One of the biggest challenges that sales leaders struggle with is finding methods to keep the sales pipeline full. In fact, a Hubspot study found that 42% of sales representatives describe prospecting – also known as cold calling or warm calling – the hardest part of their job.1 Another study found that 92% of sales representatives give up after just one call.2 It’s easy to see then, why keeping pipelines full of quality, qualified leads can be a tough job. Below are three strategies to help build rapport with buyers as well as assist sales professionals learn better prospecting techniques…
Delve into Annual Report Data
Annual reports can provide excellent insights into a specific company, market and/or industry. These can be pulled from publicly traded companies using the “investor relations” information on each company’s website. Alternately they can be pulled from sites such as money.msn.com.
How to use it:
- What’s the state of the company, market or industry? What’s going on? Are there any major changes – mergers/acquisitions, closings, new competition, regulations/compliance issues, etc. that should be noted?
- Who are the market leaders and king-makers? Who is leading the industry? Who is the biggest competition/threat to the company? What person(s)/leader are leading the trends – and why (if known)?
- What’s the forecast? Where is the company headed? What’s happening in the industry or market? Where are there opportunities? What are the threats?
- What’s the 12 month/1 year strategy? Moving forward what is the current strategy and/or activities that the company is focused on to differentiate themselves in the market?
PRO TIP: Even if a company is not publicly traded, they are encountering much of the same as their biggest, publicly traded competitors. (And yes, in every industry or market there is a publicly traded business!) Review this information and identify the common factors especially where there are concerns, opportunities, threats or changes. They can serve as “gate openers” to start a conversation.
Use Online Searches to Probe Further
Google can be a powerful tool when used properly. Often the “good stuff” lurks on pages 5+ in the search results. The advanced search tools (on a desktop browser) in Google can be very helpful to locate very specific information.
To access these advanced tools and filters, start by performing a search (for example, a company’s name you want to target or website URL/domain.) After the search query is performed, the advanced tools appear just below the search box in Google. Select “tools” then under “anytime” you can set the period of time desired such as within the last 24 hours, last month or even a custom date range.
How to use it:
- Look for industry research, studies or statistics that you can include in your sales presentations, or pitches. You can use this to identify how much time or money is wasted on [fill in the blank as it relates to your product or service.] Or benchmarks that the industry has (which can make for a compelling case as to why your prospect is overspending, under productive, etc. and needs your product or service.) These are just a few ideas.
- Searches that help find that data include: “[insert industry here] research” or “[insert industry here] statistics” or “[insert industry here] benchmark data” or “[insert industry here] [fill in the blank such as buying, spending, productivity, etc.] trends.”
PRO-TIP: Align data you uncover with value propositions. For example, if the industry benchmark for productivity is trending downward, make sure one of your value propositions explains this. “In the [insert industry here] industry studies are showing that productivity is declining by 8% each year due to outdated technology. Clients in the same industry see a productivity growth of ___% because we ensure that technology is always operational and compatible with…”
Set Up Automated Alert Systems
It’s impossible to keep abreast of every change within an industry, let alone with what may be happening with current clients, past clients (that you want to regain business from) and fill a pipeline with quality prospects. Setting up automated alerts can be extremely powerful in gaining access to new information at the time that it is published, so you always know what’s happening!
Using a variety of tools will help identify and monitor different conversations, articles, and the like. Some to try include GigaAlert (http://gigaalert.com/), and Mention (https://mention.com/en/). To set them up you may have to experiment by searching for a specific company you want to track, and in the case of large brands you may find that you need to weed down the specifics to limit what kinds of data are served to you.
How to use it:
- Industry Awareness
- Read the content that your target prospects do so you better understand their industry. Online trade publications, leading blogs, discussions with thought leaders, online forums or groups, etc.
- See what’s happening within the industry in terms of market growth and decline as well as what leading experts are predicting, and their recommendations.
- Competitive Analysis
- Study how your product/service stacks up against the competition in the eyes of buyers, as well as the general perception of the public. Then do the same for prospects you are targeting. This way you’ll know what opportunities may exist as well as threats and challenges they may be encountering.
PRO TIP: Learn to lurk before you leap! Study an industry and get comfortable with the basics. Additionally set up a strategy to specifically target a desired prospect company rather than just call or email. If you have taken the extra effort to really gain insight, put together a strategy including how you may approach the call, who else may be involved, and the materials you need to support you, the sales call will be more productive right out of the gate.
By taking the time and exercising the above three methods sales professionals need no longer fear the cold calling. This is because they have been armed with the most valuable information needed to establish trust from the first call as well as differentiate your company from others in the industry. Keep them motivated, and encouraged and they will drive in the sales results you wish to obtain, plus fill your pipeline too!
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