Prospecting: Are You Evolving?

By Morgan Smith, as seen in ENX Magazine, Oct 2016

Recently, I have seen many articles asking the question, “Is cold calling dead?”. I don’t believe that any way I can connect with a potential customer is ever dead, but there is a better use of my time if I want to connect with a prospect. Think about it: how often do you pick up your cell phone or home phone if you don’t recognize the caller ID? Or, worse yet, would you pick it up if you knew it was a someone trying to sell you something?

The answer for most is absolutely not. We are all busy and don’t need the interruption of a call. Moreover, with 67 percent of the decision maker’s buying process completed before they engage a salesperson, they are clearly seeking other avenues for information. Does that mean we shouldn’t prospect? Obviously not.

Executives and other decision makers spend time in meetings, traveling, and yes, on the phone. However, always at hand and checked wherever they are is their mobile device. This is why I find email campaigns targeted to the right person with the right message the most successful way to connect and start a dialogue. Making calls is still important for a prospect to hear my voice (that I’m not a marketing robot), for those few that actually prefer the phone over email, and for the off chance I will catch them at the right time. That said, here is my strategy:

Find the Right Target
Too often when we coach good salespeople, we ask the title of their prospect. The answer usually comes back as the CTO or the CFO. When we look them up on LinkedIn, their real title is helpdesk manager or the finance manager. LinkedIn is the most effective and relevant source to find the right person to contact in the company and usually far better than the database that the last salesperson left for you. LinkedIn also provides the most real-time information on the company to determine if it is a viable target for you.

LinkedIn is a great research tool: Most companies have a company page that explains concisely what they do, their size, location, and total number of employees, which provides an estimate for their revenue size. In most industries a good benchmark is $200K in revenue per year per employee. General guidelines that I use for who to target in an organization are by revenue size:

· Less than $20 million – Owner or co-owner
· $21 million to $40 million – President or CXO (line of business that’s relevant to you)
· $41 million to $200 million – CXO or SVP
· Over $200 million – SVP, VP, or director

Starting lower than those levels is only going to bring in a “researcher” vs a decision maker, and researchers only have the authority to say “no” and can never say “yes”. I’d rather work harder to get to the decision maker so I am confident I am at the correct level to get a yes.

Send Business Case
If your email is longer than three sentences, you are wasting your time at the levels you want to target. When I read my own email, the first thing I look at is who the sender is; then I look at the subject to determine urgency if I know the sender or to make a “delete” decision if I do not know them. If the subject looks appealing you might get me to read the first sentence.

How often have you sent an email with the subject being “Introduction and Meeting” and the first line starting something like: “Hi Prospect, my name is Morgan Smith and I am a VP of sales for XYZ. We are the largest provider of…DELETE!” Your prospects get dozens of these emails daily. If you don’t believe me simply walk in and ask the president or VP of your company how many sales emails he or she gets a day and how many of those they read. How can you differentiate and be noticed? Add something of value that may get their attention so that they want to speak with you. And why are you introducing yourself and restating your name, they know who you are and where you’re from with your email address. If the email looks like I might have to scroll down and I don’t know you, it is destined for the delete folder.

What if your subject was the title of a business case that tells the reader how you helped another organization in their industry? The first sentence describes the case study at a high level. The second sentence says that in 40 minutes you can provide an executive overview of this case study and determine if you can provide similar results for ABC company. The third is asking for their time. Providing value in a concise way generates interest and has a higher likelihood of starting a dialogue.

Repetition
Like cold calling, you need to catch someone at the right time, so repetition is key. I usually send about four case studies in the first month and then send new cases or something of interest every three to four weeks. Overall, the process should yield a 10 percent response rate but the more targeted you are to their business the higher the response rate.

As a general rule, I use email campaigns about 80 percent of my prospecting time because it is worth that time. There is no silver bullet to business development, so I believe in a mix of email, phone, company events, and networking. The most important part of that mix however is communicating a business case for them to want to speak with you. Without a business case you are one of hundreds of other emails and calls that our targets receive each day. Gaining the appointment is the first step and once you get the appointment, preparation for that discovery is key.