A Guide to Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting whether using cold calling, social selling, emails or referrals is a vital sales tactic especially for new or small businesses.  Prospecting and sales are not the same thing, prospecting is solely focused on searching and engaging with potential customers in order to nurture a relationship. The sales event happens once the prospect has passed some qualification criteria.  The act of picking up the phone or sending a cold email can seem daunting to a salesperson, especially if they work for a company whose product or brand name might not be instantly recognizable.

50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. [Source: The B2B Lead]

So, here is a guide for sales prospecting success:

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Use Social Selling and Digital Selling to counteract lack of name recognition.

Using social selling and digital selling tactics can overcome many of the bigger obstacles for new or smaller 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 using video or content on social media) that you understand your prospects challenges and that you can be a useful source of information to help them improve their business will result in increased relevant connections.

Share first, sell later. Sharing insights and quality information without a big sales pitch is what will get attention from buyers. Use video, case studies, whitepapers, references etc to gentle highlight the benefits of considering your business. Give examples of what makes you different, whether it is a unique product, free trials, lower cost of ownership, proof of concepts or improved performance. Seeding the benefits of doing business with you that can be viewed online will only reinforce your other sales prospecting efforts.

The first step is to create a list of unique benefits and values that will displace any perceived lack of recognition or recall. Building a social selling and digital selling strategy aimed at specific audiences will position the business as one worth considering when it comes to looking for new providers.

Know who you sell to and who will buy from you

Knowing who you want to sell to and who will buy from you are not the same. 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 and profiles in order to improve the chances of providing value to them and their challenges.

Effective Sales Techniques Tips Video from The Digital Sales Institute

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

Regardless of whether you try to engage via cold calling, email or social selling, you should seek to be a useful, valuable and relevant contact. Learn how to social listen 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 prospecting touch point relevant, more informed, and less cold.

Become skilled at Social Selling and Digital Selling

The fact is that while still they still deliver results, cold calling and unsolicited emails 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 Prospecting Touch Points

Not one single sales prospecting 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.

Successful sales prospecting is about communication and getting commitments. There will always be person to person personalised communication, so learn the multi-channel techniques to overcome any lack of name recognition on calls and mails. The buying committee is now on average made up of 5 to 6 people, so think multi prospecting touch points to multiple people as part of your sales process if you want to build recognition for the business.

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.
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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. 

Cold Calling Tips

Cold Calling Tips

Cold calling as a sales tactic still has its part to play in the sales process, but only if it is planned and executed properly. These cold calling tips will help your sales prospecting efforts so you can engage more people, more often.

If there is one aspect in selling that can cause sales reluctance, then it has to be cold calling. But it is part and parcel of reaching out to connect, engage and acquire new customers. Off course we all would prefer qualified inbound leads to sell to, however the reality is for a business to grow it needs a multi-effort approach to finding new customers.

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Cold calling tips

 

  1. Understand Your Prospect.

Create an Ideal Customer Profile to understand what your prospects likely challenges and pain points. Also, you need to see the bigger picture in their industry and what trends could be shaping their buying decisions as it relates to what you are selling.

Today, cold calling really only works if it is part of a wider prospect engagement strategy, a dial and smile approach just will not work.  Researching your prospect list against a profile is vital if you are to see success. Do not value your sales pitch above the investment you will need to make in the prospect at the end of phone. Understanding your prospects, their industry, news, market trends and your own product fit is a necessary activity before you begin cold calling. The better you do this, the higher the likelihood that the prospect will be more responsive to call. Ask yourself, what key pieces of information or insights will you share with them, to get them to listen to you?

  1. The Preparation.

The amount of preparation and planning for your cold calling activity will probably determine your level of success. Can you detail out the sales assets you will use? What other touch points or interactions with the prospect have you had prior to the call?  What is your value proposition to this list of prospects? In the critical opening minutes, you need to be able to communicate your value proposition to the prospect clearly and confidently. Very few 100% cold calls result in any form of success. In your preparation you should plan out which other sales touch points (emails, social selling, LinkedIn etc) you will use as to increase your chances of having a real-time conversation.

