“The foundational root of all success in sales is a fanatical focus on prospecting,” ― Jeb Blount
In previous chapters, we’ve focused on digital marketing. We live in a world dominated by the Internet where Facebook has two billion users – twice the size of China! But nearshore outsourcers don’t have a massive audience. Because your services are considered a big-ticket B2B item, you have a limited addressable market.
It makes no sense to wait for inbound marketing to bring you clients that may or may not be a right fit for your company. You need to use good old-fashioned outbound marketing, but with a modern twist.
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In his groundbreaking book, How to Get a Meeting With Anyone, author Stu Heinecke lays out the strategies today’s B2B companies are using to reach out directly to your “Top 100” list.
Prospecting and Your Top 100 List
Heinecke describes an exciting possibility for companies who execute a well thought-out “contact campaign” (contact campaign is his term for outbound marketing). Heinecke says that a well-executed contact campaign can turn you into a “ . . . connected, powerful person, a VIP . . .”
And the key to that, according to Heinecke, is to identify and define your Top 100. “There is a small group of people who, if they become your clients or strategic partners, will transform the scale of your business.”
Who are your top 100 target customers? They are your dream clients, the clients who will transform your business by their ability to attract other clients. They are typically well-known brands in their industry, they have large budgets, and can introduce you to other departments or other companies.
Types of Contact Campaigns
Contact campaigns, according to Heinecke, are sales-oriented direct marketing campaigns on steroids. They are outbound, focused marketing initiatives designed to either support the sales process, or to directly generate sales.
Depending on your comfort level with contacting clients directly, you can choose any of the following types of contact campaigns to reach your Top 100
In a post I wrote in 2009, I predicted the death of telemarketing. In a world of voicemail, social media, and text messaging, who would think of telemarketing any longer?
Actually, cold-calling is coming back – but with a twist. In a recent podcast hosted by Jason Swenk, guest Gene Hammett, a business leader, speaker, strategic coach, and sales pro, talks about the 100-call challenge.
The 100-call challenge is a two-week sprint where you commit to having 100 conversations, not just 100 dials. Hammett’s goal during one particular 100-call challenge was to get more clients and to get speaking engagements.
Let’s look more closely at his efforts to get more clients.
Hammett divided his efforts across two types of prospects: lost deals and new clients. With lost deals he pulled a list of previous prospects who had told him “no” at some point in time. But, instead of just making a “check-in” call, he took a strategic approach. He remembered exactly the topic of the last conversation he had with each prospect, and used the call as an opportunity to follow-up on that topic.
For example, if a previous prospect told you he wanted to reduce his customer service costs by 10% through an automated self-service app, but for some reason they decided to build it themselves, you could ask the prospect, “How is that app coming along? Were you able to successfully build it and reduce customer service costs by 10%?”
That might be the exact question that could re-engage your lost prospect and convince them to try your services.
To approach new clients, Hammett devised a strategic approach. Instead of calling to ask for an appointment, which could be a major turn-off to cold prospects who don’t want to talk to another sales person, he adopted the “content marketing” mindset by offering value up front. He decided to give something away before asking for something in return.
Hammett decided to organize a series of exclusive events, limiting attendance to about eight CEOs or high-level executives. These were either a cocktail hour or a catered workshop. During these executive events he would deliver free information in the form of an executive briefing.
Then Hammett hired a virtual assistant to assemble a list of 500 CEOs of high profile companies he wanted to contact. He set out to get them on the phone, using emails and voice mails to connect with the executives. It took a while to get the target CEOs on the phone, but he connected with several of them and filled his executive briefings.
The result? Hammett got three new clients through his two-week 100-call challenge!
Direct Mail on Steroids
Another tactic coming back into vogue? Direct mail. But for B2B contact campaigns, I recommend direct mail on steroids. Let me explain.
Consider sending something that really stands out – from the appearance of the package or envelope, to the innovative contents of the mailing.
In his book, Heinecke describes the brilliant campaign tech startup NoWait executed. NoWait offers an app for restaurants to help their patrons avoid the annoying long wait times during popular dining hours.
