The Ten Commandments of Prospecting: 2020 Edition
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Email or Call? The Best Way to Reach Out to a Prospect For the First Time
After all, first interactions with prospects are key -- you're aiming to establish trust, provide value, gather key information, and perhaps even secure a follow-up meeting. If you don't use the right medium, they'll be less receptive to your message (and that's assuming they engage at all).
Luckily for sales reps everywhere, more than 20 sales experts and practitioners on Quora decided to weigh in.
The Best Way to Reach Out to a Prospect For the First Time
When In Doubt, Email First
The majority of experts recommended starting with an email. "An initial email usually makes more sense because it doesn't require [the prospect to] answer at the moment they receive it," writes Robert Graham, author of Cold Calling Early Customers.
Plus, as others pointed out, you can use an email as a reason to call.
"I always start by referring to this first email to show we're one step further in our relationship," explains Stan Frering, head of Client Relationship Management for Easytrip France.
Emailing has a third advantage over calling, according to EchoSign co-founder Jason Lemkin. It lets you educate your prospect on the product's value proposition, and clearly connect it with the prospect's situation.
"The prospect needs to understand the value proposition first," he explains. "It needs to be very strong, and very clear. No one will take a random call about a product they've never heard of it's not 100% crystal clear they have a huge, pre-defined need for it."
When to Ignore the Email-First Rule
However, there is one exception to the "email first" rule.
Lemkin says once your brand has been established, it's time to start calling your prospects.
"If your prospect has already heard of [your company], they'll know if they want to speak to you about the product and learn more about buying," Lemkin writes.
For example, say you're a salesperson for Dropbox. You call a prospect and say, "Hi John, I'm with Dropbox, and I noticed your CEO tweeted that your company is almost out of free virtual storage. I'd love to discuss how we could get you some more so you can keep all your files in one place."
John already knows Dropbox and understands why it's a useful product -- so he's got a good reason to stay on the phone.
However, if you were selling a brand-new cloud storage solution, Lemkin argued that it would be better to send John an email first so he has more time to consider your value prop.
Not sure how much clout your company name carries? To quickly gauge brand awareness, go to Google Trends and compare how many people are searching for your company versus your top competitors. If your company gets the most searches, that means it probably has the highest name recognition in your space.
A Better Method Than Phone Or Email?
But to one expert, the question of "phone vs. email" is innately flawed.
SVP at LivePerson Sean Burke says that, in fact, your default shouldn't be calling or emailing. He recommends using your network to get an introduction -- great advice, considering that having a referral makes a buyer five times more likely to engage.
"You'd be surprised how often this crucial first step is ignored," Burke writes.
Once your mutual connection has agreed to introduce you, ask him or her which communication method the prospect prefers. Most people have an individual preference for calling or emailing.
However, if you don't have a shared connection, Burke suggests looking at the prospect's social media presence. If she is "social" -- meaning she's got 500-plus LinkedIn connections and an active Twitter or Instagram account -- use those channels to interact with her and start adding value. If she's "traditional" -- meaning she doesn't meet those criteria -- Burke gives you the go-ahead to call or email.
Whatever You Do, Don't Cold Call or Spam
While opinions differed on the relative merits of calls vs. email vs. social media, the experts were unanimous on one point: You should never reach out to a prospect via any channel without doing research first.
"Ultimately, you are in a much better position -- either calling or emailing -- if you have background information on the person you are contacting," notes Jeremy Boudinet, head of marketing for Ambition. "That way, you can tailor your message off the bat, since you have an idea of how you can add value to that person or company."
Sales Email or Sales Call? Experiment and Find Out
Although these guidelines should definitely guide your prospecting strategy, don't forget they're just that: guidelines. "Why not take a test-and-learn approach to this problem?" writes Nick Dellis, Weebly's VP of Business Development. "What works for you may not work for others."
Dellis suggests emailing first, then calling with 10 to 20 prospects, doing the reverse with another 10 to 20 prospects, and comparing the results.
"Taking this approach of testing ideas and optimizing is the only way to find out for yourself," he says. "And it'll help you be a better salesperson in the longer term."
First Contact Email
If you choose to start the conversation with an email, be sure you include a rapport-building element and communicate your value proposition.
Not sure what a first contact email should look like? Here's an email template you can use to start your outreach.
