Maximize the impact of your outreach with these tips to find the right people and lead them to action.
Prospecting is a time-consuming process. And when it doesn't go well, it can be frustrating because time could have been better spent developing other opportunities. Not every prospect will lead to a sale but you can maximize the impact of your outreach by pursuing those most likely to be interested.
Take a page from direct marketing and its age-old formula referred to as AIDA—Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Think of prospecting as the process of attracting attention and interest—enough interest to win a conversation to explore the subject area more deeply. This can be leveraged into a sales meeting.
The goal of prospecting is not to find someone currently looking to purchase a particular product or service. For most sellers, this isn't what you want to do, because it seems like it doesn't work. However, if you only look for people already in the Desire phase—someone interested in solving a particular problem or purchasing a known type of product or service—or the Action phase—someone already in the process of searching for a solution to the problem—you're in for a rude awakening.
If you find someone who has the desire to solve a problem and hasn't yet started looking into how to do it, you're in luck. Unfortunately, finding these people is like finding a needle in a haystack. And if you find someone who is already looking to buy, they likely have a front-runner in mind who isn't you.
If you capture Attention and stimulate Interest and Desire, you can shape the prospect's understanding of the importance of solving a particular problem, and you'll be able to persuade them into Action.
Now that you're searching for the right people, here are six ways to get the most out of your outreach:
1) Targeting. Sellers often call lower-level employees in the organization and try to start a groundswell by working their way up. Instead, aim for the high-up decision-makers. Make sure that your list is clean and ready to go before you start.
To find the right contact, you'll need to do some research. Not only are you looking to identify decision-makers, but you're determining whether you can provide value to their organization. This also gives you the chance to prioritize your prospects based on value and the likelihood of your professional relationship developing further. If you can establish rapport early, you set a strong precedent for ensuing conversations.
2) Value in every touch. Once you've identified strong prospects, you need to personalize your outreach efforts to best demonstrate the value you can provide. Take the time to review the prospect's online presence, as well as their company's information. With some prework, you can craft a relevant and timely solution to an issue they may be having.
When you think about providing value, don't only think about them buying from you. Think about the value they'll get just from speaking with you. Eventually, you'll sell your company, your offering and yourself. At first, sell the idea that the prospects' time will be well-spent if they choose to speak with you.
3) The right offer. Your ultimate offer might be a particular type of software, technical instrument, medical device, pharmaceutical, building material, financial product or marketing plan. But the interim offers—the offers you make and they accept before they buy from you—must be crafted with the utmost care.
Personalize your approach to drive value. Think about your initial offer, and how it might generate a conversation. Are you offering new ideas? Or a return on investment?
4) No tricks. Buyers are more informed than ever. This rewards a high-integrity approach. There's no need to use tricks, bend the truth, or cut corners to generate an initial conversation. All this does is kill trust, which is essential for sales success. Essentially, leave anything you wouldn't be comfortable telling your children about out of your sales prospecting techniques.
5) Multiple touches. It takes an average of eight touches just to generate a meeting, demo or other conversation with a new prospect, according to the RAIN Group Top Performance in Sales Prospecting report.
When coming up with a strategy for your outreach, dedicate time and effort. This includes an alternating sequence of calls and emails, with periods of downtime between each. These messages should be unique and customized to each prospect. Avoid clichés, find opportunities to connect on a personal level and include clear calls to action.
6) Variety of touches. Cold calling works even better with email. Use a variety of touches to reach out and warm up your prospects—and make sure each touch has value in and of itself. Even a five-minute meeting gives you the opportunity to generate interest and address a prospect's needs.
Each approach comes with its own pros and cons. For example, emails give prospects a visually appealing pitch that can be forwarded to others but can also be forgotten or lost in the inbox. Use a mix of touches to maximize benefits and minimize downsides.
Keep in mind that the sales process includes very little actual selling. You're not trying to close a sale as fast as possible; you're building a relationship. Your various touches with prospects give you the chance to listen and build genuine value.
Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group and author of “Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely"
This article originally appeared on the RAIN Group blog.