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Is Your Prospecting Call Relevant?

by David Brock on March 28th, 2016

You’ve all experienced this, you download a white paper, maybe you sign up to evaluate a new SaaS tool.  Within minutes, the phone rings, it’s an anxious SDR.

“I see you are interested in our products, can I tell you more about them, or set up a meeting for you to learn more?

“Can I set up a demo?”

“When do you plan on buying, who will be involved in the decision making process?”

Forget that you haven’t even gotten the white paper, or the logon link to the tool.  These anxious sales people are already far down the road in trying to engage with you.

I recently read the Bridge Group’s study, “Sales Development 2016.”  It’s an outstanding and very comprehensive study.  I was struck by some data at the beginning of the report.  Respondents were asked to classify their Sales Development Models, here’ the results:

  • 38% are designed to Set Up Introductory Meetings.
  • 18% in Setting Up Semi-Qualified Meetings.
  • 42% in Passing Fully Qualified Opportunities.

Are these aligned with the context of the interest of the “prospect” who has taken an action.

For example, downloading a white paper is no indication that a prospect has interest in your product.  What the prospect is interested in is acquiring knowledge, something in the white paper struck them and they are interested in learning.  What would happen if we changed our initial call from setting up a meeting or qualifying, to a discussion about the white paper?

What if we started asking questions like, “What are you looking to learn?  What’s driving your interest in this topic?”  It seems like a perfect teaching moment, perhaps there is knowledge beyond that in the white paper that we can share.

Sometimes, I ask the people calling, “I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, what are the most salient points?”  I bet you can guess, the majority have never read the white paper, usually they respond, “It’s about [Reiterating the title]”  Sometimes you get someone who’s read it, and I ask a simple follow up question, “Why should that be important to me?”  Again, most of the time, people stumble, shifting into, “Our product addresses all those issues, Our customers are getting huge value from our product, Can I set up a meeting with someone who can answer your questions?”

It seems like a great opportunity that SDR’s miss.  I have expressed interest–but not in a product or in a follow-on meeting.  I’ve expressed interest in learning, in acquiring knowledge.  I might be open to being taught.  Doesn’t it make sense to engage me on that basis, to develop a relationship, then at some point move it to “Are you interested in a solution?”

Signing up for an evaluation provokes even worse calls.  I suppose it’s natural, the person signing up has expressed some interest in the product, at least enough to try it out.  But assuming I’m ready to buy or even getting ready to buy is really jumping the gun.

What if we changed our approach,  “Is there anything you are really focused on in your evaluation?  Can we help you get the most out of the 30 days you are investing to learn about our product?”  It seems the first conversation should be contextually relevant, which is about the evaluation, not about buying.

Recently, with a client, we made that simple change in the first call.  First call conversions to additional conversations quintupled within 30 days.  Conversions to sales skyrocketed–because people were successfully completing the evaluation.

Our conversations with customers always need to be contextually relevant, whether it’s the first conversation, or somewhere in the middle of their buying process.

Wouldn’t we be much more effective in engaging our customers, if our first conversation was about the action they took–which drives the call, rather than what we want to do — which is to push a meeting or qualify them?  Wouldn’t we have more good conversations?  Wouldn’t we engage customers in what’s important to them, ultimately converting more to qualified opportunities?

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  1. David, this post is nothing short of ingenious! I’ve been pondering the topic of SDR effectiveness lately and in fact just had a long discussion with a colleague about it yesterday. Your perspective on shifting the conversation to the prospect’s needs vs. the SDR’s objective is profound in its simplicity. Of course, that’s what they should be doing! But it seems so few do, at least in my experience. If companies are going to assign the front end of the sales process to SDRs, they’d better equip them with the necessary skills and approach. Your real example of changing the approach with dramatic results gives me hope that the SDR model can be executed effectively (I was beginning to wonder!)

    • Wow Don, thanks! Prospecting is never easy, but we make it much more difficult–particularly on the inbound side. When a customer has downloaded a white paper or signed up for an evaluation, we have a clue about their interest. But we never leverage that in the conversation, choosing instead to talk about our interests.

      It seems so obvious, talk about what the customer is interested in! I wonder why it is so difficult to do?

  2. Dave:

    Fantastic post. I love the term “contextually relevant.” I often tell male salespeople that asking their wives to marry them was likely one of the high points in life, but not if you asked on the first date! Same two people; same question. Yes, context is critical. Very well done, sir!!

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