Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting is not an easy sales activity. It is a sales technique that requires training and constant attention to the latest developments in prospect engagement or lead generation tactics. Sales prospecting is a critical aspect of the sales process as the biggest challenge in sales is getting an opportunity started in the first place.

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Sales Prospecting Should Match the Buyers Journey

Nearly all buyers go through a number of stages on their buyer’s journey. Along the way they will make decisions on the importance level of solving the pain point, they will evaluate the available solutions plus assess vendors who they feel can suitable. In the early to middles stages of the buyer’s journey, sales prospecting is about bringing clarity and communicating a value proposition to the prospect. A potential customer will also need to be convinced of how familiar they believe a salesperson is with their business needs. The outcome of a prospects decision or considerations can be linked back to how well a salesperson has built trust and confidence through the various sales prospecting interactions.

Successful sales prospecting ensures that all interactions and sales communication are geared towards creating specific outcomes, not for the salesperson but for the potential customer. A focus that outlines how the company can make the prospects life easier, their jobs more rewarding and outcomes that simplifies their buyers journey.

Sales Prospecting Tips

 

  1. Selecting target prospects to engage.

Use ideal customer profiles to map the buyers journey. Before a salesperson reaches out via social selling, cold email or phone call they need to be able to answer “why are they on the list of prospects”. What information, signals or insights would make them a potential customer?

Sales prospecting where salespeople have to find or create opportunities is not easy. It involves quite a bit of effort to establish credibility and to get the prospect to listen to what the salesperson has to offer. Sales prospecting has to be a planned, organized activity as random prospecting is mainly a waste of time. Core to every good salesperson sales prospecting activities, is the importance of understanding the company’s needs, as well as the prospects desired outcome they will get by using the proposed product or solution. Using LinkedIn, Google search, Forums and Business directories are the most effective and efficient way to find quality prospects that match a company’s ideal customer profiles.

 

  1. Create a Strong Value Proposition.

Sales Prospecting Tips from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

Never forget that a prospect only cares about their problems, their challenges and their pain points. They are not looking for a nine-inch drill, they are looking for a nine-inch hole. They want to listen to salespeople who make sense, who create value, who are credible and who will make their lives easier, this includes helping them through the stages on the buyer’s journey. Prospects don’t want to listen to product pitches. A prospect wants to hear solutions to their pains and problems, evidence that others have experienced this and got a resolution. They don’t need more vanilla flavoured sales messages. They want a value proposition that will make it worthwhile their time listening to a salesperson. They want insights, they want to see the end result (without the sales pitch) from the earliest step in the buying process.

So, create a strong value proposition and ask “Will it get a prospect to listen?”

 

  1. Social Media is a Key Activity in Sales Prospecting.

Social media is playing an increasingly bigger part in purchasing decisions and B2B buyers are being influenced more and more by social media. Within the next decade, the majority of B2B buyers will be digital native. Social media will be their go to channel to research, connect, reference and to educate. Social media not only gives salespeople access to buyer profiles, but rich data such as background history, connections, similarities, likes, interests and deep insights into the company. Social listening can throw up signals about the prospects needs, trends in their market or challenges within their industry. All this data can be used in prospecting research and in the creation of a value proposition for a specific market.

Also, social selling along with the growth of inbound lead generation have surpassed the older, more traditional forms of sales prospecting. Whatever other sales prospecting tactics a salesperson uses, the use of social media and social selling has to be on their list.

 

  1. Learn to use Sales Tools and share Content.

Potential customers value content that helps educate and fill in some blanks for them. As more and more selling will be conducted via the digital channels, sales teams need to up-skill on the use of sales tools and content (articles, whitepapers, research etc) to engage a prospect. Content that supports sales prospecting activity must be based on fulfilling the customers’ needs and requirements. The goal is that they build a trusted connection with the salesperson via their interactions. Buyers are drawn to thought leaders and surveys show they prefer interaction with salespeople whom they consider to be a trusted adviser.

Many companies are now prioritising the education of their target audience through the creation of deep and insightful content assets that makes buying easier, and they are doing this with a customer first approach.

