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While we won’t say that the days of cold calling, auto-dialing, and sending mass emails are over, we will say that when you can personalize communications to your prospects, you stand a better chance of engaging with them.
Before you can get in the door with someone, you’ve got to get their attention. Nothing works better than a personal approach. That means you’re going to have do a little research before firing off an email or picking up the phone. The average office worker gets 121 emails a day. The open rate for B2B emails is just 21% and the click-through rate – taking an action – is hovering at about 2.5%. That means you’ve got to do something different than everybody else if you want to avoid the delete key.
Here we will present twenty best practices for personalizing both sales calls and emails:
8 Tips for Personalizing Sales Calls
1. Get to Know your Prospect
The more time you put into researching a prospect, the better chance you will get their attention. It’s never been easier to find information about them than now. Doing a quick Google search, finding their LinkedIn profile, or seeking them out on Facebook can reveal an incredible amount of data. So much information is available that you can run the risk of creeping them out if you go too far.
Finding a connection to someone you know can help crack the door open a bit. That leads us to…
There is nothing better than getting a referral from someone you both know to open the conversation. When you wrap up a job for someone and they’re happy about what you’ve done for them, ask if they know anyone else that would benefit from your service or product. If they give you a name, you can personalize that call or email by letting them know their friend suggested them.
If they reach out to their friend, she’ll likely give you a glowing review. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have felt comfortable give you a referral
3. Referrals, Part Two
Even better than getting the referral is to have your mutual connection make the call for you and barter the introduction. Even if they would otherwise hesitate to talk to you, they will feel somewhat obligated to take the call to avoid offending their friend.
4. Butter ‘Em Up
Flattery works. Everybody, it seems, likes to be told they are good at their job. Not only does it make your prospect feel good, but it gets them into an agreeable frame of mind. Positive, personal statements tend to lead the prospect to think of you more positively. It works even when the recipient knows you’re just buttering them up. That’s not me talking. It’s science. Research demonstrates that even insincere flattery makes a positive impression. Strange but true. While we’re not recommending that you make empty complements, we encourage you to find something the prospect or their company has been lauded for and bring it up in your conversation.
5. Find Common Ground
The same internet research can lead you to find common ground to establish a relationship. Do you eat at the same restaurant? Have similar tastes in music?
“I noticed from a LinkedIn update that you went on vacation to Hermosa Beach. My husband and I were thinking about taking the kids there this summer. What do you think?”
6. Know their Business
Knowing when to call can be just as important as what you say. You wouldn’t try to call a restaurant to sell them something in the middle of their lunch rush. The same goes for any business. Avoid their pressure times. On the flipside, a well-timed call can be effective. Knowing their business cycles will help you know when to call. If you’re selling advertising, for example, you can personalize the call – and get their attention – by knowing that their new product line launches two months from now.
Have we mentioned how easy it is to research somebody and learn quickly about them? The same goes for their business. If you don’t know, look it up first.
7. Stay “Fresh”
It’s hard to make a lot of sales calls and not sound like a robot. Even the hint of a “canned presentation” will likely cause a negative reaction and a quick exit. Have you gotten one of those cold calls? One where they talk so fast and throw out terms that don’t make sense to the average person just in the hope they’ll hit on something. Don’t be that guy.
Get yourself in the right frame of mind to call, do your research first, and plan how you are going to create a personal connection with someone – even if they are a stranger.
8. Take Notes and Follow Up
Have a system to capture the any intelligence you get during the call. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but don’t trust your memory. Grab a notebook and write down anything that comes up in the call that you can use to personalize the next contact. Don’t use the computer to type while you talk. Prospects may hear you typing and think you’re not paying attention to them, or they may think you’re taking notes and be more guarded about what they share.
This information will come in handy on the next call or the follow-up and helps you personalize the approach.
12 Tips for Personalizing Sales Emails
1. Start with your Name
How many times have you looked at your phone when it rings and see either a blocked number of a call from a company and just ignored it? Making sure your name shows up when you call makes a big difference. The same goes for getting your emails opened. 68% of email users report they decide whether to open an email based on who is sending it. Even a name they don’t know may raise their curiosity level. A company name instantly says sales call.
