Sales require constant communication.
You’re either writing an email, crafting a proposal or sales presentation, gathering information over the phone, asking questions during a meeting, listening to a client’s feedback, and the list goes on.
Salespeople have to be expert communicators. This is especially true since the buying process has changed. Buyers are more informed, which gives them more power.
In fact, according to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers say they actually conduct online research before making a buying decision.
And guess what? A report from Forrester stated that 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of consulting a sales professional because they believe that salespeople are likely to push their agenda rather than focusing on solving the problem.
This has forced sales teams to try new strategies to prospect and build relationships. That means sellers not only have to master their professional communication skills in a credibility-building way but they also need to learn a number of new tools, technologies, and platforms to make the buying process easier for themselves and their prospective customers.
For example, tools for prospecting, CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems, and social media platforms to help become more effective and efficient throughout the sales process. Not convinced? Check out these quick stats:
- The average prospect receives more than 100 emails a day. Using a tool that enables you to add a video to your prospecting emails has boosted open-to-reply rates by 8x. (Source: Vidyard)
- By personalizing 20% of email content, open rates increased over 40% on average and reply rates increased 112%. This is compared to emails with no personalization at all. (Source: SalesLoft)
- Businesses that leverage CRM software sees sales increase by 29%, sales productivity increase by 34%, and sales forecast accuracy increase by 42%. (Source: Salesforce)
- 90% of top-performing salespeople now use social media as part of their sales strategy. (Source: LinkedIn)
- 64% of sales reps who invest in social media hit their team quota – compared to only 49% of reps that don’t use social media. (Source: LinkedIn)
Sales have changed. That means the mindset, strategies, and tools salespeople use need to adapt and change too.
So, for all of you sales professionals out there here are 6 ideas you can try that will improve your sales communication and outreach strategies:
#1. Change Your Mindset
First things first. You have to get into the right state of mind.
You can no longer focus on selling your product, service, or solution. You must focus on communicating as a trusted advisor and industry thought leader. That means focusing on the value and ROI your solution delivers vs. the features and benefits of the actual product or service.
How do you change your mindset?
Keep yourself open to new ideas by continuing to learn. Take a class, read a book, talk to someone new. These activities will spark creativity and help you create content that’s relevant to your audience.
For example, write a thoughtful blog post on an important industry topic and publish it on LinkedIn. If you’re selling a SaaS solution then write about an industry problem your solution solves. Write it through the lens of a current customer’s journey. What problem were they trying to solve? How did you help them solve that problem and accomplish their goals? Why did they go with your solution? What was your role throughout the process?
#2. Research Your Leads
Researching sales leads is one of the most important parts of the sales process. Yet, 42% of sales reps feel they do not have the right information before making a sales call.
Whether this is a result of not having the right tools or knowing the right information to look for, you can improve your research process by working towards answering these questions:
- How does this lead compare to my ideal buyer persona(s)?
- Do I have any mutual connections on LinkedIn with the lead?
- What are similar companies and buyers trying to accomplish by using our solution?
How do you find these answers?
You first need to leverage your internal resources and familiarize yourself with the descriptions of your ideal buyer personas. This will help guide the decisions you make regarding whether a lead is worth pursuing or not. It will also help you identify similar companies and buyers who are likely to be interested in your solution.
Now that you’ve verified the lead is worthy of your time, use LinkedIn to seek out any mutual connections you may have.
You can view someone else’s connections by:
- Typing their name in the search bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and clicking search.
- On the results page, find the person you’re looking for and then you’ll see shared connections below their name, title, and location.
- If you have more than 1 or 2 shared connections, you can click on the number of shared connections to view a full list.
You should always look to see if and how you’re connected to a prospect. If you find a common connection, speak with him/her first to find out how they’re connected, what the experience was like and whether you can use their name as a reference. By doing this, you’ll increase your chances of landing more meetings with higher-level executives at your target companies.
#3. Develop Your “Why”
I’m greatly influenced by Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why’ and believe the themes in this book directly apply to help you develop your sales messaging.
Here are a few quotes that highlight why I believe that:
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”
“Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not.”
“If they had started their sales pitch with WHY the product existed in the first place, the product itself would have become the proof of the higher cause—proof of WHY.”
These quotes emphasize the importance of understanding why you do what you do as a sales professional and why the company you work for exists.
For example, when explaining why you’re a sales professional, you might say because you’re passionate about helping businesses achieve their goals through problem-solving. The company you work for may explain their why by saying something like: our purpose is to inspire business leaders to think differently about solving problems.
When you lead with why you do what you do instead of what you do, it’s more compelling and powerful to your prospects.
Instead of your prospect listening to a laundry list of features and benefits that may mean nothing to them, they are listening to you explain why you are so passionate and why your company cares about what they do.
How do you develop your “why”?
To develop your why, you need to give your prospects something to believe in. You need to talk about your purpose, cause, values, and passion.
For example, Sinek shares these two examples from a computer company to help illustrate how you would articulate your why:
The wrong way:
We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. Wanna buy one?
The right way:
Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?
Remember, people buy from people and it’s not because of “what you do, it’s because of why you do it.”
