How many times have you heard a friend , a team member, a conference speaker, or even a manager, come to you with this ground-breaking claim:
“*INSERT SALES TACTIC HERE* is dead”
Cynical You probably thinks of this claim as a scandalous overreaction designed to provoke false outrage (and social media shares).
But Neurotic You is instantly worried, ready to immediately stop using the tactic for fear of missing targets, reducing commissions, making your manager angry…
Usually, reality lands somewhere in the middle.
Regardless, inaction and overreaction are unlikely to help!
What will help is a measured analysis of the contentious developments in sales so you can turn these thought-provoking ideas into practical action that delivers real results.
We want to be that helpful debate moderator who finds the real answers amongst the bold statements. We’ve assembled a collection of experienced sales experts and given them the cloak of anonymity to allow them to share their real, unguarded insights about 5 of the biggest questions in sales prospecting to separate fact from fiction in a quest to find you the right prospecting plan.
Myth #1: Cold Calling is History
This one - straight up false.
The latest sales prospecting report from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research returns a finding that 70% of sellers connect with new prospects on the phone, second only to email.
The same findings also show that a majority of buyers agree to meetings and further discussions on phone calls.
All of the sales experts we talked with stressed that making the initial call is an essential part of reaching out to buyers. But they also suggested that other methods of prospecting can be really valuable.
Paul, Business Development Director at a global home improvement brand, advocates outreach via press, radio, TV and showrooms.
Julia, Business and Development Manager at a global telecoms company, is a firm believer in the power of social media to drive new opportunities.
Regardless of these other prospecting tactics - you can be assured that cold calling works, as long as you target your approach to relevant prospects to quickly establish credibility, trust and rapport. For Paul, it boils down to “discovering their desire, their need, and their ability to purchase because you need all three.”
Myth #2: Only the Human Touch Works
We have to fence-sit on this one - it’s True and false.
For many salespeople it’s a given that only the human touch can identify potential new customers or clients.
Prospecting is about establishing new relationships and developing existing ones - things that don’t come easily to technology, tools or robots.
Not yet at least. For Jennifier, Sales Manager at a prominent mobility products brand, it’s a no-brainer.
“We have the personal approach where we send our call center staff out to meet potential customers, so they can put a face to whoever they’re talking to. It just makes sense, in order to get to know our customers and their circumstances, so they can choose the right product.”
Getting the right people with the right skills to identify new leads is an effective use of their time according to our experts. As Julia puts it:
“If we have a client that’s come from Botswana, we have a team of people who would just solely work on that part of the business - there’s a number of different ways in which we field it to the right person, either geographically or by specialism.”
This is where CRM can really show its worth to the prospecting process, with features such as a contacts function that centrally stores notes on your team, giving you clear visibility on specialist skills, regional knowledge or industry expertise. This can make it much easier to assign the right team members to the right prospects and accounts.
Tech can help you, but your CRM software is only as good as the people using it, as Laura, Senior Director at a global events company can testify. “If the prospect hasn’t been added accurately, then they might end up with the wrong information, or wrong email campaigns and then ultimately decide to unsubscribe because they’re fed up.”
Myth #3: Scripts are for Amateurs
Whoever told you this has a massive ego, or a 22-hour work day.
There will always be salespeople who refuse to use a script while prospecting. But this is probably to their own detriment. Templates don’t just save you time, they help you develop consistent, quality messages while abolishing grammar and spelling errors.
The truth is, a script can provide a sales team with a useful written game plan to keep conversations on track, iron out uncomfortable pauses and ensure the correct language is used. And for those who say they don’t use a script, they probably do so already - they’ve most likely embedded one into their thought process through sheer practice.
Scripting is vital to the smooth running of Naveen’s prospecting function: “I say not until you’re bang-on ready will my guys make that phone call, because if they sound jittery or nervous, they’ve blown it already.”
Scripts save you time and help you progress leads through your pipeline. Just try to personalize and rehearse scripts, so they don’t sound too canned. If you’re looking for inspiration - here’s 4 cold calling scripts you can use to speed up your process right away.
Myth #4: Prospecting Takes Time
Again, we’re taking the safe option here.
True and false.
In an ideal world, prospecting would only take a few minutes to figure out if an opportunity was promising enough to translate into a lead. In the real world, prospecting can take weeks or even months.
Paul argues there’s a real necessity for warming up his potential prospects - no matter how long it takes.
“People coming into our showroom are dreaming at that stage. That dream has to move into reality.”
He agrees that many potential customers across all sectors will need nurturing in order to secure their business.
Julia’s more cautious approach is intended to avoid slip-ups, especially if she’s trying to get into a market which her team don’t know enough about.
Sometimes you can speed through your prospecting and ump cold leads fast. But if you’re new to a market or your sales cycle is particularly long, it can be counterproductive to always expect a quick wrap. Research, patience and a slowly-slowly approach can maximize opportunities in the right situation.
Myth #5: Buyers Don’t Want to Hear from a Sales Professional
Of course people want to speak to you, right?
Although 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer speaks to a supplier, that doesn’t necessarily mean customers want to shut out the seller. Quite the opposite.
For Naveen, it’s all about having the right approach with the person at the other end of the line: “It’s to do with flair, so when you do get to speak to someone, it’s one of those things where you’ve got to be able to interest that person on the phone.”
Finding out what your prospect really needs can only be done by a two-way conversation and building a rapport. The best way to sell is to actually get to know someone. Build up trust in people. An informed salesperson can prompt a customer to reach a decision.
The importance of prospecting in sales
So what’s the upshot of our discussions?
Prospecting is a continuous process that is fundamental to the art of selling.
And with any important process, the fewer the pitfalls and hazards the better, in order to maximize performance.
Our team or experts point to CRM, at the very least, as a way to make life easier for sales professionals in their quest to find better quality opportunities and more conversions.