If you can’t do that because of the way your company sets up your email or phones (which would be admittedly strange), try our next tip.
2. One Simple Thing Can Increase Conversions by Nearly 50%
Just doing one small thing can increase your odds dramatically. Personalizing the subject line with the recipient’s name can increase the open rate by 29.3%, per Experian. Experian tracked emails with personalized subject lines through the sales funnel and the results were astounding. Transaction rates increased 49% and revenue per email grew 73%.
If you’re sending out mass emails, you can automate this task. However, the more personal you make the approach, the better your odds.
3. Customize your Subject Line
Consider putting your call-to-action request or business reason for the email right in your subject line. If it’s a cold email, you’re CTA is just to get them to open it and read.
“Jim, if you open this email, I guarantee I can help your business”
Oddly enough, research has found that using parenthesis or brackets as part of your subject line can be effective in a subject line for two reasons. First, it can cut through the clutter. Secondly, it highlights exactly what the email is about without having to spend a lot of time. Remember, they’re likely getting hundreds of emails a day and deleting all but a handful. Here are a couple of examples.
(Best deal of the year)
4.Use their Name
It sounds simple, but it makes a difference. Done correctly, it shows it’s not just a blanket cut-and-paste email. Software systems that interject names into the first sentence are all too common these days, so varying where their name shows up works well, also.
Saying the prospect’s name breeds a feeling of familiarity. It triggers an unconscious (positive) response. Just don’t overdo it.
5. Research your Prospect
Whether you’re calling on the phone, meeting them in person, or sending out an email, the faster you can make a connection with someone, the greater your odds of moving them forward in the sales cycle. Get on your computer and do a quick search to uncover information you can use.
“I saw you wrote a blog post about how your company landed a huge contract. Congrats!”
6. Relevant Content
If you’re in the market for a new car, an email about new automaker incentive from an auto dealer is no longer something spamming your inbox. It’s information that’s tailored to your current state-of-mind – even if it’s just a mass email from some form you filled out months ago and forgot about. Finding relevant content takes a little work, but it sends a powerful message: I understand your business and I can help.
Great salespeople regularly research industry trends. Find an article about your prospect’s industry and send it on to them with a simple message, like “I found this article and wondered if you’re seeing the same thing at your shop?”
Work anniversaries and birthdays are great openers to put someone in a good frame of mind right from the start. It’s easy enough to find online these days and it’s a great conversation starter. If they are a current customer, or they signed up for your newsletter, let them know.
“Today is your three-year anniversary of working with our company. Congratulations! To celebrate the occasion, we’re offering a 15% discount…”
8. Use a Little Personality
A conversational tone, sprinkled with a little humor, can make your approach more compelling. Even if you’ve got a great product or message, that delete key is nearby. People can smell “corporate speak” a mile away. Don’t be afraid to open up about yourself and interject a personal touch.
9. Get Topical
If everybody’s talking about the big game last night, consider using it as an opener – especially if you’ve done a little research and know your prospect’s interests. If your prospect is in Alabama, you can bet they’ll know what happened to the Crimson Tide last weekend (even if they aren’t a sports fan). Find a way to work it into your email – maybe as an opening line. If you can find a way to relate it to your business reason, even better.
10. Automate your Approach
There are probably thousands of software systems that can help you personalize your email marketing. Using a database, it can automatically add in names, significant dates, and relevant information.
If you don’t have access to such a system, keeping a plain old notebook on your contacts can work, too.
11. Segment your Prospects
What works for one customer doesn’t necessarily work for another. If you’re selling financial services, you wouldn’t approach a 60-year old thinking about retirement the same way you’d approach at 30-year old that just had their first child. Dividing your prospects into categories so that you can customize your approach to groups can save you time.
Segmented and targeted emails have a significant advantage. 58% of all revenue generated from email comes from targeted, segmented email marketing.
- Demographic (Age, Gender)
- Buyer Persona
- Job Function (Seniority, Title, Job duties)
- Purchasing history
12. Go Old School
Years ago, your physical mailbox got more action that your inbox. Today, the snail mail coming your way is mostly junk that you route through quickly, but it has one big advantage: You look at every piece and decide whether to read on.
