Dozens of our sales experts give their advice on the best SMART sales goals to employ with your teams to see more results, and better pipeline performance.
Sales | Mar 31
Jessica Greene on April 9, 2019 (last modified on April 11, 2019) • 17 minute read
According to research from Google, 90% of B2B decision makers use search to research business purchases, conducting an average of 12 searches before they engage with specific brands.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean sales teams should sit back and wait for prospects to complete the marketing-guided portion of the buyer’s journey and land in their laps as leads.
Sales prospecting helps you find potential customers who haven’t yet realized they have a problem—and therefore haven’t turned to search for solutions.
It helps you expedite the research process so that so many searches aren’t needed, answer questions the marketing team hasn’t created content for, and create a personal connection that makes your brand stand out when it’s time to make a purchasing decision.
But if everyone’s inboxes and calendars are full and people are prone to ignoring calls from phone numbers they don’t recognize, is it even possible to succeed with sales prospecting these days?
According to the respondents to our latest survey, it absolutely is.
We asked 33 sales professionals to share their most effective sales prospecting tips. The result: 19 tips you can adopt right now to start finding your own leads, getting more demos and calls on your calendar, and boosting the number of prospects who convert into customers.
“When prospecting, focus on the types of clients that mimic your best clients,” says RKD’s Bryan Coles. “Do quality research ahead of time to find prospects that are most like your best clients, and then do outreach.”
So what do you need to know about a prospect before reaching out? Schnap Digital’s Tristen Tan says you should “know who you’re targeting in detail. Know their needs, their businesses, their goals, and how your product/service will help them with their challenges.
Extra Magnet’s Sara Montagnani agrees: “Conduct as much research as possible on the prospect beforehand in order to have a thorough understanding of that person. Use social networks and search on Google so you’ll know what to say—and what not to say—when trying to connect with the prospect.”
“One effective prospecting tip I’ve been using to great effect is to combine phone and email together,” says James Pollard of The Advisor Coach. “If I call someone and that person doesn’t answer the phone, I send an email right away.”
“I’ve found that a large percentage of people will respond to the email when they won’t pick up the phone or return my call. This allows me to further qualify them.”
“For example, if they clearly tell me they’re not interested, I will eliminate them from my pipeline and avoid wasting precious time on them. This allows me to be a more efficient (and productive) prospector.”
*Editor’s note: CallRail users can download this free template to track and visualize all of their inbound call prospecting, including which sources are driving the most phone calls.
“Make it as seamless as possible for a prospect to put time on a salesperson’s calendar,” says Ledger Bennett’s Thomas Jacobs. “The key is to empower the prospect to choose what time they speak with sales.”
LyntonWeb’s Jennifer Lux agrees: “Instead of making your prospect fill out forms or go back and forth over email to find a meeting time, provide a direct link to the sales team member’s calendar. Let prospects pick a time that is best for them.”
And in addition to letting prospects book calls and demos from your website, Autus Consulting’s Tom Berry recommends “integrating your calendar as a call-to-action button in all of your communications.”
“I would advise anyone looking to increase their bookings to not be afraid to ask for introductions,” says ExpertSure’s Ollie Smithy. “This may seem like an old fashioned or simplistic strategy, but it’s one of the most effective out there.”
“Asking a prospect, customer, or friend for a referral lets someone else do the heavy lifting for you and allows you to work smarter, not harder. And more often than not, the quality of a referral is higher from an active contact than from a cold source,” Smithy says.
Mavens & Moguls’ Paige Arnof-Fenn recommends “leveraging LinkedIn to find out who you and a prospect know in common, then using that connection to open the door as more of a warm lead.”
“I would either ask to use the mutual connection’s name in an email (with the subject line ‘[Mutual Connection] suggested we connect’) or have the mutual connection make the email introduction directly,” Arnof-Fenn says.
*Editor’s note: If you’re interested in finding out if your company’s efforts on LinkedIn are attracting the right prospects, download this LinkedIn demographics dashboard to get a quick, overall view of your followers’ job titles, industries, company sizes, locations, and more.
If you’re doing cold outreach, LeaseFetcher’s Will Craig says it’s key to make sure the data you’re using to contact prospects is accurate.
“It really pays to make sure that you’ve got the most accurate email addresses possible when you’re contacting sales prospects. This will really improve your conversion rate when it comes to booking more sales meetings.”
“After all, if you’re trying to get in touch with a specific person on the phone, you don’t just call any old number and hope that you find that particular person. You aim to find the most relevant number for your purpose.”
“It goes without saying that you should do exactly the same when it comes to contacting a prospect via email.”
“When emailing new prospects, remember that you’re pushing for a response, not a phone call,” says Smallpdf’s Hung Nguyen. “If you spark enough interest, the prospect will get on a call with you eventually. So don’t just end your message with ‘let’s jump on a call this Monday.’ It might come across as overly pushy.”
