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June 18, 2017

There Is No Silver Bullet for Prospecting...Or Is There?

There is No Silver Bullet for Prospecting...Or Is There?

Every executive I know tasked with hitting a revenue target has the same challenge - getting more qualified leads into the top of the funnel. And just like the rest of us, they all hope there is a silver bullet to effective prospecting - something that will make it easier, less painful, and drastically reduce the chance of rejection of them and their teams.

I hate to be the one to tell you this...but silver bullets only work on werewolves and they aren’t real either. You’re going to get rejected, frustrated, annoyed, and worst case scenario, fired.

After more years than I care to count managing and leading sales and marketing teams, of teaching strategic account teams how to effectively prospect and working with account management teams to enhance their ability to grow accounts - the best approach has proven to be one that is cadence-based, multi-faceted and consistent in the application of best practice tactics to get the first meeting.

CREATE A CROSS CHANNEL CADENCE

A salesperson should use the most effective tools at their disposal. From social selling to networking to the phone (cold or goal-calling) to events to email outreach to leveraging groups they belong to - effective prospecting uses them all, creates a cadence and analyzes results.

(And for the record, I'm not certain why we continue to debate about the effectiveness of the phone. Pick it up. It works. Should it be a cold-call? Maybe, maybe not - depends on how you are building your prospecting strategy, but there should be no more debate about it being one of the most important tools in a multi-faceted, multi-tool prospecting approach - just not the only one. Networking, social, email, and events for example are all just as important.)

When working with clients I ask managers to work backward from their target to a minimum activity level. This exercise alone provides a great deal of insight, but the next step is to then prioritize your activities into the ones most likely to generate revenue.

From there, applying historical conversion rates from your SFA/CRM or industry standard rates and a little math, it becomes possible to see how many calls, emails, social interactions, networking, and corporate events are required to hit your target.

The best reps I have worked with create a weekly cadence which includes:

    • assembly of a target list (based on criteria for industry, size, title, etc.),
    • industry or account specific research (research is key to personalization),
    • dedicated, immutable, never compromised blocks of time for calls,
    • dedicated, immutable, never compromised blocks of time for ‘value-based’ social interaction to that same target list, and
    • dedicated, immutable, never compromised blocks of time for personalizing emails and automated follow-up.

This, of course, still provides hours a day to do the other things you are responsible for - such as hold meetings and move leads through the sales process - but carving out the time most likely to generate revenue and protecting it is Step One. Remaining focused on the specific tasks in each of those blocks is Step Two (and often just as challenging for most reps as step one).

By using a multi-faceted approach your team’s prospecting benefits from a force-multiplier effect. Instead of it taking 12 calls to get someone on the phone, clients have seen that drop 50% or more. Instead of it taking 9 - 12 emails to get a response - personalized, value-based approaches can cut that by 35% or more.

ANALYSIS...NOT PARALYSIS

Once the cadence is created, understand tactics within each of the facets will change. Not ‘may’ change, but will.

With the right tech-stack, reps and managers will be able to determine over time what is most effective for their business - what call scripts are working, what emails are connecting, what events are producing valuable conversations, what industries are responding well and what roles are the best to target.

With a tech stack to track effectiveness and an understanding of how all elements in the cadence interact, there is always room for improvement or increased targeting. But do not get lost in the data.

I’ve seen too many prospecting efforts fail because of distraction - those that are a normal part of the business and those that are self-inflicted. Establish a core set of metrics to keep an eye on. Then, once a month, set time with your team or manager to review the data, identify gaps and make changes. Rinse and repeat.

REINFORCEMENT, COACHING AND MENTORING

The most disciplined reps focused on blowing past their targets will self-correct and apply themselves, but many will need reinforcement and coaching from their managers.

For any executive with a revenue target, there is rarely anything more important than ensuring their team is prospecting. Yet I often see a lack of consistent management reinforcement become the Achilles heel of concentrated prospecting efforts.

When team call blocks are scheduled, managers need to be on the floor. They need to be looking at the metrics each week, having stand-ups to understand what is working and what isn’t. They need to be just as committed as they expect their teams to be. They need to be present, focused and help keep the energy high.

Prospecting is not easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. There are numerous mental speed bumps which can derail individuals and teams. Manager’s play a crucial role in ensuring the energy level remains high, the focus intact and the results rolling in. Without that support, it is amazing how many individuals can come up with reasons for not making one more dial, sending one more follow up or doing the research that will make them more effective tomorrow.

REMEMBER, THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET

From an individual contributor to a manager to CRO; from outbound teams to account managers to strategic business development; prospecting should be a priority and the approach standardized across the teams in order to drive the greatest predictability into the pipeline.

Each day new apps, tech or tactics hit the market and sales people weep with joy that perhaps they won’t have to pick up the phone or experience rejection. They hope there is a single tool to solve their top-of-funnel challenges, to make it all better. And they will keep looking for that Holy Grail, coming up with debates, perspectives, and discussions about why something new may work better.

Expect it. Prepare for it. But be confident in knowing that effective use of the tools at your disposal is one element of what needs to be a cadence-based, multi-faceted, measurable approach to generating the qualified leads that will enable you to beat your targets.