3 Sales Prospecting Tactics That Don’t Work

From cold calling and cold emails to follow-up communications techniques … and responding to clients who open the door, most sales reps are practicing “best practices” that are, in reality, the worst. But they keep on keepin’ on. Are you sabotaging yourself by copying what most sellers do? If yes, I’m not here to blame you. Because the truth is you probably don’t know of the below options.

Using Social Media to Generate Sales EffectivelyFrom cold calling and cold emails to follow-up communications techniques … and responding to clients who open the door, most sales reps are practicing “best practices” that are, in reality, the worst. But they keep on keepin’ on.

Are you sabotaging yourself by copying what most sellers do? If yes, I’m not here to blame you. Because the truth is you probably don’t know of the below options.

1. Congratulating LinkedIn Contacts on a Trigger Event

Decision-makers are inundated with congratulatory emails that are a prelude to a spammy push-style InMail or email message. If you’re using this tactic and not earning response this is why.

Sales reps you compete with for “inbox space” are using the same, lazy, automated technique. Worse, they are lying. Maybe you are too.

“I just read your amazing post here [insert link] and I totally agree …” etc. etc.

You didn’t read the post. You’re simply trying to use the post as a point-of-proof that you’re not lazy … which you are. Customers understand as much. Plus, they’re under assault from dozens of such emails each week.

“I usually get a good response when I congratulate someone on promotion etc.,” says construction industry marketer, Joe Large. “Are you saying that’s an ineffective cold email starter, Jeff?”

Yes. Not in all sectors. But most B2B congratulatory messages are becoming a prelude to a spammy sales pitch. They are easily spotted and deleted. Simply because so many sellers are doing it, and doing it poorly.

I’m not saying it will not work. I’m saying my students’ collective experience is this: At best, it works in the short term. It’s working less-and-less, not at all in many B2B sectors.

Mailing and shipping industry expert, Marc Zazeela agrees. “As more and more people do it, it becomes less effective. (generally) When you are doing the same things as everyone else, you are doing it wrong.”

Zazeela correctly identifies automation as the main cause of this tactic’s failure. Even though the tactic seems based in personalization it’s not. Prospects see this. LinkedIn’s automated notifications (of a promotion, job change, etc.) are triggering sellers to pile-on, rapid-fire.

2. Mentioning Why You’re Reaching Out

You’ve got a reason when cold emailing or calling. But stating it rarely works. Because most often, sellers are reaching out to:

  • Set meeting or demo dates
  • Get referred to the decision maker
  • Ask biased questions that lead the customer toward being vulnerable

All of the above reasons are based on what you want. Your customer is smart. Even if they’re not, they’re being trained (day-by-day) to delete messages like yours.

Why are you making it so easy for them?

Mentioning why you are contacting the prospect is the kiss-of-death.

Instead, show the prospect you are different. Stand out. Not looking like 95 percent of inbound emails is 70 percent of the success equation.

In cold prospecting, why you are contacting the prospect is directly implied. To sell them something! Your job is to immediately defuse the tension.

Here’s how: Look dramatically different than other cold emails. Avoid the above tactics.

Instead, try:

  • Writing messages taking less than 15 seconds to read
  • Researching prospects and proving your knowledge in the message
  • Not asking biased questions that lead to an answer you want
  • Asking a question challenging prospects’ decision-making process

If you/your organization practices Challenger selling, this sounds familiar. You may already be using this technique.

Inventor of the Buying Facilitation method, Sharon Drew Morgen calls these questions Facilitative Questions. These are “a unique type of question that help people recognize all of the internal criteria they’ll need to include and address before making a decision,” she writes in her book “Dirty Little Secrets.”

“They are unlike conventional questions in that they do not gather information and are not focused on understanding need or placing a solution. Instead they are unbiased, systems based. Each Facilitative Question demands some action. The gleaned data is for the decision maker’s edification.”

Hence, Facilitative Questions are inherently provocative. They are certainly different in how they do not allow you to start a sales-focused discussion.

Your challenge is to strengthen how you write by provoking problem-solving discussions. Or status-quo challenging discussions that tie to a danger, aspiration or goal.

Here’s an example of a biased question: “Did you know you can negotiate benefits brokerage fees?”

Even if the client does not know (and should, as in this case) the question is biased toward the reader saying, “no” and making themselves vulnerable to a sales pitch.

Here’s an example of a Facilitative Question: “How would you know when it is time to negotiate your benefits brokerage fees?”

See the difference? The Facilitative Question is not biased to the seller’s desired response. However, a response to this question serves to connect the seller’s solution to a potential, unseen problem (excessive costs).

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

10 thoughts on “3 Sales Prospecting Tactics That Don’t Work”

  1. Videos used for an initial contact are stupidly presumptuous. Most other uses of video betray a laziness that is intolerable to any astute prospect or customer.
    [I recently met at CEO who said, “Jeff, if we could write about ourselves as well as we talk about ourselves, our sales team could conquer the world.”]
    Writing well in a conversational style should be the goal of every company’s sales team. Nothing replaces this kind of communication because it is innately personal. That is, is sounds that way.

  2. I like asking provocative “what if” questions. They get people to think about what might be possible if they considered something other than their status quo.

      1. I get it, Jeff. Sometimes you have to point out the obvious. It’s like what The Challenger Sale talks about. You know they are not doing things the best they can. You know you can help them do it better. Sometimes you have to point that out. If you are trying to sell them something (you are), so be it, as long as its better than what they have now.

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