Kinetix Media Communications’ Paula Skaper agrees: “When you can, build a relationship first, and base your ask for a meeting on a challenge that’s already been acknowledged rather than guessing.”
If you are going to request a meeting immediately, DevBev Co.’s Devin Beverage recommends a low-pressure approach:
“Don’t ask: ‘Could we meet for coffee and discuss what our services could do for you?’ Try this instead: ‘Let’s meet for coffee and see if we might be a fit. If it’s not a fit, then I’m happy to point you in the right direction. What days work best to meet?’”
“You kill three birds with one stone here,” Beverage says:
“Know when to call and reach out,” says Oliver Lopez of Structsales. “It’s all about timing.”
La Team Web’s Aurélien Dréan agrees: “We use tools from our CRM that allow us to enroll our leads and prospects into email sequences. The CRM tracks when they react to our emails and if they consult our ebooks or website pages.”
“Then, we just need to connect with them at the right time. They almost always appreciate our outreach because these tools allow us to call them when they are ready to talk about their needs,” Dréan says.
“Use LinkedIn properly,” says Ruth Plater of Radial Path. “Pay for LinkedIn Sales Navigator, use its market, industry vertical, company type, and job title filters to create targeted lists, and start sending connection requests with personalized messages.”
Plater wasn’t the only respondent who’s a fan of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. In fact, our respondents listed it more often than any other tool when asked what tools they use for sales prospecting:
“Once those connections accept,” Plater says, “start to gently reach out to gauge interest in what you’re doing. If the target list is correct and you understand your audience, most contacts will welcome the engagement.”
“Don’t be too salesy right off the bat. Remember, this is digital door-knocking and networking for the modern world, so don’t go straight for the sale. Build relationships.”
“Send short and sweet messages,” says Ben Walker of Transcription Outsourcing. “Don’t write more than four sentences, and keep those sentences short. We have tested this many times on LinkedIn, and we’ve found that the shorter your message is, the better.”
Empathy First Media’s Daniel Lynch agrees: “In your cold call, email, or initial outreach, be quick and to the point about what problem you can potentially solve for that prospect.”
“If your email headline, chatbot message, or elevator pitch doesn’t hit the nail on the head, it is going to be hard to get people to commit 30 minutes of their lives to you,” Lynch says.
CIENCE’s Anna Tkachenko says the best way to get more meetings is with “persistent personalized personalization. The more effort you put into making your outreach special for your prospects, the more positive results you’ll see.”
“Mention the prospect’s favorite baseball player, a mutual connection, or his/her dog’s name. Starting with simple baby steps like these can help you catch a huge fish,” Tkachenko says.
Online Optimism’s Patrick Rafferty also recommends “staying up to date with local current events, including restaurant openings, changes in management, and new construction, then reaching out to the applicable party.”
“Instead of pitching—which makes it look it like you’re assuming you already know their needs—ask thought-provoking questions that show how simply meeting with you will create value,” says Mindster’s Hyfa. “These questions should be based on preliminary research you’ve done. You might say something like this:”
“I noticed you recently increased the frequency of your radio broadcasts. With the incredible line-up of guests you’ve booked, I was curious about your thoughts related to production values and publicity. I’m hoping to learn more about your business to see if I might be able to help you upgrade and deliver higher quality standards.”
“That was an email I received last week. It got my attention, made me want to hear more about her thoughts, and earned her an appointment,” Hyfa says.
“Put together an interesting event about your topic and advertise it on social media,” says Pulpmedia’s Paul Lanzerstorfer.
“Then, interested people will come to you, and you can get a follow-up meeting with them more easily.”
“Align your marketing and sales teams,” says Big Sea’s Autumn Sullivan. “When sales and marketing are working in lock-step, marketing has the closed-loop data it needs to generate higher-quality leads, nurture them with the right messaging, and then hand them over to sales when they’re ready for the meeting.”
“Sales, meanwhile, benefits from hotter leads and the mid- and end-funnel content and messaging it needs to take a prospect from a sales meeting to a won deal,” Sullivan says.
Niloo Lopez of Structsales says her company has a sales development representative (SDR) who makes sure marketing and sales teams are aligned. “The SDR acts as a link between sales and marketing and helps customers move forward in their buying processes.”
“The SDR should have the responsibility to qualify and manage business opportunities from marketing, giving sales representatives the opportunity to focus more of their valuable time on having great meetings instead,” Lopez says.
Several respondents noted that you can take advantage of content on your website to get more meetings booked:
“Showcase your success stories, highlight new and old clients, and have testimonials on your site: these are just a few of the best ways to increase sales meetings,” says Srish Agrawal of A1 Future Technologies. “Testimonials work best, especially if you can display them on the form that prospects use to book meetings.”
“You always want to offer something of value,” says Referral Rock’s Christian Morris. “Before you book a meeting with someone, you want to know enough about them that you know why your solution can be valuable for them.”
“For example, when someone starts to research a referral platform, they start to get an idea of the features they need. So initially you can call attention to certain features by saying something like ‘have you considered this,’ or ‘make sure to do this.’”
