If you are a salesperson, this really is the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

The people you’re aiming to sell to are more connected and accessible, in many ways, than ever before. But they are also more distracted, and earning their attention is more difficult than ever. What can today’s sales professional do to stand out and get meaningful responses to sales outreach? In my experience, here is your core formula for success:

There is no formula: Abandon the idea that a single given approach or tactic is the best path to lead generation or a sale. In any business function that involves person-to-person interaction, the cookie-cutter approach is dead and gone. Do not let yourself think this way – sales prospecting is an investment, and the best sales pros diversify their approach.

Thoughtfully consider the need that corresponds with your offer: We get too hung up as professionals on the features and power of what we’re offering to businesses or consumers. We embrace our own offering and neglect to think carefully and primarily about the needs that correspond with what we’re selling. That need is the key to success.

From need to person-in-need: After you’ve identified the needs you can address – and I do mean you, individual salesperson, not just your company’s head of marketing – you can position your outreach for success. Find the people whose needs will match what you have to offer in the sincerest terms. By sincere, I mean you have thoughtfully studied these individuals to the best of your ability and are committed to not just selling to them, but to helping them as well.

Get creative: Develop the sales touchpoint that is right for a given prospect. That could be a cold call, an appointment at a conference, a thoughtful card, or an inventive, personalized mailer. Your first attempts may not stick, but if you’ve done your homework on what needs you can fulfill, you will eventually break through. Creativity involves some trial and error, and it often requires time. Don’t shy away from investment and even re-investment of resources.

Resist the urge to sell: After you’ve made that first contact, resist the urge to hard-sell. Keep focusing on needs, and think long-term. Sales cycles can last years. You may even enter into final negotiations or RFP, lose the opportunity, and have it come back later. Focusing on needs and being helpful over straight-sales often helps secure longer-lead opportunities, and impresses shorter-term prospects. I’m not saying don’t ever close – I’m saying be thoughtful.

Keep organized and add value: Maintain meticulous records of interactions and try to “predict” where your most important contacts are going next in terms of needs and business moves. Find non-sales-related reasons to reach out, offer suggestions or a compliment, and find the right time to make an offer. Overall – be more than a salesperson. Be a reliable and trusted resource.

Every sales organization and situation will be different, but over my career, these principles always apply. Think outside of the box, be aware of needs, be creative and thoughtful, and be resilient, and you’ll be on your way to sales success. It’s been working for me for a long time now.

A whole new Salesforce means a whole new way to sell. Learn more by downloading the free e-book.