NoWait sent iPads preloaded with a personalized video addressed to each restaurant executive.
Here’s a full excerpt from Heinecke’s book describing the campaign:
“Every unit arrived in the original Apple packaging, but with a few alterations. The tiny instructions booklet was replaced with a NoWait mini brochure, and the protective screen sheet was replaced with a sheet of instructions: Step 1, turn it on; Step 2, tap the NoWait video icon.
“What awaited was a video, individually shot just for each target executive. It started with hidden lapel-cam footage, clearly showing the “interviewer’s” point of view, walking up to one of their restaurants, then into the overcrowded waiting space within. When the interviewer finally reached the reservations desk, he was told it would be an hour-long wait.
“The interviewer continued, engaging in conversations around the room, asking how patrons felt about waiting so long for a table. Then the video switched to a segment introducing the NoWait app, and explaining how it does away with annoyingly long waits. It was a beautiful delivery of the company’s value proposition, using slick video production to present it in a fashion no sales rep could match in person. The video concluded with a segment showing the NoWait CEO speaking directly to the target executive, telling them how he loves eating at their restaurants, but hates having to wait an hour for a table. He then invites the target executive to connect with them and put the app to the test.”
There are other ways to execute the “direct mail on steroids” concept. You can FedEx a letter with a gift inside so it’s a 3D package and not just a flat letter.
Or, if you decided to write a book like I suggested in Chapter 3, you could send a copy of your book to your prospects.
If you want to stay with digital, you can always send direct, personalized emails to your prospects. But, don’t just send the standard email that everybody sends. Those emails get ignored and sent to the spam folder. Instead, send a personalized video to your prospects.
I recommend using a tool like Covideo to produce and send personalized private videos. Write a short, personalized introduction in the email telling your prospect what you’re sending and how the video can help them.
Finally, offer something of value in the video message itself. Teach something, invite them to download a report or eBook from your site, or invite them to an executive briefing or webinar.
I recommend picking up a copy of Stu Heinecke’s book to get a complete overview of how to execute a contact campaign.
The Emergence of Virtual Selling
But by far the most important development in outbound selling, and enterprise selling in general, is the emergency of Virtual Selling. In their book Next Era Selling, authors Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco describe the emergences of a new type of selling particular to the North American market. It’s a complete contrast to how big tickets sales are conducted in Latin American countries.
A friend of mine was describing, for example, how difficult it was to manage his Mexico City-based company from his new home in Austin, TX. He said that despite his best efforts to sell new product offerings by phone to his regular clients, they always told him: “When are you coming to Mexico? We need to have lunch and I want you to come to my office to present your new offering to me in person.”
Not so in the U.S. market. Manasco and Seley describe the Virtual Selling Imperative, which can be divided into five strategies:
1. Front Office Fusion
Companies are unifying and aligning the front office (sales, marketing, professional services and customer care/success), and spanning silos that might have otherwise led to band handoffs and poor service. They’re actively collaborating to deliver exceptional customer experience every time.
2. The Inside Upside
Companies are also raising the ceilings and lowering the walls that used to confine insides sales teams. They’ve liberated them to expand their territories and coverage areas, and have raised quota sizes and average deal sizes.
3. The Outside Upside
Companies are also encouraging field or outside reps to act in more consultative ways, going deeper within accounts, narrowing their funnels and reducing the number of accounts they handle.
4. The Inside-Outside Alliance
With the alliance of inside and outside sales teams, companies can expand their coverage and coordinate deals more efficiently, while bringing more professionalism to their sales approach.
5. Networked Specialization
Buyers now seek more guidance and support, pushing firms to develop specialists with expertise to help clients with their particular needs. Enterprise clients have an average of five team members to help decide on purchasing or contracting decisions. The best response by nearshore service providers is to deploy specialists to meet the needs of these decision stakeholders.
Co-author Manasco told me: “With a good list, your own Zoom.us account, a great PowerPoint, and good selling skills, you can close a lot more deals from your office than when you’re out on the road.”
