Apr 05, 2019 | Sales Best Practices

B2B Sales Representatives: What They Do and Why They Are Important

Audrey Weber's Avatar

Audrey Weber

Associate Content Editor

It's no secret that sales representatives are the key to our success here at Outreach. Over the last several years, we have built new tools and systems to empower our own reps, including the best Sales Engagement Platform in the universe and the Agoge Tribe onboarding method.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the world of B2B sales reps, including best practices for training, hiring, and the daily challenges associated with the role.

What is a B2B sales representative?

A B2B sales representative is a professional who seeks and builds relationships with corporate decision makers to sell a product or service.

Following a playbook based on their team’s sales process, B2B sales reps use a wide range of sales skills, techniques, and tools to gain the trust of potential B2B buyers and recommend solutions that are relevant to these buyers’ pain points and aspirations. Most B2B sales reps use sales calling, email, video conferencing, and social media messaging to encourage prospects to discover the value of their solution.

Are there different types of B2B sales representatives?

The term “sales rep” encompasses a large subset of sales professionals, referring mostly to individual contributors who usually account for the largest chunk of a sales organization.

Distinction among sales reps can be in terms of work venue (inside sales reps vs. outside sales reps); tenure or skill level (junior sales reps vs. senior sales reps); or area of focus (outbound sales reps vs. inbound sales reps; business development reps vs. sales development reps vs. technical sales reps vs. lead development reps).

Depending on the organization, Account Executives can fall under the "sales rep" umbrella, but we will only be talking about sales development representatives (SDRs) for the purposes of this article.

What does a typical day for a B2B sales rep look like?

B2B sales teams align their daily workflows, tasks, and activities with a pre-designed sales process and an organized stream of potential customers called a sales pipeline.

A typical day for a B2B sales rep includes engaging leads in the pipeline over one or more channels (web, mobile, social media, email, etc). In any given day, sales reps will be researching prospects, making sales calls, requesting clients for a meeting, and sending follow-up emails.

Why are B2B sales reps important?

While not all sales reps are quota-carrying sellers, every sales rep is a customer-facing professional who directly contributes to relationship-building, portfolio growth, and revenue generation.

The primary duty of sales reps is to keep their pipelines full and flowing. The sales pipeline reflects the health, profitability, and future growth of business organizations. Because B2B sales reps own the pipeline, the survival of B2B companies can depend on these professionals’ performance.

Without competent B2B sales reps to move prospects from start to finish of the sales process, revenue opportunities easily slip through the cracks and optimal profitability is difficult to achieve.

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How do sales reps address challenges in the B2B buying process?

B2B sales is complex and typically involves high price points. A single deal often requires multiple touchpoints, multiple decision makers, and multiple channels.

Moreover, the corporate decision makers are usually well informed and are being courted by multiple competitors. The sales process can be long, have a lot of back and forth, and the rep’s responsiveness can often be the difference between deal or no deal.

Sales reps survive the punishing environment of B2B selling through a combination of personal traits, selling skills, sales tools, organizational support, and an effective B2B sales strategy.

Sales Hacker published a comprehensive list of sales skills and traits that enable sales professionals to withstand the rigors and challenges of selling. Some of the primary traits and skills sales reps need to excel in their career include empathy, social selling, and conflict resolution. A dedicated sales ops and/or sales enablement team can significantly help sellers develop these attributes and master the craft.

Depending on their target customers and specific B2B sales cycle, sales reps also use a wide range of sales approaches, often iterating playbooks to improve win rates and accelerate the process. Some of the more popular methods used by B2B sellers include solution selling, the Challenger Sale, and account-based selling.

Meanwhile, sales tools have evolved over the years, with today’s most sophisticated tools being powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. For a sales team to reduce process inefficiencies and bolster revenue performance, technology adoption is imperative. However, just having a CRM won’t be enough. To gain competitive advantage, a B2B team should meticulously build a robust sales enablement stack that includes a powerful sales engagement platform.

Hiring B2B sales reps

Because business success depends on a company’s sales performance, the recruitment of competent, trainable, and passionate B2B sales reps is critical. In today’s talent market, hiring the right candidate at the onset should be the primary goal for sales employers and recruiters. The reason is simple: over time, bad hires wreak substantial damage in terms of morale erosion and monetary cost.

To minimize the odds of hiring a bad candidate, consider the following tips:

  1. Form a team to recommend the ideal candidate profile for your sales organization.
  2. Use recruitment technologies, such as an applicant tracking system, to do the heavy lifting.
  3. Conduct thorough personal and professional research on shortlisted applicants.
  4. Never allow desperation to force you into hiring an unqualified candidate.
  5. Set preliminary phone interviews to make initial assessments.
  6. If necessary, partner with reliable third party sales recruiters.

Good vs. bad sales candidate

Here are some characteristics of good and bad candidates to look for:

  1. Good candidates are passionate about what they do. Bad candidates demonstrate low interest and lack of motivation.
  2. Good candidates show tact and respect in their social media profile. Bad candidates don’t care.
  3. Good candidates stay a while in their jobs and make sure they leave a positive legacy when they do seek other employment. Bad candidates just job-hop any time they want.
  4. Great candidates care about their skills and show that they are trainable. Bad candidates act like they don’t need to improve anything.
  5. Good sales professionals take responsibility for their actions and ownership of their role. Bad candidates blame others for their failures.

Training and ramping B2B sales reps

For sales organizations, hiring a good candidate is just the beginning. Grooming new hires to become master sellers entails strategic onboarding and continuous training, coaching, and mentoring.

There are many ways to get sales training and ramping done. Outreach, or example, implements an effective onboarding process that also facilitates selling innovation, called the Agoge Method.

New SDRs — who form the Agoge Tribe — learn the current sales development process and are encouraged to perform A/B tests to discover which sales approach delivers the best outcomes for specific scenarios. Using Outreach, for example, reps can identify which scripts deliver the highest cold calling success rate or which email copy triggers the most favorable reactions in B2B sales leads.

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