I don't know about you, but a couple of people reading this article might relate to this feeling:
You know who a good sales lead is for your company and you strongly believe that you can help them. And, as you hone your list of qualified sales leads, you begin your research before contacting them, just like you were told in the "identifying" stage of this Inbound Sales blog series.
You've actually followed all the strategies and tips laid out so far.
They. Download. Your. Content.
The time has come to call.
You know that most of the time, people don't answer, so you expect to leave a voicemail and follow up with an email.
You pick up your phone, put a smile on your face, feel the butterflies in your stomach and get all the necessary information in front of you.
This person is so perfect for your company that you almost have stage freight. It's like they're famous. It's okay though because no one ever answers the phone.
"Hello?" Says your perfect lead.
Wait. You weren't ready for this. You think you say your name right but it's all so fuzzy you just black out for the rest of the conversation.
They'll talk to you again, right?
Reality Check - What You Must Do
Maybe your experience has not been as dramatic as the one I just described, but I know many (even if only a couple) of people were just relieved to know that they are not the only ones to go through that anxiety.
You can do all of the preparation and prospecting in the world, but if you do not know how to truly connect with your sales leads, they may see you as just another "sleazy" or "pushy" salesperson.
Better yet, they may not even acknowledge you at all with all the massive, over-generalized email blasts and cold sales calls going out these days.
So, you must identify who your sales leads are. You must do your prospecting preparation to connect with those qualified sales leads. And you must offer value and genuinely personalize your approach to them as a person and a professional.
Otherwise, they won't even give you the time of day.
It is the reality of today's sales world and modern buyer.
Let's Talk About How to Talk
Talking may seem extremely natural for many of you, including me. I got "excessive talking" on every report card I ever brought home growing up.
But the kind of talking I'm talking about is different. It's strategic, genuine, practiced, and handled under high pressure. The more you practice this way of conversing with your prospects, the better at it you will get.
So let's talk about exactly what you talk about with your prospect when they answer the phone, how you engage with them in email, or interact with them on social media.
Here's What NOT to Do
I have lost count of the number of people who have reached out to me to offer services that my company already does. They talk about SEO, digital marketing, content creation, website design and development; you name it.
First, they clearly did not do any research to see who they were even contacting. Not only did they completely lose the chance of connecting with me, but personally, they lost my respect.
Here's an example of an email that I received not too long ago:
If they had researched my company, they would have known that we already provide those services to our clients. He also jumped the gun too soon by mentioning pricing (and do I really think I'm going to get a fabulous website for $299?)
A few other mistakes this person made that you should avoid include:
There Is No Attempt To Build Rapport
No matter what business you are in, you are dealing with people, selling to people, and interacting with people. Talk to your prospect like a person first and salesperson second. That is done by building rapport, which is essential to building trust and connecting with your prospect.
Believe me, when only 3% of buyers think a salesperson is trustworthy, you can't afford not to build rapport. But remember to always be genuine.
There Is No Personalization In This Email
Research has shown that emails with a personalized subject line have 26% higher open rates and personalized emails have 30% higher click-through rates. Making your email personal to your prospect, with details that you have researched prior to reaching out, shows that you're human and you at least did your research, making you far less "sleazy" or "pushy".
In fact, making your email personal can give you a 10% higher conversion rate.
There Is No Real Call-To-Action
These days with the modern buyer, you have to give something first before getting a response. That is why it is so essential to nurture your leads into becoming customers before just asking for a sale. Also, if you don't give a clear next step aside from "drop me a line," or "looking forward to your positive revert" your prospect will simply move on.
If you do end by asking them to call you back, then make sure you provide something of real value in your email. Otherwise, you are asking for way too much and are just sounding like a typical salesperson.
The Grammar In This Email Is Off-Putting
You don't have to be a grammar scholar to know that the grammar used in this email is incorrect. It makes them sound like they are not really interested (or possibly not capable) of producing good work.