U.S. buyers don’t want to meet with sellers anymore. The cost of traveling to visit clients in different cities is cost-prohibitive. It seems that everybody wants to engage in a virtual sales model.
This is revolutionary for nearshore service providers. You can now sell your services from the comfort of your office in Guadalajara or Lima, instead of investing in monthly trips to the U.S. or expensive office space in San Mateo, California.
The Return of Phone Prospecting
I got my start in high-tech sales and marketing doing old-school cold calling. I worked for a call center where my job was to call into a database of Fortune 2000 IT managers, database administrators, directors of IT and CIOs to generate leads on behalf of our customers (companies such as Cisco, 3Com, Amdahl, Business Objects).
It wasn’t unusual for me to make up to 80 calls a day. It was brutal work. People would hang up on me, tell me they weren’t interested, and not return my calls.
But I was good at it.
I was quickly promoted to the business development side of the house. My job was to sell call center services to the CMOs, VPs of Marketing, VPs of Sales and CEOs of high-tech companies. I called on established companies as well as startups.
Our services cost anywhere from $10,000 a month to $120,000 a month or more. These sales were 95% over the phone. I never visited a client – they came to visit us. In fact, if I could convince the executive team of an up-and-coming high tech company to visit our state-of-the-art call center, I was virtually guaranteed to close the sale.
Each company had to pay the first quarter’s fee up front. It wasn’t uncommon for me to receive a $50,000 check for the first three months of a project.
Every time we got a check in, my sales manager would make us go from desk to desk showing it off to my fellow sales colleagues. It was a real hard-core sales environment. It was reminiscent of movie The Wolf of Wall Street. This scene of Leonardo Di Caprio closing his first sale over the phone was eerily similar to our sales environment.
You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/RauYoB0I9q4
Except we weren’t selling fraudulent stocks – we were selling very effective, aggressive, outbound lead generation services.
I was regularly one of the top three sales reps each month. Everybody on the sales team knew where everybody else stood. The sales managers installed a leader board on the main wall of the sales floor with the names of all 10 “sales dogs” (as they called us), with our position and sales for the month. There was no doubt who was at the top of the list, and who was at the bottom. Talk about peer pressure!
I was good. Very good. But that was the mid to late 1990s, and the internet was just starting to become a major factor in sales and marketing.
Fast-forward to 2007, about a decade later. I was on the sales team at a software company that sold data integration applications to mid-sized companies. I thought, “This is going to be a piece of cake. I’m just going to use my usual bag of phone tricks and close tons of deals.”
Except it didn’t happen. Nobody answered their phones. Nobody returned my calls. My pipeline was close to empty. That was around the same time I started blogging, thank God. If I hadn’t picked up my new content marketing skill, I’d probably be a barista at Starbucks right now (not to knock on Starbucks baristas – they’re some of my favorite people!).
It seemed like cold calling had died a sudden death, and the killer was technology. Voicemail. Email. Smartphones. Text messaging.
I even wrote about the death of cold calling in my first blog as an independent consultant. I received a lot of comments and emails as a result of that post, mostly from phone reps in Spanish-speaking countries asking for advice about what they could do now that cold calling was dead!
Now I feel guilty about writing that article, because cold calling is back. With a vengeance.
In his book Fanatical Prospecting, Jeb Blount declares triumphantly: “The statistics don’t lie. We see between a 15 percent and 80 percent contact rate on the phones depending on the industry, product, and role level of the contact.”
Blount says that teleprospecting, the politically correct term for cold calling, gets higher response rates than email, and is “light years” higher than social prospecting!
“It gets better. We have stats on phone prospecting going back to the early 1990s, and we are seeing clear trends that contact rates via phone have actually risen by around 5 percentage points. We don’t know the exact reason why more prospects are answering their phones, but we suspect three drivers:
- Phones are anchored to people, not desks. It is common for prospects to answer their mobile phone when you call them— either because their mobile line is their only line or because their office line rolls over to their mobile line.
- No one is calling. Because so much sales communication has shifted to e-mail, social inboxes, and text, phones are not ringing nearly as much as in the past. Because of this, salespeople who call are standing out in the crowd and getting through.
