Sales and marketing, Channel markets

The Sales Prospecting Dilemma

When you approach a new prospect, what do you have to offer? Whether you’re sending an email or cold calling, you need to grab the attention of your contact and make them want to talk with you. But too often sellers spew on about their product or lead off with a trap question that screams salesperson.

The solution to this prospecting dilemma used to be to start your discussion as a business conversation rather than a traditional semi-scripted cold call. You based it on needs you uncovered in research before ever approaching your prospect.

But even that isn’t enough any more.

Business owners and executives are busy people with too many responsibilities, too little time, and too few staff to pick up the slack. They don’t have time for a conversation unless it will help them do their job more efficiently and effectively.

Too often the prospecting business discussion is one designed to gather a prospect’s needs and covertly qualify if an opportunity exists. While you begin the conversation discussing the business issue you uncovered in your research, it quickly deteriorates into a series of questions that feel much like a sales call.

Your contact ends the conversation without agreeing to a first appointment, and you don’t know why. You never mentioned your product, and you were only talking about them. So what happened? It used to work.

What changed?

If you want to catch your prospects’ attention, you must go beyond even the business discussion. You have to have something important to talk with them about, something that feels almost life changing for them.

Here’s how you get a prospect to talk to you:

  • Know your purpose. In your first call or email, your purpose isn’t to close for an appointment. I know you’re shocked, but it isn’t. Rather, it’s simply to have a conversation to get to know each other, begin building a relationship, and see if you should have a meeting. While you’re feeling the pressure to fill your pipeline this moment, many of the people you’ll speak with won’t be ready to make any immediate changes. But, if you leave a positive impression as a thoughtful, intelligent person who may be able to help their business in the future, they’ll want to stay in touch. That gives you a lead for 3, 6 or 9 months from now.Better still, they’ll probably call you because they’ll remember your discussion.
  • Offer to share your expertise freely. Research is important but it’s how you apply it that truly distinguishes you. Determine the business issue you could assist with, then offer your expertise on what they should be thinking about to address that point. Don’t hold back because you think a prospect should pay for your advice. Few companies you speak with will be able to implement your suggestions without your company’s help. Let go of that concern and open up. Share the great knowledge you have. If you have ideas about how a company could better control their IT costs, tell them. Some will be recommendations that directly connect to your offerings, but others should not. If, for example, during your discussion you believe some basic training would help their office manager to administer better system back-ups, tell them. You can sell them a full-scale business recovery solution later.Guide them with ideas they can implement right now while positioning what you can assist with in the future.
  • Make them think about the possibilities. As you share, discuss what you’ve seen other companies do to address a similar problem. Think about your clients, the challenges they’re facing and what they’re doing about those problems. Show prospects the possibilities of what they could be doing to improve productivity, cut costs, or address that need you uncovered in your research. Share one or two simple-to-implement ideas, as well as one or two more complex suggestions. Base your ideas on how you’ve observed your clients address those matters in their organizations or how they have implemented your solutions to change their businesses.The business owners and executives you’re calling are so busy they haven’t had time to consider other possibilities. They’re surviving with the issues when they may not have to.
  • Help them re-examine their status quo. By not pushing prospects into a change with your first call, you’re freeing them up to rethink their status quo. Your conversation of suggestions and possibilities allows them to take time out and think for a moment about what could be. Suddenly training the office manager may not be enough. They may appreciate your recommendation on how they can protect their business from security threats, educate their staff on phishing emails, move more applications to the cloud, or manage their whole IT infrastructure. They won’t want to wait 3 or 6 months to talk again. They’ll want to pick your brain some more and consider ways to eliminate the issues they’ve been living with now that they know they don’t have to.

I know, you’re thinking this sounds like a deeper conversation than you usually conduct in a cold call. And, you’re concerned that you interrupted the person. They’d never stay on the phone for this type of discussion.

But, it works.

It works because you’ve grabbed your prospect’s attention and made them want to talk with you. After a conversation like this, they either want to schedule time for a deeper conversation, or they want to hear from you again sometime soon.

You can solve your prospecting dilemma by elevating your conversation to one based on your expertise and ideas. Before you know it, not only will your pipeline increase, but your relationship database of potential new prospects will be overflowing too.

Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group, which works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Read more blogs from Kendra here.

Kendra Lee

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the award winning books “The Sales Magnet” and “Selling Against the Goal”, and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment.