Sales Prospecting Tips from The Bitter Business

The building blocks for successful sales prospecting or lead generation are not solely down to selling skills but a combination of prospect lists with data, accurate targeting and understanding the buyers journey.

Prospecting can be a reluctant or even feared selling activity, especially when the term “cold calling” is mentioned. However prospecting is a vital sales activity and well trained sales people should view as a necessary aspect of being successful in sales. The positive news is using tools like social media and social selling to engage prospects, the actual event of contacting a prospect should be called “warm calling.  Warm calling is about a sales process where reps use social data to research their prospects prior to making a call, understand where they can add value and can demonstrate concern about a buyer challenges. Regardless of the sales cycle, reps whose first goal is to offer the buyer help (white papers or industry research as examples) and guidance (seminars, vendor profiles etc) are far more successful and satisfied than people merely engaged with cold calling.

Here are some tips to win at prospecting using warm calling:

sales motivation

Set aside day every day for sales prospecting. Work with your sales coach or manager to help manage what you are doing or being asked to do. Set targets for prospects researched, profiled and engaged – daily.

If a sales person is blindly approaching prospects with emails and calls without reason other than a profile view then they will fall flat and fast.

If reps are not taking a value first approach then it is not worth even making the call or sending the email

Sales people who are trained to look outward, use social media tools, focus in on the world of the buyer and what they value will perform better in their roles.

‘Dear Buyer, The reason for my call today is…’ If a rep cannot complete this sentence then they should not be making the phone call as they lack sales process and value wedge knowledge.

When engaged with prospects, it is important that the context is there the relevancy of the approach has to be valid.

sales-prospecting

Use social selling tools, social insights, data and lead generation software! The days of having multiple browsers open to find prospect information are long over. It is amazing how many sales managers do not know this yet

Warm calling to activate sales leads is about making the customer the hero, make them glad to have connected with you, bring value and understanding before any sales pitch.

Confidence comes from being in control. So practise the sales conversation, write scripts, the genuine reason for the call and connect this back to a challenge, know your value wedge, understand your industry plus study the buyer’s journey.

Mistakes are learning tools. Every call is a learning opportunity to enrich any sales person’s skill. So do not fret on mistakes and embrace the learning.

Know when to hold and when to fold. When a prospect is not a good fit or you can’t add value move on.  When your product or service is not sparking a buyer’s interest then do not add to the pipeline, rather think of it as a step closer to find a matching prospect.

Focus on the Outcome. Prospecting is not about selling, it has a different goal. It is about exploring the possibility that you might be able to create value for the buyer and maybe do something together down the line. Selling, at this point really is cold calling.

Have fun. Enjoy the fruits of your research and the social insights you have gathered. You bring value and are worth listening to. Buyer to Supplier relationships has to start somewhere and opening these relationships is what prospecting is all about.

Sales Funnel Improvement Tips

How many people in sales really understand the sales funnel, the sales pipeline and the objections that can clog up the process? Success for many companies and start-ups depends on if they can shorten the sales cycle and speed up the sales process. It may come as a surprise to many sales managers that it is not product knowledge or productivity that separates out the good from the average in the race to revenue. The biggest key to unlocking revenue in sales is to understand the buyer’s perception of time.

sales-funnel-graph

The ability to move customers (cost of customer acquisition) through the sales funnel fast enough to bring in revenue can be the difference between success and failure no matter how good a business believes its product to be.

Even the sales and marketing gurus at HubSpot stated “buyer’s lack of urgency is the number one objection we face in the sales process.” So for sales teams to be successful, especially start-ups, they have to create a sense of urgency to move prospects faster through the pipeline.

The reality is that in today’s fast paced business environment, time is a scarce commodity. The seller’s time is scarce (need revenue) and the buyer’s time is scarce (need value now). Unlocking this time scarcity and getting the buyer to focus in on it is the key to a repeatable sales process and the means to a healthy sales pipeline.

