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Why Prospecting Demands Agility
Effective sales prospecting requires agility because targeting the right customers, creating compelling, contextual messaging, and seeking engagement are all iterative processes.
Sales professionals must learn, and re-learn the customer’s needs because earning their attention means speaking to the specifics of their world.
The challenge is that those specifics are changing fast. It is no longer enough to understand the prospect’s core business. Sales professionals must now develop the agility to understand the expanding sphere of the business as it changes throughout the process of prospecting and the entire sales cycle.
To achieve this, agility cannot be an abstract term. It must be a practice that is visible in the sales professional’s actions.
Making agility a practical behaviour means learning how to sprint.
How Prospecting Agility Develops With “Sprints”
Moving at the pace of a prospect’s business means becoming agile with sprints.
“Sales Sprints” are short bursts of activity that revolve around key moments of conversation with the prospect. The goal of each “sprint” ends is a mini close which ensures continous momentum.
Applying a selling sprint methodology to prospecting allows the sales professional to adjust at any time to ensure their communication with the prospect is relevant and they are continuously driving momentum towards a close. Engaging customers in this way equips the sales professional with the knowledge needed to assess the next best move. This pattern of behaviour encourages strategic thinking as sales professionals plan and execute a single sprint at a time, and adapt future sprints based on the outcome of sprints completed.
Enabling a sales team to bring sprints into their prospecting means using a clear, repeatable, and structured approach consisting of a prepare – engage – advance pattern. This movement embraces the dynamic nature of sales prospecting and integrates specific techniques, skills, and tools to progress each interaction.
- Preparation builds acumen around the prospect’s business to create an outreach plan, messaging, and call flows.
- Engagement happens during the appointment and leads to referrals.
- Advancement is the process of reflecting and assessing the best next step.
Sprint Prospecting works because it moves alongside the customer’s changes and even benefits from new, and unexpected information. As details emerge the sales professional gains more insight into the customer’s needs. As a result, they can improve their prospecting by delivering increasingly focused messaging. This approach is fundamentally different than traditional methods characterised by messaging that is broad but shallow.
Principles of Sprint Prospecting
There are three guiding principles underpinning this Sprint Prospecting:
- Engage to Sell: Most prospects are not eager to talk with someone trying to sell them something, but they are eager to engage with humans who provide value and insight in an authentic manner.
- Be Your Own Micro-Marketer: Too often sales professionals rely on lead generation from other sources. Today, they must equip themselves to engage as a thought-leader. They must nurture relationships and more directly create curiosity with prospects in traditional and non-traditional manners.
- Challenge the “It’s a Numbers Game” Mindset: Generalised messaging is not effective in a setting where each prospect faces a unique and unmatched set of challenges. Sales professionals can increase their odds of success by improving every facet of prospecting: their approach, their targeting, their messaging, their cadence, and their conversations.
Here we look at how each of these principles can be used to create a single, effective, and agile sales prospecting strategy that addresses the scope and pace of change in the customer’s setting.
Engage to Sell
Customers want sales professionals to add value during every exchange. Therefore, it is critical for sales professionals to build their understanding of the customer’s business and industry by developing a research cadence and protecting that time.
Sales professionals must also consider their social engagement strategy in which they will listen, network, and connect. Here, listening means setting and monitoring alerts that keep the sales professional up to date on the latest developments within an industry or a prospect’s business. Listening also means exploring the prospect’s social “footprint” which offers insight into the prospect’s thinking and possible future direction.
Most prospects are broadcasting their thinking – especially in their posts and publications – as long as the sales professional knows where to tune in.
To begin networking sales professionals should consider how they will respond to the prospect’s posts in a meaningful way. The key is to share relevant content and insights that invite responses and are searchable.
These actions are all foundational. Individually, they do not advance the sale, but they do provide a solid base on which the relationship can be built so that when the time comes to make a request – for the prospect’s time, attention, or information – the communication continues.
Be Your Own Micro-Marketer
Most sales professionals are ultimately held responsible for attaining their quota or other targets. However, too often this means relying on lead generation from other sources.
To be a micro-marketer sales professionals must be able to nurture relationships, engage as a thought leader, and more directly create curiosity with prospects in traditional and non-traditional manners.
If a sales professional is going to engage in micro-marketing activities, they need to identify the ideal customer.
