Want to improve your outbound sales game? I offer you the following 7 simple – but difficult!- ways to get better instantly. Simple but difficult? That’s no contradiction. The following 7 tips are easy to follow. They are very very simple concepts. You could apply all of them in one day. Today. Right now.
Yet, they will seem difficult. Why? Because they run contrary to what most people do every day. As a SaaS marketing executive, I get four to five sales pitches a day and I know what turns me off and what piques my interest. While not everyone is like me, I am also sure I’m not the only one.
1. Do your homework
Sometimes I get on a call with a sales rep/biz dev… only to find out they know nothing about our company. Some other times they quote high-profile customers – that have nothing to do with us.
In one extreme case, a sales rep was pushing a product that directly competes with something that we sell. Did I listen to that rep? You bet I did! I got their price list, discounts and sales pitch… priceless research, for free and in half an hour!
That’s an extreme case, but it reflects a general problem: lack of care and research into the prospects you’re calling on. You might think outbound sales is all about numbers and hit-ratio, etc. I differ. It is about being relevant.
Another very common case is when people add me on LinkedIn. I see in their profile they’re in sales, and that they sell something that could potentially be relevant to me. Yet, they don’t even bother writing a small note. With no intro, it is obvious you’re adding multiple people indiscriminately. Mass = untargeted. Untargeted = irrelevant.
Do this: Be relevant. Spend a little time researching your prospects before you call. A few minutes on LinkedIn and on their website will help you tailor your pitch on the fly. Prove your prospects that their business is valuable to you.
I’ve bought used cars in the past (the best value!) and I didn’t have a bad experience. No one likes dealing with the stereotypical “Used Car Salesman”, but sometimes I feel I’m talking to one.
There are just some tactics that will just not work with most senior folks you call on:
- Pretending you know my CEO (yep, people have tried that!).
- Pretending (threatening!) that if I don’t buy today, you can’t guarantee I’ll ever be able to buy from you. Trust me… I know ad inventory is not exactly in short supply!
- Pretending you know what my needs are just because you just sold a deal to one of my remote competitors. We might compete, yet our needs are usually completely different.
There is a common thread there: pretending.
Do this: Don’t pretend you know everything about your targets. Admit what you don’t know. Be upfront, be honest and earn your prospect’s trust. Leave the bluffing for poker night with your friends. Most people will see right through it.
Usually, the first sales approach happens over email. You’d be surprised to know most sales-emails are almost-identical. And boring. Sometimes marketing (who often craft the emails that go out) thinks they should use big words when “selling high”. And that leads to obfuscated language. From time to time I’ll get an email and I am not able to tell what it is exactly that they are selling! That is just a missed opportunity.
Don’t waste space in an email by explaining how many rounds of capital and from what VC’s you’ve raised. “Enterprise Credibility” matters only when making a long-term commitment to an unproven technology in a critical area, often infrastructure. In some cases that is something we look at. For the most part, at least for me, it is really not that important.
Do this: Pique my interest and try to move the conversation forward. If I have trouble reading your email or understanding what it is that you’re trying to sell me, chances are I’m not going to buy.
Most sales teams are taught to follow a certain process and to do deals in one particular way. That is good, it provides some guidance to younger people with less experience in sales and provides a good road map for them.
However, often that fails to take into account how the customer wants to do things. That includes when is the right time for what conversation, whether we discuss specific items of your offering right now or down the road, whether I share certain items about our business or not.
Do this: Adapt to how your prospects want to do business. Of course, that doesn’t mean being a pushover. Most likely, you will have to alter the way you “usually” sell. And of course, recognize when it is not the right prospect.
In sales, and particularly in outbound sales, the number of prospects you close (or that you take to the next stage) will be relatively low. Most people will say no – or you might not even hear back from them.
While a NO at the very first stages of prospecting might be disappointing, it provides some focus, clarity and allows you to move-on to the next company in your list.
Usually, I see three reactions when I say, “Thanks, but not interested in this”:
- I hear nothing back.
- I get a polite, “If anything changes, I’m here”
- They get mad – really mad. This happens more often that you’d think!
Do this: Keep in mind that you’re looking to sell now or in the future. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot so easily, and don’t hurt your long-term prospects for a short-term gain. Leave a good impression on your prospects even if your product/service was not a fit, it was the wrong time, etc. You never know!
Like most SaaS companies, we publish our prices in our site. In a small percentage of the cases, bigger customers might need a custom plan, and we’re happy to accommodate when we can. But prices are not a secret.
And they shouldn’t be. Why some companies and salespeople are so reticent to be upfront with their pricing -even when I directly ask- still baffles me.
Here’s a true story about the unintended consequences of being so secretive with pricing:
A few weeks ago a sale rep for another SaaS company reached out. Product seemed interesting. It wasn’t a high-priority need for us – but I could’ve been sold on it. I just asked – give me an idea of the pricing. Most times I don’t want an exact quote, just a range. The sales rep refused. She explained that the pricing was too complex and that I’d need to hop on a call to be able to understand it.
My policy is – no pricing, no interest and no call. So we left things there
Do this: When your prospect asks about pricing, be straightforward. If there’s no set price list, give a range – explain what factors drive pricing. Even better: have an honest conversation inside your company about why you don’t publish your pricing. Get the pricing questions out of the way quickly so you can instead focus on value.
By far, one of the biggest mistakes I see bizdev / sales reps make when they reach out to me is… they fail to realize I’ve spoken with someone at their company before. When a sales rep does that, the entire company doesn’t look good. Most importantly – it’s a missed opportunity to continue the conversation wherever we left off, or address whatever concerns, or whatever reason why we ended up not doing business together. That’s not a good way to build a relationship with your prospects.
Do this: Learn to use your CRM, and to be able to see past conversations other people may have had with your prospect. You can even share emails you’ve exchanged with prospects with your team (security controls and all).