pickaxeIn early 2015, memoryBlue gave me the opportunity to learn some of the best practices in the inside sales community while working with a multitude of software companies. These firms had specialties that ranged from cybersecurity software for banks to asset management platforms for electric utilities. If you’re an experienced sales professional looking to differentiate yourself from the competition, there are a few prospecting principles I’ve used to propel my sales career that you may find worthwhile.

Within my first few days at memoryBlue, I was immersed in learning the essentials of solution selling, an essential skill for sales professionals (and a skill I had never been trained on during my first year in inside sales, prior to joining memoryBlue). After a few months of hitting quota thanks to my new lead generation foundation, I started following popular sales industry experts such as Jill Konrath, Trish Bertuzzi, and Jill Rowley.

Absorbing this powerful mix of memoryBlue training and sales industry best practices has led me to three major prospecting principles that I would encourage my peers to master, and be inspired by, in the coming year.

#1: Find problems instead of solving them

Finding problems your prospects were unaware of before is exponentially more valuable than helping them solve ones they are already aware of. One of the best techniques I use to achieve this is an “a la carte” statement where I mention 2-3 challenges that I’ve noticed from other prospects.

Jill Konrath’s interview with Daniel Pink on his critically acclaimed book — “To Sell is Human” — raises the importance of problem-finding versus problem-solving. Pink’s take is that prospects are already well-informed, so if they know what their problem is, then they can probably find the solution without you.

Provide Value. Provoke Thought.

If you can share insights from similar companies that your prospects haven’t heard of before, that’s valuable and thought-provoking. One way to go about that as a sales professional is taking notes during meeting calls and identifying problems that companies were blindsided by. Take those notes and incorporate them into your conversations to get your prospects to think BIG.

And then take it a step further. Many SDRs don’t take time to build rapport with prospects, a feat that is difficult to accomplish with that initial conversation. It is a crucial way to differentiate yourself – and a great way to do it is through storytelling.

Craft a Story. Give Them a Reason To Listen.

Bestselling author Michael Bosworth (“Solution Selling”), teams up with Ben Zoldan to explain the science of selling through emotional connection and storytelling. If you can tell a story that’s going to help you build rapport with a prospect AND help them grow their business by finding problems they were unaware of, you are going to significantly increase your chances of growing revenue.

Here is a visual look at how to craft a powerful story:

Source: “What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story”

#2: Be Specific, Relevant, and Different

These three concepts may appear to be multiple ideas on the surface, but they’re all related. A smart sales professional should aim to present a more targeted value proposition for prospects based on that individuals’ role in the company (and what that role likely means for their interests).

I did a presentation on emotional intelligence to my colleagues not long ago. This is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, Inc., has two key thoughts on how to display emotional intelligence to rank in the top .1% of SDRs. I’ve found both to be extremely useful.

Be Different and Relevant

Your typical prospect is receiving more emails, more phone calls, and more content than ever. When you grab their attention, your messaging has to convince them to listen to you. Here’s what Trish indicates an average sales message looks like:

“Hi John, this is (Your Name) with SomeSoft. I hope you’re doing well. I saw that you had downloaded some information on our tool a while back. I’d be happy to take you through a high-level overview of our solution. What does your schedule look like this week?“

This kind of messaging could be used with anybody because it is generic. In order to be relevant, sharing insights around previously unknown or unacknowledged pain from similar companies is a very effective technique. You may even incorporate information from materials you found online about the prospect’s company into this approach. Think about different ways of grabbing their attention.

In order to be relevant, sharing insights around previously unknown or unacknowledged pain from similar companies is a very effective technique.

Here’s what a more relevant approach might look like:

“Hi John. Typically when I speak to individuals in your position, they are well-aware of their needs to improve their lead generation efforts. However, of the hundreds of VPs of Sales I interact with, more often than not they are blindsided by one of the following:

  1. Automating the sales operation process
  2. Scheduling introductory meetings for sales executives
  3. Penetrating a new target market

Do any of those issues resonate with your situation? memoryBlue has helped Company A and Company B streamline their inside sales efforts. I have a few insights that might work for you.”

Be Specific or Be Ignored

Similar to trial attorneys, sales professionals spend time thinking what their line of questioning will look like. One of the most important parts is your call-to-action at the end.

I’ve often encountered vague and broad call-to-actions that lead prospects to simply ignore your message. As Trish recommends: craft small and specific call-to-actions to increase your chances of getting a response. The following are a couple of direct excerpts from Trish’s insights on sales development:

Strong calls-to-action:

“To receive your copy of the [insert very relevant topic] research, you can reach me at…”
“I don’t want to miss your call so my mobile number is…”

Weak calls-to-action:

“Hoping to set up a quick 30-minute intro call. Even 15 minutes would be great…”
“You downloaded our ebook and I wanted to see if you have any questions…”

#3: Ignore Social Selling at Your Own Risk

This is not the type of social selling you’re thinking about.

I’m not talking about connecting with prospects on LinkedIn or finding new ones on Twitter. I’m talking about the type of social selling that Jill Rowley explains in her post on CEB’s book “The Challenger Customer.” This book talks about the magic number 5.4, which is “the number of people now involved on the customer side in a typical B2B purchase.” That means there are at least five different, unique perspectives you can get within any given company.

Sales professionals generating prospect leads typically uncover just one stakeholder at a business and then move on to another organization. This method provides only one perspective to live by. Jill points out that the challenge isn’t about setting up a meeting with one prospect anymore. You want to be able to connect “all your prospective customers in one organization together in a way that allows them to achieve consensus around your specific offerings.”

Be Aware. Tailor Your Value Proposition.

Jill identifies the different customer types that exist, so we can be aware of which prospects we’re connecting with:

Source: Corporate Executive Board

This insightful book highlights a new type of sales professional – one that needs to be able to engage different types of stakeholders and share insights that are specific to each of them.

Prospecting Principles — Action Steps

With these three prospecting principles as your guide, you can become a better inside sales professional this year. Finding ways to build rapport, be specific, consider different perspectives, and share relevant insights are powerful strategies that can differentiate you from other sales professionals in the marketplace. By using these insights to your advantage, you bring more value to your prospects, your clients, and yourself.