Sending a letter – yes, an actual letter – can make you stand out. You can use the same techniques that work with email to personalize it. Taking the time to write the letter and sending it might just get it read. Here are some other ideas:
- A handwritten note
- A newspaper article (yes, they still print these)
- A thank you card
- A real birthday card (not the email card)
Every day, 269 billion emails are flying around the internet. That’s 2.4 million emails being sent every second. 1 out of every 8 people in the United States are employed in sales. That’s a lot of people calling on the same potential customers you are. If you want your communications to be noticed, you need to get personal.
It will take extra work and extra time. It may mean investing in software and systems. But if after reading this, you’re still on the fence about whether it’s worth it, think about this: on average, personalized emails can lead to increased sales by an average of 20%.
Download this post as a PDF:
Publish Date: July 24, 2017 5:00 AM
If there were 25 commandments you should engrave on tablets for B2B sales teleprospecting reps, these are a pretty good bunch. AG Salesworks did a cool thing and harnessed their experience into 25 bite-sized sales prospecting tips that serve to echo the new era of inbound sales.
If we were to rank the top five most applicable tips out of this set of 25, they would surely be these:
- Personalize your conversations. To stand out from the crowd, you can drop a few nuggets that show you’ve done your homework. Great advice to customize your pitch to the prospects’ specific pain points and needs.
- Confidence is everything. Hesitance can be felt through the phone. You need to come across confident right from the start. This takes a bit of experience to build, but it’s an intangible worth working on.
- Ask questions. Questions engage the prospect. They get the prospect speaking about their situation and opening to you. Use them.
- Stay positive. B2B sales is a job of constant rejection. You’ll hear “No” a lot more than you hear positive responses. Stay the course and be positive on every call.
- Research your product or service. The backbone of any good B2B sales rep is the ability to reel off applicable information at every turn, information about how their product works and how it addresses prospects’ needs.
Check out the infographic below for the other 20 tips that are worth posting around your cubicle for inspiration.
Publish Date: May 19, 2017 5:00 AM
HubSpot posted an article in November about the most important question B2B sales pros should ask their prospects on the first discovery call, this per HubSpot’s Sales Director Dan Tyre. I’ll share the highlights with you.
The question you need to add to your discovery call toolbelt is:
“Have you ever made a purchase like this before?”
It’s a smart question and one I don’t hear very often from sales reps when I’m on the buyer side. As the article mentions, “the reply will determine the rep’s strategy throughout the process and can uncover valuable opportunities to educate the buyer.” How your prospect answers will help lead you down the right path.
If the Answer is ‘Yes’
Either way, their answer implies a ton of information about the prospect, especially a ‘Yes’ answer. You know that they:
- See value in a solution like yours
- Have identified and addressed the challenge you solve before
All of that means that you don’t have to pick up their journey from square one. You can start to dig in and find out why this is still a challenge that wasn’t solved by the previous solution and position your solution to address all those secondary concerns.
The blog author suggests a few different lines of questioning, including some of my favorites (paraphrased):
- “What prompted you to buy that?”
- “How do you feel about how that product has performed?”
- “Tell me about the implementation process.”
A ‘Yes’ answer also leads to probing questions about how the buying process was handled, if there were more than one decision-maker, what their reaction was to the cost, and other questions regarding the process, in general. After all, they’ve been down this road before and helps to know how the road was paved.
If the Answer is ‘No’
So now you know you are starting from the ground floor. This means you should build value and confidence, layering them into the sales process. They’re going to need some hand-holding throughout the process, more than someone who’s made a similar purchase before.
There are smart ways to do that. As the article mentions, “the sales rep might say, ‘I’ve helped X clients with this type of purchase. Would you be interested in hearing the criteria most used to evaluate their options?’”
From experience, a ‘No’ answer means that you should address the following more in-depth than you would with a previous buyer of similar services:
- Buying process
- Pricing Model
In the words of the author:
“It might feel counterintuitive to ask the buyer about his former purchases when your first instinct is to keep the spotlight on your own product. But there are few questions that do more to close a deal.”
What questions do you ask your B2B sales prospects during your discovery calls?
Publish Date: March 29, 2017 5:00 AM
Step one in successful “warm” calling: research prospects before your sales call.
