The Most Overlooked Digital Prospecting Method

Is LinkedIn effective for prospecting? For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But there is a better way to prospect.

Converting Website Visitors to Sales OpportunitiesJoining conversations and contributing value — without expectation or trying to sell yourself. This is what generates sales leads on digital/social platforms, like LinkedIn. Right?

Meh. Not really. Like most advice coming from self-appointed social media experts, it’s not that easy to reach and qualify top-level decision makers. However, there is a better way: providing incentive for prospects to talk about themselves. In fact, it’s possible to help them qualify or disqualify themselves as buyers of what you’re selling. Fast.

Is LinkedIn Effective for Prospecting?
For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But sparking conversations?

Not so much.

“We are reviewing tens of thousands of C-level profiles per month and it’s clear C-level are not engaging,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logic Ltd.

Mr. Marley is matching LinkedIn profiles to a database of C-level contacts. He reports:

  • top executives are hiding the fact they are Officer level on LinkedIn
  • 90 percent of executives show no signs of activity in the past 30 days on LinkedIn
  • 2 percent will add their email address or contact details to their profile
  • a huge number of C-level people are not listed on LinkedIn.

“Our experience shows C-level buyers are on the network but they are not engaging with other members,” says Marley who notes that most companies using LinkedIn to sell to other companies don’t want to be sold to via the platform.

A Better Prospecting Method (and Why It Works)
Your prospects want to talk about their pains, goals, fears or urgent objectives. We all live in a world filled with uncertainty. Bottom line, all humans love to talk about themselves.

We are self-centered creatures.

Here’s the rub. Think about it like a first date. The more you talk about yourself the faster you:

  1. get comfortable with talking more with the person who is listening;
  2. start discovering reasons why you want to talk more, or not;
  3. realize if you are willing to act on your challenge.

Once a prospect starts realizing why they want to continue the discussion everything gets easier. Because why a buyer wants to talk more is connected to one thing — purpose.

Whether you help them in a LinkedIn Group or in an InMail, the you get prospects talking about their challenges, hopes and ambitions the more they begin to:

  • Understand if they’re willing to change (at all)
  • See investing in you (changing) as a path to stability and excellence
  • Experience your advice and assign value to it

When messaging prospects using the phone, email, LinkedIn, are you helping them to start talking about themselves — as a means to break-the-ice and get a conversation going? If not, don’t worry. It’s an effective, yet overlooked digital sales prospecting method.

Because it’s so simple, so obvious.

Brief, Blunt and Provocative
You’ve got to be brief, blunt and provocative. Getting prospects to start talking about themselves via email messages may feel unnatural. But it works. Plus, it is a repeatable prospecting method that helps buyers qualify/disqualify themselves.

There are a handful of different ways to effectively spark and steer conversations with executive decision-makers. However, they all involve these characteristics. Your message must:

  • Encourage introspection on the buyers’ current situation
  • Provide an incentive for response
  • Pique curiosity

The main idea in your first-touch email is to give them an incentive to reply by revealing “the conversation already going on” in their mind. The goal is not to get an appointment.

For example, can you think of a missing puzzle-piece that they don’t have right now — but should? Can you help them discover a fact about something important — that is probably unknown to them? Can you help them avoid an unseen danger or threat that will cause problems?

These are effective first-touch message writing starting points.

As your email exchange progresses, ask them if they’re willing to do something with this new found knowledge. Help them see how damaging lack of change is—and see the disruption change causes as a path toward excellence and stability.

Step 1: Provocation
Here is an example from the managed print services industry. Managed print services is mostly a cost-savings opportunity for owners of large fleets of office copiers and printers. However, breaking into a cost-reduction discussion is problematic.

Most managed print service sellers (among others) are bombarding the potential buying market with messaging focusing on one issue: Cost reduction. It’s a non-starter.

However, one client I work with uses a clever approach to sparking conversations. He warns prospects about an issue they don’t know about — but should.

Data security. Avoiding data breaches. Here is the approach template:

Subject: How secure are your printers?

Hi, [first name] …

Real quick — how secure are your copiers and printers at XYZ LLC? Did you hear about the Illinois law firm — sued because the janitor removed hard drives? He walked-away with hundreds of thousands of documents.

Are you doing everything possible to mitigate your risk?

I don’t pretend to know your situation, but I’m curious. How are you managing security of your printers/copiers at XYZ LLC?

Thanks for considering, [first name],

Don’t Follow the ‘Social Selling’ Pack
Giving first without expectation often results in wasted time and lack of leads. There. I said it. Nobody wants your whitepaper or e-book. And nobody wants to receive your long, self-centered email soliciting their business.
You know that. So stop sending these messages.

By structuring conversations to help customers understand why they want to talk they’ll trust, engage deeply and consider buying from you.

Starting the conversation is often the most difficult prospecting challenge. And that’s why this methodology works.

Buyers are primed for uber-short, pithy conversation-starting emails. Yes, from strangers.

Remember: Buyers buy for their own reason, not yours. So the more you help potential customers realize their own reason for talking the faster they will self-qualify themselves for you.

Good luck! Need help with this? Get in touch in comments below.

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.

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