The Do’s and Don’ts of Prospecting Clients

Built In Colorado caught up with veteran salespeople to learn their underrated techniques and the keys to successful prospecting.
Written by Brendan Meyer
July 20, 2021Updated: July 20, 2021

Copy, paste, send.

Copy, paste, send.

It’s a common tactic for a salesperson to mass email the same generic pitch to all of their leads, whether it’s 10, 50 or 100 potential clients. The logic makes sense. The more you maximize your output, the better your chances are of getting a response, just like the more seeds you plant in a garden and the more hooks you cast into the water, the higher the bounty. 

Right?

Wrong, says Sam Ryan. The business development manager at OTA Insight said this sales tactic is overused, overrated and largely ineffective.

“You are far more likely to find success if you take the time to curate your approach and personalize your outreach before trying to capitalize on leads,” Ryan said, which is more like choosing the perfect bait for the fish you want to catch and picking the right soil and conditions for specific seeds to thrive instead of mass planting, casting and hoping for results.

CJ Fritz, a sales development representative at StackHawk, agrees. It’s more about the research going into a pitch than simply sending a pitch itself, Fritz explained.

“Showing a prospect that you’ve done the work to understand their background and their company demonstrates that you value them,” Fritz said. “It also helps prospects recognize why it would be worth their time to speak to you.”

There are other secrets to prospecting effectively. That’s why Built In Colorado caught up with both of these salespeople to learn the do’s and don’ts.

 

Sam Ryan
Business Development Manager

What they do: OTA Insight, a cloud-based data intelligence platform, is on a mission to help the hospitality industry visualize and leverage its data.

 

When it comes to prospecting, what actions have you found to be critical to success?

Sometimes when you are trying to take yourself to the next level as a salesperson, it is more a matter of returning to the basics than it is about anything else. Generally speaking, our customers (hotels) are stretched quite thin and remain understaffed as a consequence of COVID-19’s impact on the hospitality industry, so our customers are already wearing multiple hats and have little free time to do anything but their job. Because of this, it can be challenging to get our customers on the phone at all, let alone be able to get them on the phone promptly or have them willing to take on a demo or close a sale. So we always have to be mindful of what we can do to ensure we are given the time of day eventually, even if we don’t necessarily get it right this second.

Routine and personalized follow-ups can help to maintain the interest of a potential customer and keep them warm. Additionally, increasing the total number of touchpoints can ensure our message is committed to memory. Ultimately, exercising patience can ensure that when the time finally comes and our customer has those extra 15 minutes to think about how they could upgrade their technology stack, we are ready to fill that need with a pitch.
 

Whats an underrated technique or strategy that you've found to be really effective in sales prospecting? Has your team invested in any new or emerging technologies that have helped improve sales prospecting?

One technique that’s at the core of securing a sale but can be overlooked is cultivating relationships. I always try to keep in mind that on the other end of the phone, there is another human being with a unique set of problems, desires and pain points that they would love to have addressed, fulfilled or relieved. Taking the time to slowly build your relationship with the customer and make them feel comfortable, heard and understood will make them more likely to open up about the things that are troubling them in their current role or business reality. Once you understand their needs at a deeper level, you will be able to serve them in another capacity: as a consultant. 

One technique that’s at the core of securing a sale but can be overlooked is cultivating relationships.’’

 

When you are selling technologies with a solutions-based approach, you should also take advantage of the fact that you are a consultant that is helping the customer improve their processes and outcomes alike. It is a win-win scenario — I make a sale, and you improve your bottom line. When you focus on the relationship, you are able to develop trust and eventually understand their needs. And when you understand their needs, you can provide a solution to those needs through a sale.

 

Whats an overrated technique or strategy that youve found to actually be ineffective?

One mistake I see a lot of salespeople make is not being meticulous about which leads they choose to focus on. When you are selling technologies like our software, you are far more likely to find success if you take the time to curate your approach and personalize your outreach before trying to capitalize on leads. For example, if your marketing team gives you 50 leads on a given day, would it be preferable to copy and paste the same generic email to all 50 leads and take a sort of “brute force” approach? Or would it be better to curate that message to 10 leads to fit the individual customer’s situation, like referencing their recent revenues, comparing them to a similar size and style of hotel and then providing a case study and metrics that show how a hotel similar to theirs was able to benefit from our products? 

Sometimes it can be difficult not to choose the brute force approach because we, as salespeople, want so badly to maximize our output, but when you do this you lose a lot of the personal touch that actually grabs the attention of a customer and leads them to email you back or return your call. Being detail-oriented and intelligent about your approach is a more lucrative technique than mindlessly reaching out to anybody and everybody without a coherent plan in place.

 

CJ Fritz
Sales Development Representative

What they do: StackHawk, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup, helps engineers find and fix application security bugs in CI/CD before they hit production.

 

When it comes to prospecting, what actions have you found to be critical to success?

When doing outbound sales, potential customers are likely unfamiliar with you and your company. Consequently, I’ve found that consistency and research are two of the most critical aspects of overcoming this barrier and being successful. You have to be consistent and intentional to earn a response, but more tactful than simply sending repeated messages. Finding the balance between being consistent and not being overbearing is key.

Second, research is an integral part of prospecting because potential clients have not explicitly asked to be contacted. Showing a prospect that you’ve done the work to understand their background and their company demonstrates that you value them. It also helps prospects recognize why it would be worth their time to speak to you. Further, thorough research will help you understand why your product or service would be beneficial to them — and will allow you to create specific and effective messages.

 

Whats an underrated technique or strategy that youve found to be really effective in sales prospecting? 

As a caveat, it’s important to understand that each industry has unique prospects that prefer particular kinds of communication, and therefore require different prospecting strategies. I have found voice messages on LinkedIn to be an underrated yet effective technique. Emails and messages often feel impersonal, especially if they’re written with “sales-y” language. In contrast, voice messages are personal, thoughtful and they humanize you in a way that written messages can’t. I’ve used this strategy in the past when I’ve contacted a prospect but didn’t receive a response. This creates the opportunity for me to tell them, based on my research, specific reasons why StackHawk would be a good fit.

All in all, I think about prospecting as more of a philosophy of honesty as opposed to a toolbox of tactics.’’

 

In terms of new technologies or strategies, our sales team has started working with a list of companies that call out some of the most important things that StackHawk solves or provides value with, such as companies that work with APIs or companies trying to automate processes in CI/CD. This helps us find and target the right people, primarily engineers, at the right accounts who would legitimately get the most value out of StackHawk.

 

Whats an overrated technique or strategy that youve found to actually be ineffective?

Acting like you know a prospect personally. For example, using language on a cold call like, “Hey, how’ve you been?” insinuates that you have a pre-existing relationship, which you don’t. This approach does not start the conversation on a level of trust and can appear to be sketchy or suspicious.

Authenticity and transparency are critical to successful prospecting, so I prefer to directly admit that we don’t know each other and state the reasons why I’m calling. By being upfront about the fact that you’re a salesperson and showing that you’ve researched why your product would benefit them, you create trust and build credibility instead of masking your intentions. All in all, I think about prospecting as more of a philosophy of honesty as opposed to a toolbox of tactics.

 

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