How do great sellers break through the noise in cold outreach? How do they capture the attention of a major company, without having a prior relationship?
Having worked with some of the most successful sales organizations in North America over the past ten years, I’ve picked up more than a few solid outbound sales tips along the way. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t for a range of companies – from household name media properties and national sports teams, to smaller startups and non-profits who don’t always have the name recognition that bigger guys do. Regardless of name recognition, industry, company size, or target customer, there are universal sales tips that the best of the best use to improve the outcomes of cold outreach.
If you’re in sales, and hoping to start the year off right, here are five of the most tried and true practices that get results. These are sales tips you can’t afford NOT to follow in 2018, so we’ll call them resolutions.
Have something to add to this list? Comment below!
1) Give before you get
Show some value to your potential partner before you ask them to take a call, or a meeting, or a product demo. I recently heard Morgan Shorey of FCB sum up the rationale for this so eloquently: “What if a random person invited you to look at their vacation photos for 45 minutes in their living room? Would you say yes?,” she asked, rhetorically, “Because that’s what you’re asking of a prospect with an off-the-bat meeting request.” Don’t be that person. Instead, take this very important sales tip to heart and share something helpful first. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming on your end – it can be a research study on their target market, a potential new business lead – just provide something valuable to them, and don’t ask for anything in return (yet). You’ll be light-years ahead of the competition that’s also vying for their attention.
2) Even if it is a numbers game, stack the deck in your favor
If your primary goal is to send as many emails and make as many phone calls as possible, by all means, ignore this one. If you’d like to pursue the prospects most likely to convert, take the time to know the characteristics your most qualified customers share, then fill your pipeline with companies that check all these boxes. An emerging lifestyle publication I worked with used a four-point qualification system, where their ideal prospects 1) spent at least $1 million on media annually; 2) had 1,000 or more employees; 3) had a female-skewing demographic; 4) had a CMO or VP-level marketing executive. Maybe you’re looking for social media agencies in the Midwest, or beverage brands that handle media in-house. Get very specific about the core attributes your ideal customers share, and use these characteristics to build a list of leads that have the greatest probability of converting. Bypassing this exercise might cost you the most time in 2018, even if you follow every other sales tip on this list to the letter.
3) Know that it takes 8-12 touchpoints, and they shouldn’t all be about you
Research suggests as many as 12 points of engagement to start a meaningful sales conversation, so be patient, and make each of those touchpoints count. Put some thought into your cadence, so that your follow up is more compelling than: “Just following up to see if you’re interested?” or “Did you see my last email?” The struggle then, becomes what to say. You will tell them who you are, but what if you learned more about who they are? And demonstrated that knowledge over time? For your most qualified target accounts, do your research –- set alerts to get notified when they’ve won an award, gotten a promotion, or announced a new partnership – and use this in your follow up. Many media/marketing sales professional use our prospecting publication, WinmoEdge, which reports on tons of relevant shifts in marketing strategy every day, to re-engage prospects based on their latest developments. Every time a company has a shift – to their target demographic, agency line-up, product offerings, media mix – they’ll use this timely development to feed a more personalized outreach. The best part? You don’t have to cite your source, so you come off as someone who’s just REALLY in tune with their business! Over time, your prospective client will appreciate that you’ve invested the time needed to understand them, and will be more receptive to you, often reducing the number of calls, emails and interactions needed to advance the conversation. Pro tip: Make sure to do this AFTER you’ve followed sales tip number two. You want to invest time in QUALIFIED prospects.
4) Use the content your marketing team produces
Full disclosure, as a marketer I might be a little biased on this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good advice! Sometimes sales people spend hours of precious time reinventing the wheel when marketing has already created the exact piece of content they need to attract attention, explain a complex offering, or accelerate a conversion. Check out your company’s blog, take stock of the sales enablement collateral that marketing has provided. Do they have case studies you can leverage to demonstrate ROI? A one-sheeter explaining how you’re different from your competition? Know what’s available, and use it!
5) When all goes right, ask for an introduction
If you’ve followed the steps above, and now have a happy client who you’ve delighted with great work, ask them for an introduction. Not just a referral, but an actual introduction to a friend or colleague who could benefit from your business as well. If you just ask for a name, they might not put much thought into the name they give you, but if you ask them to make the phone call or write the email introducing you to someone, they’ll be challenged to think of a company or colleague who this introduction could be helpful to, someone who could really benefit from what you do. The more you get in the habit of asking for introductions, the easier it will become, until it is second-nature.