How the Hell Do I Prospect Right Now? Part 2

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In part 1, we talked about call planning.  I hope you’ll check it out here as your outreach depends on getting to the right people with the right questions.


So let’s talk about the outreach call, email, or social media message? 


My advice: keep it short, zero sales, and very human.  Lead with humanity, the desire to help, and an eagerness to learn and talk.  Not pitch.  I dare you to craft a message that has nothing at all to do with you and everything to do with them.  I’ve replied to messages who even say that it’s a strange time to reach out, even those who vaguely apologize for doing so.  I haven’t replied to a single three-paragraph value prop. 


Ask yourself what calls you’ve returned in the past few weeks. Company I’ve been dodging for months to sell online credentials – hard pass. In fact, I’ve eye-rolled at the message as he and I both know damn well I should have been segmented to the bottom (read about segmenting and more planning in part 1 here)

FedEx account rep who was sorry to bother but thought she could save me some money – yes. Even called her during “I’m on kids” time and talked for fifteen minutes.

We have four simple strategies that work better than any other I’ve seen for getting a call back (watch more here) but the key is to customize these even further with empathy.  During these times I recommend you downplay the “mystery and urgency” approach and lean more on the “value or lever” approaches.  Let your message show that you know who they are and you get their situation.  A few lines I like to get you started:

“I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you and your team are doing”

“What a crazy time to call…or maybe crazier NOT to call…but I do hope you’ll call me back…”

“You may not be taking sales calls, but if you’ll give me five minutes, I might be able to save you some money right now / make things easier right now.  Anyway, I’d really appreciate it…”

“I understand you won’t be going to XYZ conference anymore this summer with person A and person B, could we talk about that…”


Same with our opening call.  How are you doing?  How is your business doing?  How are your people doing?  These are your go-to questions right now, and people want to answer them (a year ago I told folks to ditch the “how are you?”).

Keep the rapport building and empathy section of your call long and strong.  A quick pivot into exploring for sales opportunities starts to smell.  Want to build the fastest rapport?  Get real and share your side as well.  Skip the pat, “Hanging in there…it’s the new normal.”  If you want to connect, share something real.  What are you struggling with?  For me it’s managing homeschooling and not drinking every day.  It’s a little personal and a lot real and it builds fast connections with virtual strangers.

Now is the time to be 100% human.

Not an employee.  Not a rep.  Not a brand.  Be you.  And enjoy it.  Connecting with people is probably a big reason you got into sales in the first place.  If you achieve nothing else but a fifteen-minute rapport-building session at a personal level, you’ve achieved a lot.  Be willing to leave it there.  In the wise words of my friend Colleen Stanley, author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership: Ask yourself if your prospecting effort demonstrates that you get their world right now.  It’s the perfect litmus test.

Disco Anyone?

If you’re lucky enough to go further and you’re in a discovery call, lead with learning.  Understanding how your customers and prospects are approaching their business and lives gives you great stories to share with the rest of your prospects.  I want to know:

1.       How are sales?

2.       How are they serving their customers?

3.       What are the biggest challenges?

4.       Any hiring or layoffs?

5.       Any new markets or approaches?

6.       Any changes to the tools they are using?

7.       How has their leadership approached this?

8.       Have they had to change or cancel plans?

9.       Are budgets frozen?

10.   What are the top priorities right now?

And that’s just getting started.  These answers will not only help you connect but even change your approach as needed. 

Tell Stories

Even better, if you’re leading with learning in discovery, you’re collecting stories to tell others that can help other prospects and even yourself (XYZ company is actually hiring right now because….spending right now because….buying software because…)  Storytelling is key right now – right up there with empathy.

You are providing a service by doing some cross-pollination.  What is the flowerbed over there doing?  How about our competition?  What are you hearing that’s real and not either fake news or LinkedIn fluff?

And the Pitch!

Finally, if you’re in a position to pitch something, very carefully lead with value – and customized value to the situation (you planned this above!).  You’re not just convincing people why to do business with you, it’s why to do business with you RIGHT NOW.

May I also be so bold as to recommend a backup.  If you pitch the sale, be prepared with an offer.  I’m offering discounts, payment plans, and delayed payments.  I’m trial closing for next month or quarter when this doesn’t work.  Help people who want to say yes to do it or to sell it internally right now.

I hope you grabbed some nuggets in the above.  Take “lead with empathy” to a new level with your planning, your outreach, your discovery, and your pitch.  Note what’s working, cross-pollinate stories, and set yourself up to love your sales day rather than feeling (and smelling) like failure.  Harsh…but fair.

It’s time you guys.  Let’s get after this together.

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