In modern sales organizations, prospecting requires the sales professional to provide value from the first interaction.
Prospecting can take many different forms, but generally falls into four categories we have placed on the customer journey below.
Inbound Customers educate themselves and seek assistance in the selection process. Outbound Volume-based outbound through a cadence of personalized touches. Targeted Targeting a number of people in a specific account, also known as Account-based Marketing (ABM) and Account-based Prospecting (ABP). Content Educate customers through content on both the problem as well as the solution.
The customer gains no value during the qualification process, often leading to the customer being standoffish.
- Prospect: A person who expresses interest online.
- MQL: Marketing Qualified Lead, a person who expresses interest and fits the profile.
- SQL: Sales Qualified Lead, a person who expresses interest during the sales process.
- SAL: Sales Accepted Lead, is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) that has been reviewed and passed to the sales team for approval.
Don’t qualify your customer, but see if they are a good fit. Looking for fit is like asking if they have the right profile for you to impact (improve) their business. If you can have a big impact, priority and budget will follow. But your solution is not for everyone.
The three most common prospecting processes are:
- Nurtured: Prospects from the contact database have been “cookied.” When they visit your website and download content, they gain “points.” Once they achieve a certain “nurture value” or “lead score” based on those points, your sales platform generates an inbound lead. We recommend that a nurtured lead should also be fed into the outbound process.
- Alerted: An alert on the website (most commonly: contact sales, request demo) generates an inbound lead.
- Word of Mouth (WoM): A new customer hears about you via word-of-mouth. These are the hottest leads!
An alerted inbound lead is also referred to as an MQL where the SDR will interact with the prospect to try and book a meeting.
- Open immediately by addressing “Why are you calling/emailing me?”
- Let them know you sent a voicemail, signaling that you are persistent.
- Call-to-action in the close – “Looking forward” – tells Mary she needs to take action.
- The PS: This is used to communicate an article which allows John to have an opening chat about it in their call later on.
- Email signature tells “who is calling.”
When nurturing a customer, make sure your communication always provides something of value. Don’t “Check in” or “bubble up my last message” – if you’re only asking for a meeting, you are not giving them anything in exchange.
Inbound from Word of Mouth
Word of Mouth is the most powerful form of inbound and requires your utmost attention to address the needs of not just the customer, but also the referrer.
The most effective time for outbound marketing occurs between what we term the “ARGH” and “AHA” stages.
- ARGH: Customers in the “Argh! I have a problem” stage means they have a problem you could potentially solve.
- AHA: Customers who already have experienced the problem, but did not know a solution existed, or maybe have heard about some solutions but were unable to spend time on it yet.
- WOW: Customers who are price shopping for vendors and are comparing offerings, sometimes even feature-by-feature.
We recognize four different kind of outbound techniques:
HYPER- RELEVANT: Address one specific person you hand-picked.
GROUP-RELEVANT: Address a group of people who all experience the same “challenge.”
EVENT-BASED: Invite a person/group of people to an educational event.
CONTENT-BASED: Share insights with a person/group of people over time.
There are three dimensions in outbound prospecting:
- Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
- Day/Time Window
One-to-One Outbound Prospecting (1:1)
To be hyper-relevant you have to be:
- WHEN. At the right time – e.g., person was just hired as the new VP in charge, and sits right at the AHA moment.
- WHAT. On the right topic – e.g., “we noticed you were hiring 10 new QA Engineers.”
- WHERE. In the right context – e.g., “have you considered outsourcing QA to increase speed?”
Research your ICP If you know more about the customer, the impact and consequences of the imminent decision – and you have the right solution – you will win!
Plays to engage with an ideal customer:
- ICP PLAY: Awareness – Visit all relevant LinkedIn profiles
- ICP PLAY: Go Direct – reach out directly – Use RRR. In this approach, you target a senior executive directly following extensive research.
- ICP PLAY: Go Direct – reach out based on a social activity. In a social selling outreach, you are using an activity on social media to start a conversation. The key here is that your aim is to start a conversation by providing them more insights! NOT to set up a meeting.
