The Essential Best Practices to Successfully Prospect Inbound Leads

by Mark Roberge

Date

October 22, 2013 at 4:30 PM

sales-call-best-practicesThis post originally appeared on Inbound Sales, a new section of Inbound Hub. You can view the original article here

"Another cold call? Really?"

This is something I say daily. I typically get 25 cold calls a day. In the span of a few weeks, a single sales rep will contact me four or five times. Surprisingly, they always leave the same exact voicemail message.

It essentially sounds like this: "Hey, Mark. This is John from XYZ Company. We help companies streamline their sales process and decrease sales cycles by a factor of 40%. Are you free at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow?"

I get this message over and over again. It’s painful. I cringe at the thought of the armies of salespeople out there who are trained to contact leads this way. Newsflash, guys: Old-school cold calls and elevator pitches do not work! Instead of cold calling, start an inbound sales approach by prospecting your inbound leads.

4 Keys to Successful Inbound Lead Prospecting

I’d like to share four tactics we use at HubSpot to successfully prospect inbound leads, because these leads present a big opportunity. If you contact an inbound lead with an old, scripted cold call, you're throwing your advantage out the window. Inbound leads are further down the sales funnel. The buyer’s specific interests and context is the right starting point -- not the generic elevator pitch.

1) Do Your Research

Before you contact an inbound lead, a few additional cycles of investment in researching a lead upfront is well worth your time. Most salespeople are pretty good about reviewing a lead's website to learn about their company’s value proposition, news, and leadership team. However, many salespeople overlook two important areas:

Social Media

Social channels give you better context about who your contact is and what's going on right now in their life and in their company.

What is your contact’s role? How long have they been at the company? Did they come up through marketing? Product? Finance? Who is their boss? Who is their VP? Do they know anyone at your company? Do they know your cousin?

Follow your lead and their company on Twitter. Subscribe to the company blog. Track what your contact is talking about on social media (and what their company is talking about).

Lead Intelligence

Knowing a lot about your prospect gives you detailed context about their interest in your company. How did the lead get to your website? Did they find you from a Google search? If so, what did they search for? Did they find you from another website, an email, or a tweet?

It's also important to know what content they engaged with on your site, what pages on the site they view, and if they checked out content and pricing information.

2) Use Monitoring Technology

If you're about to engage in a number of prospecting cycles with a lead, it's mission-critical to make sure you know if and when a lead actually engages with your prospecting.

Just because they're not calling or emailing you back does not mean you're not piquing their interest. Your prospecting monitoring tools should:

  • Notify you the moment a lead engages with a prospecting email you sent them (I personally use the Signals notification tool).
  • Notify you the moment a lead revisits your website.
  • Notify you the moment a lead mentions you, your competitor, or an industry keyword on social media. 

3) Work the Company, Not Just the Contact

Many salespeople make the mistake of only calling the contact on the lead. The problem with this is the contact is often not the decision-maker. However, someone -- usually a decision-maker -- instructed this contact to do the research.

This inbound lead signals to us that something is going on strategically at the company that is aligned with your value proposition. In some cases, many people may be involved in this research. Here's what a sample engagement strategy may look like.

Contact Lead's Boss First

If your lead is an associate, look up the VP for that department and place a call. Let the executive know that people in their department have been making inquiries with your company on topic XYZ.

Call Prospect With Their Context, Not Your Elevator Pitch

Use lead intelligence and offer specific ways to help. This builds trust and fosters a trusted advisor relationship. It might sound like this: "Hey, Joe. I saw you downloaded HubSpot’s “How to Master Facebook Marketing" ebook. I visited your company’s Facebook profile and have two tips on how you can improve it. I will email them to you now. Let me know if you would like to discuss."

Build on Prospecting Calls With Each Attempt

When you reach out to the lead for a second time, build off of your last attempt. Just because they are not calling you back does not mean they are not listening. Every message is an opportunity to add value for them.

A good follow-up from the soundbite above may be: "Hey, Joe. This is Mark from HubSpot again. I actually found a customer of ours in your industry that succeeded with Facebook marketing. I will send a summary of their strategy and results. Let me know if you want to discuss.”

Use "Always-Be-Helping" Approach

Answer their questions. Don’t hold back information. Once you have their trust, don’t qualify them unless they're a decision-maker. Instead, ask them who requested that they conduct this research and why. Also, ask what is on their executives’ minds. If you truly have your contact's trust, they will help you help them.

Let Lead Know You Contacted VP

Ask them if it's okay to keep the VP in the loop. As you nurture the relationship with the influencer, this gives you the opportunity to keep the decision maker updated and invite them to join.

4) Add Science to Your Prospecting Calls

Whether your sales team is 2,000 people or just 2, you will eventually amass a number of prospecting attempts -- some that succeed and some that don't. Track these attempts. Analyze the results. Iterate your strategy based on this data. Every buyer context is different. Set yourself up to master your own.

What are some of your best practices when it comes to prospecting? Let us know some of your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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