The ML team is on the front lines of B2B outbound sales. We are also obsessed with data. Therefore, we are among the first to know when techniques are becoming less effective and immediately start testing new methods.
In our experience, buyer behavior shifts about every six or seven years. It typically aligns with changes in technology and how we interact with it. When ML was founded over two decades ago, a salesperson could make a phone call and leave a compelling message, and the prospect would call them back. Within a few years, we saw response rates begin to diminish as buyers became less dependent on phone messages as a primary form of communication. ML evolved along with the technology and began incorporating emails into our outreach. And we evolved even further when we had the technology to monitor the buyers’ engagement with email to prioritize prospects.
In our experience, buyer behavior shifts about every six or seven years. It typically aligns with changes in technology and how we interact with it.
Fast-forward several years, and another shift has emerged that requires us to take a more strategic approach. Driven by technological advancements and changes in buyer behavior, we are coaching our clients that it’s time to take a more intelligent approach to outbound sales.
Here are four tips to help you.
Over the past year, ML noticed some interesting trends in our data when aggregated across our total client base: the percentage of prospects we were reaching was going down. However, the percentage of prospects who were interested and engaged once we did reach them was going up. We dug a little deeper into the data and concluded that while it is definitely getting harder to reach prospects, the techniques we used that got their attention were more effective at moving them forward into the sales cycle.
“I get companies reaching out to me daily. To get my attention I’m going to look for them to have done some research on my company. Oftentimes, we just get these mass form emails that have zero specificity to us which to me is a lazy sales approach. If somebody really wants to do business with us, they are going to need to invest time and energy in understanding our business even with that first reach out."
Fortune 500 executive our team interviewed as part of a market assessment
Our primary technique for getting responses is hyper-relevant messaging, which we use at the very earliest stage of the sales cycle.
Last fall, ML built a formal sales research process to incorporate into our sales development programs to capitalize on this new information. We assembled a team with primary responsibility around conducting research to identify specific information about target accounts and prospects that would directly inform the messaging our SDS (sales development specialists) use in emails and phone conversations.
Best Practice: Conduct upfront research to understand your target audience and use that intel to create relevant messaging that will pique interest.
To achieve the most complete and effective research, we blend technology with a personalized human element.
But the real magic happens when we incorporate a human touch into our research program. The best intel comes from the conversations you have by calling into an organization and talking directly with stakeholders and influencers, especially if you have a seasoned sales professional making that outreach.
"We are so impressed by the caliber of your salespeople and their high level of knowledge. The team can carry a conversation beyond an inside salesperson vs just setting appointments. It’s a partnership and we have come to see you as an extension of our sales team."
Look for data that provides clues to your prospect’s goals, needs, and challenges. Equipped with this knowledge, you can then determine how your offering fits into their plans and craft messaging that will really speak to their situation and grab attention.
Here is a real-world example of how that process plays out. The ML team works have a client that provides digital and contact center customer experience solutions. One of our researchers went beyond finding the right title at one of the target companies. He also researched their website and LinkedIn pages and found a podcast this executive had hosted, talking about how they were looking at digital innovations to drive a frictionless customer experience. The SDS was then able to leverage that research and reach out to the prospect with a highly relevant message and get a much higher quality meeting than any cold call could have achieved.
Your research is vital to building messaging that will resonate with different titles and be relevant to their unique needs. AI can help you customize messages quickly. However, you must be very intentional about your approach and use prompts that will get you the best results.
Stephen Kirkpatrick, Senior Sales Content Manager, leverages AI in the communications he creates for our clients.
“A best practice every sales team should be leveraging is testing different prompts. For example, instead of asking AI to write an email about your company, ask AI to write a thought leadership article based on key information unique to your solution or service.”
Stephen Kirkpatrick Senior Sales Content Manager
Stephen cautions against relying fully on AI. Instead, always take the time to personalize the output and apply a human element. Says Stephen, “Chances are, AI is going to provide you with a lengthy message that can lessen how relevant it is to your audience. That is where your expertise comes into play. Based on industry challenges, stats, solutions, and more, you can build upon the jumping-off points produced by AI while fully fleshing out a finished sales message by applying your distinctive knowledge.”
Along with messaging that speaks directly to goals, needs, and pain points, here are a few additional best practices to grab attention. These are applicable whether speaking in person, leaving voice messages, sending emails or texts, or reaching out via social media.
At ML, everyone who contacts a prospect captures the intel they collect in HubSpot. This provides a complete history that can be very useful for personalizing messaging and has multiple benefits:
When you connect, use your limited time wisely.
The answers they provide will help you amplify the relevance of future outreach and inform your follow-up. Updating your messaging as you move through the sales cycle builds credibility and trust.
You may be thinking that this extra research will delay the time it takes you to get to your buyer. However, by doing your homework early and crafting relevant messaging, once you do connect, converting to a meeting is faster because you have built interest and trust.
ML has always performed proactive research as part of our lead development services. In fact, it is the backbone of our strategic outbound approach. But our newest pivot takes us to the next level to understand prospects even deeper and act on that knowledge more intentionally and intelligently. By shifting our processes to allow for more research at the top of the funnel and investing in new technologies like AI, we are enjoying better prospecting results, and you will, too.
If you have questions about this new approach to outbound sales, we are here to help. Just send us an email or give us a call.
Thanks for listening!