#4. Leverage Social Selling
For a lot of salespeople, this is just a buzz word that doesn’t really mean anything because there isn’t a clear connection between using social media and closing more deals.
But social selling isn’t really about closing more deals it’s about building relationships.
Let’s look at a definition of social selling so we’re starting from the same point:
What is Social Selling? HubSpot shares a solid definition:
“Social selling is the process of researching, connecting, and interacting with prospects and customers on social media networks — notably Twitter and LinkedIn, but others certainly fit the bill. Through commenting on, liking, and sharing prospects’ and customers’ posts, salespeople create relationships with buyers and boost their credibility by taking an interest in what they’re interested in.
Instead of a hard-closing tactic, social selling more closely resembles lead nurturing. Therefore, social selling isn’t for reps seeking quick wins or a silver bullet. Salespeople have to be willing to put in the time and effort to engage with their target buyers on an ongoing basis, and even then, there’s no guarantee that their efforts will pay off.”
While that last part about “…no guarantee that their efforts will pay off” probably isn’t what you want to hear, there are clear benefits of adopting a social selling approach:
- Connect with decision-makers more effectively – 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions. (International Data Corporation)
- Build better business relationships – 31% of B2B professionals said that social selling allowed them to build deeper relationships with their clients. (CSO Insights and Seismic)
- Become a top-performing sales professional – 90% of top-performing salespeople now use social media as part of their sales strategy. And sales reps with high social network activity achieve 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas. (LinkedIn)
This all sounds good, right? But the main question you’re probably asking yourself is how can you actually do this?
How do you leverage social media to influence your target audience and buyers?
Here are a few simple, yet effective ways to do just that:
- Pick your platform – In B2B selling, focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’ve got extra time on your hands, consider Instagram too. It’s quickly becoming more relevant for businesses too.
- Follow your customers – Look for your customer’s profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn and follow them. You should follow their company pages too.
- Join groups your buyers belong to – Think like your buyers. What groups would they join? LinkedIn groups can be hit or miss, so the key thing here is to just follow along to see what trending topics and discussions are going on so you can use these in your own messaging.
- Comment on highly viewed content from subject matter experts – When you contribute thoughtful comments to an already popular piece of content, it gets you to name in front of prospective customers and increases the likelihood of being viewed as a thought leader.
- Create your own content – Whether that’s on your company’s blog, YouTube, or LinkedIn, you have the power of publishing in your hands. You’re an expert in your industry, why not share what you know? Share why you believe in what you’re doing.
- Share other’s content – Add your perspective and take on why it’s an important piece of content, or why you disagree or what you might add to it that the author left out.
The number one thing to keep in mind when social selling: it’s a long game that requires consistency.
You may not see results right away, but you’re establishing credibility and creating a presence that’s searchable and long-term. The content you create and the comments you make on social media are there for the long haul. But you need to be consistent, whether you commit to once a day or once a week, pick a schedule and stick to it.
That way, when your buyers are looking for answers to their questions or advice on a particular topic, you’ll be the one who’s there to guide the way.
#5. Create a Sales Communication Cadence
If you’re unfamiliar with a sales communication cadence, it can be defined as a structured system for the frequency and methods you use to reach out to prospective customers.
In other words, it’s a clearly defined framework for how often you reach out and what communication channel (email, phone, social, etc.) you use to connect with prospects.
Instead of haphazardly following up with some prospects and forgetting about others, a sales cadence makes it easier to track where you are in the sales process. It provides guidelines so you don’t risk missing a step in your process, or worse, sending the same email twice.
For example, InsideSales.com defines a foundational structure for a cadence, or ‘classic cadence’, as placing 3 phone calls, leaving 3 voicemails, sending 3 emails, and performing 3 social interactions.
Research has shown that this cadence can produce optimal results, even if you don’t have enough time and resources to refine it and think of a better sales and marketing strategy.
Implementing a well-defined sales cadence can make your prospecting process far more efficient and effective.
How do you do that?
Here’s an excellent day-by-day break down written by CEO and cofounder of Biassa, Carlos A. Monteiro, in this article on HubSpot:
Day 1: Develop a deeper understanding of your prospect’s world, what they like and share, where they’re active online, and what they care about. Follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook.
Day 2: Send an InMail via LinkedIn. The idea is to start building familiarity. Be personal in your messaging by sharing something you may have discovered on day 1. For example, they recently got a promotion or had a work anniversary.
Day 3: If the prospect hasn’t responded to your first InMail, send another.
Day 4: Send a short and sweet email.
Day 5: Send another email following the first email.
Day 6: Make a warm call.
Day 7: Share an article and tag your prospect. You want to be top of mind and get their attention. You can repeat this move several times.
Day 8: Send a video email. This work like a charm in making your email stand out.
Day 9: Nudge your prospect on LinkedIn (tag them in a post, answer a question they’ve posted, respond to their comment in a group, etc.)
Day 10: Call and leave a voicemail.
Day 11: Have your director send an email. This has improved my response rate by 45%.
Day 12: Call or send an email.
While this approach may work for some and not for others, the key is to test what works for you specifically. When you test various methods and structures, you can track your results and work to further understand, refine and optimize your efforts.
