“Ditch the pitch”: How to create a prospecting experience that’s worth your buyers’ time

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Contributor, Sell to Win

Nutshell’s BOUNDLESS 2020 event was full of incredible insights from legends in the fields of sales, marketing, and customer success.

One of those legends was Social Centered Selling Founder and CEO Barbara Giamanco, who revolutionized the sales industry when she co-authored the first book about social selling, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media. She now hosts the award-winning podcast, Conversations with Women in Sales.

In her Q&A at BOUNDLESS 2020, Barb discussed how to “ditch the pitch” and create personalized prospecting experiences that lead to more sales meetings. Read on to learn Barb’s best tips for sales prospecting success, including how to achieve consistency between sales and marketing teams, personalize your pitches, and genuinely put customers first. 

Why the Prospecting Experience Is Essential

Having a high-quality prospecting experience is not just important to the sales process, it’s a necessary prerequisite of closing deals. Barb uses a baseball analogy to put it in perspective: “The goal is to get on first base because if you don’t get on first base, you have zero chance of ever getting a home run.”

Salespeople can get up to bat all they want, Barb says, but “Numbers aren’t the way to get there. It’s the quality that gets you on base.”

When asked why “subpar prospecting experience[s]” have become more commonplace, Barb explained that it stems from poor communication, lack of strategizing, and a real need for “sales and marketing alignment,” a concept that takes on new urgency in the current market filled with shrewd and at times demanding buyers.

The Importance of Consistency in Prospecting 

According to Barb, the prospecting experience can be broken down into two parts. The first part is the initial contact between the buyer and the company. This is the early-stage research before consumers buy something, when they decide, “We’re going to go online, we’re going to check social feeds, we’re going to ask questions in peer forums.” 

The second part of the prospecting experience involves interaction between the consumer and the salesperson. “That’s where the cold call, the social media outreach, calls coming inbound—how you handle yourself human-to-human, that’s creating an experience as well.”  

These two aspects of the prospecting experience need to be as consistent as possible. To effectively prospect for customers, your marketing and sales teams need to work together and be consistent.

Keep in mind that the buying process is not linear; buyers will engage with you from many different angles. To truly have consistency in their messaging and strategies, sales and marketing teams need to have “an understanding of the real impact that is being made.” 

How to Test the Consistency of Your Messages

94% of B2B buyers research products online before making a purchase. It is imperative that the information companies are receiving online is consistent with what salespeople are telling them. If it isn’t, consumers will lose trust in the company.

Barbara recommends a bit of role reversal for prospectors to get a feel for what it’s like to be in the buyer’s position. She urges, “Go pretend to be that buyer you’re targeting who’s going to do the early-stage research and get a sense of what that really feels like.” 

Between looking at your marketing material, your discovery call with a salesperson, and even a simple Google search, are you getting the same data, or new, beneficial information? Is the message consistent? Analyze this experience and readjust your sales and marketing plans accordingly. 

Four Key Questions to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Sales Organization

Barb introduced four questions that can help sales leaders get a sense of whether they really understand what is occurring within their organization’s prospecting activities and business development strategies:  

  1. Have your salespeople accurately identified the titles and roles of the key stakeholders involved in the target accounts you are sending them after?
  2. Would sales leaders and sales reps have the same answer to that question?  
  3. Do you actually know their names and what percent of those contacts are actually in CRM?
  4. What percentage of those specific target contacts that you said were the most important to you have actually been contacted in the past year?

All too often, Barb explains, the responses to these four questions are “crickets.” After the stunned silence, it suddenly occurs to these sales leaders that they’re not on the same page as their buyers; there’s a foundation of basic knowledge regarding their buyers and company objectives that is lacking or hasn’t been communicated properly. 

Sales reps need this information. They need to know their target buyers and to understand who the decision-makers are within each company. Active files must be maintained on leads so sales reps can continue to cultivate these relationships.  

Preparing the Outreach Strategy for Your Prospected Leads

Barb says that each of your leads requires a “mini-strategy,” outlining how you will continue to communicate with them and foster the relationship. 

80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact. That is five times that each sale requires a consistent message and attitude to continually build on the initial relationship created with the lead.

Related: How Many Sales Emails Should You Send Before Giving Up?

Try following up with your leads using an email sequence.  Email sequences are a very effective way to convert leads into sales. They ensure leads don’t get stuck in sales pipeline purgatory, but rather move through it, receiving helpful information and proper nurturing along the way. 

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Barbara states that “business development and pipeline activity” rank among the “top three priorities” sales managers face. Pipeline management through a quality CRM tool can assist companies in organizing, tracking, and nurturing leads, making it possible to more accurately forecast sales. Automation allows you to work smarter, not harder.

Quality prospecting experiences also require a certain level of personalization. 

Barb recommends that when personalizing prospecting, try to strike a happy medium, not resorting to generic pitches, but also not putting all of your time into research—a few minutes spent googling your prospect or looking them up on LinkedIn can make a big difference.

Barb contends,  “Personalization doesn’t have to be difficult if you set aside your agenda for a moment and keep in mind that people buy from people.”

Final Thoughts 

Barbara asserts that every individual is capable of being successful in sales; her four essential rules for achieving this goal are outlined below: 

1. You Must Have Measurable Outcomes

As Barb explains, “Activity is worthless if it doesn’t drive a very specific and measurable outcome.” You need to continually analyze how your team works, the type of customer responses you are receiving, and why your team is losing deals to identify the flaws in your prospecting experience and strive for better outcomes. 

The solution should never be to just make more phone calls, to up quantity. It should be about upping the quality of your prospecting. 

2. You Need to Keep Learning

Barb emphasizes the need for professionals to maintain a “learning mindset.” Her philosophy is “learners are earners.” And according to Barbara, “If you think you’ve reached a certain point and you know it all, you might as well just retire.”

Sales prospectors can continue to learn by reading about the sales industry in trade publications like Selling Power, listening to and analyzing calls made by other sales reps, and by tuning into sales events like BOUNDLESS

3. You Have to Own It

The only way you will experience success in sales is if you are willing to be proactive and take every opportunity that comes your way. Barb declares, “You cannot wait for your employer to make your success happen…You own it.” Sales professionals can be proactive and make opportunities happen by making sure they’re putting their all into their work and setting themselves up for success.

“Owning it” can be difficult for women who don’t see a path for growth within their organization. Barb acknowledges the sales industry has been “slower” than she would have thought to embrace women but points out advancement has happened and will continue to happen. 

After all, Barbara points out, “Women on sales teams drive more revenue,” a statement that has been backed by research. Barb urges women to own it, to go for opportunities, and “if you’re interested in moving into management, don’t assume people know. Speak up.”

4. You Need to Have a “Give First” Mentality

In sales, the customer should come first. Barb believes, “Being great in sales means you genuinely care about helping your customers and prospective customers solve [their] problems.”

Barbara refers to her winning approach as “a give first mentality.” This philosophy is key to achieving success in sales because every sales interaction is a human-to-human one. Once you establish that with a client, you can form a relationship, which makes selling to that person that much easier.

For more expert insights from BOUNDLESS 2020, watch the full replay here

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