The current state of prospecting is horrendous for various reasons and experts debate whether phone prospecting is dead or not (hint: it’s not). Here’s what we’ve observed about prospecting today:
- Poorly implemented prospecting automation is rampant on LinkedIn now, as is “Bait & Pitch,” where sellers innocently ask to connect and immediately send a seller-centric product pitch.
- CEOs and senior sales leaders say they want to increase new account acquisition but report that they lack confidence in their sales force’s ability to generate leads.
- B2B buyers consistently report dissatisfaction with seller behavior.
- The majority of Millennial B2B buyers expressed a strong preference for self-service and avoiding sellers altogether.
- There is a growing trend among buyers to wait until they have completed their own research or even selected a solution before engaging with a sales rep.
What does this all add up to? Trust is low from buyers and they don’t think sellers bring insights to the table. Sales leaders want to generate more new business, yet buyers are unimpressed. This creates quite a conundrum for sales leaders today, doesn’t it?
Sales remain the lifeblood of organizations, yet “Nothing happens until somebody sells something” needs to evolve to “Nothing happens until somebody buys something.”
That means we need to place more focus on e-commerce, inbound marketing, an appropriate mix of inside/outside sales and inbound/outbound approaches in demand generation, and supporting your buyers’ preferences (which may or may not always reflect what I shared above – study your market and buyers).
Effective Sales Prospecting Requires a Buyer’s Perspective
In many cases, sales organization structures will need to change. There is little doubt that there will be a shift away from seller involvement in pure transactional purchases or when buyers are proactively attempting to solve technical problems with well-known solutions.
On the consultative side of things, elite sales pros often introduce insights and ideas to buyers that they hadn’t thought of yet. In addition, when solving complex problems or adaptive problems (issues without a known solution), a consultative salesperson and their SME support teams are often required.
If these sales reps are buyer-centric, trustworthy, and can deliver value from their buyers’ perspective, they will thrive and be perceived by clients as necessary and invaluable trusted advisors and partners.
So, prospecting is not going away for the foreseeable future, and there are use cases in both transactional and consultative situations. It’s more important than ever that those who are tasked with prospecting achieve mastery with a buyer-centric sales methodology.
Shift to a Problem-Focused Approach
We recommend a full shift to buyer-centric selling for all sales motions, and prospecting is no different. How does that look?
- It’s a problem-focused approach versus a product-centric approach.
- It’s not about you or your company, but about your buyers and what they are trying to accomplish.
- It’s about the outcomes your buyers hope to achieve and how you have helped others achieve them.
- It’s about communicating value from your buyers’ perspective.
- It’s respectful, authentic, and permission-based, rather than forceful and tone-deaf.
In Modern Sales Foundations™, we teach skills and models that you will find helpful to improve your sales effectiveness through better prospecting:
- The Value Stack filled with AIR
- The four Value Drivers
- The POSE Value Story
Let’s explore these key models and how they can make a significant difference in prospecting success.
The Value Stack, Filled with AIR
The Value Stack is a helpful concept to begin to see things from your buyers’ perspective. Decision Thresholds are the various decisions that your buyers make throughout their buying journey with you. The thresholds in the following example may not be exactly right for your company, but these are some common ones.
The starting point is the Engagement Threshold, and that’s the first one to cross when you are prospecting. The Purchase Threshold is the decision to buy from you. After that, it shifts to the Loyalty Threshold (will they stay with you?).
Various factors raise or lower the height of the thresholds. For example, a budget freeze may set the bar out of reach. A new round of Series C funding may lower the threshold (making it easier to reach). Other internal and external factors influence the height of the thresholds, as well.
The Value Stack is filled with AIR. (Go ahead… you can make jokes about hot air; just because this is serious stuff doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, too!).
AIR stands for:
Awareness – This is awareness of you, your company, your perceived value, the impression you make, and eventually, an awareness of your solutions when that matters.
