The Prospecting Tools Might Change – But The Fundamentals Remain The Same
Prospecting is hard work. How do you find the right potential customers, and how can you increase your chances of success when you reach out for that first time? In this lesson, we put the “fun” in “fundamental prospecting skills and knowledge” and explore three channels of communication: phone, email and social. Then, we talk with an expert from the C-Suite who knows all about putting together that perfect message.
- Prospecting Fundamentals
- Prospecting Research
- Prospecting in Today’s Digital World
- Stand Out From The Crowd
- Nurturing in Today’s Digital World
Example Module — Prospecting Fundamentals Interview Transcript:
Joseph Fung: Welcome to Module 3.1, Prospecting Fundamentals. Glad to have Cory Bray here with me, Managing Partner of ClozeLoop, Author of Triangle Selling the Sales Enablement playbook, Sales Development, several others more on the way. Cory, maybe you could share a little bit about your journey and what brings you here today.
Cory Bray: Thanks, Joseph. It’s great to be here. We write books, we write sales books to open-source content. So everybody has access to what consulting firms have traditionally charged five, six, and seven figures for, and so everybody across the organization from the entry-level folks to senior management can pull some frameworks off the shelf, apply them as they see fit within their company and not be reliant on outside folks.
Joseph Fung: That’s fantastic. And I imagine when someone has tried to learn the basics of prospecting and others, those books are super helpful.
Cory Bray: That’s what people tell us!
Joseph Fung: Nice. So you’ve got all this experience. You’ve learned how to share that with others. But why don’t we start right at the entry-level? What is prospecting? What do people need to know as they’re getting started?
Cory Bray: Well, prospecting is the activity that happens to fill your sales pipeline with deals that might close. I prospecting, I think, is a term that was originated if not just apply to gold miners, where they pick a bunch of rocks up into a pan and shake out all the ones that aren’t going to be gold, and they’re left with gold.
And that’s essentially what we’re doing in the sales process, where we’re starting with a bunch of organizations and contacts that might be folks that we can sell to, filtering out the ones that we’re not going to sell to, and then leaving the ones that leave the highest opportunity for a potential deal.
Joseph Fung: So thinking about your analogy, you spoke about the miner, the prospector who’s doing that sifting
Cory Bray: Right.
Joseph Fung: There’s a ton of other work, there’s the railways, there’s the equipment, how would you differentiate between what the individuals is responsible for the sales rep and the organization.
Cory Bray: Well, the sales reps shouldn’t figure out what river to go to and how to get the gold out of the river once they’ve found it. The sales rep should literally figure out, okay, I’ve got this river and these rocks over here, I’m going to sift through them, and I’m going to take a golden handed off to somebody else. And that’s what the sales development function or business development function in a modern sales organization does.
Joseph Fung: So what would be that checklist of items that that sales rep or sales development rep should be given when they begin that prospecting activity?
Cory Bray: Well, it starts with market segmentation, understanding what market we’re going after, what the attributes of that market is. So it might be company size, it might be the types of industries that they’re in, maybe geography.
It gives a clear focus around what companies to start on. And then once you’ve understood your market segment, what personas are you going after, it might be Head of Sales, Head of Marketing, maybe a head of IT or some specialized role, if there’s a different type of product or service that your company sells.
Joseph Fung: So when you talk about those market segments, the personas, a lot of people will talk about that as their ICP, their Ideal Customer Profile, is that what you’re talking about? What are you thinking it off?
Cory Bray: I don’t like the term ICP because, to me, ICP is a point. And it says, “This is our ICP”, whereas I look at the market segmentation that persona is more of a gradient.
In our sales playbooks, the builder’s toolkit, as we help folks build out their market segmentation, we advise that they at least look at it through three different dimensions of here are the attributes, and here’s what’s ideal for each attribute.
So maybe a company size from 100 to 500 employees, here’s what’s good, maybe 50 to 100 and 500 to 1000. And then here’s what’s rejected, meaning folks that we just don’t want to talk to. Looking at it like that gives it a little more dimensionality and keeps you from looking at it as just a point, ideal customer. So you can use your brain a little bit, figure out what might be a good prospect, what might not be?
Joseph Fung: Okay, so I’m a sales rep. I’m a minor. I’ve been given my gradient up dimensions, my market segments, my profiles. What do I do? Where do I start?
Cory Bray: If you want somebody to effectively prospect, they really need to be enabled. There’s this function of sales enablement that exists in a lot of different organizations. And in the sales enablement playbook, we define sales enablement as the concept of extending a prospect centric mindset throughout all departments in the organization. And where that comes to life and prospecting is that you give the salespeople, the folks that are prospecting, specifically what they need just to focus on prospecting.