Most salespeople have a few places they go to look up a prospect before a B2B sales call. We all recognize the need to research lest we have that sinking “I’m totally unprepared” feeling right before the sales call.
We wanted to take a moment and show you a good list of sites where you can go to research your prospect.
You probably don’t have time to check every one of these suggestions before your calls, but the idea is to give you a range of options.
This had to be the first one mentioned. If you’re reading this and you don’t use LinkedIn to research your prospects, I’m not sure which rock you’ve been living under. If you can only choose one, this should be it. Why? Because you get their whole bio at a glance.
Pay close attention to:
- Their job experience and what their specific areas of expertise are, what their daily job is and what are they responsible for?
- Shared connections, these make great conversation-starters
- Groups and other interests, shared commonalities can also help endear yourself to the prospect
- Recent activity, are they actively posting and what do they like to post?
While Twitter profiles are not as common as LinkedIn profiles, if they have Twitter, you can get a good feel for the prospects’ interests, personal and professional. Use a site like Snapbird to search tweets for mentions of your company, competitors, or similar products.
See who is mentioning them and which conversations they get involved in by using a site like Snapbird to search tweets for mentions of your company, competitors, or similar products.
See if there have been any recent news articles related to your prospect that might be a conversation-starter or, even better, may be pertinent to your transaction with them. A good substitute for Google News is the press release and news section on their website.
Use their social media to read what your buyer’s been reading and especially what they’ve been writing. If they have their own blog, read the first few posts. Comment on them before your call for more name recognition and digital goodwill.
Look up both the prospect company and the individual on Google. Look up the prospect name and company together. There will be plenty to look at to snatch some quick info before your call. See that? They just ran a marathon. Hey, you’re a runner too!
A site we love for doing quick research on prospects is Crunchbase. You can look up companies or people. It comes complete with company details, recent news, top executives, a nifty little timeline feature and a bunch more information at a glance. They also have a paid Pro subscription, but the free version is powerful in and of itself.
Be sure to come back new week for step two in successful “warm” calling, tailoring your value proposition to the prospect.
Publish Date: March 7, 2017 5:00 AM
According to the B2B Digital Trends 2016-2017 report from Econsultancy and Adobe, enhancing the customer experience is the single most stimulating opportunity for B2B marketers in 2016. Most of the survey respondents from which data was drawn are based in Europe, but we feel the results can be extrapolated across most B2B marketers as a whole.
The report goes on to explain which priorities were cited by B2B marketers as the most important as it pertains to the customer experience. The chart below illustrates respondents’ answers to the question:
“Where does your organization place the highest emphasis in terms of improving the customer experience?”
It’s not surprising that B2B marketers place the most emphasis on making the customer experience as valuable as possible. What’s interesting to note though is that they’re also focused on making these experiences personalized and relevant – which might signal that a cookie-cutter approach to dealing with customers might not be as useful as once thought. Despite that a cookie-cutter approach is much easier to scale, the results might imply that personalizing the customer’s journey with your company is valuable enough to set aside the inefficiencies associated with it. The report also cites that content optimization moves into the #1 spot as B2B marketers’ top digital priority. It’s been the focus of B2C marketers since 2014, leading one to believe that “B2B marketing is poised further back on the innovation wave than their customer-focused peers.” Other interesting conclusions from the report:
- Nearly all B2B marketers surveyed recognize the importance of optimizing the customer journey across multiple touchpoints, with 97% finding it either very or quite important.
- The consistency of messaging across channels is of equal importance to respondents, 97% of whom consider this very or quite important.
- Just 39% of marketers said that they have a good infrastructure in place to collect the data they need to optimize the customer experience, and even fewer (35%) said they have the analysts to make sense of their data.
About the Data: The report queried 1,141 B2B marketing, digital and e-commerce professionals in December 2015, with 59% based in Europe, and 26% in North America. Almost half (46%) come from organizations with more than $75 million in annual revenue.
Publish Date: November 18, 2016 5:00 AM
We recently added a new whitepaper to the SalesStaff library of content (which includes over 90 different whitepapers, infographics, and eBooks to help you in your pursuit of sales and marketing excellence).
