"The Navigator" News Blog

Why Not? Four Innovative Ways to Prospect

Are you getting tired of me telling you that sales is changing?  Too bad.  I’m going to do it again.  Sales is changing.  That doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all of your old prospecting methods – but it does mean that you need to be adding new ones, and new tools to your toolbox.  That can be uncomfortable for some of us, but it’s necessary.

The reality is that we have more ways of contacting prospects than ever before. Some work – some don’t.  And there are some that you should try to see if it works for you.  What’s cool is this – there is no model of prospecting that “doesn’t work anymore.”  Teleprospecting?  Yep, still works, although the ratios are different now.  Walk in cold calls?  For many industries, they’re dead – but I have a client who lives off of them quite successfully.  And then there are new ones that you probably haven’t tried, nor have I.  Let’s talk about four innovative ways to prospect that you should probably try.

  1. Video messaging: This is an offshoot of a conversation that I had with a recruiter this week while on a speaking engagement.  He’s finding good candidates on LinkedIn and, instead of sending a generic text message on LinkedIn, he is recording a highly personalized 30 second video, tailored directly to the individual, and sending that.  Yes, it takes more time to do – but he tells me that his pull-through has actually doubled.  That’s a great idea for recruiting, but it might be a great way to prospect, too.  The key to this (as will be the key to all the methods we’ll discuss) is that it must be very 1-to-1 and speak to the individual – not a mass message.  Have I done this yet?    Am I going to try?  You bet your commission check I am.  And I’ll tell you the results.  But don’t wait for me; give it a shot yourself.
  2. Rethinking the cold call: We know that the ratios of calls to contacts (someone actually answering the phone) have dropped precipitously.  Whereas we used to see someone answering on about half of the prospecting calls we made, now it’s closer to 1 to 5, or even 1 to 10.  So why not make that work for us?  Instead of hanging up or leaving a boring voice mail, think of something exciting to say – and tailored – and consider it an opportunity to get your name on their radar screen, rather than considering it a failure if you don’t get an answer.  In my training with my clients, we see that salespeople who leave voice mails get views on their LinkedIn pages from some of the people they called.  Great!  Leave a tailored voice mail asking them to call you – but also to look you up on LinkedIn or to text.  When they do look you up, send a connection request.  Then slow-play the relationship development (see my comments on LinkedIn prospecting below) so you don’t immediately get blocked.
  3. Buy the appointment: OK, this one is out there a bit, but a close friend sent it to me and it was too good not to share. One ad agency discovered that it cost them $126 to get a lead on LinkedIn, so they skipped the middleman and sent out a nice brochure with $126 in cold hard cash, asking for an appointment.  As the article shows, the sample size is small so far – but the results are good at the start.  This is admittedly one for a company with a decent sized budget, but if you can, why not?  Save it for your top prospects, of course, but if you get business, the ROI is there.
  4. LinkedIn prospecting: You’ve probably seen it.  You accept a connection request from someone you haven’t met, and immediately you get bombed with a hard-sell message.  If you’re like me, you either tell them you’re not interested, or you block them.  Don’t get caught in that trap.  You absolutely should use LinkedIn to prospect, but you should also be aware that it’s a slow play.  Once you receive the connection request, just send a simple message thanking the person for joining your network.  Then, engage with them – like their posts and comment or share where appropriate (but make sure your comments are appropriate and not stalkerish).  Then – when they post or comment something that indicates an opportunity for you – send them a SOFT message suggesting that you can help with their problem, and asking if they’d like to have a conversation.  If they say no, keep engaging.  LinkedIn is a relationship based strategy, but it can work if you do it right.
  5. Send a handwritten note: Admittedly, this is not “new” or “innovative.”  But it’s pretty damned different now.  Nobody sends handwritten notes now.  And by “handwritten,” I don’t mean a note with a printer that looks like handwriting.  I mean an actual handwritten note.  Again – as are all of these methods – it must be tailored and speak directly to your prospect on a one-to-one basis.  This is one that I can tell you works today.  In fact, on a percentage basis, it might work better today than it used to.  Want to combine old tech and new tech?  Send a handwritten note on a card that has a QR code that allows them to reach out quickly.

While you’re digesting those four innovative ways to prospect, I want to cop to a change in my own thinking.  I used to say that prospecting was a function of the law of large numbers, and I told managers to discourage their salespeople from doing extensive research on prospects – instead, make the calls and get the appointments. A good database that tells you who your target contact is and their company’s demographics and industry data was enough. For some industries and environments, that still is appropriate.

For many of us, though, it’s time for a shift.  Notice that every one of those four methods above demanded tailoring.  To succeed, you must speak directly to your prospect on a person-to-person level that demonstrates that you know a little bit about them and have a reason for reaching out.  The good news is that it’s so easy to research now that, within five minutes, you can come up with enough information to have a ‘hinge’ for your contact.

Have I personally tried and trained on all of these methods?  No.  Not YET.

Do I think some of them might fail for myself or for you?  Possibly.  Not everything is a fit for everyone.

But we are in a moment where there aren’t many rules, where these four innovative ways to prospect present a relatively blue ocean (because not many salespeople are trying them), and thus you have an opportunity to use them to succeed.  So try things.  Learn things.  Innovate.  Hell, think of ways that I didn’t think of above.  Maybe in a year, you’ll have developed four innovative ways to prospect that are all yours.

Sales is changing.  You can sit back and not change with it, and you will likely fail.  Or, you can change with it, or even be an agent of change.

Let’s move forward together.

I can help.