Unfortunately, some of the ideal customer criteria – the business issues that are underlying a potential opportunity – may not always be as easy to find. Approaching this challenge means identifying the relevant titles and pains while remembering that a pain is something that is personal, measurable, and relevant. This process is an opportunity to learn who in the prospect’s organisation has the authority to make a decision and who can benefit most from the solution.
Sales professionals should also take the time to assign specific metrics to the ideal customer profile. Doing so means being able to answer questions like “what is the ideal revenue of our ideal customer?” Other important numbers include years in business, total employees, and growth rate. The purpose of this approach is to gain clarity on what kinds of businesses and people can benefit most from the sales professional’s solution.
With this profile, the sales professional can begin to determine the channel they believe is most appropriate for making contact.
The available channels include:
- Direct Messages
- Video Messaging
- Social Discussion Groups
The benefit of so many communication channels is that it allows the opportunity for sales professionals to consistently “drip” meaningful content and messaging.
Building incremental value creation is a protracted way to create credibility. The customer learns that the sales professional has the consistency and determination to invest and reinvest in the relationship over the long term.
The next step in transforming sales professionals into micro-marketers is planning a communication cadence. Planning a communication cadence is critical for three reasons.
- By selecting the method, day, and frequency of outreach the sales professional is more likely to follow through with their communication plan.
- A plan helps build a data set that can be used later when the sales professional is evaluating when, and where they are most likely to get a response from a prospect.
- A plan prevents the misstep of becoming too frequent in the outreach.
Challenge the “It’s a Numbers Game” Mindset
The traditional notion that prospecting is a “numbers game” is not relevant in today’s market.
The numbers game approach suggests that the same message deployed across a large enough group will eventually yield a result. This approach, lacking in rigor and sophistication, merely churns through leads and encourages prospects to view the sales professional and the solution as a commodity. Moreover, taking the time to identify the ideal prospects, as explained earlier, allows the sales professional to apply more focus on the messaging they draft.
Drafting resonant messaging means:
- Suggesting that you have helped similar businesses
- Implying that you have helped solve real business problems
- Articulating tangible value
- Describing how you have helped deliver results
- Prompting curiosity
- Differentiating the messaging from others
- Remaining relevant to the prospect
- Keeping the phrasing concise
- Avoiding unnecessary details around the solution
- Inviting action
Customers can and will disengage quickly and easily if they don’t perceive value or immediately feel that there is a reason to speak with the sales professional. To maximise each engagement, sales professionals need to be prepared to immediately capture the person’s interest and attention. Doing so means drafting a strong value statement.
A value statement is a structured message that links the sales professional’s capabilities to a known or potential customer issue. The result is an increase in persuasivenes. A value statement consists of three parts: Issue – What is important to the customer; Action – How can you help; Value – So what?
The value statement is akin to a 30-second commercial of what the sales professional can do for the customer. To be persuasive, the value statement must be tailored to the customer and leverage the market intelligence within the selling organisation. The value statement must also be concise because the customer’s time is short and longwinded communication risks losing the customer’s interest. Finally, it is also important to deliver the statement in a positive, confident tone.
Effective sales prospecting messaging centers on understanding what issues are important to the potential customer, also known as salient messaging. If the sales professional can address those particular concerns or goals they will immediately gain the prospect’s attention.
While the concept of saliency may seem intuitive, many underestimate the power it has to shape opinions. To effectively deliver salient messaging sales professionals need to research the developments occurring within the customer’s business, the key concerns of the customer’s executive team, the looming challenges of the coming quarters, how the prospect’s offering and customers are changing, and the prospect’s current competitive landscape. Understanding these factors and creating messaging to address them is what elevates a sales professional to a trusted adviser.
Conducting this research means using internal resources to see if any previous conversations with the lead have occurred and what was learned. Sales professionals can also search for “trigger events” which are actifons that would make the sales professional’s solution relevant. Finally, examining the details of current customers that are similar to the prospect can reveal important details.
As the sales professional begins to understand the nuances of the prospect they might discover that a different messaging style is appropriate. Some of these other styles include the customer success story, the value proposition, and the list of core challenges.
Sales professionals need the agility to track, understand, and speak to their customers rapidly morphing business needs in which traditional challenges and needs are a thing of the past. Sprint Prospecting is built for this new reality and equips sales professionals with the skills to deeply engage leads, market themselves, and access underlying customer needs.