After Funnel Clarity performed a six-year study of more than 100,000 prospecting efforts by made by sellers from over 100 different companies, several things became quite clear. The first were the statistically proven best practices that we teach our clients, which deviate considerably from much of the rhetoric found on prospecting in the rest of the sales training industry. The sheer extent of this difference between what actually works and what many sellers are told works is so wide, that it explains why some sales people feel like prospecting devalues their professionalism.
Our research indicates that feeling degraded is the number one reason that sellers, given the choice, will never make a prospecting call, and the number one reason most sellers rely exclusively on email. Most significantly, it’s also why BDR’s/SDR’s usually last less than 14 months in the job. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
First, let’s be clear about why calling is incredibly valuable. Successful phone-based prospecting can be twice as successful at filling a sales funnel with qualified opportunities than all other media combined! Social media, email, etc. can be great additions, but without some degree of prospecting by phone, no combination of the other media will come close. Sadly, the use of poor tactics and a lack of proper preparation have resulted in the myth that “cold-calling is dead”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Reticence to cold calling is understandable to an extent, because you run into a lot of rebuttals. Who in sales has not experienced being hung up on or being summarily rejected? How could anyone in any profession find that to be rewarding? Who would look forward to that?
The problem lies with the approach that most sellers take with cold outreach. Our research reveals the single most important thing sales people can do to improve their prospecting efforts is to generate some level of curiosity on the part of the person on the other end.
The secret is to demonstrate you have done a bit of homework on the person you are contacting. That means demonstrating you know something about them that they will be surprised you know. It is important that the information is not personal but focuses on their professional role or background. The best news of all is that such information is readily available in many different online resources.
LinkedIn, for example is a gold mine of such facts. Things like conferences your prospect has recently attended, or a blog or book they have commented on are perfect examples. Even something as simple as making reference to a LinkedIn group where both the caller and the prospect are both members is often enough to spark interest in talking further.
Try this simple approach: find something about a prospect on LinkedIn, through a Google search, conference websites, etc. Don’t spend more than three minutes on the effort. You don’t need to write a biography. Armed with that information, dial their number (ideally a direct line). If they answer, calmly give your name, company and acknowledge that you are aware you are calling unexpectedly. At that point say something like, “I was doing some research on you and your company and noticed that….(fill in something you found). Then, pause and listen to the reaction. If they make any comment on the fact you mentioned, you have generated enough curiosity to take the conversation further. If their reaction ignores what you said, you have not yet generated sufficient curiosity to continue. Try it. The data guarantees you will be far more successful taking this kind of approach than you will using any alternative start to the call.
Thousands of sellers who have learned this and the other techniques that our research revealed, have found prospecting by phone to be a rewarding, success-driven experience that adds to their confidence, sense of professionalism and sales success. And when combined with the force multipliers of email and social media, prospecting can be an effective and repeatable process that generates consistent results for your business.
Want to train your team in proven prospecting techniques? Check out our comprehensive guide to sales prospecting, based on an analysis of 100,000 sales calls.