tool. 

If your solution is relevant, it’s a win-win-win proposition. You can also consider working with a sales rep who has already built trusted relationships with executives, but who will charge a fee.

It’s not all about outbound sales, inbound activity is equally important. However, this will not happen overnight. There are a number of ways of making yourself heard in order to generate leads, while at the same time, building your credibility and industry knowledge. 

  • Become an active participant at industry and sector-specific functions.Organisers are always looking for interesting speakers, so volunteer to share your ideas.
  • Join a trade organisation’s committee to help define industry standards.
  • Create content on your website that requires a sign-up page and promote it on social media. Think about the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask at sign-up as these will be used to produce relevant content to your growing audience.
  • Use your content to publish articles and case studies within industry publications read by your target clients and contribute to white papers to share valuable insights on a particular sector or trend. These should not be a sales pitch, but will naturally lead to inbound referrals. 

Partnership sales can also be a powerful way of generating leads. Theoretically, the easiest way to sell your service is to work with an organisation that already regularly engages with your target clients and decision makers, and who already know the company’s needs and pain points. 

But in practice, other organisations are unlikely to actively push your service, even if you’re sharing some of the reward with them. Focus on those where the pain points you are solving is clear and where their customers are actively asking for your solution. 

Don’t rely on these partners to do the selling for you, but leverage their client relationships and try to stay involved in the process as much as possible. Be mindful that partners can also turn out to be competitors.

Jonathan Hollis manages PwC’s Scale and Raise programmes, helping early stage companies work with PwC’s corporate clients and raise institutional funding.

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