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).

How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?” It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?”

It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response and conversion rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always worked! It’s a simple, effective way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish.

The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products
Making social media sell for you is a matter of facilitating, and then connecting, question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of the Digital Charlatans
As I discuss in the June edition of Target Marketing, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (Full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on a return to the basics.