The Email Is All About Them And Not About Me
This email is wee, wee, weeing all over itself. That's in reference to the number of times they refer to "we" and "our" instead of "you." Prospects really don't care about you or your company until you have answered how you are going to truly help them solve their pain points and reach their goals.
Once you have convinced them that you understand their issues and how to help them, then it's okay to talk about you and your company and why you are their right choice. But, for this first email, why do I care that "their" website is the lifeblood of "their" organization? Honestly, they lost me in the first sentence.
So now that I feel bad for ripping apart this person's email publicly, let's move on to what you should actually do.
Here's What You SHOULD Do
All connection attempts with your sales leads, whether by email, phone, or social media, should include at least some, if not all, of the following elements:
Prospect's Name and Company
Make sure they know it is a human on the other side of that call or email, and not an automatic bot.
Creating rapport is the best way to start your conversation. There are hundreds of things you can talk about, especially if you did your prospecting research before connecting with this person. Be genuine and have fun with it. (Hint: You're awesome if you can make them laugh. Laughing automatically puts a person at ease physically and mentally)
Reason Why You Are Reaching Out To Them NOW
You absolutely need a compelling reason to reach out now, otherwise it will come across as a cold outreach. In Part 1 of this connect stage, I listed many ways and reasons to reach out to them.
Here are some other trigger events you can use to reach out to your prospects:
- Company Press Release
- Product Launch
- Recent Award
- New Hire
- Special Event Attendance
- Research Published
- Upcoming Tradeshows
Earn the right to continue with your conversation when you are asking questions about their business or job by providing value to your prospect first.
Remember, this isn't about you. This is about your prospect and bettering their life through your product or service.
So you need to see things through their perspective, walk in their shoes, empathize with their pressures, pains, and key drivers, to provide value and to help them.
In fact, 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that provided them with the content they needed to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.
Help first, sell second.
Ask Questions (And The Right Kinds Of Questions)
There are different types of questions to ask your prospect. Some just scratch the surface in order to gather context while others are more deep, building upon their pain points or topics from your first line of questions.
For example, your first questions can be something like:
- "How long have you been at your company?"
- "What goals are you specifically focused on achieving this year?"
- "What buyers do you typically target?"
The second level questions that you ask should be powerful, open ended questions that engage your prospect and dig deeper into the questions you have already asked.
Avoid questions that are answered with "yes" and "no." Deeper questions show that you have been listening to what they have been saying and are interested in hearing more.
Some examples include:
- "What are your strategies to make sure "that" happens?"
- "Will you tell me more about that?"
If you get past all these questions and the conversation allows for it, go into more questions that dive into an emotional impact.
Emotions are a powerful thing and most decisions are based on emotions, whether pain / fear, or gain / excitement.
Here are some examples:
- "If you can accomplish XYZ, what type of impact will that have on your company?"
- "If you can't get XYZ to happen, what type of impact will that have on you personally?"
Positioning statements build your credibility in understanding what they struggle with or what they want to achieve. They also show that you can solve it.
Your positioning statement shows that you have been there and done that before, so you understand where they are coming from and what they care about.
Your prospect should relate to your positioning statement as if you were talking about them and their position specifically. That way, they will feel more comfortable and confident to carry on the conversation with you.
Matching Energy And Tone
You wouldn't talk with the CEO of a company like you would the customer service representative, would you?
Well I guess after reading that sentence, you're not anymore.
If you prepared for the connection attempt correctly, you will know the position they hold in the company. That gives you an idea of how to convey your tone and energy.
But if you are still unsure, when in doubt, match their tone and energy. Start out neutral and then adjust accordingly.
An excerpt of To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink states:
"People therefore looked to social cues in the environment to determine whom they could trust. "One of those cues is the unconscious awareness of whether we are in synch with other people, and a way to do that is to match their behavioral patterns with our own." Synching our mannerisms and vocal patterns to someone else so that we both understand and can be understood is fundamental to attunement."
You should always be trying to move your prospect forward through the sales pipeline, but not in a way that will scare them away. So you need to tell them what their next step is and ask them to actually "do something." It should be simple and easy for the prospect to complete.
