Know When to Reach Out

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify the importance of good research.
  • Explain the best ways to reach out to your prospects.

Reaching out to prospects can be an art, more than a science. While many salespeople have aggressive targets for the number of people they need to reach out to, it’s important they try to get the timing right. Here’s why good research is so incredibly helpful in making a successful connection. Good research lets you 1) understand your prospect’s business needs, and 2) identify “trigger events” to help facilitate the timing of your communication.

Invest in Research

Buyers have little patience for a salesperson who contacts them with no understanding of them and their company. Taking the time to do some research before initiating contact is critical to make the right impression.

“Earn the right to make a cold call or send an email by doing research on your target account and having a legitimate reason to reach out to them.”

—John Barrows, owner of JBarrows Sales Training

Doing your research can be as simple as viewing your prospect's company website to get an understanding of their products and services, and reading the social media profile of the person you plan to call. There isn’t enough time to do in-depth research on every prospect you contact. Using the contact tier structure can help you determine how much effort to apply. For Tier 1, you may want to do more in-depth research, as making the right first impression is more important for larger (and more likely) prospective customers.

Sales person viewing computer monitor using mouseThe other aspect of research you can take advantage of is looking for a "trigger event" to give weight to the timing of the contact. Not only do you need to be able to answer the question, "What's in it for me?" for each prospect, you need to quickly establish why you’re reaching out now. The trigger event can be that the company has had a new press announcement on their website. Or maybe the contact you’re hoping to reach recently announced a promotion on their social media channels. Organizations and people always have a lot going on, and with the rich font of information on social media, it shouldn’t be difficult to find an event that helps you get your timing right and make that crucial connection.

Identifying what is in it for the prospect may depend on the products and services you are looking to sell. Mapping the challenges your target companies and individuals face to stories of how you've helped other others is a great approach. It’s important to add value from the start, so line up some ebooks or other resources the marketing team has created on common challenges, and use them as part of your outreach. You have answers to some of the common challenges prospects are facing, share them.

Now You’re Ready to Reach Out

Now that you have your strategy, messages, research, and have identified potential “trigger events,” it’s time for you to start reaching out. You have a number of options, such as calling, emailing, texting, and even sending a physical letter in the mail. The key is finding a way to get your prospect’s attention with whichever channels work. Everyone is busy, but if they never even receive your message, there’s no chance you can help them solve their challenges. Which approach you choose will depend on your prospects, but by experimenting with different approaches and tracking how they perform, you can ultimately set yourself up to sell more easily.

In the same way you can’t do thorough research on every possible prospect, you likely can’t reach out to every prospect with a high-touch approach. This is where your contact strategy segmentation comes in handy. It lets you tailor your approach based on how important that prospect is and how likely they are to ultimately buy. For Tier 1 prospects, you may want to follow the approach John Barrows teaches to Salesforce sales reps: 5 unique touches in 30 days. Each time you call or email, you’ll say something different and add value right from the start. Barrows even suggests scheduling those unique touches to ensure you’re making the calls and sending the emails. You can put them on your calendar and alternate between calling and emailing each of your prospects.

For Tier 2 prospects, you can plan a less aggressive outreach, but make sure that you don’t neglect them for too long. For every two emails you send, maybe make one call to the prospect. While with Tier 3 prospects, you may want to contact them less frequently, and maybe only by email.

What’s Next?

Now that you understand more about how prospecting fits into the sales cycle, how to create a contact strategy, and when to reach out to your prospects, you’re ready to start building that pipeline that can help you sell consistently and advance your career. To learn more about the sales discovery process, the next module looks at how to use design thinking to help you achieve even larger sales.


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