Sales tools such as video, ROI calculators, AI, scenario planning, live webinars, messaging channels and virtual tours will continue to grow.

Sales prospecting prioritises building longer term relationships

Always take into account that at any time, just 3% of your target market are actively seeking to purchase with approx. another 6 to 7 percent in the consideration stage. This leaves a whopping 90% of an addressable market that is in “the status quo position”. The fact is that while a prospect may have pain points, no salesperson has made them critical enough that a buyer wants to prioritize a solution.

Salespeople can get lucky with sales prospecting and find the 3 to 10% of the market seeking or considering to purchase now. However, to be truly successful a salesperson will need sales training to nurture more relationships. Nurturing and engaging a focused group of ideal customer profiles should be an essential part of every sales prospecting strategy. This takes time and skill but sales prospecting is now about getting in early, building credibility, cultivating a relationship and getting the prospects trust that when the time is right, they will move with the salesperson who has influenced them the most.

Regards

Brian

The Bitter Business

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.

Social Selling is Selling

Social selling is selling. In sales and marketing there is a tendency to use catchy phrases to describe something new or promote new products. Social Selling has suffered from this fate as companies in marketing and sales automation use a myriad of keywords associated to “Social Selling “ to look Social and grab SEO traffic; but in reality none of their products get the job of actual selling done any easier. Sales people and managers need to be reminded that sales tools do not do the selling for them. The training, the processes and the sales performance of the people themselves are what really matter, supported with the right technology tools to simplify tasks.

social-selling-facts

In most sales situations, a core set of tasks usually need to be accomplished to progress through the sales steps. Below, is a set of basic selling tasks.

Identify prospects – Prioritise the prospects – Plan the sale

Contact prospect – Sell – Close

Deliver – Review – Improve

The above is a high level view with lots of other tasks associated to them. The list is also probably missing some tasks but I have kept it simple as it is a blog post. OK so next let us start to understand how value is perceived by the sales people who are trying to sell products or services. No sales person or sales team has the time to get confused about some new sales concept that is completely irrelevant to the task at hand. Nor can any company afford to invest the time and money rolling out a sales process that shifts attention to a sparkling new concept; at the expense of the fundamental focus of the sales team work – selling.

In the sales world words like Social Selling and Social Networking are phrases that should be used to bring meaning that customer’s preferences and the buyer’s journey have changed over time. Understanding the methods and channels buyers/customers now use to evaluate a product or service is critical if any business wants to a) adapt new sales methods in the value chain and b) to separate out when to or when not to, invest in the latest sales craze. If a business can align the sales process to newly identified customer needs and communication channels which improves sales performance, then can make that switch. If not, then work towards improving the existing sales process.

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Social Selling is selling in the digital age

Social Selling represents a shift in how sellers reach and interact with buyers in the digital age. Business’s must first validate and then implement how their set of target customers is now sourcing information on product and services. Very few buyers’ journeys have been left unchanged in the digital age. Social Selling is not some new craze, it is just selling evolved to match the realities of today’s online business environment.

Certain steps in the sales cycle or process have evolved a lot over the past 10 years. All social selling is doing is to get sales people and sales management to reassessed how well a step, let’s say “sales prospecting” gets done given the new set of capabilities afforded by the social networks. These new sales capabilities have,

  • Increased the ability of sales people to build networks
  • Reduced the time in identify buyer conversations
  • Made it simpler to share content with prospects and buyers
  • Made it easier to find information about companies and contacts
  • Changed the way sales establish and maintain relationships
  • Interactions have moved from person to digital
  • Increased the number of channels Customers can access touch points

In above list is far from exhaustive, there are many other customer or sales capabilities with varying levels of importance and satisfaction that the digital or social networks facilitate. However these emerging capabilities do not change a simple fact…social selling is still selling  but for a different era. Sales methods and customer interaction channels will continue to evolve and it will be interesting to see how the next wave of concepts impacts the sales tasks. The fact that business needs to sell to customers won’t change; but opportunities to improve customer connections that had unavailable in the past, will emerge as the new must have sales tools for sales teams everywhere.

