Today’s post is by Mike Schultz, a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company. Follow Mike on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
When it comes to sales prospecting, sellers are told the following all the time:
- “Cold calling doesn’t work.”
- “It’s impossible to get through to buyers cold.”
- “With all the information on the Internet, buyers do their own research and reach out later in the sales process.”
- “You shouldn’t pitch your capabilities.”
But rarely do sellers stop and think, “Is any of this true?”
According to 488 buyers (who get prospected to all the time) and 489 sellers who outbound prospect (as reported in this white paper, “5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked”), these generally accepted-to-be-true statements are, in fact, false. They are sales prospecting myths that too many sellers are following – and it’s hurting their results.
Here are the facts when it comes to sales prospecting:
- Prospecting over the phone works.
Many sellers don’t want to pick up the phone and call their clients, current or past, under the pretense of generating leads. They don’t want to cold call. They say buyers don’t pick up the phone anymore, so what’s the point?
Using the phone represents three of the top five most effective prospecting tactics, according to sellers. (Prospecting tactics rated very/extremely effective.)
- Making calls to existing clients: 51 percent
- Making calls to past clients: 37 percent
- Speaking at events: 32 percent
- Sending one-to-one customized emails: 31 percent
- Making phone calls to new contacts (i.e., cold calls): 27 percent
The phone is also the second most preferred way buyers like to connect with sellers (49 percent of buyers prefer to connect with sellers over the phone). C-level and VP-level buyers prefer the phone even more (57 percent).
There’s no denying the phone plays an important role in sales prospecting and it’s still one of the most effective ways to generate initial sales conversations with buyers.
- Buyers want to connect with sellers early in the sales process.
According to research from the Corporate Executive Board, 57 percent of the purchase decision is complete before a customer calls a supplier. Sirius Decisions also found that 67 percent of the buying journey is now done digitally. These statistics make many sellers assume buyers don’t want or need to talk to them early in the buying process.
Dead wrong. Of buyers who accept meetings, 71 percent want to hear from sellers when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger business results. In addition, 62 percent of buyers who accept meetings want to talk to sellers when they’re actively looking for a solution to solve a problem. These are the early stages of the buying process.
Sure, buyers do their own research, but so what? Buyers want to hear from you – and hear from you early in the buying process. Rather than sit back and wait for them to call you, bring your ideas to buyers. When you reach out early, you put yourself in the best position to help define the buyer’s needs and position yourself as the preferred supplier.
- Buyers do accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them.
One of the most common excuses I hear for not prospecting is, “Buyers don’t accept cold meetings.”
Eighty-two percent of buyers say they accept meetings, at least sometimes, with sellers who reach out to them proactively. It’s certainly not easy to set appointments with busy buyers, but it’s far from impossible. Most buyers admit they accept initial meetings when sellers reach out proactively. It’s what you do and say in that initial connection to influence whether the buyer meets with you.
- Buyers want insight and to hear about your capabilities.
According to buyers, the content that most influences their decision to accept a meeting or otherwise connect includes:
- Primary research data: 69 percent
- Content 100-percent customized to our specific situation: 67 percent
- Descriptions of the provider’s capabilities: 67 percent
Insight and capabilities capture buyers’ attention. While many sellers are told not to pitch their capabilities, buyers want a combination of insight and knowing what you do.
- Value converts to sales.
It’s one thing to get meetings. It’s another to generate sales wins. We wanted to know what factors, regardless of the seller’s offering, influenced the buyer’s purchase decision. Ninety-six percent of buyers say they’re influenced by sellers who focus on the value they can deliver and 93 percent are influenced by sellers who collaborate with them.
If you want to get the meeting and eventually get the sale, focus on the value in your sales meeting and work with them collaboratively.
It’s interesting to note that most sellers do not do this. Buyers say 58 percent of their sales meetings do not provide value. There’s a huge opportunity here for the sellers who do.
As you think about your own prospecting efforts, take these findings to heart. Forget what you may have been told in the past. Buyers want to talk to you, cold prospecting works, and there’s a huge opportunity for those sellers leading the way with value.