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Prospecting is typically a dreaded part of the sales process. It goes something like this: Identify target companies. Search LinkedIn to see if you know anyone at the company. Place cold calls or send out generic emails and hope that you get a response. Rinse and repeat.
For business development professionals in the biotech/pharma sector, these traditional sales prospecting methods mean taking time away from active accounts to manually dig through databases, scan news reports, or browse the web in search of new opportunities. This cycle gets tiring and will make you feel like you’re doing more administrative work than closing business deals.
If you want to stand out from the crowd as a sales professional, you will need to rethink how you approach prospecting in 2016. Here are five prospecting tactics that will actually work:
1. Uncover sales opportunities with news intelligence
Salespeople who research their prospect before picking up the phone, and demonstrate genuine concern about buyers’ specific problems are far more successful than their cold calling peers.
Before you pick up the phone or hit the email send button, your number one priority should be to get your hands on as much information regarding that target company as possible: News regarding their clinical trials, development phases, press releases, capital funding, new hires, etc.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to just research the target company, you also need to learn as much as you can about the people in that organization who are responsible for making the purchasing decisions and the people who influence him or her. There’s a lot of great “ice breaker” information you can learn by exploring people’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook profiles (if public). Things like where they went to school, mutual connections, hobbies, articles they are reading, groups they belong to, etc.
The personal/professional intelligence you gather on your prospects will give you a real reason to reach out and touch base with them. Most salespeople have a strong urge to “check in”, or “touch base” after a few days of silence from a prospect. Emails containing those phrases feel safe to send, but they are a surefire way to end up in the trash folder.
If this sounds like a lot of homework, it doesn’t have to be. There are many web tools at your disposal that will help with uncovering hard to find opportunities in an automated fashion. There are few tools that I will recommend at the end of this article.
2. Find the best path to the decision maker
What’s the best way to get to the decision maker at your target account? Find a warm introduction. The key to getting a warm introduction is leveraging your network and the network of your co-workers.
If the decision maker you are trying to get to is not a first or second degree connection, think of what you can do for that 3rd degree connection to get you introduced. Remember, it’s about presenting value before asking anyone in your network for a favor.
As an additional tactic to surround the decision maker, analyze the LinkedIn profiles of people that have been good champions during your past deals. Use LinkedIn’s “people also viewed” feature to identify a champion that seems close to the business unit of your target decision maker.
If a cold attempt is the only option, then aim one level higher than the person you think will be ultimately making the decision. Is the service you sell something that a Director of Operations usually decides on? Aim for the COO. Is it something the CEO usually approves? Aim for a Board Member you find on LinkedIn. The goal is to have your outreach passed off to someone who is advised to “look into this”. Picture what that email would look like between the two parties: “This company looks interesting, have we ever worked with them?”
3. Get to know your sales territory
When planning a sales trip, ensure that you do ample research about industry-related activity in the city you’ll be visiting.
Rather than simply running down a list of prospect companies pulled from a database, you could look for various trigger events that could help get your foot in the door. Was there a recent merger? A new product announcement? A decision maker recently moved to another company? Being aware of these kinds of happenings can help you prioritize your time while you’re in town.
It also helps to visualize companies of interest on a map. Seeing those companies that are close in proximity to one another will help you understand your best opportunity to maximize your impact in the least amount of time. With more time for meetings, why not get creative? Offer to bring a catered lunch with you and give an info session to employees and decision makers who would find value in your product or service.
4. Unlock the hidden value of your CRM system
They say It costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer (Loyalty Myths), so before chasing down new business, stop and ask yourself whether you have fully saturated your existing client base. Do any of your clients give a portion of their business to one of your competitors? Do you feel like your last sale to a particular client was just a small slice of the full breadth you normally sell? If you can answer yes to either of these questions, then you should put the cold calls on hold and focus on growing your existing accounts.
Start by scanning through your Salesforce.com account to identify latent opportunities. Make a list of those customers who you could be selling additional services to, and set up meetings to show them what they’re missing with custom presentations that speak precisely to their current needs.
You can also find new users within existing accounts by thinking about which of your customers interact with your company regularly. Who sends your company the most emails? Who calls your services teams the most? Make a list of these people and then use LinkedIn to determine who else in the client company is performing those same job functions. This will help guide you to entire business units or divisions that you’ve previously not had contact with.
One common mistake we make as sales professionals is to always chase the new shiny objects and forget just how many attempts it takes to get that first meeting. By making a habit of revisiting your CRM as the first source of new prospecting ideas, you’re far more likely to spot instances where a few more follow-up attempts will help you grow your existing and dormant accounts.
5. Automate your prospecting research with online tools
Sales prospecting doesn’t have to be all that time consuming and difficult. There are various web tools at your disposal that can help with sales prospecting research in an automated fashion. For example, set up Google Alerts to monitor when an existing customer or prospect is mentioned in the news, or leverage LinkedIn’s TeamLink feature to find out if anyone in your company is connected to the person you are trying to reach at that target account.
For those of you in the biotech and pharma space, there is an automated sales prospecting and research tool called Zymewire.
Smart prospecting effectively means thinking like your target customer and personalizing how you reach each out to them. Armed with the right tools, you will spend less time hunting for prospects and will have more time for closing deals.