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The Three Questions That Lead to Better Prospecting

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Sales and marketing automation tools are growing in sophistication at an exponential rate. However, for many, these digital capabilities are failing to achieve their intended end of more leads and closed business.

If we have a greater ability to find and contact customers, then why do so many sales prospecting efforts falter? The answer: technology can deliver the message, but it cannot draft the message.

Perhaps this is why “accelerated commoditization and substitution” have circumvented the dialogue between the sales professional and customer, according to an ATKearney review of more than 1,600 B2B sales professionals.

Here, we look at the three questions that sales professionals need to answer when crafting their message to potential customers.

What Is Important to the Customer?

When customers get a sales call, they are looking for a reason to hang up. Too many sales professionals give them this reason by delivering information that is either irrelevant or a mere rehash of what the customer already knows. The solution: adopt a customer-centric focus by understanding what is important to the customer.

Research illustrates the value of crafting a message from the customer’s perspective. The Internal Journal of Business Communication published empirical findings that support the “concepts of positive emphasis and you-attitude.”

The study examined how participants perceived various styles of written communication. The researchers examined the readers’ responses via message tone, commitment to comply with the message, and satisfaction. The participants were more receptive when they communicated with a voice that placed the reader’s interests foremost in the writing. The “you-attitude” is characterized by:

  • Communicating insights without expecting the customer to infer their meaning
  • Anticipation, but not presumption, of how the reader will react or feel
  • A message articulated clearly and briefly
Sales professionals must be able to articulate their place in the customer’s world. Doing so bolsters credibility and trust. Relevancy is key.

Sales professionals demonstrate relevancy by describing transferable results. That is, illustrating how previous successes stem from the proposed solution. Additionally, sales professionals should front-load the benefit by opening with the positive outcome you achieved, then explain how you got there.

How Easy Is Implementation?

Customers need solutions that easily connect with their business. Including implementation in the discussion demonstrates that you represent more than a product — you represent a partnership and a process.

While different businesses have different competitive advantages, nearly all demand speed and agility to keep up with the market. Consider that the telephone required decades to reach just half of American homes. Cell phones, in contrast, took only five years to achieve the same pervasiveness.

The drive for speed is understandable given that businesses leveraging technology to meet their acceleration goals “grow 26% faster and deliver 21% higher gross profits,” according to research from Deloitte.

However, as business become faster, they’re also becoming more complex. Therefore, sales professionals need to adeptly illustrate not only the relevant value of the solution but the ease with which it can be implemented.

Addressing this question requires a deep understanding of the customer’s business and how it works. Ask this question to yourself before the customer does. You want to be prepared with a response that is accurate and concise.

The customer’s decision to buy is based not only on the solution’s effectiveness but also the customer’s perception of the sales professional.

What Outcomes Can Be Delivered?

Ultimately, the sales professional must answer the question “So what?” Answering this question underpins the value of the solution and helps earn an appointment. While the solution might boast numerous outcomes, keep the list focused on those that will resonate with the customer.

To understand what metrics matter, revisit the underlying problem, and ask yourself, “Which outcome of the solution offered connects most directly to the challenge?” Also, consider the words that the customer has used up to this point. For example, concerns surrounding “revenue” connect with the solution’s ROI. Conversely, concerns about “growth” connect with the solution’s scalability.

Many sales professionals find it helpful to answer this question with a three-part response consisting of the issue, action, and value. This approach ties together the complete solution in a way that reasserts the sales professional’s understanding of the customer’s goals, the specific action needed, and, most importantly, the value expected. Remember to keep this messaging brief.


The bottom line: lead generation is resource intensive. Even the most effective sales teams require costly, expansive support networks to source leads. Driving meaningful outcomes from these investments means being able to answer the three questions above in a clear, concise manner that compels customers. Remember to:

  1. Keep the messaging focused entirely on the customer
  2. Maintain a focus on how the solution fits into the larger scope of the customer’s business
  3. Articulate relevant outcomes
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