what to do before contacting sales prospects blog

You know how highly valuable your products or services are, but your prospects are yet to find out, because you haven’t yet made contact.  May be you’re busy planning the approach, waiting for that perfect opportunity, or may be you’re procrastinating or putting it off.  Either way, we’ve written this blog to give you some new ideas, so that when you do eventually make that all-important first call, or send your well-constructed email, it’s as effective as possible.

A typical B2B (business to business) sales pipeline, from lead to first sale closed, can take anything from one phone call to ten face to face meetings, and some of our clients even report sales cycles of over 2 years.  Every sales call needs a purpose, and every sales appointment should lead to a ‘next action’, so that the deal and the relationship don’t go cold.  If it goes cold, or even luke-warm, it can be like going right back to the beginning of the sales relationship.

So here’s a list of a few things you should think about doing BEFORE making contact;

1. Who exactly are you planning to contact?

What’s their name, job title and how long have they worked there?  If you’re going to make a call and you expect there to be a gatekeeper, avoid using last names – it makes it sound formal and unfamiliar.  If you ask for “the person responsible for procurement/recruitment/advertising/stationary” then you sound like the kind of call that the gatekeeper is asked to fend off.

Instead, begin your first phone call by asking the receptionist for help.  “Hello, I’m hoping you can help me.  I’d like to speak to John please”

2. Do you understand the company structure?

Sometimes companies have lots of great information on their company website, which can give you an idea of who reports to who and how the departments might relate to each other.  Check out Linked In to view their company business page and this will show who else works for the company.  It’s useful to understand the roles and likely responsibilities so that you can anticipate who your advocates and supporters might be during the sales process, and who might be cause a barrier or blockage in the sale.

3. Is your prospect active on social media?

Check them out on Linked In and other social channels.  You’re looking to get an idea of what they post, whether they blog, where else they’ve worked, who else they know and anything which will help you to build quick rapport, like hobbies and travel interests.  Congratulate them if they win a business award, contribute to their online discussions and build an online relationship so that your first sales interaction isn’t cold.

4. Concept or Conquest?

If your sales prospect is currently buying the product or service you are hoping to sell to them, then your approach is a conquest approach – conquesting the sale from a competitor.

If your sales prospect however doesn’t currently buy the product or service, it might be because they are unaware of the benefit it will bring them, and therefore you need to first sell them the idea, or concept, of the solution.

Now that you have identified whether it’s a conquest or concept sale, you need to adjust your approach.  There’s no point heading straight into a pitch about why your prospect should choose you over a competitor, if you still need to raise awareness that the prospect actually needs to seek out a solution to their problem (and it could be a problem they don’t know even exists yet!).

“If you can’t articulate your proposition in a compelling way, with a clear call to action, why would your prospect be a willing participant in the sales conversation?  Offer high-value and be able to succinctly explain it.”

5. Have you prepared a value story?

Once you are in conversation with your sales prospect, they’ll need to be convinced that buying from you will deliver them value, or return on investment.  Prepare your value story in advance – be clear on why they need it, why now, and why you?

6. How are you going to get their attention?

This is so important, as you can safely assume that your hot prospect is also a hot prospect for many other sellers ,who are also trying to get their attention.  How will you ‘cut through’ the noise?  Do you have some compelling stats to share?  Can you add value in a way that nobody else can?

7. Be really clear about what you want

What do you want to happen after your conversation with a hot prospect?  Is it a meeting, is it a pitch to the board or an agreement to trial your product or service?  Not many B2B outbound sales attempts happen in one contact, it can take 6 – 10 contacts (or more in some sectors), so plan your customer sales journey in advance.

We hope you found these pointers helpful and that you’ll let us know if you try them out, especially if they work well for you.

Thanks for reading.

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How to build a successful sales strategy

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Pitching and Proposals Masterclass

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