Written by: Craig Rosenberg
Prospecting is hard. I can’t find anyone who disagrees with that statement. Even people who are good at it freely admit that it is challenging. And if prospecting was hard before, it is even harder now. Look at some of these statistics:
- 90% of C-level executives say that they never respond to cold calls or email blasts (Harvard Business Review)
- 94% of buyers couldn’t remember a single prospector or message they had received during the last two years (Huthwaite®)
- 90% of your calls will end up in voicemail
- It takes 12.73 dials to connect when calling a list of prospects with direct phone numbers and 18.83 when calling switchboard numbers. (Vorsight)
Most people’s first reaction to the data referenced above is that prospecting doesn’t work anymore. It’s a fair assessment, but unless your company’s marketing department is providing you with 100% of the opportunities that fill your pipeline, you need to prospect. The good news is there are lots of people who are still building big businesses successfully prospecting against this very difficult backdrop. A great example is appointment-setting firms. They are still outbound prospecting and driving hundreds of appointments for sales people every month for great companies.
When done correctly and persistently, outbound prospecting still works. In order to help ease the pain, I have provided some of the successful prospecting best practices that we use at TOPO to train our customers:
- Identify — The first thing you have to do is find the right person to speak with. Even when you start with a list, you should do your research (see #2 below) and then ask around in the organization. When calling into an account for the first time, hit “zero #” when you get voicemail and get transferred to an admin to make sure you are calling the right person and see if there are others to speak with.
- Research — Before you call someone, do 3-5 minutes of research to find something, anything that allows you to connect with the buyer. Your goal should be to come away with 2-3 interesting pieces of information you can use in your conversation. LinkedIn, Google, your CRM notes all contain the information you need to be relevant. Most prospects don’t want you to just call and read a script. If you can make your approach personal, then you can change the nature of the relationship from buyer-seller to business person-business person.
- Find a referral — Often times it’s not your message; it’s the fact that some prospects will just delete anything you send. You could send them the message: “I am about to give you $1 million in cash. It’s in your lobby right now.” It would still get nothing. Often you need help from someone your prospect already trusts. According the Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of b2b buyer decision makers begin the buying process from a referral. If you are building your network, there is a referral somewhere… ask them for an introduction.
Prospecting is a mix of process, art, and effort!
- Be relevant — Matt Heinz once said to me: “If you are relevant, then it’s not spam.” He was talking about email, but it is the same thing across all your channels. Prospects are busier than ever and are getting blasted by marketing and sales calls left and right. You have to show the buyer that you understand their business and can be trusted to solve their pain. Here are some examples of usable intelligence in order of effectiveness:
- Social intelligence — Social intelligence tends to be the best intelligence. The information someone shares on social is something they care about and can make for easy connections. You can truly personalize the message with this kind of information. Someone once got me with the following message: “I just read your blog and decided ‘I have to talk to this guy.’ I especially loved your post on x. I work with incredible entrepreneurs like you to …”
- Publicly available buyer intelligence — If you have nothing on social, just tie back to some publicly available information. For example, if they are an insurance firm, then mention that you help other insurance firms grow by X% for example. There is a great post on how a young entrepreneur got a meeting with Mark Cuban. There are a number of great points in the post but one simple thing the writer did was mention the fact that he was an entrepreneur in the first sentence of the email. He wanted Cuban to see it in his Gmail preview pane since entrepreneurs love other entrepreneurs. These little touches change the view of the buyer from “canned outreach” to a personal “I know you and can help you” message.
- Any intelligence — I remember talking to Mike Lodato from Network Hardware Resale about how they lifted email conversion rates by just mentioning the local weather in the opening sentence.
- Make multiple touches over a multi-week period – As a general rule, you want to make six to eight multi-channel touches over the course of two weeks: Phone + email + social (LinkedIn InMail, retweet them, like them, etc.). Dan McDade has a great write-up on this concept that I recommend. Buyers are very busy. They don’t call you back. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It just means you haven’t connected with them. You want to create a patterned, consistent outreach program that consists of a mix of channels and a mix of offers and message. Do it in a contained timeframe of two weeks.
- Have a multi-channel approach — For me there are a number of reasons to use multiple channels (phone, email, and social):
- You have no idea the best way to reach this person.
- You gradually build personal and corporate brand equity over each touch.
- When you do connect, the buyer knew you were going to call.
Think of your communications in packs of two or three. Every voicemail gets an email and an InMail for instance.
Prospecting is a mix of process, art, and effort. For process, you can use this post as a framework to get started, but build on it from there. The art is in what you say/write and when you say/write it. Be patient with messaging, trial and error will only make you better. And finally, effort. Prospecting requires hours of thankless activity to be successful. The rewards only come to those willing to put in the work.
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