Even with the rapid growth in big data and social media – sales prospecting or social prospecting is still a critical component in the sales process. So what has changed when it comes to finding leads today? Well sales prospecting has become “social prospecting” where sales people research their prospects accessing data on the social media channels. Prospecting does not stop at connection requests on LinkedIn, or briefly looking at a buyers profile before making contact. Buyers are evolving in how they source vendors, as should salespeople evolve in how they source sales prospects.
Here is a guide and some tips to help improve sales prospecting.
Use a tool to save time on lead generation
In all industries, you must firstly generate leads. You cannot make sales without first engaging with your prospects. But where do you find a steady flow of prospects? This brings me to the dreaded LinkedIn search – from my own experience (in recruitment) I know all too well how much time and effort is spent sourcing leads. So after hours spent creating a list of prospects now you have to go selling. You know the story; you find the leads, quick Google search before the cold-call, you are ecstatic to find the decision makers name somehow, now you can call them and act casual like you know each other. Surprisingly, the gatekeeper will not transfer you, they don’t know who you are, what brand you represent and are highly skilled in finding out if this is in fact – a sales call! You accept the rebuttal and follow up with a friendly email, why? Because you spent so much time identifying them in the first place that you need to hang on to them.
I know better than anyone how genuinely frustrating it is to spend so much time generating leads, calling them, only to fall at the first hurdle. We’ve all done the webinars and breakfast briefings teaching us how to source leads. Think about how much time, money and effort you put into sourcing leads. Wouldn’t this time be better off selling? Salespeople are not source people! There are social media lead generation tools you can use to eliminate the time, cost and
hard work in identifying prospects, freeing up your time to sell.
Cyber stalking is a must
Researching the company for clues on who they buy from and existing vendor relationships is a must, but it is also imperative to research the decision makers. Just researching the company’s strategy, industry and challenges is not enough, in an ideal world you must try to build a relationship with the decision maker before you do the sales pitch. This can be done through social selling; basically you (the salesperson) create awareness for your brand through engagement on social media platforms.
Become a thought leader and show how much you know about their industry, engage with them on blog posts and conversations. Be subtle, the idea here is to show a genuine interest in the changes or developments within their industry and give advice, as you are now on your way to becoming a trusted advisor and thought leader. Learn to become a ninja in cyber stalking.
We all know that developing relationships plays an intrinsic role in sales prospecting. As you can imagine, decision makers are extremely busy, they receive on average 3,800 marketing messages daily. Let us assume you now have your lead generation tool in place, giving you lists of prospects, so what’s next? You need to engage right? How?
Well how about positioning yourself as a thought leader, one who is highly knowledgeable in the prospects field. You see, as modern sales people we must be of value to the prospects, this can be done by offering advice, problem solving and demonstrating your expertise through blog posts and whitepapers. Salespeople must acknowledge that this is a gradual process, when you finally do speak with the prospect – they should feel like they have met you before – you need to be that familiar to them.
Befriend the gate keeper
Many decision makers reach out to someone they trust for advice and referrals, a large percentage of senior execs will turn down a direct approach. However, if a mutual connection, influencer or colleague were to make the introduction – 80% of senior execs would be open to meeting.
As I mentioned earlier, many senior executives attempt to deter salespeople by appointing gatekeepers. So what if you could engage with the gatekeeper? And they could refer you to the decision maker? It is important to be known within these circles, gaining a status within this particular industry, ‘It is not who you know, but who knows you’, so an introduction by a peer or colleague would be greatly beneficial. As I mentioned in my previous point, genuine relationship building is an inherent part of the process.
Find a common interest or connection
From your cyber stalking – you should by now have a pretty good sense of what your prospect really cares about. What are their motivations, passions in life, involvement in clubs or societies – ask yourself what really drives them? Count your lucky stars if you source an article or press release stating whether a particular cause or society is close to their heart!
This process is more about utilizing mutual interests, connections, backgrounds, or causes. This is a great way to now develop the relationship as you both have an interest in the same sports club, charitable organization or society. Common interests or mutual links is a great basis for relationship building as you can discuss what the cause or society means to you both, thus gaining a mutual trust.
Share your knowledge
Before you go selling, share your knowledge and genuine interest as you should now be aware of some the attributes and insights of your prospects. Demonstrate your research and insights to show your knowledge and understanding of what the prospect cares about. Although be aware that you do not over-step the mark, and alienate the lead. Position the conversation in a natural way where you can bring up a particular subject that will be of interest to them. Ensure that the potential client feels comfortable and relaxed – you can then demonstrate your knowledge and opinions which you already know are of interest to them, based on your research findings. Social selling should be educational, informative and have influence over your target audience, resulting in the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge as a thought leader – in a subtle way.
Map your call
Approach the initial phone call as more of a research exercise, which can be advantageous for extracting information. Rather than aiming to speak to the prospect, you might call the influencers to gain valuable insights before making the big call.
This process would be even more beneficial if you got to speak with a C-level employee, who can then refer you to the C-level executive. This demonstrates that the prospect is interested and you now have the C-level employee to refer you.
Ditch the elevator pitch
You finally speak to the main prospect, ‘Hi there, how are you, ELEVATOR PITCH’.
Salespeople are not robots, instead be more genuine with your prospect, ‘Hi John, I do not believe we have previously spoken, I see we are connected on LinkedIn, I was doing some research and seen your most recent blog post, I was curious as to what your plans are to begin the expansion, is now a good time to talk’?
This strategy shows you have done your homework, have a genuine interest in the company and their future plans, whilst also being respectful of the prospects busy schedule. This method provides a reason for the phone call and allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and research in a non salesy way.
It has been found that the weakest aspect of social selling lies with sales prospecting. Using a lead generation tool will speed up the sourcing process, not to mention save you a lot of stress. Spare time will allow you to allocate more of your efforts and resources to networking, building relationships and nurturing these leads, in a non-interruption way. With the end goal being that you attain loyal and repeat customers.