- ICP PLAY Vertical Approach – Group target, using CEO statement to light a fire. When you address multiple people, you cc: the most senior person. What will happen is that the person responsible will respond to you.
- ICP PLAY: Bottoms up approach – Using actual users as influencers. In this approach, you target the actual users of your target company’s product. You can target them directly (via the RRR method) or indirectly.
Creating hyper-relevant messages for a single person is time consuming and not efficient. You simply do not have enough time to create these. This means you have to create them in volume by addressing a topic that is relevant to them.
There are several key principles in group outbound prospecting.
- PRINCIPLE 1: You must be relevant to the group (The What). When sending out emails to more than one person at a time, it is important to make sure the group is not too big – 10 – 25 people is ideal.
- PRINCIPLE 2: Use of time windows (The When).
- PRINCIPLE 3: Across different channels (The Where). You want to reach people with information in ways that they like to consume it. The value prop differs for each hierarchical layer in a target company. You need to understand the different value props as they relate to your service.
- 1 to FEW PLAY 7×15 Educate Play
- Who: This is optimized for: Identified group of prospects that have a similar problem.
- What: 7 touches over 14 days across different days.
- When: Used often.
- 1-FEW PLAY 8 x 24 FOMO Play
- Who: This is optimized to go cross-titles.
- What: 7 emails, 3 calls, 3 voicemails, 1 LinkedIn visit.
- When: This works really well with a vertical focus.
- 1-FEW PLAY 7 x 35 Social Play
- Who: Optimized to go after the CxO who is active on social networks.
- What: Several social touches spread over a longer period.
- When: This works really well with an ABM program.
Based on your target persona’s specific buying preference, you may need more phone calls, or fewer. Here’s some guidelines to get started:
- Provide Value.
- Offer Help.
- Engage for Feedback: Ask about the content you sent over – was it helpful?
- The Ask: You’ve earned it after providing a bit of value.
By monitoring our engagement, we are able to make data- driven decisions. Let’s first establish what your target open rate looks like for a decent outbound campaign.
Prospecting Around Events
Prospecting Around Events:
- THE EVENT
- FOLLOW – UP
Target Account Selling (TAS) is an approach in which you address several people in the same account with a hyper – relevant message. Over the years, this required a lot of research and understanding of the account, and thus it could only be applied to the top 5-10 accounts. Account Based Marketing (ABM) uses the same philosophy. TAS is the approach from the Sales discipline, and ABM from the Marketing discipline.
Key steps of Account – Based Marketing are:
- STEP 1 – Pick a list of target accounts.
- STEP 2 – Identify the roles and map to accounts.
- STEP 3 – Research (in depth!) the account and obtain contact data.
- STEP 4 – Create a person-based value proposition.
- STEP 5 – Design Interactions.
- STEP 6 – Determine your account engagement play.
- STEP 7 – Measure and Improve.
- STEP 1 – What are the sample titles of your key contacts within a customer?
- STEP 2 – Develop an understanding of each of the roles identified.
- STEP 3 – Obtain contact information.
We need to develop valuable content: This can be separated into “account-specific content” that is valuable across the entire company, and “role-specific content.”
Account engagement plays ABM PLAY# 1 Startup Play Goal: In this play, we know that companies that receive funding scale their sales teams.
Alert-based selling helps you prospect and qualify by leveraging tools to do a lot of the work for you.
The principles of Alert-based lead generation:
- Identifying Alerts Identify the alerts for your business.
- Alert engagement plays Next, a few examples of how to practically use alerts.
- ALERT PLAY# 1 Google Alerts
- ALERT PLAY# 2 LinkedIn Sales Navigator – Save Search
- ALERT PLAY# 3 LinkedIn Pulse notifications
There are different kinds of ways of distributing content:
- Curate Content: You review/share someone else’s content.
- Create Content: You create your own content.
- Content Journey: You create a series of content you share with your customer over a set time. This is best applied to specific accounts/senior account executives.
Once a meeting has been set, we need to hand off the opportunity internally from the person responsible for the Inbound/outbound lead generation process to the person held accountable for the winning process. This step is called the “hand-off.”