“Prospecting in the 21st Century”
Sandler Trainers: Jeff Schneider & Jim Stephens http://www.schneider.sandler.com/
Entrepreneur Radio 1: Louis Armstrong https://www.killerwhey.com/
Entrepreneur Radio 2: Stephanie Schoenfeld https://www.facebook.com/Stephanie-Schoenfeld-Mrs-SE-Boise-496580430491144/
~~The Concept: Prospecting in the 21st Century, or Leaving Behind the Cold Call~~
Has prospecting moved from door-to-door, telephone outreach, and feet on the street? How do you become effective when you’re on the search for your ideal client?
Jeff Schneider is trying to figure out prospecting, he’s not an expert, but he’s embraced that the way that buyer’s buy has fundamentally changed. Rather than buyers depending on sales people, buyers can find any information and it’s not difficult for them. It’s never been truer that we shouldn’t spill our candy in the lobby. Our job is not to educate people—it’s to find pain.
The ability to solve problems has become much easier than before as well; 21st century salespeople need to be better at problem identification rather than solutions to the symptoms. We need to be better at searching through the issues of prospects to find the underlying issue. The key for salespeople in this age is to be where the buyer goes to search for information.
When people use the internet to fix their own problem, the salesperson’s responsibility is to be the trusted advisor who can ask the right kind of questions to uncover the underlying issue and reveal the more effective and efficient solution that can solve the issue.
Jeff Schneider’s example, “If a copier salesperson calls me on the phone and I need copiers, and they’re selling a brand that I’ve actually heard from that I might be interested in, I’m going to say no thanks and go to LinkedIn and ask my network who I should be looking to buy copiers from.” Fundamentally details the way that prospecting has changed where getting in front of decision makers cold might be a counterproductive strategy in the long term because it could end up off-putting for someone whose adapted to the new buyer’s dance of the 21st century.
The 1849 Sierra Nevada vision of a prospector is the miner: dirty, underfed, and working hard. The prospect sifts through dirt looking for gold. Days can go by without finding anything productive. It’s easy to pick up gold; it’s hard to dig, and dig, and dig. Prospecting is interrupting someone’s day. We need to differentiate between activities that support prospecting and prospecting activities.
On LinkedIn you need to like, share, and message individuals. You need to engage with your community. This is supportive work, it is not prospecting. Prospecting is picking up the phone, opening an e-mail, and reaching out to someone and asking them to do something. Since it’s so easy to play around on social media people think prospecting is what they’re doing, when they’re actually doing more marketing work to create a visibility around their product or service.
This is not either, or. It is not a commitment to old school prospecting or new school prospecting which is drenched in social media, messages, and campaign marketing. There’s a fair mixture required: you need to engage in both opt-in outreach and cold-prospecting. We need to be ready to reach out when someone finally raises their hand and expresses interest in the product or service that we provide. We need to be ready to see their interest and have an effective strategy to reach out to them.
So what is the balance between cold prospecting and warmed prospecting? Jeff suggests we need to believe that both engagements are integral to our success. Cold-calling is harder than it’s ever been. Gatekeepers, voice-mail, and the advancement of time has made this version of prospecting feel much less productive or warm than ever before.
To warm it up, salespeople need to be more comfortable with LinkedIn. Use it. Get a good photo, recommendations, testimonials, and get your profile rated above 90%. Whether or not you know it, if someone runs into you online they’ll do research on you. Look for you on social media and this is your personal website.
Every meeting you have, every conversation you have, every business card you get, send a LinkedIn invitation in order to facilitate a growing list to create engagements that can be warmer. This focus and effort on LinkedIn is building a tool around disciplined behavior to build your own brand. By creating a following and engagement, it allows for an audience to draw from should you ever need it.
When you make a phone call, cold or otherwise, engage their online social profile and look for ways that you can warm up the engagement. What connections do you have? Who are the people who could make a cold invitation much warmer? How can you get yourself into a more comfortable position to guarantee that the prospecting phone call is both received and engaged?
This on-going series of touches also lets you reach out to prospects who you may not have done business with. Once you know what your ideal client is and have a general idea of the specifics you are looking for, you can use LinkedIn to do a search and work the online tools available in order to build a series of invites, engagement mails, and constant drips in order to work your connections and build a better online engagement. This familiarity that you build with your behaviors can lead to engagements as individuals like and share your postings then it allows your information to be visible into their connections. This cracks the door that open before you try to get your foot in.
This can create the sense that the person already knows you. They’ve seen their friends and connections view your stuff. When you’re ready to actually interrupt them, then you’re set to be in a position where they get the feeling that they actually know you. When it’s time to pick up the phone we have to discipline ourselves that it’s time to pick up the phone and we will do it. First we’d like to call, if that doesn’t work we look to use an in-mail in LinkedIn or other social media, and last we resort to e-mail to try and facilitate a conversation with the person whose found their way into our sphere of influence. We constantly build our spheres of influence in order to facilitate a better engagement with prospective buyers and facilitate their ability to discover what we do without us forcing them into an uncomfortable position where their routine would be simply to say no.
~~The Technical: LinkedIn and phone calls, or how do I interrupt someone better?~~
LinkedIn has baffled some people by masquerading in minds as Facebook for business. It’s not necessarily a Facebook. Every week Jeff uses a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite and he loads up his campaign and he posts 5 times a day, 25 times a week, Monday through Friday. He uses a variety of content quotes, videos, interviews, white papers, and content. Then every day he engages with the community of individuals who are liking it and sharing it. He asks his strategic partner to help him share and build a network of individuals that see him.
To do this there is a large amount of pre-work that needs to be done to effectively do this. It’s easier for some than others, but people who are willing to create the content and think specifically about what people like to see and read, this is what allows for the creation of a network. People want to digest things digitally—they don’t want to read 15 page articles. (Right?, Right?).
The idea behind all of this technical outreach is to build a way that individuals who are invested in learning more about your business then have the ability to get to know you. This generic outreach is the 1 in many approach which is more shotgunned than anything else. Doing a generic outreach strategy can work to allow more people to know about what your product or service is and build up the initiative to reach out. With one-to-many strategies, you don’t know who will respond. You also need to do research to reinforce your prospeting.
Whenever possible you want to avoid doing anything cold. In order to get more referrals you might focus on specific clients or former clients who know you and trust you, and see if there is a way that you can exchange 3 or 4 connections via LinkedIn to facilitate a warm introduction. This might sound like:
“Jim, tell me if you’re okay with this, I’d like to peruse your connections on LinkedIn and, by the way, feel free to do the same with my connections. I want to see if 3 or 4 people who you are connected would be worth me having a conversation with or not. And, by the way Jim, I’d be absolutely comfortable with the answer to all 4 being no.”
Using some of the research available to Premium LinkedIn users then you might be able to find the ideal clients in your client lists. At this point you reach out and try and see if the individual you’ve asked in the first place will facilitate a conversation or an introduction. This is a simply way to tap into what LinkedIn really is: the world’s largest referral network.
Generally you should suggest the people you talk to send an introduction with some references and qualifications ending with, “I don’t know if it would make sense for you to work together, but I do believe it’d be worth your time to have a 5 minute conversation.”
We don’t want a cold endorsement, we want some kind of endorsement that warms up the idea for a conversation rather than something like, “Jim is a Sales Trainer. Jeff owns a business. You should have a conversation.”
Try and start out with a phone call and build an ask that has a higher likelihood of being accepted.