Sales Playbook - Getting The Meeting
First impressions matter, and your prospect will make some immediate decisions based on that first encounter. Make sure you put your best foot forward and show the prospect they are valued.
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Today, I am going to delve into two highly disputed areas of sales, how to respond to the initial contact by a prospect and what is the appropriate follow-up cadence if you are unable to connect with them. I know this is somewhat controversial, as there are thousands of professionals who have their own opinions.
If you are a successful sales professional, and have developed a response sequence that works for you, GREAT! You should quit reading this blog right now and go and sell something. This blog is not meant for you. It is meant for those individuals and companies who have not found that secret sauce that works for them. There are as many ways to win as there are people. I am just sharing what I have implemented when engaged as either a fractional or full-time Chief Growth Officer.
When I have been brought in to help turn a company around, the sales are always lagging and the Sales department either has poorly developed practices or has developed bad practices. There is never just one fix to improve their performance, but there always seems to be some commonality in those organizations that have a great product but poor sales. It is also not just a Sales department issue. The entirety of the organization needs to be examined and practices optimized. But those issues are for other blogs.
Today, we are going to discuss the best way for a sales professional to engage a prospect that will improve their results. This approach has been implemented across several organizations, and each one experienced an increase in sales that exceeded 50%.
First impressions matter, and your prospect will make some immediate decisions based on that first encounter. As the saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." This holds true in business as well. The initial contact sets the tone for the entire relationship. If you come across as disorganized, or unprofessional, in your first interaction, it can be difficult to recover and regain the prospect's trust.
This is an opportunity for you to begin the process of building trust and credibility. By meeting the expectations of the prospect in the initial contact, you are building trust and establishing credibility. This trust will form the basis for future interactions and increase the likelihood of converting the prospect into a customer.
It also is one of your best opportunities to differentiate yourself from competitors. By delivering a positive initial contact experience that meets or exceeds the prospect's expectations, you stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of securing their business.
The reasons for the prospect to engage in a bottom-of-the-funnel activity vary, but in all cases, a signal is a desire by them to learn about the benefits your brand can bring to them. We already discussed the need for speed when contacting them in a previous article, “Sales Best Practices – Speed To Lead.”
The key to how you respond will be based on what information your Marketing department chooses to collect. If it is a bottom-of-the-funnel contact form, the information that they should have collected are first and last name, business email address, and phone number.
Armed with that information, you should immediately check your customer relationship management (CRM) and ascertain the extent and nature of the prospect’s prior engagements with your organizations. Look for what pages they visited, what content they downloaded, and if there were any prior emails sent and opened.
That whole process can be done in a matter of seconds. So, as quickly as humanly possible, you pick up the phone and call the prospect. Chances are they will not answer. After all, when was the last time you answered a call from an unknown source? What now?
The best approach is to leave a voicemail that paints a picture that will resonate with them. Here is an example:
Step 1 - Hello, (First Name). This is Bill Arnold from Prevail Marketing. I am calling because you just filled out a form on our landing page asking to speak to sales one minute ago. I am sorry that I missed you. I know that many people are reluctant to answer a call from an unknown number, so I will wait five minutes and call again. Hopefully, you will have received this message and feel more comfortable answering the call. If you don’t want to wait until then, you may call me back at (424) 543-6500. I promise I will answer.
Step 2 – Send a text to the number they left and share the same information as above.
Step 3 – Call back exactly five minutes after the first call. If they don’t answer, leave the following message. Hello, (First Name). This is Bill Arnold again from Prevail Marketing. It seemed you had some urgency when you inquired about our services. and hopefully, we can connect at a time that is most convenient for you. I am going to do two things when I get off this call to facilitate that meeting. I am going to send a meeting link by text and email, so you can find a time that meets your needs. I am looking forward to helping you decide if Prevail Marketing services can help you achieve your goals.
Step 4 – Send the email and text with the promised information.
That entire interaction takes place in the first 10 minutes after that initial inquiry was made. The key aspects of the response is it was always about the client and not about the salesperson or his company. You let them know they were valued by responding quickly and giving them control as to when you speak again.
