I wrote a post eight years ago called Why Google Wins. In it I shared what I think is the secret of success for all business efforts.
Before, Google does not expose you to what’s in it for them until they first show you (and provide) what’s in it for you. Simply, Google’s search business gives you value before they extract any.
I think about that post whenever I’m talking with sales reps, marketing managers and other executives about how to initiate conversations and sales opportunities in the B2B sales process.
An effective initial contact strategy can go a long way to shortening your sales cycle, while an ineffective one can doom you to Dante’s Sales Inferno.
This is one of the primary reasons that Inbound Marketing (done correctly) is so valuable and effective. The basis of inbound marketing is to deliver real value as a means of attracting the right people into your communication efforts.
The ability to self-select gives prospects a feeling of control and comfort that actually reduces the barrier of making an effective connection. For those that pursue outbound efforts (and for the record, we, ourselves, pursue several outbound strategies and tactics) it’s a good idea to get “inboundy” with those efforts.
Over the years, I’ve developed some tricks that I’ve found to be effective to establishing a solid base of value from which to make contact.
Provide Insight On An Important Problem Your Prospect Is Dealing With
As the saying goes, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. In B2B sales, caring doesn’t mean that you’re nice or even trustworthy.
It means they don’t care how much you know until they know you’re going to bring something valuable to the table. The days of asking the question, “How can we help?” before sharing insights and expertise are over.
Today you must be clear about who your prospects are, what makes them tick and what really matters to them before you stand a real chance to connect with them.
We’ve seen highly effective tactics in this effort such as:
- Generating a short (10 minutes or less) presentation that you present live or on-demand that provides unique insight into a major problem they’re dealing with.
- Initiate a lead introduction campaign highlighting valuable content you’ve developed for your personas.
- Create sales tools like diagnostic scorecards, planning guides or problem calculators that allow your prospect to better understand their problems.
Reach Out to Multiple People Within the Target Organization
When we initiate outbound efforts, or virtually any sales strategy for that matter, the first thing we do is identify at least two parties to connect with, and we prefer to have four or five points of focus.
As business issues continue to get increasingly complex, one person no longer manages the issues that you address. Making sales is no longer about identifying the “source of power” and making a convincing argument to them.
One of the findings of the Sales Executive Council’s Challenger Study was that a key differentiator of effective salespeople was their ability to build consensus within the buyer’s organization. Don’t wait until the end of the process to get started, use it as part of your account entry strategy.
Don’t Be Afraid to Initiate Your Efforts Lower In Your Prospect’s Organization
When I started in sales, success was all about influencing “VITO” (the very important top person). Today it’s much closer to the opposite. Successful interactions, more often than not, begin one, two or even three levels before VITO.
One of my favorite tactics for defining role players is to separate the person who owns the result (often VITO) from the person who owns the process. Oftentimes the best place to start is with the process owner or even with someone who works within the process. They can provide insights into how issues are currently managed and why. They can also provide intelligence into conflicts that exist or initiatives that are coming down the pike.
Armed with that information, a salesperson can prepare a more powerful case to connect with the results owner.
The bottom line is that if you want to make stronger, more effective and faster connections in prospect accounts, you must put your interests to the side and focus on creating real value with your prospects.