The advent of inbound marketing and buyers own journey of discovery has seen seller time scarcity work well as a tactic. This tactic works well as the inbound customer is likely to be in the “consideration” or “Intent to buy” phases of the sales funnel, and moving closer to making a purchase. This is where seller scarcity nudges the buyer down the funnel. There are many types of seller scarcity from the instant discount for decision now; daily offer only, limited number of units available at the price, free express shipping or the free trials offering etc.

Buyer urgency presents a greater challenge. How many times have you heard the phrase “Can you get back to me in a month” While sometimes genuine (if qualified), most won’t remember your name by the time you call back a month later

The key to triggering a sense of urgency during an outbound sales call is to get some information about a business goal that needs attention. A sales person time is scare, if a business goal cannot be identified then move on. A question such as when is the latest you need to solve/resolve/have in place X?, is designed to probe as to find an urgent need within the business that justifies the prospect spending time engaging with a sales person.

From experience and monitoring sales processes, I believe a sense of urgency is best addressed after the goal priority phase of the discovery conversation. Once a goal that the seller offering can fulfil has been identified, then explore why it is prudent for the prospect to address the pain now. All sales people should be versed in communicating the negative consequences of inaction and the positive implications of addressing things now. A 3 step approach is to

Probe for negative consequences

Probe into the negative consequences at overall company level

Probe for positive implications

The sales skill and ability to bring a prospect through this dialogue is really important. The skill is for both the seller and buyer to understand the buyer’s priorities and how the sales person can help now.

Without a sense of urgency in sales, buyer desire loses its value

If I was selling data, I would probe how urgently the buyer needs to increase leads in the sales funnel or how urgently the data team needs to provide information to product managers, sales, marketing and finance. Another tactic is to sell risk reduction (use us as a backup vendor) to protect a business against the current supplier not delivering or if they are stretched. Computer and technology companies (we used this at Dell as a beachhead strategy) to invoke urgency as a way to sell products even if only small amount initially.

As part of sales training or as part of the sales interview all sales people should be able to ask and understand these same three questions:

  1. Why does the prospect need to take action today?
  2. What are the negative implications if they don’t?
  3. What are the positive implications if they do?

Ask any venture capitalist or business leader and they will tell you that faster sales cycles are a competitive advantage. Because faster sales cycles enable companies not just to acquire customer faster but to refine their sales techniques quicker, measure sales people faster, improve sales training and test marketing and lead sources instantly.

But much more important, moving sales faster through the sales funnel means speedier growth, which impacts any fundraising requirements and scaling headcount. For SaaS based start up companies, we know that product-to-market fit is vital, and developing urgency to prospects in the sales processes is equally vital.

Any sales strategy that unlocks time scarcity and motivates the buyer to act now forms the basis of a great sales unit that can stand the test of time.

How to Find New Customers on Social Media

Every business needs to find new customers and social media has become the go to channel for reaching new buyers using content as the main hook. Since the arrival of social selling and big data tools, social networks are now the main channels on which to identify and engage with new customers. While social platforms are superb publishing channels they are also great channels in which to promote products or services.

social-media-channels

The foundations to using social media platforms to find new customers are built upon 3 pillars. The first is having all your  social media profiles set up, the second is having your website populated with some customer centric content and the third is you have put in place a lead nurturing process for potential customers engaged with through the social networks.

So assuming all the social profiles are set up and you have the resources to lead nurture, take a look at these simple ways you can use social media to find new customers.

Here are some ways to use social media to find new customers

Getting leads via friend invite

A great way to increase social media exposure is to enable a friend’s invite scheme. Encourage your existing user base to invite their friends to connect with you or the business and maybe reward if they do will allow you to tap into a market segment that is likely to be interested in you. Also as you are using friend invites to increase social media exposure, why not use those friend invites to find new customers. The audience who already purchase your products or engage with your website are more likely to introduce higher quality leads, which allows you to find leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

LinkedIn group discussions

LinkedIn has become the main channel for B2B social selling, providing businesses and sales people the opportunity to network and engage with shared interest professionals. Done correctly the LinkedIn groups can provide a gateway to share, listen and engage with potential new customers.

A simple way to start is to do a search for the type of customer you are looking for; this will give you a list of groups to help you identify new customers. Just type in the search bar the profile of person you want to find and then on the left side click on Groups.