The Follow Up Sequence
If the inquiry is serious, in most cases the prospect will follow up by setting an appointment to speak. Make sure your calendar has openings in the first three days after the inquiry. You do not want to miss out on an opportunity because you blocked off “me time.” Despite your best efforts, there may be instances where you are unable to connect with a prospect during the initial contact. In such cases, it is essential to have a well-planned follow-up sequence in place. Here are some best practices for follow-up sequences:
Personalization - When following up with a prospect, personalize your communication. Reference specific points they seemed interested in when you examined their activity in the CRM to demonstrate that you value their time and input. Personalization helps to build rapport and shows that you are genuinely interested in their business.
Provide Value – One of the most unproductive approaches in following up a lead is to send reminders to contact you. I despise when I get an email whose whole purpose was to send a note that they are “just bumping this up to the top of your inbox.” It was a waste of an opportunity. If a prospect has not engaged with a meeting, it is not because they don’t know you exist, they are having second thoughts about the value of meeting you. In your follow-up communication, provide additional value to the prospect. This could be in the form of relevant industry insights, case studies, eBooks, or resources that address their specific needs. By offering value, you position yourself as a trusted advisor and increase the likelihood of re-engaging the prospect.
Persistence Without Pressure - While it is important to follow up persistently, it is equally important to avoid pressuring the prospect. Strike a balance between staying on their radar and respecting their boundaries. If you do not receive a response after multiple attempts, it may be appropriate to move on and focus your efforts elsewhere. However, there are a number of steps that need to be taken before the prospect is written off.
Communication Sequence – Sometimes, the reason that a meeting was not made by the prospect is that they just became too busy. We have implemented the following sequence that often allows the salesperson to reconnect with the prospect. For the first three days, after the initial inquiry, you will make a concentrated effort to connect. The first 72 hours after an inquiry are the most critical. If you don’t make that connection during that period, they are most likely talking to a competitor or have decided not to proceed with anyone.
Day 1 - If the original inquiry was made in the morning of day 1, then later that afternoon (their time) you make a second call to them to see if you can connect. If you get their answering machine, you simply leave the following message:
“Hello (First Name). I wanted to see if I could catch you before the end of your day. I will be around to take your call until 6 PM (their time.) Of course, you can always take advantage of the meeting link I sent to you by email and text earlier today. Look forward to speaking with you.”
Day 2 – If the initial inquiry came in the previous afternoon, make the phone call we just discussed.
Social OutReach - Either way, if you have not gotten any response by the afternoon, become inventive. Look for the social media platforms that they tend to frequent. You can ascertain this by looking at their follow and follower count, as well as if they are regular posters to the channel. If they use LinkedIn, send them an InMail Message. Other channels have their own message. The message:
Hello (First Name). The opportunity to help you achieve your company’s goals and objectives is important to us. We believe that we are uniquely situated to provide that support. Isn’t it worth a fifteen-minute call to see if we are right? Here is my meeting link.
Email – Send a piece of high-quality content that would address the pain points, concerns, and interests for their persona and industry.
Phone Call – Make a call at the end of the day to let them know that tomorrow you are going to send them something showing how their business can benefit by implementing you as a solution. Send something that gets to the heart of every business, for example something showing return on investments, increased revenues, cost savings, etc. As an aside, say that you didn’t see they selected a time to meet and want to make sure they received that information.
Day 3 – This is the final day of an aggressive follow-up campaign to connect with the client. Typically, the outreach is as follows:
Email – When they open up their computer in the morning, they should have the document that you promised them.
Phone - If you have not received any feedback by the afternoon, call and leave the following message:
Hello, (First Name). I am sorry that we have not been able to connect to see if we can help you achieve your personal and company goals. While we wish we could have met, we understand this may not be the right timing for you. We will periodically send you information about areas that we believe might benefit your organization. When the time is right, please contact me. Here is my personal phone number....
The prospect is then put on a weekly cadence for the next two months, where we send bottom-of-the-funnel content that is highly personalized for that individual and company.
Ensuring that your initial contact meets the expectations of the prospect is vital for building successful business relationships. By making a positive first impression, building trust and credibility, and differentiating yourself from competitors, you increase your chances of converting prospects into customers. Additionally, having a well-planned follow-up sequence in place allows you to re-engage with prospects, even if the initial contact does not result in an immediate connection. By following the best practices outlined in this blog post, you can maximize the effectiveness of your initial contact and increase your chances of long-term success.