BONUS: This chart from InsideSales.com is a great example of a tactical plan for every occasion:
#6. Wordsmith and Test Your Messages
There’s no cure-all for communicating with your prospects and customers, but there are guidelines you can follow to refine and test your messages to make them more effective.
What are the key elements you should focus on?
- Intro –The subject line and/or the first few sentences have to be attention grabbers. It’s the difference between getting opened versus getting ignored or blocked.
- Value Proposition – This is the main point of your email. Keep it focused on value, and solving a problem for your prospect. Why should they care about you? If there is a clear and concise benefit to the prospect, you’ll get a response. If not, you’re dead to them.
- Call to Action – This is the crucial point where you tell the recipient exactly what you want them to do. As you’d expect, this can make or break everything. So, make it clear and make it compelling.
Whether you’re sending an email or reaching out on LinkedIn, honing in on these fundamental elements will help you improve your results and increase your response rates.
- 33% of email recipients open an email based on subject line alone. (Source: Convince & Convert)
- 69% of email recipients report email as SPAM based solely on the subject line. (Source: Convince & Convert)
- Personalized subject lines are 2% more likely to be opened. (Source: Adestra)
- The ideal length of an email at 50 to 125 words. (Source: Boomerang)
- Nearly 64% of B2B buyers appreciate it when a salesperson contacts them with relevant information. (Source: LinkedIn)
- Emails with questions get 50 percent more responses. It shouldn’t surprise you that emails with questions tend to get answers. In fact, emails with 1 to 3 questions got replies 50 percent more often than those without any. (Source: Boomerang)
- Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks of 371% and sales 1617%. (Source: WordStream)
Now, how do you put this information to action?
Let’s look at a few examples so you can get started and adjust these examples to your specific needs:
- “[Mutual connection] recommended I get in touch …”
- “Ideas for [thing that’s important to them]”
- “[Prospect Name] are you struggling with [challenge]?
- “[Mutual connection] mentioned …” or
- “Congratulations on …”
- “Your [LinkedIn the description, recent blog post, connection with XYZ colleague] inspired me to reach out.”
- “Over the past year, we’ve helped Y companies to achieve [business goal], resulting in Z [revenue added, money saved, productivity increased]. If this issue resonates with you too, let’s schedule a quick call. I have some ideas that may help.” Or
- As a [job title] at [company], I get to speak with people like you about [achieving X]. [Prospect company] is on my radar because we’ve helped a lot of companies in [X space] with [business area]. Could we schedule a 15 to 20-minute call to discuss your strategy for Y — what excites you, which challenges you to see, and how you envision your plan changing down the road? Even if you decide not to continue the conversation after our call, you’ll leave with some advice for [business area] that will make an immediate impact.”
Again, this is just a few thought-starters that you can use to word-smith and test out for yourself. But if there’s one thing your prospects are looking for from sales professionals, it’s advice and guidance on how to tackle a problem or challenge.
Here’s a template below (plus more ideas) with a problem-solving focus:
Subject line: [Prospect Name], How to put an end to [problem]
Hi [Prospect Name],
Your LinkedIn post discussing how your company is struggling to overcome [problem] made me think of others I know experiencing the same frustration.
What seems to work is when companies tackle these three core issues:
- Lack of integrated systems
- Manual processes
- Unawareness about the latest options
[Prospect Name], let me know if you’d like me to send an eBook my company put together that spells out how to effectively address these issues.
Salespeople spend about21% of their day writing emails. While emails are a great sales tool, they can also be a tremendous waste of time if you aren’t using them effectively.
Using your CRM to track your emails will allow you to leverage the data to further analyze and refine your messaging.
Start improving your results today!
When it comes to changing our ways or trying sometimes new, it’s never easy. But making small changes like the ideas outlined here can help you make strides towards increased sales success.
Sales have changed, and it will continue to transform as buyers have more control and new technologies and trends are introduced. But you have the power to control your communication and the story you share with your prospects and customers.
Change your mindset – You can no longer focus on selling your product, service, or solution. You must focus on communicating as a trusted advisor and industry thought leader.
Research your leads – This step of the sales process is vital to success. The more you know about a lead, the more personal you can make your outreach and increase your chances of getting a response.
Develop your “why” – People are more influenced and compelled to action when you share your beliefs, cause, and passion. What you do isn’t as powerful as why you do it. So, make sure you’re communicating that in all of your messages to prospects and customers.
Leverage social selling – This is about building relationships. And it’s not a quick win strategy, it’s a long game that requires consistency. You may not see results right away, but you’re establishing credibility and creating a presence that’s searchable and long-term.
Create a sales communication cadence – If you have no rhyme or reason to the frequency or channels you use to connect with prospects and customers, you’re increasing your chances of frustration and decreasing your chances of success. Putting a clear framework in place to help you consistently follow a process for communication will make you more effective and efficient.
Wordsmith and test your messages – As a sales professional, you spend a lot of your day writing emails. That means you need a handful of templates to use and test to ensure you’re making the best use of your time and prioritizing the right things. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales messages, so try different messaging and keep track of your results within your CRM. Use that data to analyze and improve.