Our CEO might not agree with me on this, but I think that sales and wars have a lot in common between them.
Wars are won in the general’s tent—while the best sales strategies are born in the war room. In both sales and wars, the best opportunities are right there in the midst of all the chaos. Both fronts are not ideal for people who take “no” or accept defeat too easily.
And in both situations, you can’t stop until the job is done.
The only difference between the two is that wars are fought against external enemies—while in sales, the enemy lives within our minds. In my 7+ years of experience as a sales professional, I have come to realize that salespeople’s biggest enemies are our imposter syndrome and the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that comes with it.
Most sales development reps (SDRs) I know face the same cycle of emotions that a new army recruit faces before an active duty deployment. They have astronomical quotas for booking meetings, are tasked with talking to complete strangers who they have to convince, and have tight deadlines hanging over their heads like a dagger.
I know how challenging prospecting for new customers is because I have been going through the same jitters for several years now—day in and day out.
The good news is—it does get better with practice and time. If you are a newbie SDR or someone who’s struggling to book more meetings with customers—don’t fret, it’s just a phase.
After a couple of years of working as an SDR, I have recently moved to the role of an account executive (AE) in Avoma, but I don’t sit on my laurels and expect SDRs to hand out all the leads that I need to meet my quotas. I apply many of the prospecting techniques that I learned during my SDR years to improve the sales discovery and demo processes.
In this post, allow me to share some of my learning along the way so that you can fatten your lead pipeline with high-value prospects who can’t wait to get a demo of your product.
With that—strap your boots, saddle up, and pack a gun because you are about to shoot down the demons that have been stopping you from finding your ideal prospects.
Research each prospect as deeply as possible
Most SDRs mistakenly believe that their job is just to find as many prospects as possible and pass them on to the AEs. Researching a prospect doesn’t naturally feature in their minds because it’s the AEs’ job to figure things out in detail. And nothing in prospecting is further from the truth.
You see, there are three main ingredients to booking more meetings with the ideal prospect:
- Not being afraid to pick up the phone
- Personalizing your outreach with relevance
- Becoming a pro at handling objections
And guess what weaves all of these three things together? Extensive research about the prospect. Research is the first step to an SDR workflow without which, it feels like shooting arrows in the dark.
Researching your prospects helps you get over your cold call heebie-jeebies. It allows you to familiarize yourself with prospects you have never talked to before and gives you the confidence to speak to them with ease.
Research builds relevance. What’s the point of getting a ton of cold leads in your pipeline if most of them are going to say no to your product after the demo? Looking up your prospects (and their company) gives you good insights that you can leverage in your outreach to connect with them.
Becoming an expert researcher helps you become a pro in objection handling. Good research lets you understand your prospects (and their problems) better, pitch your solution differently in the competitive landscape, and answer your prospects’ skepticism with hard data.
Researching both a prospect and their company before reaching out to them helps you find any triggers or priorities they might have so that you can tailor your pitch to get their attention.
The significance of researching is double when you are reaching out to a closed lost opportunity. For instance, we at Avoma review previous calls with a closed lost prospect to understand what went wrong during the earlier interaction and top it up with additional research to understand what could make them click.
Analyzing the previous calls not only helps us revive old prospect conversations and turn them into potential leads but also gives us opportunities to see patterns in our outreach communication (and the customer behavior) and refine our SDR strategy.
Of course, the AEs will also carry out their own research about the prospect as part of their pre-call sales routine. But SDRs are the foot soldiers in the sales team—so it’s your responsibility to initiate the research from day one.
Personalize your outreach, but be relevant
Personalization is a competitive advantage in sales and all other go-to-market (GTM) functions. It especially works like a charm for SDR because we are trying to reach out to strangers who don’t even know you or your product.
The internet is a noisy place and every prospect you reach out to probably hears from a dozen of sales reps every day trying to pitch them something or the other. A well-crafted pitch tailored to a prospect’s liking helps you break through the noise and gets them to sign up for your product trial/demo.
Forget sales outreach, most B2B brands these days tailor their product experiences to their buyers’ tastes because more and more customers buy from brands that offer a personalized experience.
Good personalization is the reason why account-based selling works so well, businesses exceed their revenue goals, and tools like Clear bit are such a rage among sales teams. Over the last few years, personalization has come a long way from being a novel software capability to becoming an expected table stake.
But most of us have started taking personalization for granted—and that’s where personalization fails. For instance, some automation tools limit the scope of personalization to pick up a customer’s first and last name. That’s not the kind of personalization I recommend you to apply to your prospecting.
In sales, personalization is all about being relevant. Customizing your outreach with relevance ties back to the point about researching your prospect. With so many great tools for prospecting at a sales rep’s disposal these days, almost everyone can figure out a customer’s basic details such as their name, email, company name, industry, etc. But making your prospects believe that your product can save their time and money—that’s going the extra mile to tailor your sales interaction.
Understand your prospects, their motivations, their company background, their pain points, and offer your solution as a natural fit in their lives. That’s a much better way to personalize your outreach than crafting your pitch to greet your prospect as “Jane” or “Joe” in your cold call script.
My suggestion: don’t sacrifice relevance for the sake of personalization. Personally, I would be more inclined to respond to one relevant LinkedIn message over 10 hyper-personalized emails—if the latter doesn’t promise me anything about solving one of my problems. I’m sure you would do the same.
Craft a near-perfect sales pitch
I say “near-perfect” because there’s no such thing as a perfect pitch. A sales pitch that works wonders for nine prospects usually fails with the tenth prospect because pitches are different strokes for different folks.
It’s even more challenging for SDRs because we have a small window of opportunity to crisply communicate to a prospect how our solution can help them. Most of us usually have less than a minute to deliver what we call the “elevator pitch” to quickly tell the prospect about who we are, what our product or service does, and how it will benefit them.
And unless you have a silver tongue (or have extensively researched your prospect), the answer is usually “I’m busy right now,” “who gave you my number?” or “Thanks, but I don’t need it.”
By now, I’d be preaching to the choir if I said researching makes your prospecting so much better. But it’s a fact that’s worth repeating over and over, especially when you look at data that complements it—a LinkedIn survey done a few years ago found that 52% of people respond positively to a personalized sales pitch based on research.
Apart from researching your prospect inside-out, there are two essential ingredients to a great sales pitch:
1. Communicating your product’s value proposition
2. Map it to your customer’s pain points
When you incorporate these two ingredients into your sales pitch, you get prospects to pay attention to what you are saying. Someone calling me out of the blue to say that there exists a solution that can help me save thousands—if not millions—of dollars? That would surely perk up my ears.
Value prop statements are highlights about your product that appeals to your prospects. For example, you have to deliver a clear and simple pitch that explains what your product can do for a prospect in 1–2 lines, such as:
Avoma helps customer-facing teams like yours analyze customer conversations and derive actionable insights out of each of them.
Value prop statements are free from jargon, buzzwords, or anything that the prospect might have difficulty processing. The point of value prop statements is to get your prospects’ attention so that you can intrigue them—not confuse them.
If you can map your product’s value prop to solving your prospects’ pain points—you can strike gold! But how can you pull it off? Let’s discuss it in the next section.
Don’t feature-bomb your prospects
To understand an idea better, sometimes we have to contrast it against an opposite idea. In this case, we first need to understand what not to do in our sales pitch to understand how to effectively map your product’s value prop to a prospect’s problems.
The worst thing you can do in your sales pitch—or any sales conversation in general—is to dump a list of features that your product offers. It’s an absolutely bad idea to list out all of the product features to prospects in a cold outreach—especially without establishing their relevance in their business environment.
Trust me, nobody is interested in hearing what your product can do, how affordable it is, or how impressive its integrations are. Customers are interested in knowing what a product can do for them, not what it can do in general.
Feature-bombing your sales pitch is like mentioning all the ingredients you would need in a recipe without saying what is it you are cooking. It’s random and doesn’t interest the prospect because they don’t know what to expect. But mentioning all the ingredients makes sense after you tell them that you can make a delicious apple pie—assuming they like apple pies.
The more you know about the prospect, the better your chances of tailoring your sales pitch to their existing needs—instead of overwhelming them with all the features in your product. Once again, researching your prospects beforehand lets you map your product’s value prop to what prospects need.
One smart way to marry your product’s benefits to the prospects’ pain points is to translate the features into benefits that they will find useful in their daily lives. For example, we at Avoma don’t tell our prospects that the product can help them record and transcribe calls.
We first try to establish which function they belong to (e.g., sales, customer success, product) and what might be the existing issues in their processes (e.g., not being able to coach new reps efficiently, losing customer context during account handoff from sales, or not having a direct feedback loop with customers).
We then incorporate important data points in our sales pitch while reaching out to prospects to make sure it speaks to them personally. Here’s an example of a cold email I recently sent to a Director of Sales in a B2B SaaS company in Maryland:
Did you notice how the above script combines everything that we have talked about so far: good research on the prospect and the company, a personal touch, and a value prop that ties directly to the prospect’s business challenges?
The only thing that’s missing from the picture is the mention of features—actually, there’s no mention of Avoma throughout the email copy. That’s intentional. The prospects are smart enough to figure that out on their own and if what I’m offering is of high relevance to them, they will also do their own homework before responding.
And I’m happy to report that I was able to set up a meeting with the prospect after he responded to my email. 🙂
There’s one more way to notch up the effectiveness of your sales outreach, i.e. being multi-pronged in your outreach efforts.
