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3 Ways to Improve Your Digital Sales Prospecting Outcomes

improve digital prospecting skills

March 12, 2022Blog

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Prospecting in a Digital World

Most sales professionals no longer have the benefit of a multi-channel approach to engaging prospective customers. In-person communication is scarce. Chance encounters are almost non-existent. The immediacy of a handshake is not possible for many. As a result, digital outreach remains the lone method of prospecting available to sales professionals.

While challenging, digital prospecting also offers some key benefits. First, a digital-only approach to prospecting helps the sales professional tighten their focus. While the traditional approach of using multiple channels offers more options, it also complicates the picture. Second, the core behaviors behind successful digital prospecting are similar to those of traditional prospecting. Therefore, any additional emphasis on prospecting skills is likely to yield results in a digital setting. Third, given the industry-wide nature of this challenge, those who are able to successfully adapt to digital prospecting will earn the rare opportunity to claim a new competitive advantage.

To capitalize on these benefits, sales leaders will need to fully embrace the digital approach. Doing so means understanding the increasing influence of gatekeepers, the law of reciprocity, and incremental value creation. Here, we examine each of these factors and how sales professionals can use them to their advantage.


Prepare for the Outsized Role Gatekeepers Have Today


Previously, sales professionals had at least a few ways to directly access decision-makers. Today that has changed. Gatekeepers are often a first point of contact. Therefore, the most effective strategy is to understand how to properly engage with a gatekeeper rather than try to avoid them.

Working with a gatekeeper means understanding the context of the conversation. The gatekeeper is often unfamiliar with the sales professional, their organization, or the solution. Additionally, the gatekeeper is busy and looking for a reason to disengage. Together, these two factors mean that the sales professional must form a fast connection. Doing so means leveraging affect rather than exhaustive explanations that undercut the effectiveness of the message. To understand the virtue of brevity, sales professionals should consider the power of the “affect heuristic,” which tells us that people make quick assessments based on their mood.

Research published in The Journal of Behavioral Decision Makingexplains that “people rely on affect when judging” and that “affect is a strong conditioner of preference.” Putting this concept to work means choosing words that will encourage the gatekeeper to develop a positive “gut feeling.” To do so, sales professionals should focus their message on the benefits that could extend to the gatekeeper. That is, they must lead with role-specific benefits. If this is not possible, the sales professional must illustrate why a benefit to the decision-maker is a benefit to the gatekeeper.

This approach underscores the importance of preparation. Delivering concise, resonant messaging requires writing and rewriting. The most effective approach is to draft a value statement consisting of three parts: issue, action, and value. The issue is the goal or challenge. The action is the solution. The value is the beneficial outcome. Committing to this structure means that the messaging will be brief, meaningful, and clear.

Engage the Law of Reciprocity

Reciprocity in sales is the simple idea that when a person offers something of value, the other feels compelled to eventually offer something in return. Reciprocity is a natural characteristic of the human condition. Sales professionals can engage the law of reciprocity by offering some kind of valuable insight to the customer. In time, the customer is likely to respond to the gesture in a positive way. Often, what the customer offers is some of their time, important information about their needs, or details about the decision-making process within their organization. All of these three insights are valuable to the sales professional and are rarely learned any other way.

It is important to remain authentic when seeking reciprocity. That is, the sales professional should refrain from offering insights that only connect to the value proposition of the solution. Otherwise, the customer will understandably feel as if the “insight” is merely a ploy. It is more effective and sincere for a sales professional to offer information that ties directly to the nuance of the customer’s organization. Therefore, some of the most impactful insights are in fact independent of the product or service the sales professional will eventually position.

Consider research from Forrester, which found that successful “brands provided an average of 22 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience.” Achieving this ratio comes from exuding authenticity in every interaction. Authenticity in digital prospecting means adding value beyond what benefits the sales professional.

What makes this approach so effective is that it guides the customer’s first impressions. When a new and unknown sales professional offers meaningful value that requests nothing in return, the customer develops a positive association with the sales professional.

Build Incremental Value Creation

Without the availability of traditional prospecting channels, sales professionals must prepare for a longer path. Some call this approach “breadcrumbing” value. The idea is to rely on the incremental gains that come from repeatedly and reliably offering value to potential customers. This method is akin to a narrow trickle of water that slowly gathers to an ocean. This gradual build is important because the dominant challenge for sales professionals today is helping their potential customers overcome the status quo.

Any idea or solution that is new is often considered an uncomfortable disruption. This force is so powerful that it keeps many businesses rooted in place even during periods of great economic change. Some call this immobility “active inertia,” which is the act of applying old, irrelevant strategies to new problems. This tendency creates a challenge for sales professionals; even the right solution might appear unnecessary to the customer anchored in active inertia.

Building incremental value creation is a protracted way to create credibility. The customer learns that the sales professional has the consistency and determination to invest and reinvest in the relationship over the long term. Research from Gallupillustrates this idea. Researchers tracked customer engagement scores across a group of accounts and discovered that nearly one-quarter of the “high engagement” accounts grew by 20% or more. The analysis was based on the idea that superior customer engagement consists of confidence, integrity, pride, and passion. That is, the customer has confidence in the company’s solution, and they believe that the company has integrity in the way they treat customers, takes pride in the way they work with customers, and have the passion to deliver unmatched value.

Digital prospecting has limited the tools available to sales professionals pursuing a sale. However, those who approach the challenge with renewed focus will benefit from an environment in which competitors continue to apply traditional methods to a modern challenge.

Success lies in embracing gatekeepers with a clear articulation of shared benefits. Sales professionals must also think first about giving rather than getting. Doing so means offering valuable insights that transcend a sales pitch. Finally, value creation must be approached with a long-term mindset in which insights are delivered in a predictable pattern.

Improve Your Prospecting Outcomes with Sprint Prospecting Training

In our Sprint Prospecting™ program, we teach your sales team how to apply selling sprints to better connect and engage target accounts. To learn more download this informational brochure or contact us to talk about how we can customize a training program to improve your team’s agile prospecting skills.