In this latest piece we talk about five strategies you can use to warm up prospects BEFORE you put in a phone call, including:
Warm calling is about priming your prospects with some foreword – some preliminary tactic that increases the chance for connection and, even better, recognition of who you are and what you bring to the table. It’s about proactively identifying companies and individual prospects as a good fit and creating some rapport – any rapport – before you pick up the phone. The identified company or prospect may or may not have demonstrated an interest in your product or service, but they should be a match for your intended buyer persona.
Before you even pick up the phone to make a call, there are several strategies that you should be ready to implement. Why? If for no other reason than the knowledge that failing to implement at least one of the following strategies could immediately result in a potentially unpleasant cold call.
Click below to download this FREE whitepaper
Publish Date: September 14, 2016 5:00 AM
The human mind is a quirky thing. Volumes have been written on the techniques of persuasion, and most are applicable to a career in B2B sales.
Don’t be mistaken… using sales psychology is not about tricking your prospects or pulling one over on them. It’s about leveraging natural human tendencies and psychological predispositions to help them acquire a solution that could benefit them.
The following SlideShare uncovers seven idiosyncrasies that salespeople can use to their advantage.
Publish Date: September 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Your B2B sales prospects can be found in a number of ways. You have to go out and find them. Interact with them on their terms, in places that they like to frequent – digital and real-life.
We’ve assembled a list of fifteen places where you may be able to find your B2B sales prospects. Some you might have thought of, some you might have forgotten, and some might be new to you.
Download this and all of our other infographics here.
Publish Date: August 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Today, I wanted to share some insights from one of the best sales articles of the past few years, in my opinion. It was originally published on the Harvard Business Review (HBR). It’s an article based on research about which factors separate strong salespeople from weaker ones, written by Steve W. Martin. Martin teaches sales strategy at the USC Marshall School of Business and has written several books on the topic. His articles on HBR are some of my favorite articles on sales.
[Note: I’ll recap the article but here is the original for your convenience.]
The question he poses that he sought an answer to was this:
What separates high-performing salespeople who exceed their quota from underperformers who miss their quotas by more than 25%?
How the Answer Was Ascertained
The findings are based on Martin’s:
- Research with about 800 salespeople and sales leaders
- Anecdotal interviews with 1,000+ top salespeople
The 6 Factors Separating Top Salespeople from Not-Top Salespeople
AKA the level at which the salesperson communicates. There’s a readability test called the Flesch-Kincaid test which indicates how difficult a passage is to understand. Martin cites that “[o]n average, high-performing salespeople communicate between the 11th and 13th grade level when scored by the Flesch-Kincaid test as opposed to the 8th and 9th grade level for underperforming salespeople.”
Is this really a surprise? We know that top salespeople, by nature, are pretty driven to succeed. In fact, 84% of the top salespeople surveyed scored well in achievement orientation. And Martin brought up an interesting nuance. Get this. 85% of top salespeople played sports in high school, thus making them fine-tuned for the pressures of a competitive career like sales.
Martin says, “Situational dominance is a personal interaction strategy by which the customer accepts the salesperson’s recommendations and follows his advice.” We all make that quick determination of whether the person you’re speaking to is superior, inferior, or a peer. The scores of top salespeople were 20% higher, on average, than underperforming salespeople in the area of situational dominance.
Most people naturally prefer to describe themselves as optimists, and 90% of the salespeople surveyed indicated they were generally optimistic people. However, it was found that almost 67% of top salespeople have pessimistic tendencies. Martin theorizes that this idiosyncrasy is due to the fact that salespeople must be pleasant and approachable to prospects, yet the best salespeople are always critical as to the real viability of their deals and credibility of the buyer.
Sales Management Impact
About 49% of underperforming salespeople rated their sales manager as excellent or above average, while 69% of top salespeople rated their managers highly. This is statistically significant by any measure.
Even more telling is how study participants ranked the attributes of quality sales managers. The top three factors identified by top salespeople?
- leadership and management skills
- practical experience and sales intuition
- communication and coaching skills
The top three factors of good sales managers identified by underperforming salespeople?
- industry expertise and product knowledge
- communication and coaching skills
- fights for the team
This makes perfect sense when viewed in the context of how top performers and underperformers relate to their managers.
