We have heard it time and time again, for one simple reason…it’s true! Prospecting is the foundation to sales success. Given we are now bombarded with messages from many different sources telling us cold calling is dead and social is the new way to build a pool of leads and opportunities, I want to debunk this myth to ensure you don’t lose out on putting valuable opportunities into your pipeline. Here are six key tips to ensure sales professionals don’t fall victim to this myth in 2019.
Yes!! Social can produce high quality leads and opportunities, however does this single source constitute a prospecting strategy? Since the day I started in sales, the question of lead generation has always been a hot topic. It is marketing’s job to find leads for the sales team. You should cold call, attend networking sessions, fax out, mail out, get referrals, build strategic partnerships…the advice was endless. However, there was always one constant when it came to prospecting. We can’t simply rely on one prospecting channel to keep busy.
Yesterday, I heard a great analogy from the world’s most passionate sales guy, Larry Levine: ‘Having one or two prospecting channels is like playing golf with two golf clubs’. Why should prospecting be any different? As Sales Professionals, we need to develop a prospecting strategy that will enable us to generate leads and opportunities from multiple sources to ensure we never go hungry.
What are the key steps we must follow when creating a prospecting strategy?
1. Know your target customer and the problem you help solve
One of the most important elements when prospecting is knowing who we need to talk to. Just like Marketing must define their target audience, sales professionals must define not only who their target customer is but also the problem we help them solve. This enables us to develop the right narrative to successfully engage with the prospect. Thinking about the problems our customers face helps us truly empathize with our customers. Take time to research the industry the customer works in, this will enable us to determine if there are industry specific challenges that might be affecting the customer and help us work out how we will add value.
2. Craft the right narrative
‘In the eyes of the buyers all sellers look the same’ – Tony Hughes Combo Prospecting
Once we have identified who our customer is and conducted research on the problems the customer faces, the next step is to craft a positioning statement. Whilst your company may have a value proposition, a positioning statement is contextualized to the customer and focused on the problems they face. This message is crucial as it will pique the interest of our prospect, leaving them wanting to learn more.
3. Lead with Insight and Value
Gone are the days a sales person is the holder of information. Today, customers have an abundance of information at their fingertips. In fact, sometimes a customer can have too much information or it can be conflicting and confusing. In order to help the customer, sales professionals must first give value and lead with insight. Our customer doesn’t care about us or the products or service we offer, they only care about how they can benefit from it. Leading into your interaction with everything about you, pretty much ensures you get a straight up NO or very little engagement from your campaigns!
As sales professionals, the first commitment we must obtain from our prospect is the commitment for time, to gain this commitment, we must be able to demonstrate the value a prospect will receive from giving their time to engage with us. Leading with insight may be sharing what others are doing in their industry to mitigate the challenges they are experiencing or contextualizing data for their business. This creates value and starts to build our credibility as trusted advisors.
4. Create a cadence process and know your metrics
‘Contact frequency will change if the prospect is higher up in the organisation’
– Mark Hunter, High Profit Prospecting
In any prospecting or outreach attempt, we must implement a process of follow up. This occurs across multiple mediums. LinkedIn InMail, connection request, email, phone call, text message…and we must consider the frequency of attempts to contact. LinkedIn day 1, phone call day 2, email day 4…What will this process look like? It is important this is determined and updated in the CRM to ensure all follow up activities are actioned.
Supporting our cadence, we need to know the conversion metrics for each sales activity undertaken. As we execute our prospecting plan, trends occur and we learn how many outreach attempts are required to get in front of our target customer. This serves as insane data we can use to determine the activity required to generate the pipeline activity and ultimately achieve our target.
5. Time block to execute the prospecting plan
‘Protect the golden hours’ – Jeb Blount – Fanatical Prospecting
The research stage of prospecting is critically important, however should not be done during the hours our prospect is available to contact. As Jeb Blount eloquently says, ‘We must not let non-revenue activities interfere with our day’. Absolutely, research is part of generating revenue, however to ensure the golden hours can be used for customer engagement, this task is conducted outside of customer contact hours.
6. Pick up the phone
‘You need sales balls to make sales calls’ – Jeffrey Gittomer
There is much debate about cold calling versus social selling, yet we know people buy from people. The phone is still the number one way to engage with prospects. By researching your target customer and developing the right message, the phone can cut through all the noise and engage directly with your target customer. To demonstrate the effectiveness of making calls, here are my personal metrics of prospecting activity in the past two months:
- 100 Cold outreach attempts – Cadence measured across phone, LinkedIn, in-mail and email
- 34 Connected, an average of 7 outreach attempts to connect
- 14 meetings
- 4 sales
What’s fantastic about 100 outreach attempts? There are still many opportunities working through the pipeline!
After reading this, what steps stand out for you? What steps have you executed well when prospecting during 2018 and what will you need to focus on to ensure your prospecting efforts in 2019 are a success?