How To Do One Thing At A Time
In his 2013 book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, writer Gary Keller reminds us that everyone has 24 hours in a day. So why do some people earn more, achieve more and get more done? They “go small,” he says:
“When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small. ‘Going small’ is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”
Going small to follow one path sounds easy, but there are fresh opportunities and shiny objects around every corner. Distraction is everywhere. There are times when you want to test the waters, and creativity often requires sampling. But if you truly want to move the needle, it demands a narrow field of vision.
For example, our company always chooses an annual focus area. Last year was about data. Across all our teams and functions, everyone worked to boost user productivity by leveraging data. That task looks different for each employee, but we’re aligned with a single, shared goal. When you focus on what’s important, the results can be incredible.
Lay out all the options and pick what really, truly matters. Set your focus area and stick to it.
Start as small as possible
The advice to “go small” works on multiple levels. Choosing your goal or main project is the first step. Then, once you know what you’re trying to achieve, zoom in closer.
When we’re working on a major project, I always try to step back and ask: “What’s the smallest version we could create that would still produce results?” Once you have that mini version, gather feedback. Refine and work your way up to a bigger, better model. Keep going, and you’ll achieve more than you thought was possible.
Create automated systems
Technology is far from foolproof, and until recently, our admins were constantly tackling server issues at 3 a.m. Every time it happened, I reiterated the need to find a real solution – one that didn’t require midnight wake-ups.
Eventually, we installed automated tools that tell us, for example, when our servers are 80% full. They notify us again when the servers reach 85% capacity. Now we never hit that 95% panic zone. We’ve automated an issue that drained our focus.
Systems aren’t exciting, but they are essential. Create efficient processes and automate as many steps as possible. You’ll free up valuable time and energy to stay focused on your “one thing.”
Designate a leader
Sports teams need coaches and captains. Orchestras need conductors. Group activities almost always function better when someone’s leading the way, even if the work is highly collaborative. At JotForm, all of our cross-functional product teams have leaders – and good ones dramatically increase both focus and productivity.
So what makes a strong leader? In my experience, it’s someone who can make quick, smart decisions. They listen closely, gather information and make choices that move the group closer to its goals.
If you’re working solo, it’s equally important to step back from your daily tasks and measure what matters. Be your own leader. You can always reach out for help, too. Whether it’s a friend, colleague, mentor or advisor, a different perspective is often highly valuable – but remember that the final decisions are always yours.
Explore – within your boundaries
All this talk of single-minded focus can sound really dull, especially if you’re a creative person. I get it. But doing one thing at a time isn’t about boring yourself into efficiency. There can still be room for exploration if you create clear boundaries. Build your sandbox, and then you can play in it.
Because we spend a full year chasing one big goal, our teams are welcome to follow some tangents along the way. There’s no rush to the finish line. I also realize that off-the-wall ideas can spark innovation, so we encourage experimentation.
If your team is eager to explore, set some markers so you don’t get lost. For example, our Friday ‘demo days’ are the time when everyone checks in and shows what they’ve done. If a team has gone off the rails, we can gently bring them back on track. Usually, though, we’re excited about what they’ve accomplished.
You can set up markers as a solopreneur as well. Think of your project as a large circle that contains lots of smaller circles or checkpoints. Once you have those boundaries in place, you’re free to wander.
Set tech limits
In a 2010 study published in the journal Science, Harvard University psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert discovered that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re currently doing.
Even more striking? Distractions make us unhappy. As Killingworth explains, “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
That’s a stunning thought: being focused can actually make you feel better, regardless of what you’re doing. From starting a business to finishing a spreadsheet (without checking Instagram), single-tasking will not only help you achieve great results, but you’ll enjoy the process a lot more.
Startup gurus and productivity experts have endless suggestions to help you stay focused, but here’s what consistently works for me:
Box your time. Creating time limits is oddly motivating (and effective). Whatever you want to do, try ‘boxing’ it into a set time period and ignore distractions, including email, calls, texts, making coffee, alphabetizing your bookshelf or grooming the cat. Get laser-focused for that set period of time and then take a break. Repeat as needed. You can apply this same principle to projects, teams, products or just about anything else that requires true focus.
Box your energy. We all have energy limits. Even the so-called “sleepless elite” (high performers like Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and fashion designer Tom Ford) will eventually run out of fuel. Doing one thing at a time will preserve your precious energy. And just like time-boxing, you can get even more intentional about shifting your energy toward what matters.
For example, if I have a big interview or presentation on my calendar, I’m careful about what I schedule around it. I try to avoid meetings. I get more sleep. I eat more leafy greens and I do what I can to stay relaxed. I’m ‘boxing’ my energy toward an important goal.
