3 Sales Prospecting Tactics That Don't Work
From cold calling and cold emails to follow-up communications techniques ... and responding to clients who open the door, most sales reps are practicing "best practices" that are, in reality, the worst. But they keep on keepin' on.
Are you sabotaging yourself by copying what most sellers do? If yes, I'm not here to blame you. Because the truth is you probably don't know of the below options.
1. Congratulating LinkedIn Contacts on a Trigger Event
Decision-makers are inundated with congratulatory emails that are a prelude to a spammy push-style InMail or email message. If you're using this tactic and not earning response this is why.
Sales reps you compete with for "inbox space" are using the same, lazy, automated technique. Worse, they are lying. Maybe you are too.
"I just read your amazing post here [insert link] and I totally agree ..." etc. etc.
You didn't read the post. You're simply trying to use the post as a point-of-proof that you're not lazy ... which you are. Customers understand as much. Plus, they're under assault from dozens of such emails each week.
"I usually get a good response when I congratulate someone on promotion etc.," says construction industry marketer, Joe Large. "Are you saying that's an ineffective cold email starter, Jeff?"
Yes. Not in all sectors. But most B2B congratulatory messages are becoming a prelude to a spammy sales pitch. They are easily spotted and deleted. Simply because so many sellers are doing it, and doing it poorly.
I'm not saying it will not work. I'm saying my students' collective experience is this: At best, it works in the short term. It's working less-and-less, not at all in many B2B sectors.
Mailing and shipping industry expert, Marc Zazeela agrees. "As more and more people do it, it becomes less effective. (generally) When you are doing the same things as everyone else, you are doing it wrong."
Zazeela correctly identifies automation as the main cause of this tactic's failure. Even though the tactic seems based in personalization it's not. Prospects see this. LinkedIn's automated notifications (of a promotion, job change, etc.) are triggering sellers to pile-on, rapid-fire.
2. Mentioning Why You're Reaching Out
You've got a reason when cold emailing or calling. But stating it rarely works. Because most often, sellers are reaching out to:
- Set meeting or demo dates
- Get referred to the decision maker
- Ask biased questions that lead the customer toward being vulnerable
All of the above reasons are based on what you want. Your customer is smart. Even if they're not, they're being trained (day-by-day) to delete messages like yours.
Why are you making it so easy for them?
Mentioning why you are contacting the prospect is the kiss-of-death.
Instead, show the prospect you are different. Stand out. Not looking like 95 percent of inbound emails is 70 percent of the success equation.
In cold prospecting, why you are contacting the prospect is directly implied. To sell them something! Your job is to immediately defuse the tension.
Here's how: Look dramatically different than other cold emails. Avoid the above tactics.
- Writing messages taking less than 15 seconds to read
- Researching prospects and proving your knowledge in the message
- Not asking biased questions that lead to an answer you want
- Asking a question challenging prospects' decision-making process
If you/your organization practices Challenger selling, this sounds familiar. You may already be using this technique.
Inventor of the Buying Facilitation method, Sharon Drew Morgen calls these questions Facilitative Questions. These are "a unique type of question that help people recognize all of the internal criteria they’ll need to include and address before making a decision," she writes in her book "Dirty Little Secrets."
"They are unlike conventional questions in that they do not gather information and are not focused on understanding need or placing a solution. Instead they are unbiased, systems based. Each Facilitative Question demands some action. The gleaned data is for the decision maker’s edification."
Hence, Facilitative Questions are inherently provocative. They are certainly different in how they do not allow you to start a sales-focused discussion.
Your challenge is to strengthen how you write by provoking problem-solving discussions. Or status-quo challenging discussions that tie to a danger, aspiration or goal.
Here's an example of a biased question: "Did you know you can negotiate benefits brokerage fees?"
Even if the client does not know (and should, as in this case) the question is biased toward the reader saying, "no" and making themselves vulnerable to a sales pitch.
Here's an example of a Facilitative Question: "How would you know when it is time to negotiate your benefits brokerage fees?"
See the difference? The Facilitative Question is not biased to the seller's desired response. However, a response to this question serves to connect the seller's solution to a potential, unseen problem (excessive costs).
3. Sharing Videos
Videos are a lazy and common tactic. Asking for a client to watch a 1 to 3 minute video is simply not going to work enough. Because business emails are transactional, not conversational.
Nobody's got time these days. From your clients' experience (receiving videos each week) your 2 minute video is:
- Probably like most: pushing information about a solution
- Associated with a pre-mature request for a meeting (you're too early)
- Not interesting enough (yet)
- All about you, not them
From the prospects' perspective, the purpose of email is transactional. Purely. Not conversational. Think about how you use email. You do whatever needs to be done ... and get back to your day. When you get a cold message you:
- Delete it
- Put off replying (90 percent of the time as good as deleting)
- Reply immediately
Cold emails you reply to are transactional. You dealt with it quickly and efficiently. It was easy and didn't require much time.
Video, however, requires time. It also requires enough interest. Most of the time your client doesn't have it, yet. Why would you think they would?
This is what separates sales from marketing. Any fool can push premature videos to try and force conversations.
Instead, start provoking prospects. Help them want to ask for the information contained in the video. Then the video can help you nurture the conversation.
The moment you tell a client, "here, look at this" using a video, web link or PDF attachment you're helping the prospect fail to reply. You're encouraging them to get lost within the content you just gave them.
You're pushing. Human beings don't want what's pushed. They want what they want. Thus, your job is to help them want to ask you for more details ... on the thought you just provoked.
What do you think? What has your experience been?
I recently met at CEO who said, "Jeff, if we could write about ourselves as well as we talk about ourselves, our sales team could conquer the world."
Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded the Google Affiliate Network in 1999, and has been selling for 18 years. Jeff is adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s business school, a social sales trainer and author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You. Most social selling trainers teach the value of engaging customers and providing relevant content. Then they demonstrate the technology. But no one tells you exactly how to produce leads and sales—using a proven, systematic approach to content. Until now.