Be multi-threaded in your outreach
It’s important to multi-thread when reaching out to new customers to make sure you are leaving no stone unturned in your prospecting effort. This means strategically reaching out to a prospect over email, phone, and LinkedIn—most preferably in a paced-out manner.
Sometimes, it requires you to reach out to multiple people in an account at once—or in a consecutive order if you don’t get lucky with the first few ones. B2B customers seldom make major buying decisions alone; rather, they orchestrate the evaluation and buying process across different individuals and departments.
So assume that there are multiple decision-makers on the buyers’ side and devise a multi-threaded strategy to connect with all of them in your outreach plan.
Being multi-threaded helps you stay persistent across all channels while setting you apart from your competition. For instance, using LinkedIn videos has been a game-changer for me in my cold outreach efforts. I don’t see a lot of SDRs working for rival brands leveraging LinkedIn videos as efficiently—which gives me an edge over them.
Here’s how I use LinkedIn videos: after connecting with a prospect on LinkedIn for the first time, I record a less-than-a-minute-long video within LinkedIn Messaging (you can find the video icon on the top-right of a message thread) introducing myself and explaining why I connected with them. I also tailor my pitch to their unique requirements to build relevance.
Leveraging LinkedIn consistently over the years has improved my prospecting outcomes and helped me book a lot of meetings. Yes, it’s hard if you have never done it before. But you will get a hang of it in no time if you apply this technique to a few prospects.
The point is, figure out ways to do whatever it takes to get a prospect’s attention. Either increase the surface area of your prospecting by multi-threading your outreach across different channels and individuals or find unconventional ways to draw your client’s attention.
If video isn’t your thing, perhaps you can build a rapport with them by frequently engaging with them on their LinkedIn posts or referencing a high pain point in your outreach. No idea is too wild in sales prospecting—just ask Jeremiah Griffin (Head of Sales at The Sales Rebellion) who sent crumpled letters written by his kid to C-suite execs to get them to respond to him.
What if they slam the door on your face?
Two words—move on.
Rejection is part and parcel of a salesperson’s professional life. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you get turned down back to back by prospects—rejection happens to the best of us and you have to grow a thick skin if you want to be a pro at sales.
If you are easily affected by prospecting hanging up on you or not replying to your well-crafted emails, you’re taking yourself too seriously. You can be the best salesperson in your company and you still will be rejected left and right by prospects for reasons that are outside of your control.
For example, there are a number of reasons why a prospect might turn you down such as:
- The timing is not right
- They can’t afford your product
- They are not the right person to talk to
- They are already using a similar product
It’s important to remember that your job as a sales rep is not to sell to anyone and everyone—that’s a recipe for failure. Your job is to find customers who genuinely need a product that can improve their lives and who are an ideal fit for your product.
If a prospect has concerns about using your solution, perhaps you can apply one of the many objection handling techniques to convince them otherwise and find a common ground. But if a prospect tells you flat out “no”—it’s important to respectfully distance yourself from them and move on with other potential customers in your pipeline.
I have had plenty of prospects reject my pitch even when I had the best outreach strategy. Looking back, I realize that most of them didn’t work out for a good reason—they weren’t the ideal buyers for our brand and we both saved ourselves a lot of time and headache by not getting into a messy arrangement.
Bad-fit customers are a liability to you and your business. It’s best to dodge them in your prospecting and focus on attracting the right buyer persona for your product. But when you find them, hold them dear to your heart.
Pick up the right gauntlet to ace your prospecting game
Parting thoughts: if you are not listening to and reviewing your customer calls, you are stagnating your potential as an SDR. A prospecting process that’s left unexamined routinely is not worth it at all.
How else are you going to fill the gaps in your current prospecting techniques? Sales is an ever-changing landscape and the only thing that can help you stay ahead in the game is looking back and improving your performance.
To that end, Avoma is one of the best tools in any sales rep’s arsenal. I use Avoma to go back and listen to cold calls I have made previously (or repeat sometimes) to see how I could have handled the conversation.
Avoma integrates with several different diallers which means it automatically records and transcribes every sales call in the background while you are focused on having a meaningful conversation with the customer.
Since you have several prospecting and discovery calls scheduled every day, you won’t be able to remember everything that the prospects say in those calls. But Avoma does; it picks up critical details from the transcript such as any mention of the competitor, team size, the tools they are using currently, and action items that you can review from the summary Notes—without having to go through the entire transcript.
In addition, the notes automatically get updated in your CRM without you having to do it manually.
If you are serious about booking more client meetings, I hope applying the tips I shared above can help you reach your quotas and unlock potential deal opportunities. If you need help or have any questions about anything in this post, reach out to me on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to chat about it.