Make a clean break
In June 2018, the makers of a message board app surveyed more than 11,000 employees at 30 of the biggest technology companies. They asked: Are you currently suffering from job burnout? More than 57% of participants said yes.
Many people are struggling to stay on what can feel like a treadmill without a ‘stop’ button. The tech-fueled blur between work and personal time can be difficult – and confusing. And if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, it’s all in your hands.
The solution? Create as many boundaries as you can, within your sphere of influence. As much as possible, separate work from your personal life. I know this might sound overly simple, but even if you work from home, it’s up to you to create real limits.
Set office hours, for example, and don’t clock in outside those periods. When I leave the office, I do everything I can to leave work there, too. I want to be present for my family. I want to enjoy my time with them – and I need to rest and recover. I don’t work on the weekends, either. If I do have a new idea on Sunday afternoon, for example, I’ll send a quick note to myself (but I won’t dig into it).
If I want to share something with a team member, I will send them an email, but I’ll write ‘FOR MONDAY’ in the subject line. If I see emails at night, I remind people that they should wait until the next morning (and then I try to take my own advice).
Take real time off
I can’t say it enough. Even if you’re working hard to build a business or accomplish great things, downtime is not optional. You need to rest. Your body needs to recover, your brain needs to consolidate all those inputs, and you’ll be infinitely happier and more productive if you give yourself a break.
The data confirms it: After a vacation, 64% of people say they’re “refreshed and excited to get back to [their] job.” Hiking in nature and staying disconnected from all devices for four days can lead to a 50% spike in creativity. If employees took just one extra day of paid leave each year, the result would add $73 billion in output to the US economy.
So, whether you’re crafting a business plan, writing a novel, lifting weights or perfecting your Bolognese sauce, give it everything you have. Do that one most important thing and then move on. It’s that simple – and that powerful.
How to Make the Best Follow-Up Sales Call in 2019
Written by Meg Prater / Hubspot
If you're in sales, you've likely seen the 2011 "Lead Response Management Study." It analyzed three year's worth of data,100,000 call attempts, six companies, and 15,000 leads and synthesized findings to bring salespeople scientific answers to age-old questions like "What are the best days to call my prospects?" and "What time should I contact my leads?"
This kind of research is invaluable to reps. It helps them plan their weeks, maximize the impact of each call they make, and become more efficient, successful salespeople.
Best Times to Make Sales Calls
These days, many reps are more comfortable sending an automated email than picking up the phone. But, before moving forward, it's worth identifying whether the phone is even the best way to follow up with leads today.
That answer is "Yes." A recent study by sales pro Marc Wayshak shows the phone is still the best tool in selling, with 41.2% of respondents naming their phone as their most effective sales tool.
How to Be Professionally Persistent
If you are going to win your dream clients, you are going to have to pursue them over time. This means that you are also going to have to communicate with them at a cadence that keeps you top of mind, and it means you are going to need to do so without being a nuisance or a time-waster. Here are a few values-based ideas to help you persist while maintaining your professionalism.
Relationships Are More Important Than Transactions: You have a choice to make as you persist. If you decide to push hard for what you want, being overly-aggressive and pushy to gain the commitment you want, you will be proving that what you want is more important to you than the relationship. The “whatever it takes” mentality is useful, but it should not include the lack of integrity and caring that underpin all great relationships. If you must choose between having what you want now and having the relationship, choose the relationship. This is how you play the long game, and it is what allows you to persist.
Always Trade in Every Interaction: In every communication, you have the ability to create value for the other person. You can share some idea that may help them—even if they don’t do business with you right now. You have a chance to learn something about your prospective client that will allow you to better serve them in the future. You are not only shaping their view of what they are doing and how they might do better, you are also shaping their preference to work with you by shaping the relationship. If every call and every email is a straight ask and nothing else, you are not trading value.
Persistency Requires Consistency: One of the major differences between people who professionally persist and those who don’t is that they don’t think of it as developing a relationship. You’ll want to pay attention here if this is something you need to do. If you call your dream client every January, you really aren’t being persistent. If you call every quarter with nothing to say, you are checking the box, and that means there is no real interest. Professional persistence requires consistency of communication over time. If there are long stretches of time where you disappear and go dark, the lack of consistency makes it easy to reduce your request for time, or some other commitment.
