Virtual Selling & Prospecting Tactics

Selling Skills | Prospecting

Sitting next to me, collecting dust, is a relic of a by-gone era: my desk phone. My company recently moved away from a stand-alone office phone system to an integrated platform that combines virtual meeting functionality with chat and telephony.

There has been a titanic shift in business-to-business communications technology during the pandemic to remote sales. Instant messaging platforms such as Slack and Teams and video tools like Zoom replaced many workers’ phones. At the same time, the work-from-home trend has also accelerated the trend of workers walking away from their office phones and relying just on their cell phones to make all their calls.

For sales teams, these technological shifts have produced new hybrid selling techniques. But what does virtual sales mean for prospecting? After all, sales managers have traditionally associated prospecting with cold calling, including phone-centric metrics to measure productivity – e.g., the number of dials, connects, talk time, etc. Lets dig into some virtual selling best practices.

Defeating Caller ID: Get to the Point

Well, the good news is that it’s still possible to reach people at their place of work. Yes, my office phone no longer works, but if someone calls me now, I can pick it up on my laptop or cell phone. I’m more reachable than ever.

Unfortunately, improvements in caller ID have changed the prospecting game. According to research conducted by Pew surveys, eight out of 10 Americans say that they don’t answer unknown numbers. An additional 14% of Americans say that they ignore voice mails from such numbers. People are afraid of the unknown, so they may be anxious when they accept a call from an unknown caller.

To be successful at prospecting, you need to reduce the unknowns quickly. That means:

  • Use a friendly, high-energy greeting, where you quickly identify yourself and your company.
  • After the greeting, you need to gain the prospect’s attention immediately. Explain why you are calling and why the prospect should care about what you are saying (i.e., WIIFM).
  • Finally, ask an open-ended question to engage the prospect – e.g., “Is this a priority for you?”

The idea is to avoid giving the prospect an opportunity to say no. That means avoiding questions such as “Is this a good time” Or “Do you have a minute?” You also want to focus more on creating interest around the buyer’s problem and potential solutions, rather than trying to book an appointment right away.

Use a Multi-Touch Approach

The rapid adoption of new communication methods has also accelerated a generational shift away from connecting by phone. Some 71% of people born after 1983 say that they would prefer a text over a voice mail if they miss a call – for baby boomers, that figure was just 34%, according to a poll conducted by survey platform Tellwut. Likewise, many other people prefer to engage with email rather than by phone.

Successful prospecting campaigns then need to be multi-touch and leverage different communication methods. Data from SalesLoft shows that people are almost five times as responsive if they receive both a voice mail and an email from a salesperson instead of a single form of outreach. An engaging voice mail can convey warmth and help make a connection with the prospect, in a way that an email can’t. Multi-touch prospecting campaigns can include calls, voice mails, emails, texts, and messages via LinkedIn. The idea is to engage with your prospect in the way in which they are most comfortable.

While communications technology and selling in a virtual environment continues to evolve rapidly, the need for sales teams to prospect and find new customers will never change. Salespeople need to evolve their tactics around the fact that the old fashion, stand-alone office phone no longer reigns supreme.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.