They’ve got access to data, so they know what companies exist inside of their target market. They’ve got access to data around the personas and the contact information for those actual folks. It’s in some kind of system. And so they can go sit down at their desk and push a button to make a phone call, push a button to send an email.
And then once they engage in conversation, that’s where they apply the skill that they have, you get into sketchy territory, when you start trying to turn somebody who wants to make cold calls into a research analyst, or somebody that wants to be a research analyst into a cold caller. Those aren’t necessarily skills that we see in the same human too often.
Joseph Fung: So we’re gonna dig into research in one of our subsequent conversations. So I’m looking forward to coming back to that. Yeah. But when you’ve got that sales rep, and you’ve given them everything they need, they’ve been enabled, they’ve got their market segments, they’re off calling. How do you know they’re successful or not? What does success look like? How do you measure it?
Cory Bray: Well, you’ve got to define what success looks like for these folks. And when it comes to sales, there’s only two things that a salesperson can control. They can control the quality of their activity and the quantity of their activity. There’s nothing else.
We see some managers running around and saying, hey, Joseph, you’ve got to develop 15 qualified opportunities for me this month. What does that mean? How do I get there? And if we’re giving them these high level, abstract goals and then letting them figure out how they get there?
That’s going to cause a lot of variance across the team, you’re going to have some folks that do it, do it great. Again, for other folks that don’t know how to get there, when it comes to prospecting, the best formula is to give them a formula and say, “here are the activities that are going to lead to success, and you’ve got to do this much quantity at a certain level of quality; and from what we’ve seen before, that’ll get you there.”
Obviously, things change over time, and you might need to re adjust that expectation.
Joseph Fung: So to make that more concrete, if we’re talking about a hypothetical software company, sure, what would that prescription of activities look like? What have you seen?
Cory Bray: Working backward! The best way to go about is working backward. Let’s say from a sales development perspective. Our goal is to convert ten opportunities per month. So you need ten opportunities per month.
Well, how many conversations does it take to get to 10 opportunities per month? Maybe it takes 20. Okay, what’s it take to get 20 conversations? Well, maybe it takes 100 phone calls that result in a quick pick up to get to one conversation. And so now I’ve got 100 times 20. So I’ve got 2000 phone calls I need to make. And maybe we send emails at some rate where one in every ten emails gets responded to.
So now I’ve got ratios for both call and email. And I can adjust where I want my, my focus to be, do a little bit of both, maybe do some social selling, maybe do some direct mail, do all these different activities, but understanding your selling math and what it’s going to take to get to each level of the sales pipeline, that’s, that’s really critical for these books.
Joseph Fung: So this is great. We’ve talked about the definition of prospecting. We talked about the relationship between the seller and the company and a little bit about the formula of what success looks like. But we’ve banded around a couple of terms.
Cory Bray: Sure.
Joseph Fung: Sales rep, sales development rep. When we think about prospecting, do you see differences between those roles? What does that look like for someone who fills that role?
Cory Bray: Well, the common organizational structure today for a lot of companies that are heavy on prospecting, heavy on growth, I’m talking about companies that are trying to grow 20 30, 40, or 100% a year, they typically have specialization.
It goes back to Henry Ford. You don’t have one person build the whole car. You have each person do a specific job along that production line. We’ve got marketing, marketing, can create demand, create brand awareness, do a lot of things on the very front end, just so people know that we exist, then we got sales on the other end that closest deals and a lot of organizations have somebody that sits in between them.
That takes folks that have either explicitly expressed interest in the organization as an inbound lead or that fit that target market profile, enter the right persona, and then go outbound to them to see if they can create an opportunity. And that’s where that sales development role fits.
Joseph Fung: Great. So I think we’ve got great fundamentals. We have got one last question before we wrap this up. You get a great idea of what success looks like for an organization as they roll out outbound prospecting.
Cory Bray: Right.
Joseph Fung: What about mistakes? If an organization was trying to stand up an outbound prospecting function. What would be the greatest mistake they could make on what you’ve seen with your class?
Cory Bray: The greatest mistake is that they don’t coach their people. Coaching is the single activity that leads to the most success if done right. And it doesn’t even have to be done perfectly. It just needs to be done. Just coach your people.
If managers aren’t consistently coaching their salespeople in scheduled one on ones, ideally on a weekly basis, on the floor, as they’re doing an activity, and as different items are coming up, then they’re not making a better, you watch any professional sports team. We’re looking at the best athletes who have ever lived.
I mean, every pro golfer has a coach except for Bubba Watson. He’s crazy. But the rest of them do. And these are the best people in their field. Having a coach is the single thing that’s going to make you better.
Joseph Fung: That’s fantastic. Cory, thank you so much for sharing your insights. I’m looking forward to our next conversation. And stay tuned for module 3.2. We’ll bring Cory back. Thanks again. Take care and happy selling.