Don’t you hate it when a prospect seems to just 'fall off the face of the earth'? You send email after email. Call them. Try their mobile number. And finally, you just give up.
All the while, you’re trying to be nice. Adopt a light touch. Use informal language. Everything to avoid appearing to be that pushy salesperson no one likes.
So you say things like 'Hey'. 'Just checking in'.
As a former corporate executive and buyer, I’ve been on the receiving end of many of these attempts to 'touch base'. Now, in most cases I gave people the common courtesy of a quick response - but most buyers don’t.
Because it doesn’t add anything to the conversation. If they haven’t gotten back to you, it’s not because they’ve somehow magically forgotten about you. It’s because there’s nothing new to report (or because you’ve already lost, but don’t know it yet).
If you’re in sales, you should strike the phrase 'just checking in' from your vocabulary. Instead, you should focus on delivering value at every touch point.
Every single one.
But that’s easier said than done, right? When you’re sitting in front of your screen, racking your brain to come up with 'something interesting to say', you just draw this huge blank.
Well. It’s not quite as hard as it sometimes seems. There’s a method to the madness. It’s all about taking a slightly different approach.
People are smart. If you reach out to them with a piece of value (such as the ones I’ve listed below), they’ll 'remind themselves' about getting back to you.
Only now you’re not that pushy salesperson – you’re a professional, a valued connection who is merely being helpful. Making them (much) more likely to get back to you.
There are five different forms of value that work particularly well. For argument’s sake, let’s assume you’re at the phase where you sent a proposal, you’re about to close the deal and your buyer went under the radar. And let’s also assume this is a deal you want to win, and you’re willing to invest at least some time into making that happen.
1. Share relevant/related research
Whatever you’re selling, I bet there’s a related piece of research out there. It can be produced by your firm, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a report, benchmark study, academic research excerpt, infographic, blogpost or even just a juicy statistic.
Whatever you do, don’t do what most sellers would do, and just send it to them. That’s just lazy. Don’t assume they will make the connection between the research and what you’re selling (or that they’ll dig through a 50-page academic report just to find out).
Instead, do something like this:
I was reviewing this industry report on ______ yesterday, and was struck by _______. If you remember, we discussed this very issue in our early conversations, and came up with __________ as a solution.
The research seems to support our thinking – check out p. 38 for their take, along with some very interesting benchmark data from firms who have implemented this type of solution before.”
This helps you in three key ways. First, you’ve reached out with value (and you’re not “checking in”). Second, you found an independent, credible source of social proof that supports your solution. Third, you’ve given them a reason to move forward, and move forward now.
2. Make a valuable connection
This strategy is so powerful, I’m surprised not more people are using it. Yet, at its core, the idea is a simple one. Find someone who could be a valuable connection for your potential buyer, and connect the two of them.
Could be someone in their industry. Someone who holds the same role as they do. A past client. An industry luminary.
When you make an introduction, as above, always be clear as to why you’re making it. Spell it out. 'John, I wanted to introduce you to Mary because she and I have worked on the very same issue you’re facing now, and I wanted you to hear from her where things stand a year down the line.'
One of the reasons I personally love this strategy is that it delivers value to both parties being introduced – putting you firmly in between as the connecting party.
3. Share a new idea or insight
In RAIN Group’s research on 'What Sales Winners Do Differently', we identified ten factors that make buyers decide to buy from one firm versus another. The #1 factor buyers mentioned? “Because the seller educated me with new ideas and perspectives”.
There’s this assumption that, once the proposal is out the door, it’s set in stone. It’s not. If there’s a valid reason, you’re completely free to suggest altering or changing it. Providing there is that valid reason.
So, let’s say you uncover a key piece of research, data or information.
'Carl, I was speaking with one our long-term clients yesterday. About a year ago, they did something similar to what you’re about to do. Since then, they decided to add another component: ___________ . This has not only accelerated their growth by 15%, but resulted in an overall contribution to the bottom line of _______.
I’d highly recommend you and I speak to see if it makes sense to slightly change the approach we discussed, and incorporate what we’ve learned from them.'
4. Extend a personal invitation
As human beings, we’re hardwired to want to be associated with others. Even groups that are notorious for not wanting to belong (punk rockers, hipsters, skaters, Eminem fans) just want to connect with other, like-minded peers.
If you’re in a position to extend an invitation to an exclusive group, event or forum, that puts you in very enviable position. You hold the keys. You control access. You decide who’s in and who’s out.
From invitation-only CEO dinners to executive research panels, the options are virtually unlimited. In order for this strategy to succeed, you need two crucial elements.
First, the event (circle, …) needs to be exclusive. As the number of people in it increases, the perceived value goes down (after all, who’s impressed by your local supermarket’s offer to become part of their 'SuperShopper Discount Club' ?).
Second, the group (event, …) needs to be somewhat aspirational. Invite a small-firm CEO to a dinner with 5 CEOs from the big leagues. Make them feel like 'this is where they belong.'
5. Take the offer off the table
The fifth and final strategy to deliver value is to take the offer off the table. Now, this may sound counter-intuitive. After all, where’s the value in that?
Well, here’s the trick: if you give the impression that something can be taken away, that same thing instantly acquires value.
I was watching my two boys (two and four) this morning. We gave our youngest a t-shirt that belonged to his brother, and had his favourite cartoon character on it. The oldest hadn’t worn it for at least a year or so. Didn’t even so much as look at it.
Yet, the second the youngest one put it on, tears started flowing and a passionate plea emerged. He wanted his old t-shirt back. The very same t-shirt he hadn’t worn in a year was now the single most important piece of clothing in the entire house.
Now, before you think I’m all basing this on events occurring only in my house, there is some very solid academic evidence for this. Robert Cialdini, author of 'Influence: The Science Of Persuasion' and probably the world’s most prominent expert on the topic, calls this 'The Scarcity Principle'.
According to Cialdini, 'In fundamental economic theory, scarcity relates to supply and demand. Basically, the less there is of something, the more valuable it is. The more rare and uncommon a thing, the more people want it.'
So there you go. Five ways to reach out and re-engage without having to say “just checking in.” But what did you think ? Have any other ones worth sharing ? Let us know in the comments below.
By Ago Cluytens is Practice Director EMEA at RAIN Group, and a recognised global B2B sales thought leader on understanding the buyer's perspective in sales, Insight Selling and selling to the C-suite. You can learn more about Ago, read his blog, and watch him in action or connect on Twitter, Linkedin and Google+