Prospecting for Sales and Marketing: Crushing the Sales Process
As the name implies, sales prospecting is the discipline of perusing thousands of business contacts to uncover the illusive prospects who may be the most likely candidates to become an actual customer. Sales prospecting, in the not too distant past, consisted of cold calling, networking lunch meetings, or any other device the intrepid sales professional used as part of their arsenal. The goal was quantity as opposed to quality. Although the feeling of actual productivity might have been felt by the salesperson, in actuality, it was a colossal waste of time.
According to LinkedIn, roughly two-thirds of B2B buyers make their decision via online content. As Forbes says, the sales process has shifted as the Age of the Seller is replaced by the Age of the Customer. “The buying decision and access to information about how to make that decision are now controlled by the customer, leaving sellers with control of just the product,” Forbes said:
• “The expectation of buyers meeting with vendors as a daily course of business is over.
• “After 10,000 years of needing a salesperson to provide information to make a decision, buyers are acquiring much of that info on their own online.
• “Prospects are now self-qualifying themselves, and then pre-qualify prospective vendors they choose to meet with, perhaps as few as one.
• “Prospects are essentially ruling competitors in or out before the first contact, often before the business knows the prospect even exists.”
What are sales and marketing professionals to do?
According to LinkedIn, the holy grail of business contacts looks like the following:
• 75% of the business-to-business buyers use social media to make buying decisions.
• 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchase decisions.
• 76% of B2B buyers prefer to work with recommendations from their professional network.
According to Entrepreneur:
“When it comes to drumming up new business, like anyone involved in sales, your first big challenge will be to reach the right individuals. To successfully find new prospects for your products and services, you’ll need a hard-working prospecting program that reaches out to qualified prospects and moves them through the sales cycle from cold to warm to hot. Your program must incorporate a range of marketing tactics that, over time, bring prospects incrementally closer to a decision to hire you.”
As we all know, information is power. And, as access to information increases, the buyer’s ability to control the sales process also increases. In fact, according to LinkedIn, 90 percent of C-level executives say they never reply to cold calls or cold emails. In addition, roughly two-thirds of the buying process is performed digitally, via online content. Daunting. So, how do sales and marketing hedge their bet against remarkable odds?
A Few Tips on Maximizing Marketing Mojo and Sales Supremacy
The Importance of Sales and Marketing Alignment
In an optimum world, sales and marketing teams would function like a single, powerful entity. Sales and marketing alignment are critical in assuring the customer lifecycle remains seamless.
In the past, marketing has been focused on top of funnel activities, and in many cases, it was very hard to tie those activities to tangible revenue outcomes. Marketo APAC senior marketing director, Chris Connell, said:
“Today, the marketing team is directly connected to the customer like never before, and with an increasing focus on the middle and bottom of funnel where the sales team plays, but then on through acquisition to the full customer lifecycle.
“In fact, 89 per cent of CMOs expect to be responsible for customer experience by 2020 according to our research. And with marketing taking on more responsibility for revenue, and a greater, long-term customer focus, marketing and sales are now a marriage, not a Tinder date.”
Be a Name Dropper
Sales is all about relationships. Tap into your contact base to make connections with your target prospects. Ask permission from your high-level contacts to scan their LinkedIn contact list. Whatever approach you take to reach prospective customers, whether it be an introductory cold call, email or other communication, make sure you mention your contact upfront. Nothing will get your foot in the door more than an introduction from a trusted resource. People want to do business with people they know. Barring that, there’s a good chance they will respond to a recommendation made from a mutual connection.
Bring Value; You Are The Industry Expert
You have a lot of competition. Your best asset in cutting through the clutter with a potential prospect is to set yourself apart from the hundreds of other companies that are competing for the same piece of business. It’s time to be strategic: what can you deliver that helps to eliminate their pain points and drive significant value.
Find a relevant article that would be of interest to them. Find content they have posted about, an issue they’re experiencing, or a question they posted on an online forum. In fact, answer their question with data from your own resources. Perhaps they’ve recently won a prestigious industry award. Did they attend your alma mater? Do they belong to the same charities you may be involved with? Use information like a samurai uses their trusty sword.
“What differentiates sellers today is their ability to bring fresh ideas.” -Jill Konrath
Prospect Gold Lies In The Subject Line
Your prospects probably receive hundreds of emails per day. Think about your own inbox. The subject line is the first line of defense in whether or not a prospect will take the time to open your email. Ironically, they may even be interested in what you have to sell, but ignore your email because the subject line doesn’t pop for them. They need to be convinced to spend even a few minutes glancing at what you sent to them.
Make Your First Sentence A Whopper
Okay, so you’ve made it through the first barrier; they’ve opened your email. Your first sentence better be as equally provocative and relevant as your subject line. Most prospects are reading your emails in one of two ways: either via email on their computer or on their phones. Either way, you’ve got a short window of opportunity. If they like what they read in the subject line and your first well thought out sentence, you are halfway home.
Sales Prospecting Isn’t For The Weak Of Heart
Sales prospecting is an excruciating amount of work. Be bold. Be creative. Be strategic. Many sales and marketing professionals believe it’s a good strategy to work from the ground up. The thinking is to start with the managers and work up to director level and above. This is not a good use of your time. Contact the decision maker; director level and above is preferred. Don’t rely on the same old generic messaging with altered subject lines; be specific about how you can help alleviate their challenges. Remember, the focus must always be on the customer.
Test. Test. And Test Again.
Sales and marketing need to work together to determine the best approach to take when sending out emails to your contact list. Conduct A/B testing on your subject lines to optimize your ROI. Test the timing of email launches based on multiple touches. Experiment with different channels.