Despite the rise of inbound marketing, sales prospecting is still a key skill to be successful in sales. The activity of searching for potential customers in order to nurture a relationship with can be time consuming, so it’s important to get it right. To many sales people, the thought of picking up the phone or sending a cold email can be daunting especially if they work for a company whose brand name might not have instant recognition.
50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. [Source: The B2B Lead]
So, here are some tips to help sales prospecting for business success:
Build a Social Presence that overcomes any lack of name recognition.
Building social credibility and influence can remove one of the bigger obstacles for smaller and more specialized companies. As Confucius stated “Worry not that no one knows you; seek to be worth knowing.” So, start by really understanding your value proposition and be clear about the buyer pain points and business challenges your company solves.
Givers Gain. The ability to demonstrate (visually on social media or in presentations) that you understand their challenges and you can be a useful source of information to help them improve their business will bring more valuable connections.
Openly share what makes you better – without a big sales pitch. Use case studies, whitepapers, references etc to gentle highlight the benefits of considering your business. Give examples of what makes you different, whether it is customizable solutions, free trials, same-day installation, proof of concepts or free training. Seeding the benefits of doing business with you that can be viewed online will only reinforce any other prospecting touch point.
So, make sure you are armed with a list of unique benefits and values that will dispel any perceived lack of brand familiarity or company name recognition. Building a social presence will move you from being a seller to a solution provider.
Do Your Research
If you want everyone as a customer, you will sell to no-one. Create 1,2 or 3 Ideal Customer Profiles. In fact, focusing in on who you want to engage is probably THE most important aspect of sales prospecting. To maximize your success, ensure that you prioritize the prospects/profiles in order to improve the chances of providing value to them and their business.
During the research stage, the goals to work towards include:
- To determine if the prospect is worth investing time in
- List, score, and begin to prioritize prospects
- Identify touch points (via social or otherwise) to develop a connection through content, message personalization, nurturing and influence development
Seek to Be Useful, Valuable and Relevant
Learn social listening so you can research their company and understand their business. What trigger events can you uncover that would warrant engaging with you. Have they just launched a new product? Hired a new CEO, moving to a bigger office, Acquired a new company? Trigger selling is where you leverage specific information to make a touch point relevant, more informed, and less cold.
Become skilled at Social Selling
Cold calling and unsolicited emails by themselves are not as powerful as they once were. They still have a place in sales prospecting if used in conjunction with social selling. This activity involves the use of LinkedIn, Twitter and increasingly Facebook as part of the sales process to raise buyer awareness towards a business and then gradually cultivating new connections. Learn to use social media to build relationships before a prospect even starts a buyer’s journey, to close the conversion gap and eventually move online social conversations into offline sales conversations. Social selling is an additive process to connect with all stakeholders, decision-makers and influencers as the buying process moves from status quo, to awareness and onto consideration.
Using your Ideal Customer Profiles, locate and list your prospects on LinkedIn, then begin by sharing quality content, be seen to add value to conversations prior to sending out a connection request. Using a highly personalized message, referencing something that will twig their interest will greatly improve their likelihood to accept your request to connect to them. Now, this can turn your first ‘cold’ call touch point into a warm call and increase the percentage of appointments or demos.
Multi-Channel Sales Touch Points
Not one single touch point (Social Selling, Emailing or Cold Calling) should be your entire tactic. C level executives receive over 100 emails a day and try to avoid numerous cold pitches so the likelihood of success by simply focusing on one tactic will probably deliver slim pickings.
Selling is about communication and commitments. There will always be person to person personalized communication, so learn the multi-channel techniques to overcome low brand or name recognition on calls and mails. The buying committee is now on average made up of 5 to 6 people, so think multi touch points to multiple people as part of your sales process if you want to build recognition for the brand.
As buyers self-educate, getting their time and attention isn’t easy, but perfecting the channels and timing of when to engage them will dramatically close the conversion gap and increase the number sales conversations you secure.
Learn the Sales Habit Loop, Set a Daily Schedule for Yourself
It takes 66 days on average to learn a new habit, so as basic as it sounds, plan your day, book time slots for different prospecting tactics in your calendar, daily. Then persist with it and prospect. Make it part of your daily routine and give yourself a reward not just for the success but also for the effort. Selling is a repetitive job, it can be easy to dedicate ourselves to the “easier” sales tasks. Even when your sales pipeline seems full, remember over 80% of prospects make it all the way through the sales process and never make a decision. So, you must have a sales habit loop that consistently refreshes the number of sales prospects you are planning to or are currently engaging.
Never stop Learning
Take time to reassess your sales prospecting process to see what activities generated some return and which ones did not deliver.
After each prospecting campaign, take time to assess how well we:
- Found a pain point or trigger
- Were able to engage in meaningful conversations
- Uncovered challenges
- Understood the buying committee and decision process
- Gave buyers reasons to move out of their status quo
- Closed the conversion gap
Persistence. Learn, have a routine, Try, then try again, reflect, refresh, adjust and go again. And again, and again. Taking time to self-reflect will serve to further improve sales prospecting techniques for future campaigns. Here are some more sales training articles and videos.