Sales Organization Influence
This finding validates that sales organization morale is an intangible you can’t ignore. While 53% of top salespeople rated their sales organization’s morale as being higher than most sales organizations, only 37% of underperforming salespeople rated their company’s morale as higher than most.
The organization holding sales staff accountable is also significant. Martin cites that, “39% of high-performing salespeople strongly agreed that salespeople at their company are measured against their quota and held accountable compared to only 23% of underperforming salespeople.”
Publish Date: August 23, 2016 5:00 AM
The practice of engaging B2B sales prospects with an email is an art AND a science. It’s tricky to say the least.
You can send 1000 emails in the blink of an eye while it may take you two weeks to make 1000 phone calls into those same prospects. Needless to say, emailing has its inherent advantages. But then again, it’s easy for prospects to delete your email if it doesn’t resonate with them.
In my tenure, I’ve found a few marketers and even fewer salespeople that have perfected the art of the cold B2B sales email. Take a look at the infographic below from Hubspot for some quick hat tips on how not to craft a winning cold B2B sales email.
Publish Date: August 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Seriously, guys, if you haven’t discovered Daniel Pink yet, you really need to take some time and listen to his thoughts, or read one of his books. In fact, we included his latest book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, on our Ultimate Reading List: 89 Books Every Sales Pro Should Own. Without gushing too hard over Dan, I’ll just say that his thoughts and videos are bite-sized and easily digested and the one I wanted to show you today is no different.
It features a very persuasive technique using counterintuitive questions to get others to name off reasons they should AGREE with your position. So very simple and poignant.
Have a listen:
Now imagine using this technique in the sales world.
You might ask a prospect, “So, humor me here. From 1-10, how likely are you to make a decision on this within the week?”
They might reply, “Honestly, we’re probably a 3 right now.”
You’d say, “Really? Interesting. Why not a lower number?”
“Well, it’s not TOTALLY on the backburner. It is a decision we will have to make sooner rather than later. It is a pressing issue after all.”
Publish Date: July 19, 2016 5:00 AM
In the B2B sales world, it’s time to stop selling like an infomercial and focus on the customer’s problems. Your product should not be front and center anymore in your presentation. The way your product solves issues should.
Blue Lobster put together this SlideShare with nine steps of a customer-focused B2B sales pitch, which does a great job of showing how we should all put the customer first in our pitch.
Publish Date: June 13, 2016 5:00 AM
Did that big cheeseburger you had for lunch make you feel like a brick in your chair? Dropping the kids off at school at 7AM and then high-tailing it to work without coffee? Maybe it’s just a blah type Wednesday for you.
Sometimes you just feel out of it. You sit at your desk stare at the screen for five minutes figuring out which of your 27 tasks you’re going to tackle first.
There are days where all of us just need to slow down, change a few small habits perhaps, and get back to being bright and productive. The infographic from Wrike below offers some quick hits in the productivity department. I found a few that really hit home for me:
#20 – Track where your time goes!
#34 – Write tomorrow’s to-do list tonight.
#42 – If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.
Which ones hit home with you?
Publish Date: June 1, 2016 5:00 AM
You’ve probably seen the following idioms on campy Facebook memes and your parents probably even brow beat you with them a few times, as well:
“Don’t look ahead. Just take it one step at a time.”
“Don’t cut corners. It’s the lazy thing to do”
“Quitters never win.”
But what if these clichés turned out to be untrue after all?
Well, the folks at OPEN Forum seem to think that they are not true at all (in certain respects). Take a look at their infographic on five weird habits that make people successful.
Publish Date: May 23, 2016 5:00 AM
A wise, seasoned B2B sales professional once told me something that has stuck with me over the years. He said:
The art of the sale doesn’t really begin until you start handling objections… until there is some discourse.
Putting a stop to any roadblocks that might present themselves in the B2B sales process is so crucial. Specific objections vary according to your product, price structure, and other factors but there are some that are omnipresent across most industries. The folks at RAIN Group put together this nice little infographic with the most ubiquitous B2B sales objections and response suggestions.
(My favorite little quip is from the ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ objection. “I’ve brought along our colleague, Darth CFO…”)
[Click here for a larger version]
Publish Date: May 19, 2016 5:00 AM