The other day, I wrote one of my LinkedIn whining posts. I was, once again, whining about how poorly people prospect. As usual, it generated a lot of conversation about how widespread truly ineffective prospecting is.
But my friend, Mike Webster, provided a very provocative question:
“Well, David, I will bite.
How, in general terms, should the companies who might have something to sell you and your team go about researching your current needs? Thanks.”
In responding to Mike’s question, I made the point, “I have no problem providing people the formula that will guarantee a response from me. I know that the people who need to know this, will never read this response. They don’t care, they haven’t been trained how to do this. So the people that should most care about getting a meeting with anyone in our company will never see it, even though it will be widely circulated in LinkedIn and I’m adding to this with the blog post.”
So, I’m doing an experiment and issuing a challenge. People don’t even have to do what I’m suggesting, though it would be better if they did. But I will respond to everyone who reaches out to me saying, “Dave I read your ‘Secret Formula’ post, here’s the question/reaction I have……. (provide your question or reaction–even if you completely disagree). Can we talk?”
I will respond to and talk to everyone that sends me this response, either in email, voicemail, a DM, or a comment on this post in LinkedIn. I don’t even care about the quality of your response, just follow the instructions.
So if you want to try to sell me something, here’s a guaranteed meeting opportunity.
To be honest, I’m not worried about being overwhelmed with responses and people prospecting, trying to sell me something. I’m not worried because I know they won’t do their homework. They simply don’t look for the cues for engaging prospects. Even though I am explicitly providing the cue, I have no worry they will read and act on it.
What will happen, is I will have a number of great conversations with friends and followers.
One other thing, I’ll give this about 2 weeks, and I will report back to you with the results.
I won’t repeat my response to Mike’s question. I outlined what a person might do to effectively prospect me or someone in our company and how to get us respond. If you want, you can read it here.
But here’s another secret. This is exactly what I do, and everyone else in my company does in their prospecting and outreach. Yes, it involves work and some time. But rather then spending the time sending 100’s of emails and follow ups, dialing hundreds of numbers, and having only a handful of conversations; we do the work I outlined, and generate the high impact conversations we need.
Some of you may be saying, “Well that takes a huge amount of time, we simply don’t have the time to do this….”
Well, yes and no. In some senses, the nature of our business doesn’t require us to do a high volume of prospecting. We do dozens of very large projects every year. We don’t need to do 100’s to achieve our goals.
But, I suspect for complex B2B sellers, your situation is not very different. To achieve your goals, you don’t need to close 100’s of deals every year, you probably need to do a few dozen deals. If you are a transactional seller, it is different.
Also, I’ve led organizations of several thousand sales people. This prospecting approach has always worked for them.
And you still might say, “But Dave, all that research still takes a huge amount of time……”
Actually, it doesn’t. When you know what to look for and how to do it, it doesn’t take that much time. Sometimes, it’s only 15 minutes. We may be familiar with the industry (we always are because we track certain industries), we may be familiar with the company (or their competitors), we probably know the issues they are likely to be facing.
So we only have to do a little research to see what’s happening with the company now, and research on the individual we want to reach.
We know what to look for at their web site. We know what to look for in their financials or at sites like sec.gov. We know what to look for in their social profiles. We don’t just look at their profile, we look at their posts and the last few days of activity.
As I mentioned, it can take as little as 15 minutes, sometimes it’s 30-45 minutes. It’s rarely longer.
And then there’s the payoff, doing that work produces a very high level of response and engagement.
Yesterday, I made an outreach to an executive. Someone I was never aware of until seeing something he posted on LinkedIn. He’s in an industry we have never worked with. But he’s facing a set of issues in which we have deep experience, expertise, and insights.
I looked at his profile, I looked at his activities and posts for the last couple of months (he posts rarely and has moderate activity). The same issues kept coming up.
He provided a specific link to his division/organization in a very large company. I looked at that site, looked at some of the things they published.
I googled both his division, and the executive. I saw he had been interviewed in a number of webcasts, he speaks in a number of conferences; I listened to two of them at 2X speed. I saw some of the activities he and his executive team were conducting.
All of this took a little more than an hour. But it represents a multi-million opportunity in a new industry, but with a problem in which we had great expertise.
I sent him an InMail. It was a little long. I discussed the issues he had been speaking of, offered some opinions and insights. Posed some questions like, “What if you thought about this issue this way…?” “Have you ever experienced…..?” “We’ve seen this…, what’s been your experience…?”
I sent it yesterday afternoon. This morning I had a very nice response, thanking me for the InMail, suggesting times we might speak.
I don’t know what might happen with this opportunity. I don’t know that we can define a project, or if we might be the right company. I don’t know how urgently he wants to address the issue, but suspect it is very urgent based on my research.
But I have a first meeting. And it was the result of my first cold outreach.
And I know, even if it goes nowhere, I will have met a fascinating individual and had a great conversation.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens more than most would expect. Sometimes, takes a few outreaches, shifting my approach, but it works…..
I look forward to your prospecting conversations, You know you only have to do one thing for a guaranteed conversation, so in the words of Nike, “Just Do It!”
Afterword, I’m writing a series of posts on “Basic Selling Skills,” just to remind us what/why we do what we do. The link will take you to that collection.
Kurt Haug says
As always, great column. Thought I would let you know the link to read the original post apparently doesn’t work.
Haven’t commented, but greatly enjoyed your recent columns about the lack of business acumen in sales training/practice. The kind of research you discuss in this column further articulates the process EVERYONE should do trying to connect with C-level executives in particular.
Have you EVER posted anything I don’t heartily endorse? Don’t think so. Carry On!
David Brock says
Kurt, thanks so much for the comment! On the link, it’s strange, some people can open it, some can’t. I’m trying to figure out how to fix it, thanks for your patience while I do.
Glad you are enjoying the business acumen/systems thinking posts. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Regards, Dave
John Philpin says
Count me in the camp of ‘can’t open the link’ …
This is what it the browser is trying to connect to … so malformed URL?
David Brock says
John, sorry you and others are having trouble. Let me do some research to correct. Thanks for your patience.