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Today, most of what I hear from sales people and executives is they are opportunity starved. They are all desperate to find more qualified opportunities. Prospecting and lead gen have become the dominant issues in many sales organizations.

There are, of course, the ongoing challenges of making sales people understand they must prospect! Clearly, lead gen programs aren’t producing enough and it is irresponsible for sales people not to prospect. But this post is not about getting people to prospect. I want to address the issue of how we are prospecting. We face all sorts of challenges in reaching and connecting in those first conversations:

  1. Our customers are crazy busy and don’t have the time to talk to us.
  2. How do we stand out in the rapidly increasing volume and noise our customers are exposed to? My friend Martin Schmalenbach tracked the prospecting emails he received in a year (legitimate emails, not junk), it was 12,500. I think he actually responded to 2 of the emails (Less than 0.02% of the emails he received). We have others suggesting we need to be “living at 1000 dials a day.” But what does it look like on the prospect side as more of us are living at 1000 dials a day? I know from my point of view, I just don’t pick up the phone unless I know who is calling and I want to talk to that person. In the face of all this, how do we get our customer’s attention? Seems too often the answer is just up the volume. Perhaps we need to be thinking about living at 2000 dials a day…….
  3. Our customers not only don’t have the time to talk to us, they don’t want to talk to us. We constantly hear, “Sales people talk about what they want to talk about, they don’t talk about what I want to talk about, They don’t understand me and my business, They waste my time (back to 1 again)!!”

Given that it’s so difficult to capture our prospects’ attention in that first contact, it seems critical that we create the very best first impressions for those prospects we manage to reach. We want to motivate them to continue the communication in some way. It’s our opportunity to capture the prospect’s interests and imagination. We want to set ourselves apart from all the other drivel they are subjected to, ideally, having them think, “There’s something different about this person, I want to learn more.”

But it seems all the things we do focus on squandering that opportunity.

  1. We focus on our product and how to pitch them, our first conversation ends up being what we are interested in, not what the customer is interested in.
  2. Our initial outreach is not personalized—even in the most basic ways, like “Dear Dave……” With all the “mail merge,” all the research tools available, if you haven’t even taken the time to know my name, why should I go any further? The emails that begin with “Hello….” or the calls that begin with, “May I speak to the person in charge….” (It’s always ironic, I answer the phone, “Hello, this is Dave Brock…..” Never once does someone respond, “Hi Dave,” of course their dialing system probably blocked them from hearing that.
  3. Our initial outreach is unresearched and ill prepared. Less than 10% of the time, when I pose the question, “Do you know who I am and what my company does,” can someone respond in an informed manner. Even those people following up on something I downloaded.
  4. We put our most inexperienced people in the roles of making those initial contacts and creating those first impressions. I feel horrible in my conversations with SDRs prospecting me. They don’t have enough knowledge or experience to be able to have a meaningful conversation with me. They want to connect me with someone who can. It’s not their fault! They are just doing what they have been trained to do and what they are measured on.

Since it is so difficult to get our prospects to respond to anything we do, why aren’t we doing everything we can to create the very best first impression we can? Why aren’t we putting our best feet forward in each attempt to engage a prospect.

Technology enables us to deeply segment and personalize each email we send, maximizing the relevance to the customer. Yet for some reason, both marketing and sales choose not to exploit the capabilities they are already paying for.

Why aren’t we putting aligning our “sales personas” with the “target prospect persona” in our prospecting call. It is unreasonable to expect our least experienced sales people and SDRs to have a high impact first conversation with a mid-level to C level executive in most calls. Why don’t we staff those calls with people who have experience in those types of conversations. Then why don’t we require those people to do a minimum amount of research, so they can talk to the customer about things the customer wants to talk about rather than what we want to talk about.

Ironically, when we create those great first impressions, more people want to talk to us. Then the number of outreaches we have to make to fill our pipelines declines. I don’t have to have 25 to 50 conversations a day to fill my pipeline, because the quality of the conversations I have, the level or targeting, the level of engagement I create means I have to have a far fewer number of conversations to make my number.

We all know the importance of first impressions. What are you doing to maximize the first impressions you create?

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