Today we're going to talk about how you can get in front of more prospects.
We're going to first start by talking about what a prospect exactly is for your company.
Getting prospects means different things to different companies, different kinds of business models, different industries, and different locations.
We're going to talk about the right people, the right places, the right time, and in the right context -- and why that's such a big deal for getting in front of more of the right prospects.
We’ll talk about the polar opposite of what many people are doing today – and how that could really be sabotaging them -- to make sure that you don't make the same mistake.
We’ll look at why your buyer personas can help you get in front of the right prospects and why your buyer personas should often dictate priorities.
We’ll talk about getting there in front of more prospects in the right context, to make sure that your prospects see you in the right light, as an expert trusted advisor and not just a vendor that's going to chase after them and beg for 15 minutes of time on their calendar. And then submit to requests for proposal (RFPs), requests for quotes (RFQs) kinds of nonsense, that force your company into profit margin erosion and price competition.
So how can you get in front of more prospects?
Define What a Prospect Means to Your Company
Let’s first start by looking at what a prospect means to you and your company in South Florida. After all, a prospect can mean very different things to different people.
This should be grounded in your company’s product/market fit, regardless of whether your company has achieved product/market fit or your company is working towards product/market fit.
Product/market fit is the degree to which you know the information that you need to know to scale strong demand. You know:
- Who your ideal clients are
- Which products and services they purchase
- Which price points they purchase those products and services at
- How frequently your ideal clients back to buy more
- What the duration is of any recurring subscription model products or services
All of these are key data points that give you the answers that you need to have in order to scale strong demand. So that’s your product/market fit and it’s absolutely critical to either nail or be working towards in order to define what a prospect means to your company.
Remember that you can’t get in front of more prospects if you don’t know who they are.
Second, once you’ve either achieved product/market fit or are working towards it and understand the variables that you need to be thinking about, you need to define your buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your idea clients based on actual research and some select, educated speculation.
And if you’re new to talking about product/market fit and your buyer personas, first start out by focusing on your primary and second buyer personas.
Who is the single most important economic driver of success in your company? Who is the second most important economic buyer that purchases your company's products and services?
Your primary and secondary buyer personas are critical to start with if you’re looking to get in front of more prospects.
Lead Qualification Criteria
Besides thinking about your product/market fit and your buyer personas, make sure that you know what your lead qualification criteria looks like.
When you pass a lead off to your sales manager and your sales team, what information and which details do they want to see on that lead?
Hopefully, at this stage of the game, you're passing leads to sales electronically as opposed to handing your sales manager a slip of paper, a 3x5 index card, or something like that. We are in a digital-first world, right?
With the definition of a qualified lead, with the understanding that your company has either achieved product/market fit or is actively working towards achieving product/market fit, with identifying who your primary and secondary buyer personas are, you’ll be well on your way to defining what matters most when you’re looking for the right kinds of prospects for your company in South Florida.
The Right Timing and the Right Context
When it comes to all of this, I often talk about the idea of getting in front of the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
For a lot of companies, where they have a kind of a dated playbook that they've been using for a long time, they may just be focusing on who they think the right people are and getting in front of those right people in the right places.
So they’ll go and set up booths at conferences, they’ll make cold calls and send out cold emails. The old school sales teams will try to get in front of prospects with any possible way to interrupt them and say, “We have something that’s a game-changer for you. Please put aside 15 minutes of time on your calendar – pretty please on top – to meet with our salesperson. Because I promise you, this meeting with be worth our – I mean your – while.”
So that might’ve worked 10 or 15 years ago. The challenge is: in a digital-first world, there’s been a tremendous shift in power from sellers to buyers.
Buyers now hold nearly all of the cards and can get access to a tremendous amount of information that your sales team used to be able to hold back as leverage. There used to be tremendous information asymmetry. But that doesn't exist anymore.
Now when people want to know the answers to questions, they go to Google, Bing, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.
And these are billion-dollar businesses, or at least marquis products of billion-dollar businesses, whose entire purpose is to give people answers. And far be it for someone from your sales team to get in the way of all of that.
There’s been a tremendous shift in power from sellers to buyers. And because of that, you need quite a different approach to get in front of more prospects.
A huge common mistake, when people are just starting out with all of this, is to think that it's just a matter of the right people, in the right place.
In a digital-first world, you may be interrupting and contextually tone-deaf to all of this.
The Dangers of First Date Marriage Proposals
The analogy I sometimes use:
Think about somebody proposing marriage on the first date. And yes, if you poll a few hundred friends and acquaintances, you might find someone who did something like. But the reason that this kind of bizarre scenario ends up in comedy movies and TV sitcoms is because it usually isn’t something that works out well for establishing the right foundation for a very long-term relationship at the outset of just meeting someone.
