This article is the second in a two-part series. Read David’s first article in the series, Salespeople: Here’s Why Prospects Ignore Your Outreach, here.
Last month’s Quotable article on why prospects ignore your sales outreach sparked some interesting conversations. While I generally don’t respond to prospecting outreach, my love of coaching compelled me to share the post content with many of the business development reps (BDRs) who prospected me. The response was amazing. When confronted with a mirror reflecting their tactics, many of them dropped the pretext and shared feedback like, “Wow, I’m constantly trying to improve through learning, and this was the punch in the gut I needed,” and my favorite: “I would probably get scolded by my VP if he saw what I'm about to type … although scheduling a meeting [with you] would have been nice, this conversation [about why prospects ignore my calls] has been way more beneficial.”
It’s clear that even those of us charged with executing a seemingly sound sales playbook are emotionally conflicted about the task.
In this age of relentless deadlines, limited bandwidth, and a sea of technology solutions, companies find that their customers are developing immunity to their prospecting outreach. But while competition for attention and mindshare is fiercer than ever, the good news is, there are some tactics you can use to break through your prospects’ defences.
Try a new (or old) medium.
Change things up by selecting a more engaging medium for your message. For example, social selling maven Jamie Shanks found a video message increased his email open rates two to 10 times. We’ve found the same thing in our business as well. Even prospects who aren’t interested in taking the next step reply to say what a clever format we used. Low-tech ideas like engaging your prospects with a piñatagram or a handwritten note work, as well (a shout-out to Foster Thomas for getting me with that one.).
The ultimate way to usher your message directly to your target buyers is through a referral from a happy customer or mutual connection. Research from Salesforce shows that the lead-to-win conversion rates for leads sourced through referrals are over 50 times higher than an email campaign. It’s not hard to understand why. With the proliferation of peer reviews on consumer sites like Amazon and B2B sites like G2Crowd, buyers are becoming more and more weary of vendor-generated content. Personally speaking, the chances of you getting a response from me with a prospecting email are almost nil, but if a friend or colleague tells me your solution is worth looking into, you can almost certainly expect I will.
Rethink your messaging.
Vendors typically like to talk about how awesome they are. That’s why if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, try injecting some customer-centric messaging into your pitch to both speak your customers’ language and disrupt their inertia (the tendency to keep doing what they’ve always done). The best messages are bold, polarizing, and educational — they teach your audience something they didn’t know. For example, instead of saying, “Coaching sales reps is important, which is why we developed the next-generation sales coaching solution,” try saying, “Research shows sales rep coaching is the single most important factor in quota attainment, yet only 7% of sales managers spend enough time coaching and 85% of reps feel performance reviews are a waste of time.” This approach can be especially powerful when used in conjunction with account-based marketing tactics to provide highly relevant insights in the context of your prospects business.
At the Sales Machine 2017 conference I recently attended in New York, Sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer addressed a packed house saying, “Don’t tell your customers something they don’t know about you. Tell them something they don’t know about them.” Before reaching out to an executive buyer, try sourcing some insights from lower-level team members or even publicly available insights or statistics. Offering a free assessment tool (like Hubspot’s website grader) that either the sales rep or prospect can run is a fantastic way to source those insights and refine your pitch. For example, instead of saying something like, “Most organizations want more positive customer reviews on solution rating sites. We can help with that.” some quick research might allow you to say, “Looking for positive online customer reviews is the first step for 90% of buyers, yet I noticed that [company name] has 70% fewer positive customer ratings on G2Crowd than other vendors in your space. We can help with that."
Add clear value early and often.
Reciprocity is one of the most powerful forces in business. It's an incentive-based behavioral equation: I want something from you and in exchange I offer something in return. While science has demonstrated how compelling this persuasive force can be, as it turns out, reciprocity is even more powerful when what you offer is actually given in advance instead of afterward. That’s why before you ask a prospect for their time and attention, ask yourself, what value will accompany your request? (And no, information about how awesome your company is doesn’t count.)
In a recent podcast, I spoke about the need for sales professionals to focus on adding value to our customers at every interaction. For example, instead of hitting up your prospects with the all-too-familiar “Just checking in” or “Do you have 15 minutes?” emails or phone calls, why not send them a relevant article, white paper, or business book? Or invite them to an intimate peer dinner or networking event. Even making an introduction to a like-minded customer or third-party expert that can help them in their role works. The gift of time savings can be equally compelling. At my last startup, we routinely reached out to executives who signed up for our freemium product and offered to save them “clicking around time” by giving them a personal five-minute guided tour, no strings attached. Our uptake on that offer was very high.
In the age of distraction, getting customers to notice you — never mind replying to your outreach — is hard. I believe the future of sales and marketing will continue to skew towards both buyer scepticism and empowerment, and sellers (and especially prospectors) must meet their modern buyer with a customer-centric mindset, deep-rooted conviction, and value at every stage.
While there are many approaches modern sales organizations can use to get customers to pay attention, the easiest way to know if you’re on track is to pretend you’re the customer experiencing your approach and ask yourself one simple question: Would you respond?
“In this age of relentless deadlines, limited bandwidth, and a sea of technology solutions, companies find that their customers are developing immunity to their prospecting outreach.”
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