You’re responsible for a purchase decision. All things being equal, which situation would make you more likely to buy? A recommendation from a colleague or an email from a company?
It’s a no brainer. You trust your colleague’s recommendation over a biased company’s.
How do you make recommendations happen? One way is to get your clients to refer you to others. The other way is to tap into their connections.
Employees have a better chance of making the sale when they start with an connection they share with prospects. You may not find one for every prospect. Still, that doesn’t mean scratching his or her name from your list. You’ll take a different approach with these prospects. More on that in a bit.
The first step is to define your ideal prospect. What traits do your clients have in common? Industry, job titles, department, and so on. Identify who has the decision-making power for each one. The people your employees work with on a regular basis is most likely not the same as the ones who found and hired your company.
It’s easy to think the CEO or VP would be the one to go after. But they’re not always your best option unless you have a strong connection with them. It’s more effective to reach someone who knows more about your product or service. This person is in a better position to convince the CEO or other executive to buy.
Answer these questions to create a description of your ideal client:
- What does the prospect do?
- What kind of company does the prospect work for?
- What’s the company size?
- What’s the company’s revenue?
- What problem does the prospect have that you can solve?
- What happens if the problem isn’t solved?
Ask other questions that will help you nail it down. If you want to go the extra mile, create buyer personas. This process helps you find out where buyers like to get their information, what publications and blogs they read, which social media networks they use, and other useful tidbits.
After you know who you want to reach, build your list of prospects.
The best place to do that? LinkedIn. Take advantage of its advanced search options to narrow down the requirements to find the right people.
- Use LinkedIn advanced search to plug in what you know about your prospect.
- Make a list of the best candidates.
- Look them up to find shared connections.
- Note the name of the connection.
Don’t forget about referrals. You may have contacts in the industry who can provide referrals. You just need to ask.
Learning about prospects
You have two groups of prospects: those with a common connection and those without. Let’s move forward with the first group.
It’s time to learn more about them. Social media sites like Twitter makes this job easier. Search for your prospects and their companies in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, company website, and elsewhere.
Before contacting the prospect, get in touch with the connection you have in common. Ask about the prospect and see if it’s OK to mention his or her name when you contact the prospect.
According to Lead Response Management Survey, the faster you contact a lead, the more likely they’ll be qualified. Waiting 10 minutes to follow up with the lead drops the likelihood of qualifying the lead by four times. Furthermore, InsideSales.com has found that 50 percent of buyers tend to choose the vendor who responds first.
Here’s an example of how someone seeks out a vendor. A prospect wants to find a financial services company to get working capital. He couldn’t obtain referrals, so he researches these companies on the Internet to find five possibilities. At each company’s website, he fills out a form.
The company that responds within 5 minutes of that form being submitted has the best chance of qualifying the lead. And if it’s the first company to contact the prospect, it will have a 50 percent chance of making the sale.
Being fast can make a difference. But so does what you say and how you say it. In making contact, focus on the prospect. Remove “I” and “we” from the conversation. This means avoiding phrases like “we have this product or service,” “we can do this for you,” “we have helped others.”
Be honest when you put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. You’re the prospect and someone from your company calls you, what do you want to hear? What would be a turn off? Ask prospects questions to find out their needs. And more importantly, listen with the intent to understand.
Getting colder prospects into the sales funnel
Now it’s time to do something about the ones with no common connections.
Although referrals work best, you can put your resources to work for you to move prospects into your sales funnel. They may or may not meet your definition of an ideal prospect. You don’t know until you bring them in. That’s why you start with a simple offer like subscribing to an email newsletter. All they have to do is give up an email address. That’s a small commitment.
The less information you require on a subscription form, the greater likelihood of subscribing. You can boost that by including the following on the form: “We respect your privacy” or “We will not share your information.” It helps overcome objections to giving out contact information.
If your company uses social media, you can create a call to action inviting people to subscribe to your email newsletter.
It’s possible to start smaller without asking anyone to give up any information. Offer a free download that does not promote your business. An article works well. You want to give them something useful without trying to sell anything. If they like the article, then they may be ready for the next step. That’s why you’ll have your company’s contact information and a call to action at the end of the article.
You delivered on providing valuable information. If they like it, they’ll take the next step.
Encourage employees to mention this free download or email newsletter in their email signatures with a reason to act. It can be simple: “For [benefit], subscribe to our email newsletter.” Link to the sign up landing page. Post the offer on your website’s pages and in all transactions.
The key with cold prospects is to be helpful without expecting anything in return. It takes time. In the end, you’ll have earned trust and credibility. And they’ll move deeper into the funnel.
These activities help you find and reach prospects to turn them into warm leads and grow your business.
Image credit: Steve Hardy.