And the same kind of thinking can get you really off-base with finding the right kinds of prospects in the absolute wrong context. They’re just at the very early stage of starting to explore their problems, and you come along and say, “What’s it going to take to get you into our widgets today? What can I do to close the deal?”
Again 10, 20, or 30 years ago, this approach might have worked. But in a digital-first world, where your buyers are really in the driver seat, not so much.
With the way people research and buy today -- they're doing so much research ahead of time on search engines and social media before they get to you that in many cases 70% or more of their mind is already made up before they're ever going to be receptive to a sales conversation with your sales team.
Google started talking about this four or five years ago. They call it the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). Search engines have become so much a part of how people find information that what you say about your company and brand no longer defines what your brand is.
Your brand is now the collective wisdom of what people find out about your brand when they search for your company on a search engine or ask a question about your company on social media. And wow does that shift the power away from your company and into the hands of your customers!
This isn't something that's just happening in a couple of Industries, in a couple of sectors, or in a couple of geographies.
Capitalizing on Shifts in Buyer Behavior
This behavior shift is an across-the-board change. For some Industries, it happens before the 70% point. In other Industries and business models, if people can get away with not talking to a salesperson, they will go out of their way to make that empowerment happen. And this is a huge challenge for many companies. But it’s also a really big opportunity if you’re able to get found early.
And early is the key thing: getting found early by the right people, in the right places, and most of all in the right context. So early and in the right context are super important.
That context is where you, your team, your employees, and your management are seen as educators by providing helpful content and resources. Your company is seen as subject matter experts, teachers, professors, and thought leaders. When potential clients hold your clients in that esteem, it is a complete game-changers that allows you and your company to earn a seat at the table as trusted advisors early on -- which is incredibly helpful for gaining leverage in your sales process, as well as getting in front of the right prospects, in the right places, at the right time -- the right timing is supercritical -- and in the right context, which is even more critical.
This is the polar opposite of how many old-school sales professionals are prospecting today -- where their entire methodology and playbook -- their entire daily, weekly, and monthly routine is all about cold calling, cold canvassing, and cold emails.
And there's a reason that the word “cold” keeps coming up:
We know, that when it comes to leading a business in South Florida, cold is not something that people warm up to very easily. Frankly, even if you’re in Minneapolis or Juneau, Alaska, cold is not really a great word either in the modern buyer’s journey.
In order for you to be seen as a trusted advisor, for your potential clients to perceive you in that way, prospects have to warm up to you. And it is a heck of a lot easier to warm up to you if they consider you an expert, as opposed to a pushy, obnoxious salesperson.
So the polar opposite of how many people prospect today -- the cold calls, the cold emails -- where they’re literally begging for attention -- is really more like harassment than being helpful. It’s all about the interruption and usually about very selfish, quota-driven motivations -- and in many contexts can be construed as being obnoxious, at best.
More Prospects...But How Many More? Use SMART Goals
If you want to get in front of more prospects, this strongly implies or infers that you have some prospects, but not enough prospects to meet your goals.
What kind of goals? SMART goals: goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
And this brings us back to the drawing board again with buyer personas.
Drill Down on Favorite Watering Holes in Buyer Personas
The reason we come back to buyer personas:
All too often people that are new to a lot of this are just giving lip service to their personas. And if your buyer persona can fit on a Post-it note, on the back of a business card, or on a 3x5 card, if it's not very detailed chances are it's not nearly thorough enough.
When we build buyer personas, one of the big things that we need to come back with is strong consensus on
- Where they hang out
- What their favorite watering holes are
- Where you can meet them on their own terms without interrupting them because they already see value in these places
There are two big categories of watering holes and resources: online and offline.
When it comes to their favorite online resources and online hangouts, these might be:
- What search engines they use
- What social media channels they use
And we want to get really specific. We don’t want to just hear that, “Yes, I use Bing.” Or “Yes, I use Twitter.”
We need to know:
- What topics that they’re interested in, that they're going to look up information about,
- what keywords they're looking up
- What hashtags they’re using on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin
Are there specific groups that folks just like that hang out in, that they belong to, on Facebook or LinkedIn for example?
In addition to understanding their strong preferences for where they already go on search engines and social media, are there other influencers that there’s strong consensus around for this kind of buyer persona?
- Are there certain bloggers that they all read?
Is there a certain email newsletter that they all subscribe to?
- Are there certain podcasts that they all listen to?
- Are there certain YouTube channels that they all subscribe to?
