Photo credit: Tim Green
Joseph Priestley was a theologian, chemist, philosopher, writer (150+ books), in short, a giant, who lived at the end of the 19th Century. Amongst other things he is known for the discovery of oxygen though other scientists have strong claims for this discovery too (like many discoveries at this time). One thing which absolutely blows my mind is the prescience of on of his quote: “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate”. Absolutely fascinates me as this is such a salient point these days.
Communication is key in sales process. For a business looking at building a value prop specific to a segment, a new country or a specific function (eg: HR, Ops, etc…), there is a need to talk to prospects and existing customers to understand their perspective. For technology companies, understanding how a company voice their problems helps build a value prop which is not based on technology. Nobody buys a “machine learning” thingy. Or a “cloud based IaaS / PaaS on the Cloud”. That may sound obvious but there are still a fair amount of companies that articulate what they do in highly complex technical terms. For some example, check the screenshot below from Linkedin.
So, to articulate the problems prospects actually face using his/her words, to understand the business impact that a technology can solve or even to localise to a new country a specific offering , there is no other way than being “out there”, listen to what prospective customers are saying. But the challenge is how to do so in a cost efficient and measured manner.
Focus and process first…
One of my obsessions is having a clear process when running sales. To be specific, there are actually 2 sales processes that need to run in parallel. Firstly, there is a 1-2-1 process with a prospect. I have mentioned this in a few posts (here or here). The second process that needs to be in place is what I call a “company wide process”. It is the ensemble of activities that adds prospects into the top of the sales funnel. These include regular content production, regular newsletters, white paper productions, regular meet-ups / events, regular prospection (more on this further down), etc… With these in place, there can be other ad-hoc / opportunistic activities taking place. But the crux of success imho is in the focus, the range of activities constantly, regularly happening. And of course to tweak, adapt, optimise them based on what customers and prospects are saying.
It might sound philosophical (maybe vaguely inspired by Joseph Priestley?) but a company is a human construct and therefore subject to counter-productive and endless distractions. This is somewhat known as context switching. Having processes led activities happening recurrently and avoid the organisation to loose its focus in its search for customers. Or in search of new ways to articulate its services/technology.
… Add various flavours
Depending on the objective pursued, be it acquiring new customers based on a personae, testing a new value proposition, prospecting on public social signals (eg: someone following a competitor), the message articulated to a prospect need to be adapted. For instance, when taking a business to a new country, I have in the past approached companies that were part of a community and ask for feedback on how best to articulate the value prop to the local market. Regardless of how this is done, there is a need to be efficient. And for this:
….Bring in technology for efficiency…
Prospecting can be done with two specific tools: a phone and an email. I will focus on the email prospection here and define how to prospection can be done efficiently.
I previously wrote a post about sales stack. One of the solutions I mentioned worth having was YesWare. I have to admit over the years I got frustrated by the limitations YesWare presented. Since then, Reply.io has been created. Reply allows really deep personalisation at scale and comes with a whole range of features that help test and implement various prospection options. And, Reply is really good on the reporting front (see an example below).
I have mentioned how to embed Reply.io in a stack. From the obvious integrations with other CRM for automation, call activation when a mail get opened many times or even making sure the time zone of the recipient is taken into account (sending a prospecting email at the right time is important), there is a lot of features in this platform. It does even report the efficiency of the various steps of a campaign. In my eyes, Reply is the go-to prospecting tool and will no doubt crush its competitors.
Prospecting to acquire new customers or to define new value prop isn’t easy. It clearly requires a lot of dialog with prospects and customers. I wonder what Joseph Priestley would have made of all these tools (I suspect he would have been somewhat bemused….) but, to paraphrase him, I personally think: “The more you focus on implementing the right mix of process, technology and psychology, the less disconnected you are with what your market needs”…