Think Before You Automate Your Prospecting Efforts

How do you engage, equip and empower your sales force when it comes to prospecting? To be precise, how do you prepare, and what do you provide for your SDRs and BDRs?

According to my email inbox, we’re not making any progress when it comes to comprehensive and effective prospecting emails. In fact, in collecting and analyzing the messages I receive, I can tell you with absolute certainty that things are getting worse.

Prospecting emails that are not on target damage your brand and your credibility. (Click to tweet)

Let me share with you an email I received from a BDR in the sales space. It’s not about blaming someone; it’s about sharing, showing and explaining a neutralized example so that we all can hopefully get better at it.


Here at <VENDOR NAME> we have discovered a breakthrough in the way content is delivered, communicated, and digested across sales teams and prospects.

With marketing teams, there is the growing desire to be able to measure the actual revenue impact and dollar value of the materials produced, beyond click and opens, letting you maximize efforts and quantify effectiveness of content.

The reason I reached out to you today is to get 15 minutes on your calendar to discuss if <VENDOR NAME> could be a fit for you.

If it makes sense to connect, let’s find a time that works best for you.



Now let’s go through the message. Overall, they got my name right, and the message sounds personalized and tailored. But it’s not.

The first sentence is about THEM… not about me, my role and my potential challenges. The consequence is that I don’t care. It’s not relevant to me.

The second sentence tries to articulate a business problem marketing teams have but, in essence, it only articulates a certain desire, which is less powerful. Rubbing salt in the wound is part of addressing the problem that you can solve. The next issue is that it mentions a potential problem marketing teams have re: quantifying, measuring, etc. but doesn’t include a single number that could make me curious – if I was the right buyer role.

Several things don’t make any sense here and show that the message is a “one-size-fits-all” approach that was sent to the entire list, or a tailored list with lots of errors. I’m an analyst in the sales enablement space (not totally unknown, I’d say). If I’m on their email list as being in a potential buyer role, then lots of homework should be done to clean it up. Second, I’m not in marketing, and I never was in marketing, which can be checked on my LinkedIn profile. So how did I get on this marketing list? And third, I live in Europe (this also is very transparent), so I’d prefer to get messages that talk to me in euro rather than dollars. As no numbers were mentioned anyway, this is a minor problem… but one that shows there was no real personalization behind the message.

The third sentence asks for my time to see if this vendor is the right fit for me. Now it’s very obvious that a one-size-fits-all message was sent to everyone on their list. Sending this message to me – an analyst in the sales enablement space – addressing me as a potential buyer in marketing and not even articulating the problem and potential value I could get (if I was the right buyer role) shows that almost everything in the message needs a lot of improvement.

In a sales enablement role, you should involve yourself proactively in the matter, assess the current state, stop the craziness and implement a systematic approach that’s really personalized – one that’s tailored to the buyer roles and only reaches out to the right people. An approach based on deep thinking!

The key principle to drive your prospecting efforts is “think before you automate.” (Click to tweet)

#1: Think about the specific business problem you solve for your customers.
The logic is simple: Buyers don’t buy products. They buy the value they get out of a solution that solves their business problem in a measurable way. Chances are your products and services only cover part of their solution. If you haven’t already, check out our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, which clearly shows that customers expect sellers to be problem solvers and that they want to learn how to best solve their business problems.

#2: Think about the most relevant buyer roles that have this problem.
There’s always a lot of noise around buyer roles, buyer personas and ideal client profiles. Based on the emails I receive, I can say with confidence that something doesn’t work at all with this approach, at least for most organizations. I analyze these messages very well (yes, that’s what analysts do) and can clearly state that 80% of the prospecting messages (email, LinkedIn) I receive are totally off target, not even considering the basics such as current role and title. The question is, what is wrong: the ideal client profile, the data quality in their email lists or the lack of filters in their email lists? Whatever it is, you must think through every single step. If your ideal buyer role is precisely defined, sit down with your marketing and sales operations teams and come up with a plan to segment your email list or get sharper with LinkedIn Inmails.

#3: Think about your email lists, and be obsessed with data quality.
Based on the clearly defined ideal buyer role, represented with, for instance, titles, roles, levels, functions or industries, create highly targeted lists. Then invest in a resource to ensure the quality of your lists. Make them go through the list item by item, and let them check with LinkedIn or another business network that is most relevant to your industry. Do not allow wrong items to remain on your list. Do not underestimate this investment. Prospecting emails that are off target (as the one above) damage your brand significantly. How could I ever trust this vendor in the sales space, as I can clearly see that they don’t even master their own prospecting efforts? The long-term impact of a misplaced message is much bigger than just a bad open, click through or response rate.

#4: Think before you create prospecting messages.
Provide your sales force with email templates they can easily tailor or customize for your specific buyer roles. Focus on short, personalized messages focused on THEM (not on you), THEIR business problem and how you can solve it. If you ask for their time, the energy exchange must make sense (their time vs. the value your sellers could provide). If there is no hint in your message, how you could help them specifically (add a potential outcome with a data point that’s relevant to them), why would they ever agree to a call, even if they were the right buyer role? Exactly, they wouldn’t. Click here for more on how to stop bad email habits.

#5: Think before you push the automate button.
Finally, before anyone pushes the automate button: Make sure you have mapped out an entire process that includes the right buyer roles, highly targeted, impactful, buyer-centric messages and the related, segmented high-quality email list. If the list is smaller than expected, that’s a good thing, as you have removed the garbage and will create less distractions and less brand damage out there. The results will improve over time, with better conversions and better sales results. I cannot stress this enough: Focus on top quality when it comes to data quality.

These steps are focused on getting the foundations right. More on the relevant training and coaching to improve your prospecting efforts, click here.

Whatever tool you use, with AI or without, technology never replaces human inspection. (Click to tweet)

Technology should SERVE us; therefore, humans must MASTER technology. (Click to tweet)
And that requires deep thinking. The more technology we use, the more thinking is required.


Questions for you:

  • What does your prospecting strategy look like?
  • What is your contribution from a sales enablement perspective?
  • How do you equip your sales force, and how do you collaborate with sales managers and marketing?

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