LinkedIn-group-discussions

Start viewing the groups that have populated in your search, but before clicking on join, be sure to look through the list of members to make sure that the people in the group are the type of people you want to engage with.

Once you have been approved into the group, plan out how you will go about sharing interesting content (not always your own!), creating discussions and contributing to existing topics around the group topics. Doing this activity in a thoughtful way will build your “social selling index” and add credibility to your brand. Over time this activity will give you insight to what your potential new customer are interested in. This is the preamble before you should reach out to connect with them.

Tap into hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags and social conversations are a superb way to find new customers. Twitter has over 600 million users and the real-time chatter provides any business with ample amounts of data to find customers.

For example, if your company is selling the latest marketing tool and your target audience are marketing professionals, search the hashtags #marketing on Twitter and a list of conversations and profiles with marketing will be accessible. Just like LinkedIn you can then start following and engaging with these professionals so you can start building relationships that can potentially turn into new customers.

Promote your customers on social media

Promoting real and valid customer stories is a great way to find new customers through word of mouth referrals. Select some customers who are benefiting from using your product or better still ones, who engage with your product on the social media platforms, then promote them on your company’s social channels. This type of activity will gain those customers’s loyalty, and the exposure you receive when they also share the “promotional url/article” on their own social profiles; increasing your brand awareness through your brand promoters.

Funnel social media traffic to landing pages

The creation and use of landing pages on inbound marketing and social media campaigns are a great way to find new customers. When running a campaign to promote a product, a white paper or maybe a webinar on social media, funnel your traffic to a landing page that relates back to the tweet or social post. Companies like Hubspot and Marketo are experts at this. It works as follows.

landing-page-example

When someone clicks on the link in the tweet/post it takes them to a dedicated landing page to download the content or information after submitting their name and email address. This kick starts the lead nurturing process for potential new customers that were acquired through social platform traffic.

Use and optimise Social Video

Video channels such as YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are powerful social networks to generate social media traffic for your business. In fact, according to Shareaholic, Google owned YouTube drives the most qualified referrals to websites.

social-video-facts

If not already doing so, consider using video content in your marketing strategy. Ensure to always include a call to action at the end of the video or in the description box. The call to action should funnel people to a landing page (see previous tip).

Target and measure Social Sharing

Social sharing is not only a powerful method to generate online referral traffic but also to boost SEO which in turn drives more traffic. Every day there are over 22 billion social shares on the web. This echo system can provide a large amount of product exposure that requires very little work.

Always include social share buttons on every blog article and make sure they are positioned to make it is easy and encouraging for users to share your content. Depending on the quality of the content will increase traffic to your content or website.

Become active on Google+

Google+ has over 2.5 billion users. (Social Media Facts and Trends) and in the world of social networks, Google+ can be overlooked. However, Google+ has a useful feature in its Google+ Communities. Just like LinkedIn groups, these communities have members which could a source of new customers. Do a search on a topic relevant to your business, and you will see the communities that could be a good channel to engage with potential customers.

Google-Plus-Community

Do a search for “web designers”. The search will pull up the Google+ communities that were made for web designers. Start by joining the communities that have the highest number of members, highest number of posts, and the most relevant profiles. Again the tactic is to engage within the community to build authority, then share relevant content that funnels people towards your website or landing page.

Final Thoughts

All the social media channels provide any business with the opportunity to find new customers and as a customer acquisition channel. The about suggestions are just some of the ways social platforms can be used to find customers. Remember that every tactic must be customised to your types of business and customer, vanilla flavour doesn’t work! So ensure to understand which social networks your target audience are on before committing resources into social media to find new customers. Understanding your ideal “target prospect” and where/what (type of content) this audience engages on the social networks will help you in being efficient in acquiring customers. Do not get caught up in the quantity over quality of leads debate, this is a matter of targets. To be successful in customer acquisition via social media is as simple as ABC, (a) use the right social networks, (b) have great content to share (c) have the right social selling tactics. Follow this mantra and finding new customers on social platforms will become a whole lot easier than you imagined.