Social Data in Sales

Social Data Trumps People in Sales

Today, big data and the use of social data in the sales process trumps people. The reality is that due to changing buying cycles, more educated buyers and the use of social media to source and inform, most sales managers if given the choice between an exceptionally talented sales person or a highly accurate database with deep social insights, then data will trump people nearly every time.

This article is not suggesting for one minute that a sales manager should stop searching or recruiting great sales talent to his or her team. However no matter how good a sales person is, the benefits of providing sales teams with the latest social data, detailed profiles, social media insights and the most accurate information available are telling. Because when it comes to sales performance, an average sales person equipped with better data will outperform a talented sales person who has little or poor data every time.

social-data-insights

To sell successfully today, every piece of detail can matter to win over customers, from social media activity to information management, who is connected to whom, what articles do they read, what they talk about on the social networks, who is the gatekeeper and what messaging do the decision makers like. Each answer to these details relies on having accurate data.

Here are more reasons why data and social data are important.

Data Provides Sales Focus

The instant access to data and social media insights saves sales teams both time and hassle, saving hour after hour of a sales person’s time in having to research information like LinkedIn profile, twitter name, email addresses and phone numbers. The market is full of contact databases that make it possible to start with good basic contact details. But in a socially connected business world to generate sales leads the sales teams now need a source for more social data like LinkedIn connections, social conversations, social media insights, articles, and news plus company information.

As the sales teams no longer need to spend thankless hours researching prospects or leads, they can use this time to research the best sales approach. This allows any sales person the opportunity and time to develop a more educated approach when he starts the contact phase in the sales process. Social selling and the use of social data is all about the more relevant information a sales person has on things the buyer or company cares about, the more specific they can be with the sales message.

Social data empowers sales teams with the necessary level of insight to lead nurture and interact with the right person, at the right time, and to convert the lead into a demo, a trial or even a meeting. The use of social insights means sales people will be able to identify the problems that the potential buyers have, and already have a plan formulated on how they will articulate the solution to their problems. Remember buyers today do not buy features, they buy solutions, they buy partners and thanks to social media they are better informed than ever about what solutions they will consider.

social-media-engagement

Social Data Provides Guidance

In the old sales models, a direct line or phone number was gold as it meant sales people could reach the decision-maker. And it is still a valid sales activity as research shows a sales person is more than 46 percent more likely to be successful in selling when they reach a director or VP. But what happens when sales people cannot get to talk to a prospect on the phone to explain the company’s solution. Too many sales teams still hope that a prospect will make a decision to engage with a business based solely on some email communication and what content is published on the website. This can work out from time to time but often leads nowhere.

Still too few sales managers are changing mindsets by teaching their sales teams to look deeper at social selling and using social data from the likes of LinkedIn and Twitter to find prospects or to engage with lead nurturing. No matter where you source your prospect or leads list from, it is crucial the sales teams have the tools, content and data to influence the decision makers. The more data, especially social data a sales team has on the prospects or buyers, the greater the understanding about the true issues the proposed solution they are selling will solve.

Social Data Brings Speed

Social data is way more than some contact information. Today, social selling and social media tools gives sales the ability to access real-time data from the social networks, which helps create a more consistent and sustainable sales process. Using social data allows a business to identify and target specific prospects or accounts that are more likely to buy, and buy sooner (based on social insights or conversations). And because selling with social data returns a higher level of success for the solution being offered, customer churn will likely go down as well. We live in a fast paced sales environment, finding leads and prospects is hard enough without them leaking at the other end of the funnel due to wrong target selection, so social data helps sales to target the right buyers to fill up the sales funnel.

The better trained and educated the sales teams are on social data and social selling; the more a business can fine tune the customer acquisition and development efforts. Companies using these methods accelerate the sales forces ability to acquire new customers and to grow existing clients.

In the digital sales era, social data is king. Investing in social media tools and social selling solutions will only improve the health of a sales organisation plus they are much more cost-effective than having your valuable sales resource spend hours trolling through websites and social networks. Create a culture, mindset and the selling skills around ensuring that your sales organisation is using data to power the sales engine and watch your sales grow. Social data combined with real sales talent with drive revenue growth.

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