- Are there certain industry analysts that they all tend to rally around for having the magic insight, the crystal ball, about what’s going to happen in the future?
So those are some of the online watering holes.
When it comes to offline, think about
- Which associations or trade groups they all belong to
- Which conferences or trade shows they attend
- Which channel programs, dealer programs, or reseller programs that they all belong to
- Which networking groups and peer groups are predominant in this space and very popular with that kind of buyer persona
Again, when it comes to getting more of the right prospects, besides defining what a prospect means to your business, it can be really helpful if you've done your homework with buyer personas, know exactly where their favorite online places are to hang out, and exactly where their favorite offline places are to hang out.
Frankly, if you can't get consensus on that with a buyer persona, you may not be on the right track with defining that as a buyer persona. In that kind of situation, I would really take a strong step back if you think this is your primary or secondary buyer persona and you can't get to consensus around those two basic categories of preferences and trends.
How to Prioritize
When it comes to figuring out how to get in front of more prospects, let your buyer personas’ priorities dictate yours.
It's all about them!
If you haven't figured that out at this point, you need to get into the DeLorean in Back to the Future and go back to 1985.
In a digital-first world, where crazy amounts of digital transformation is happening and lots of disruption is happening to traditional business models, your buyers have all of the power.
To try to second-guess that, to try to tell your clients and potential clients that they're doing it all wrong when there’s strong consensus of them telling you what they want and how they’re already doing it -- you’re nuts.
If you want to be able to reach prospects where they already are, let your buyer personas priorities dictate yours.
One Campaign with One Buyer Persona in One Buyer’s Journey Stage
When it comes to nearly every one of your campaigns -- your marketing campaigns, your sales campaigns, and your promotions -- don't try to do everything at once.
People want a segmented, personalized experience.
This is why Amazon is kicking everyone else's butts because they figured not just how to personalize by segment, every single person has a completely different user experience when it comes to Amazon.com’s business.
Now it may not be practical for you to do anything quite like Jeff Bezos, at least if you have an idea of who your most important and second most important categories of buyers are -- every campaign should be focused on just one buyer persona and one stage of the buyer’s journey.
So for example, if you sell to two different kinds of customers -- CPAs and CFOs of insurance companies -- there may be some overlap about some of the things that they like.
But the CPA happens to be in a small accounting practice with 10 or 15 employees. And the CFO of the insurance company is part of a Fortune 1000 company with tens of thousands of employees. They have very different daily routines. If you try to make a single campaign, a single promotion, appeal to both it will fall flat.
However all of a sudden by just separating things out and having a different campaign for each kind of client -- based on what you know about their buyer personas, it can make an enormous difference for perceived relevance.
Second, every one of those campaigns should be focused on a different stage of the buyer's journey:
- Awareness -- Early on during the Awareness stage, people are just starting to search for broad-based problems. They’re not ready to be sold on your products and services, and how wonderful they are.
- Consideration -- In the middle of the buyer’s journey, the Consideration stage, people are starting to consider different options. They may be thinking about a company likes yours, but they haven’t narrowed things down quite yet. So your company needs to be relevant to not only who they are, but also to where they are in the buyer’s journey -- so you can meet them where they are.
- Decision - All too often, a lot of old-school companies assume that everyone that they come into contact with -- everyone that visits their website, social media profiles, or sales team is ready to buy on the spot right? Wrong! You need to understand not only who they are, but where they are, so you can personalize and tailor your approach. Don’t presume someone is at the Decision stage unless you want to completely alienate that person.
The Bottom Line on Getting in Front of More Prospects
So what it comes down to, at the end of the day:
Again, remember that these are strangers that have not yet heard of your company if you’re trying to get in front of more prospects.
If you're trying to focus on attracting the right strangers, in the right places, at the right time -- the timing is absolutely critical, and in the right context -- that’s even more critical, everything that you’re doing and creating in terms of the resources, the impression that you’re trying to convey, is for strangers to have a two-pronged deep, visceral, emotional reaction:
- “Oh my gosh! This advice is amazing! It's so helpful. I can't believe I finally found it. I have been looking for something just like this for hours, days, maybe even weeks. Hallelujah! This is totally awesome!” (You have to get this reaction. Otherwise, strangers will tune out, hit the back button on their web browser, and be gone forever.)
- “Who the heck are these folks? Why haven't I found them sooner? What else do they have to say?”
And those two reactions coupled together can be a complete game-changer for your company’s opportunities for getting found in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context by the right strangers -- to help you get in front of more prospects.
I'm so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
I am Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the South Florida CEO Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.
To get notified about upcoming episodes, be sure to visit www.sphomerun.com/ceo