  1. Know your Goals.

Remember that cold calling is more than just rattling off some prepared sales script. The purpose of any cold call has to be focused on getting the prospect to listen by sharing some useful information and then move on to a discussion about their challenges. One goal could be to identify a person’s role in the purchasing decision for the product you selling.  Take the time to be clear about your goals and what outcomes you desire before you make those calls.

Cold Calling Tip: Connect and engage with users, gatekeepers and influencers at every company you target. It is rare today for 1 single person to make a purchasing decision.

  1. Put the prospects interests before your own.

If any salesperson approaches prospects with a blatantly obvious sales pitch, then they should expect a blatantly obvious response. The key to unlocking cold calling success begins and ends with the prospects best interests at heart. Adapt the mindset of a trusted adviser who will be a useful and valuable resource to the prospect, one who shares quality insights, is credible and knowledgeable. The priority is not about the product or service you sell but rather on the prospects needs, because if your mindset is on prioritising a prospect needs, you are now there to bring improvement to their roles and problems.

If you believe in what you sell and your personal value proposition to the prospect is genuine, then nothing will stop you.

  1. Your value proposition must be on target.

Does your value proposition bring clarity from the noise that surrounds your prospects working day? Are you clear on the value of your solution and how it will appeal to the prospects situation? What pain points or challenges are you addressing – will it save money, save time, improve productivity, reduce risk, speed up progress.  Is your value proposition compelling enough for them to stay on the phone to learn more? Do you have statistics, case studies and industry knowledge to back your value proposition so you are seen as an expert or adviser? The reason you are calling them is that your research, planning and preparation have indicated that you have something to share which is worth their while listening. You are not there to waste their time or share useless information. Successful cold calling is based on that you know why you are calling and why they should listen.

Cold Calling Tip: Include social media listening for trigger events as part of your research and preparation.

  1. Look for trigger events.

The activity of selling in itself does not cause someone to buy. Many buying decisions are as a result of a trigger event which requires a challenge or pain point to be resolved.  You can tap into these signals also known as trigger events by engaging in social media listening. As part of your daily sales habits, you should try to look for signals or triggers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Alerts or News sites to keep tabs on recent happenings relating to your prospect list.

A list of trigger events to start a buyer’s journey include:

New senior hires. A new member of a company’s leadership team will invariable want to prove their value and make changes, so they are more open to new solutions. I’m not suggesting you go after this person but rather focus on your target prospect who could be a hero to the new boss by introducing new vendors.

Winning a large deal or customer wins. Could this open the door to an opportunity for your offerings. At the very least, reach out to the prospect to congratulate and see what impact this will have on their roles or business.

Company expansion. New hires, moving office, opening a new location or a geographical change is a trigger event that qualifies as an introduction opportunity.

Regulation or Industry Shift. Use social listening to keep abreast of any pending regulation changes or any industry trends that could shift a prospect from his or her status quo position. Educate yourself on these shifts to present yourself as an expert and trusted source of information.

Company Acquisitions or Mergers. If you already supply into a similar company or have a relationship with either party, this trigger event can be a great opportunity to get engage a prospect.

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  1. Build Credibility.

Your credibility comes to the fore when a prospect asks themselves “why should I listen to this person?” Did your value proposition deliver for you? One of the main ways to achieve credibility in the eyes of a prospect is to use some social proof in your value proposition. The use of social proof has become important in any sales prospecting activity from social selling to exploratory emails because it shows your prospects how your product has helped other people with similar pain points. It has to be genuine, so share a success story or case study of a company you helped who had challenges similar to the ones you believe your prospect may have.

So, Yes. Cold Calling can work!!

However, there is an investment required in order to make cold calling and sales prospecting successful. It starts with making it part of your daily sales habit loop and like every positive habit, you must want to do it and also have reason to do it. The success of cold calling will emerge from the investment you make in researching, planning, preparing and then your willingness to call and call again is what differentiates success from failure.

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Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.