Whether you’re implementing an inbound marketing approach or are engaged in outbound prospecting efforts, you’re going to have to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to before.
If that first call feels like a first call – to you or your prospect – the likelihood of a successful interaction drops precipitously. Before the first call is made, it is important that you learn more about the person and company you’re calling.
This requires research; but balancing just how much research is necessary is a challenge that has faced organizations since the dawn of selling. Your time is a very limited resource. It is important that you’re careful about how you spend it.
In my experience, there are five areas where you should focus your research to be able to confidently make effective calls.
Who is the person you are reaching out to?
- What’s their role?
- What are their likely responsibilities?
- What’s the job history?
- What mutual relationships might you have?
This information is often readily available on sites like LinkedIn.
It’s important that you start here, as your ability to communicate empathy is crucial to getting past any initial resistance a prospect might have. Remember, your job is to think like your prospect and not to force your prospect to think like you.
I also recommend that you Google the contact before reaching out to them. Their Google profile (what shows up in a Google search) will tell you an awful lot about them. You’ll often find out more about who they are and, more importantly, what really matters to them.
It is also important that you have a good feel for the company. When qualifying leads, it’s important that you qualify the company, not the contact.
With inbound marketing especially, you’ll often start your conversation with someone who may not be actively involved in the sale you are trying to make. Therefore it’s critical that you know something about the company and who you want to connect with to be successful.
Our conversations often start with someone in our prospect’s marketing department. I would like to be talking to the VP of sales or marketing. I have far more success when I know who that person is and what matters to them.
For example, saying something like, “I noticed that Donna is very involved in trade shows and outreach. How do you think she would look at an initiative designed to complement those efforts and close the loop on ROI?” is far more effective than, “So, what would your VP think?”
Digital body language
The beauty of content marketing today is that you are not only influencing your prospects, you’re learning what’s really important to them. Before I reach out to someone I know if they’ve been to our website, when they were there and what they reviewed. I can see what topics they click on and what they don’t. All of this allows me to customize my approach and message.
In our outbound efforts, we’re able to track our emails (both automated and non-automated). We can see what emails (and subject lines) are opened and which are not. We can see if they’ve clicked on anything and if they’ve passed the email on to someone else.
Additionally by integrating our inbound approach with our outbound, we’re able to drive people to our website who would not have gone there on their own. From there, we’re able to pick up their digital body language as if they were an inbound lead.
The most common challenges for their industry & role
To win business today, you must begin building your business case before you connect with a prospect. The days of being able to successfully say, “I can’t really tell you if we are a good match until I learn more about your business,” are over!
Before I make my first interaction with a lead, I’ve got a clear picture of the most likely issues the prospect and their company are facing. Therefore, I don’t have to ask inane questions like “Tell me about your business,” or “What needs do you have?”
Instead I’m able to demonstrate my expertise and value by asking a question like, “I know one of the biggest problems impacting businesses like yours is [issue]; I’m curious how you’re handling that currently?”
How do companies like theirs typically address the problems you solve
Our sales opportunities don’t exist in a vacuum. Every prospect is currently doing something to address problems and has varying degrees of sophistication in addressing a problem.
When I’m connecting with a SaaS company, I know several things:
- They’re most likely familiar with content and inbound marketing.
- They’re being hounded by an insane number of providers to use their stuff.
- They’re more likely than not to have a more aggressive marketing and lead generation effort in place.
So when I reach out to them, I know that I need to get deeper into the issues, faster to succeed. If I spend time evangelizing the benefits of inbound marketing or sales development, I will bore them quickly, because they’re already familiar with it.
However, when someone from our logistics or staffing verticals is the focus, then I do have to spend more time “selling” the idea before they’re ready to talk about the details.
For this process to be successful, you must do some work up front. The reason why defining buyer personas, articulating clear messaging and creating contextual content is so important is because when it’s time to connect with a prospect, you already know them.
On a side note, I often get asked why certain marketing automation platforms like HubSpot are so “expensive.” One of the greatest benefits we get is the ability to get about 80% of what I’ve outlined above pushed to us. I’m literally able to do this research on a prospect in the 30 seconds I have timed between the completion of one call and the initiation of the next.
A core component of our advantage and the secret sauce to making lead generation and sales development efforts successful lies in the ability to quickly and effectively see the world through our prospects’ eyes, knowing what’s really important and how we can impact them.