- Prospects are getting burned out on impersonal, irrelevant (and often automated) prospecting e-mails. E-mail and social inboxes are being flooded with crap. Prospects are hungry for something different— a live, authentic human being.“
The Teleprospecting Formula
Blount provides an effective formula for teleprospecting in today’s environment:
Block Out a Teleprospecting Power Hour
Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? Blount describes it as the theory that “…work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for it.” You can see this law in operation in sales departments all over the world. Most sales people are allergic to phones, and if you tell them to pick up the phone to start prospecting, they’ll never do it. Or maybe they’ll make a few calls a day, and that’s it.
When their sales manager asks them: “What have you done all day?” They’ll often respond: “I’ve been entering my sales notes in the CRM system.” Or: “I’m filling out my expense report.” Or even: “I’m working on a proposal for the hot prospect I just spoke to.”
But these are all excuses. When your sales people don’t block out a specific chunk of time to teleprospect, they’ll end up frittering their time away in busy work. Playing with the CRM, filling out expense reports, and working on proposals are just excuses that keep sales people from making phone calls.
Blount also describes Horstman’s Corollary to Parkinson’s Law. This is the opposite of what I just described. Blount says that work will contract to fit into the time allowed. For example, if you schedule an hour of phone calls each day and instruct your sales people to make at least 25 phone calls within that hour, they’ll magically do it! All of a sudden they become super productive, hyper-focused sales machines.
Blount’s firm, Sales Gravy, calls these Power Hours. A Power Hour is a one-hour (or even a half hour) time block designated for nothing but teleprospecting. No emails. No social media. No texting. No distractions. Just an hour of pure, solid phone prospecting.
There is something powerful in concentrating a ton of sales power into a focused and limited amount of time. It’s similar to using a magnifying glass to concentrate the power of the sun on a pinpoint area. You can set a piece of paper on fire with the focused power of the sun.
And you can you can set your sales on fire with a focused hour of phone prospecting.
I’ve recently started teleprospecting again, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results! Blount is right. It’s amazing how many people will answer their phones, and how quickly I’ve accelerated my sales pipeline by doing something that most other sales people are afraid of doing.
The Five Step Teleprospecting Framework
Blount recommends following a simple, direct, no-nonsense five-step cold-calling process:
1. Get Their Attention
When you get somebody on the phone, address your prospect immediately by their name. There’s no sound sweeter than the sound of your own name. Your prospects will react more positively when you use their name than if you just launch into a script. Start with, “Hi John…” or “Hi Rebecca…”
2. Identify Yourself
Immediately announce who you are. Prospect don’t like it when an anonymous person launches into a sales script without identifying themselves. When you say your name, it disarms your prospects and makes you sound legitimate. Say: “Hi Rebecca, this is Fernando Labastida from Nearshore Marketing…”
3. Tell Them The Reason For Your Call
When selling nearshore services, your number one goal for making a cold-call is to schedule a phone appointment. Don’t try to tell them about your services over the phone! Come right out and say: “The reason for my call is to set up an appointment with you.”
4. Build a Bridge to the Why
Your prospects want to know why they should set up an appointment with you, so give them a reason. One of the most powerful words in the art of persuasion is the word because. Robert Cialdini, in his famous book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, says:
“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
When you say “because,” you’re more likely to get people to agree to a phone appointment with you. You could give them a ‘because’ by saying something like: “A lot of companies we talk to want to implement digital transformation in their companies, but they’re confused about how to start. We’ve been helping companies successfully build a roadmap to their digital transformation, and I’d like to share some of the highlights of our methodology with you…”
5. Ask For The Appointment
Once you give your prospects the ‘because,’ then ask for the appointment. Blount’s recommendation is to already have a couple of days and times ready. You want your prospects to know that you’re busy, and that you only have a few times available. If you say: “When would be a good time for you? I’m wide open this week…,” you sound weak and desperate.
There’s no space in this book to go into full detail on the fanatical prospecting methodology. I recommend you read Blount’s book, which you can purchase here.