Being professionally persistent isn’t tactical; it’s strategic. It is an operating principle when it comes to producing the results you want, and especially as it relates to winning your dream clients. And it’s how you play the long game.
Prospecting: What You Need to Know Now
You have to do it: You have to create opportunities. If you are in sales, you are responsible for creating new opportunities, and that requires prospecting. There is no way around it.
You have to do more of it than you think necessary: If there is a challenge in sales right now, there is none greater than creating enough opportunities. A little prospecting generally doesn’t work. More is better. More than that is what’s required.
Consistency is King: Consistent prospecting produces better results than cramming. Daily is better than weekly. Daily is better than three call blocks throughout the week. Daily is better than any other strategy you might believe serves you.
Cold calling is a Ferrari: If you want speed to results, you use the phone as your primary medium for prospecting. If you are overwhelmed with opportunities and independently wealthy, you might choose another medium.
Email isn’t really prospecting: If no one can hear you ask for a meeting, and if there is no one there for you to whom you make your case for time, then you aren’t really prospecting. Email is for nurturing relationships.
Speaking of nurturing: If you aren’t nurturing your dream clients over time, then you cannot expect to be known for the value you create when you finally have the opportunity to ask for meeting.
The failure to prospect hurts later, not now: You can go days without prospecting. Weeks, even. You might be able to go months without creating a single opportunity. Then, two quarters from now, you have an empty pipeline, and there is no way to build one fast enough.
Your prospecting is not my prospecting: Some people are so effective as to be able to create more than enough opportunities quickly and easily. Others can spend days working targets and produce nothing. What works for you is good if you reach your goals. What is wrong for you might be right for someone else.
Social selling is an above the funnel activity, not prospecting: Nurturing relationships is important. So is establishing yourself as someone with ideas and insights. But if you are not asking for a meeting, it isn’t prospecting.
No one can do your prospecting for you: Not your SDR. Not your marketing department. Not the content creators that work in marketing. Not the event planner that gives you the attendee list of the conference you are attending.
Opening is the new closing: No opportunity is ever closed without first being created. No opportunity is captured before it is created. The top of the funnel is where the action is. The bottom of the funnel is easier.
There is no right time to prospect: Mondays are fine. So are Tuesdays. Thursday aren’t magic. Neither is Friday late, or Saturday morning. The best time to prospect is always now.
If you want to be a rain maker, make it rain. Order takers are going to quickly find themselves disintermediated.
Helping Those in the Lone Star State:
How to Effectively Answer, "Why Should I Do Business With You?"
No matter what industry you’re in, you’ve likely received some form of, “Why should I do business with you?”
When most salespeople hear this question, they go into tap-dance mode and immediately list all the reasons why they’re great: “Our company is the best, our service is outstanding, we’ve been around for 100 years, and we have the best quality.”
Of course, your prospect expects you to say this, because your competitors are using this same response.
Think about it -- everyone claims to have the best quality and service, even if it isn’t true. Read on to learn how you can switch up your approach, dominate the competition, and capture your prospects’ attention when they ask, “Why should I do business with you?”
1) Start by saying, “I’m not sure that you should.”
Again, your prospects are expecting a tap dance, so this response will completely catch them off guard. It may be unexpected, but it’s also the truth: You’re never sure a prospect is a fit until you’ve had a thorough conversation. Not only is this response more genuine, but it also boosts your credibility. After all, no doctor claims to have the answer until they fully understand the problem at hand.
2) Explain, “I’ll need to know more.”
This shows prospects it isn’t a lack of confidence making you unsure whether they should do business with you. Instead, you’ll come off as the expert who never rushes to make a judgment. While most salespeople swear they’re a solution to everything for everyone, you’ll show that you take a prescriptive approach.
3) Ask, “Would it be okay if I asked you some questions to determine whether I can actually help you?”
This critical question flips the entire interaction on its head. Instead of your prospect grilling you while you perform, you’ll be the one asking the questions -- with their permission. This relieves any pressure to pitch your product or service, instead letting you focus on fully understanding whether there’s a fit.
4) Prompt them by saying, “Tell me about the biggest challenge you’re facing right now.”
This simple prompt allows you to engage your prospect on the real issues they’re facing. At this point, your conversation is no longer about your offering and is instead centered around what the other person hopes to accomplish. This is how to start a value-based conversation with any prospect -- and it’s radically different from the typical conversation that begins with the challenge, “Why should I do business with you?”
To get more insight into improving your sales approach, take this free one-minute sales strengths-finder quiz.