By asking them to take an action, it also helps qualify your prospect as either someone who is likely to buy from you, or is actually an unqualified lead.
If they aren't willing to do something small and simple for their own benefit, then they are not likely to be willing to buy from you.
Some examples of call-to-actions that you can ask your prospect to do at the end of your initial conversation include:
- Downloading a high-valued content offer that your marketing team created and then asking them to give you their thoughts on it.
- Setting up a short, 5 minute follow-up call to discuss one line item at a specified time and date.
- Asking for a referral to a decision-maker in their company or another colleague you would like to connect with.
- Asking them to watch a short free video of your product and then discuss their thoughts with you after.
- Setting up an exploratory meeting to dive further into what you just discussed with them.
- Offering a free consultation or product demo.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we know more than others, we are the best, or we've got the best product or service in the world. Hey, that may be true, but it doesn't help to assume that position when interacting with other people or carrying out our jobs.
I'll give an example with a topic most of us are passionate about:
Let's go back to 1978 when the Eagles played the Giants. A game also referred to as The Miracle at the Meadowlands.
It was the last final seconds of the game, the Giants were set to win by a score of 17-12, and the Eagles had no timeouts left. The Giants had the ball, and all that was left to do was to have Joe Pisarcik, Quarterback of the Giants, snap the ball one last time and take a final knee to run out the remaining few seconds of the clock.
Everyone watching and playing the game thought it was over and that the Giants had won the game. Even the commentators started to read the end credits of the game before the final play had begun.
Except for one person.
Herman Edwards, Cornerback for the Eagles.
The ball snapped to the over-confident Pisarcik, and instead of having the humility to take a knee and end the game, he instead remained standing, possibly because of his pride, although we can't really say what was in his head.
But as he remained standing, he fumbled the ball.
Sure enough, Edwards was more than ready to swoop in and pick up the football. He ran 26 yards for a touchdown, untouched by members of the other team.
Game over; the Eagles won.
Do You See It?
The Giants were so confident and comfortable that they had won the game before it was actually over, they lost sight of their need to remain humble and stay fully engaged in the game until the final seconds wound down.
The Eagles, already humbled by the fact that they were losing, were able to see clearly what the Giants couldn't about the game. They knew not to feel sorry for themselves, but instead to continue to work hard all the way to the end, to figure out how to fix their issues, to look for opportunities to turn things around, and to fight back in order to eventually win.
Moral of the story - never assume that you have a sale until the paper is actually signed, and never underestimate your competitors.
Perspective and Empathy
As I said before, you need to have empathy for your prospect and understand their situation from their perspective. See what your prospect sees. Care about their issues. Find solutions that specifically work for your prospect, not what you think works in general for all your prospects.
If you assume that you already know how to win their business, then you'll be blind to what your prospect actually needs to solve their issues or to achieve their goals. Instead of fighting to make them your customer, fight for a way to make their world, their job and their company better.
The best way to do that is to start with humility.
To quote Daniel H. Pink's book, To Sell Is Human again,
"Martin surprised me by repeatedly using a word one rarely hears in this context: "humility." "The most common thread in the people who are really good at [moving others] is humility," she told me. "They take the attitude of 'I'm sitting in the small chair so you can sit in the big chair.' " That's perspective-taking through reducing power, the first rule of attunement."
Tie It All Together
This is a lot to think about all at once when you're sitting there on the phone with your prospect, or putting together an email for them, or reaching out to them on social media.
You might not be able to fit all of this into one conversation, and really, that's okay. If you remember one key takeaway from this entirely too long blog article, it is to be human.
This includes not writing like a robot in your emails. Instead, write like you actually talk. Say "you" instead of "I" and "your needs" instead of "I want."
This means when you attempt to talk to your sales leads on social media, tailor it to what they are already talking about because you know that is something they care about.
This also means that you need to be personable, empathetic, "perspective-taking," actively listening, building rapport, offering any help you can, without asking for much in return, including a sale.
I bet you never imagined that you would ever have to practice being human.
I know I didn't.
Now I am humbled.