Building relationships is at the heart of sales prospecting.
After all, it’s the process of reaching out and connecting with potential customers–tapping the opportunity to convert them into clients. No, it’s not just a numbers game. Carefully knowing your prospects and talking to them based on their interests are keys to successful prospecting.
Sales Development: It’s a process
Prospectors are often called sales development representatives or SDRs. The keyword here is development. Sales prospectors nurture and deepen relationships with prospects until they are ripe for lead qualification. Your job as a prospector involves engagement that exceeds a one-and-done approach.
It’s certainly a lot of pressure since the funnel doesn’t move along unless you clear prospects, but there are ways to be more efficient and effective in prospecting.
There are a lot of tips out there, but we figured you need something you can do right now–today.
We put together this list of 5 things you can implement right after you finish reading this post.
1. Research your prospects
We don’t mean filling out basic information on your target sheet. We mean research.
One by one, dig through their professional histories, recent business partnerships, company’s business decisions, investment & funding information, among a trove of other details. These are need-to-know information and shouldn’t be relegated as results of a one-off investigation while you were in the zone.
An interesting take on sales prospecting and research was presented in a Harvard Business Review article entitled The End of Solution Sales. The authors argued that selling is not always about how useful the product is to your prospect. Your sales performance is reliant on how you find the right people to coach how to buy, they said.
The article further asserted that sales professionals should be able to identify points where the customer can be lead toward a sale–something only possible by knowing your targets well and prospecting in-depth.
Knowing these intimate details contribute to the diamond-cut specificity of how you connect to the person and eventually engage with a personalized approach. Know your prospect’s persona. Obviously, don’t drop the information while you’re in contact. These details support the front end while keeping quiet in the back.
2. Send better emails
Writing emails is easy. Writing emails that will get replies? One of the toughest things to figure out.
Fortunately, years of experience of SDRs in sales prospecting through email have produced a bevy of model practices you can learn from.
Here’s what you should remember:
Begin the email by mentioning a recent notable event involving your particular prospect or their company.
In the search bar of your search engine, type in the name of the company–and the particular prospect’s name, if possible–then filter by date. Search the past month or week. See something interesting? Jackpot. Mention that. That’s your ego-bait, your hook.
Got the address? Write the email now.
In sales prospecting, you can’t afford to waste time. Don’t even get the idea to delay the email to come off as a busy pro. Depending on how you got the address or how the initial connection was, not reaching out right away can freeze your prospect.
Not all prospects are warm enough to receive a demo. To build authority and trust with them from the get-go, give your prospects something of value.
The free item could be an ebook, an article, or even some videos. Of course, you should have these tools. Your company needs to invest in content that helps your target buyers. Think of it as a content upgrade for your email.
Want to make the prospect feel valued? Let them talk. Make them talk. Not only do questions productively nudge prospects towards a reply, but they also fetch valuable information to add to your prospect profile. But, of course, don’t be annoying. Ask questions that are appropriate to the “warmth” of your prospect.
Products like SideKick notify you when the prospect opens your email. You also get notified even when they forward the message. Use this information to fine-tune your timing. Not only do you get data that helps improve your email tactics, but you also get a basis for when to follow-up.
The rule is follow-up fast. Follow-up exactly a day–yes, 24 hours–after a prospect opens or forwards an email.
3. Use and maximize LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s recent emphasis on social selling is just another badge of approval: LinkedIn is a sales playground. It’s a place where influencers, decision-makers, thought-leaders and pioneers in their respective fields converge.
If your company’s marketing strategy doesn’t involve establishing a solid presence on LinkedIn, today’s the day you start. Check with marketing, and then go ahead and create your personal profile.
Things to remember:
Company designations are the Facebook profile photos of LinkedIn.
Yes, you are judged by it. Mentioned right under your name is your job and where you work. These are crucial to your prospect’s “reply or ignore” decision-making process.
This is not Twitter. Treat LinkedIn like an everyday industry conference, only that it doesn’t actually end.
You know how they say it’s better to talk to a few targeted people than release a business card confetti? The same principle applies in this platform. Screen the people you connect with. According to Mike Montague, contributing author to LinkedIn – The Sandler Way, the magic number is between 250 and 500.
When the prospect searches for your company on LinkedIn, make sure they don’t land on an empty page.
This is just unprofessional, and it screams amateur. It’s one of the quickest ways to freeze a lead on LinkedIn. Get your marketing counterparts on board. If that’s not possible, make it your mission.
Be your best self–don’t add random people just because they’re a potential buyer or someone you know.
Unlike other social media sites, privacy is highly valued on LinkedIn. You enter LinkedIn with a plan. For all else, there’s Facebook.You must make meaningful connections by interacting through the many networking opportunities LinkedIn affords its users. Be active in comment threads on shares and published posts, groups, and use the paid inMail feature that allows you to reach out to non-connections for a fee.
Once you spot your targets, monitor their activity.
Do they regularly share posts? Are they publishing on LinkedIn Pulse? Are they regularly commenting on other people’s content? Leverage this information. Be in the right place at the right time. Make a smart comment the prospect can see. Engage them in discussions. When you’ve warmed them up enough, you can explore sending an inMail.
4. Call at the right hours
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to timing sales prospecting calls, but the rules of general business calling apply. Some professionals stand by calling when prospects have ‘settled in’ or are not so busy–meaning late in the morning or over the lunch break.
We strongly advise against this.
If you’re reading this over lunch, postpone your calls until late in the afternoon. People like to be contacted while they are in work-mode. Calling them during their leisure time–their small pockets of rest–is not only annoying but also rude.
In fact, a joint study by the Kellogg School of Management and the Sung Kyun Kwan Graduate School of Business revealed that the best times to call are 8:00 am to 9:00 am, and 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Time for “The Ask”.
Particularly for the initial email, focus all your energy on crafting one and only one call-to-action. Make it worthwhile by ensuring that the question is appropriate, timely and actionable.
We find that asking for a phone call works best. Just make sure you keep in mind these tips:
Suggest a specific time.
Don’t expect them to consider both your schedules. Propose an exact time and date. If it doesn’t match with their schedule, they’ll probably suggest another exact time and date. You got the call.
Once you get a reply, confirm and send a calendar invite.
This will make it easier for your prospect. Use Google Calendar and iCal tools to get this done. Scheduling apps like YouCanBookMe are also useful.
And yes, it’s a process. Stuffing all your techniques in one call is just bad practice.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Marketing Rule of Seven is applicable here. You will need several “touches” just to get your prospect’s attention. Be brief, persistent and patient.
A call-to-action makes it easier to get prospects’ time and attention because it reduces the effort from their part. Don’t forget this.
Simple enough? Doable?
To recap, the five sales prospecting tips you’ll be applying after reading this post are:
Research your prospects
Send better emails
Use and maximize LinkedIn
Call at the right hours
Always have a call to action, a next step
These tips along with the right tools will make life easier for you–for sure.
We’d love to hear your sales prospecting tips. Let’s chat about them in the comments below!
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