“Since they are in this early research stage, you should offer content or something that is actually going to be genuinely valuable to them instead of just saying, ‘Buy us. We’re cheap.’”
“The whole sales process is—in some ways—trying to establish yourself as a valuable resource,” Morris says.
Prosper for Purpose’s Lorraine Schuchart agrees: “Offer to discuss their biggest problem related to your services—for free. By providing some value in advance, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and inspire trust.”
“Connect better to close better,” says Plog’s Ramón. “If you connect you will understand that the business appointment is not to sell but, instead, to understand and propose something of value.”
Simple Selling’s Derek Marin recommends “adding a video to your email signature.”
“Then, at the end of that short, introductory video, include a call-to-action to book a meeting.”
“A sales prospecting campaign allows you to lay a foundation and map out an entire process with scheduled direct mailings, emails, and event invitations,” says Techtic Solutions’ Rajat Chauhan.
“This targeted campaign prepares each prospect for your call, which will ultimately help you set more sales meetings.”
“The best way to successfully book more sales meetings is by always delivering your clients great results,” says Guava Family’s Scott Crumrine.
“Once you’ve gained the trust of a business owner and delivered time after time, you’ll be given access to his/her personal network, which will lead to tons of meetings.”
“Ask for feedback on what you’re selling instead of trying to sell them on something at first, especially if you are a startup (but even if you’re not),” says Momentum Canada’s Corey Dugas.
“Often times, we’re introducing something new to someone, so instead of selling them on features, ask them what they think. People love giving their opinion, especially if they think it might help someone out.”
“Once you get further along in the discussion, you can ask if this is something they would ever consider purchasing—but don’t walk into the conversation with that intention.”
“Open up the floor for discussion with your prospect instead of driving it in your direction. You can learn a lot about how your business is perceived by people who are just learning about it.”
“The number one way that I prospect and get meetings booked is by being authentic and engaging with potential clients on a one-on-one basis,” says 2060 Digital’s David Haar.
“No shortcuts, no spamming, no blasting lists, and no buying lists—just treat all potential customers like human beings who have specific goals in mind that I may or may not be able to help with.”
“If it seems like I could help and there is a good fit, we should chat. If there really isn’t much we could do together, let’s not waste each other’s time.”
“I find that being honest and open about what it is that I do and why I thought we could do good things together tends to resonate well with people that are used to getting bombarded all day with the latest bright, shiny, penny solution or tactic that they just have to check out.”
“Slowing things down and getting back to the basics of why two companies could be working together tends to be the best way for me to book meetings each week,” Haar says.
Catalyst Marketing Agency’s Oliver Roddy agrees: “Forget that you’re trying to sell something, forget about the commission, and forget about your business’ growth. Instead, focus on if and how you can help them. What are their challenges and how can your organization help to solve them?”
“As long as you focus on their needs and their wants, you will genuinely help people; that’s a service people are more than happy to pay for. But when you make it all about you, you end up trying to fit square pegs through round holes and forcing the process through.”
“Just make sure your whole approach is about the prospect, and you’re guaranteed to turn more prospects into meetings,” Roddy says.
There are a lot of different ways to get in touch with prospects—email, phone, social, and even direct mail—but which channel is the most effective?
Nearly 40% of our respondents voted email as the best channel, while another nearly 30% said phone was best:
“For me, email has been the most effective channel for booking qualified sales meetings,” says G2 Crowd’s Izabelle Hundrev.
“Treat your prospects like humans instead of people you’re trying to sell to. Be personable and communicate in the same way you would with a colleague. Be professional, but find ways to get creative and pique prospects’ interests.”
“These are the easiest ways to stand out in a sea of emails filled with jargon and impersonal language,” Hundrev says.
Pro Moulds’ Charlie Worrall says phone is his most effective channel: “Getting on the phone with a potential client is one of the best ways to get a meeting scheduled, especially if you’re trying to talk to someone in the C-suite.”
“Adding a personal touch with a phone call gives a voice to the ‘entity’ that’s calling. And it’s important to humanize your brand because no one really wants to deal with a faceless company; they’d much rather have a personal experience and enjoy human interaction,” Worrall says.
And Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray recommends social media: “Social media is probably the most time- and cost-effective channel to fill your sales funnel with qualified prospects. Why? Because no matter who’s in your target audience, they’re on social media.”
“You could reach out to them by connecting on LinkedIn, running Facebook ads, posting engaging content on Instagram, or sharing your blog posts on Twitter. With social media, you’ve got so many options available and testing to do,” Aufray says.
But Jumpfactor’s Zamir Javer says there is no one best channel: “multichannel is the key today.”
“You can’t rely on one channel. You need to leverage email, social, display, mobile, search, and content to drive maximum engagement and get the most conversions.”
“And finally, you have to be consistent,” Javer says. “You can’t start and stop and expect to see results.”
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