Interest – This is interest in speaking with you, in your company, but ultimately fueled by interest in how you can solve a problem or enable an opportunity. You do that through your solutions, so eventually, they may have an interest in your products and services, but that will come after their interest in what your products or services might do for them.
Relationship – This is built on the way you behave and the trust and respect you earn by being recognized as someone who has your buyers’ best interest at heart and as someone with good intentions and ethics.
If you hope to reach the Engagement Threshold, you will need to pump up your Value Stack with AIR. The amount of AIR needed to engage is less than what will be needed to meet subsequent thresholds, especially the Purchase Threshold, but you will definitely need to generate enough credibility and interest to earn an appointment to explore further.
The Four Value Drivers
The “I” or Interest in AIR is built with value, from the buyers’ perspective. Value is like beauty; it’s in the eye of the beholder. We classify value in the following four categories, or Value Drivers:
Examples: Revenue, gross margin, net profit, EBITDA, ROI, defect rate, sales velocity
Examples: Customer experience, employee experience, policies, processes, practices
Examples: Purpose, principles, values, image, branding, reputation, social responsibility
Examples: Individual achievement, recognition, reputation, order, power or political capital, belonging
Until you get to know your prospective buyer, you may not have a clear sense of what they value. You may be able to glean some of this from research, but in many cases, you will need to make some initial, calculated assumptions based on their role or your company’s buyer persona research.
The main idea behind The Value Stack and The Value Drivers, related to prospecting, is to begin personalizing your messaging, to be as relevant as possible, resonate with your prospect, and to pump up your Value Stack with AIR (especially interest, at first), to set a meeting to explore further.
The POSE Value Story
The POSE Value Story format is how you translate all of the above into a prospecting approach with far higher effectiveness. POSE is an acronym for:
Problem: What problem do you solve for buyers like the one you are contacting?
Outcome: What outcomes have you helped those similar buyers achieve?
Solution: Very briefly (not a product-pitch or feature-dump), which solution enabled those outcomes?
Explore: Asking if this would be valuable enough to explore further.
POSE Value Stories can be built around any problem you solve. Since some solutions address multiple problems, you can build multiple Value Stories per product or service. Since outcomes may vary by industry or client type, you can have more than one version of a story as well.
Creating a library of stories will allow you to select (and further personalize) the most relevant one for the situation. While there is more work involved to develop them, POSE Value Stories are so much more impactful and effective than a standard value proposition or elevator pitch. When you work in the right Value Drivers, they become even more impactful.
POSE Value Stories are also omnichannel; They can be used for email, LinkedIn InMail or Messages, voicemail, text, video prospecting, or phone calls. You can use them in any prospecting sequence that you build. To further enhance your effectiveness of live conversations by doing, the following:
- Personalize the story based on your research
- Make it conversational
- Add confirming questions along the way
For example, after sharing one of the problems you solve, check to see if that problem resonates. If not, you can check on a different problem or ask what they are working on or trying to improve.
There’s no doubt that prospecting is difficult work. We haven’t even addressed navigating disinterest or resolving concerns, both of which you are likely to face. We’ll address those in a separate post soon. I hope you have gotten value out of The Value Stack filled with AIR, the four Value Drivers, and how they weave together with well-crafted POSE Value Stories.
If you prepare some prospecting approaches using the principles in this post, practice until you can deliver them well, and apply them consistently, you will improve your prospecting results. Ready for the challenge? I’d love to hear from you.
This article’s sales methods come from SPARXiQ’s Modern Sales Foundations™ course. MSF offers a full-cycle sales methodology, covering prospecting, opportunity management, and strategic account management. It’s based on what elite sales producers do differently to get radically better results than others. For more information, visit the link below.
Modern Sales Foundations
Use a buyer-centric approach to improve sales results.
What it takes for salespeople to deliver value has changed significantly as the modern buying process has evolved. Modern Sales Foundations™ (MSF) is an end-to-end sales training program that teaches sellers the buyer-centric strategies and approaches needed to excel in today’s marketplace.