How to talk to your prospects (online)

Updating old sales advice for the new sales process

October 24.2017
 

The easiest thing to overlook when approaching your prospect is how we communicate with them. 

 

Now, I know, that’s a very general statement, and one you’ve heard enough times. You’ve got this covered, right? I mean, you know that you’re supposed to have a firm handshake. You know that you’re supposed to maintain eye contact. You know that you’re supposed to be well-dressed. What else is there to know?

 

Do me a favor - I want you to take a second, and just re-read the previous paragraph. 

 

Done? Good.

 

Now tell me: how many of those things can you use over an outreach email? 

 

How about over social media? 

 

What about over the phone?

 

That’s the problem.

 

We know the value of communication, but most of us have only thought of it in the context of in-person interactions. But in today’s world, that firm handshake you’ve perfected is being wasted on your mouse. We now spend so much time on templates – effective templates, yes, but templates, nonetheless – and practiced and proven scripts, that we tend to forget the impression that we’re making. As a result, we tend to become stiff, and forget that we’re talking to a real person, not just Prospect #63.

 

Here’s how we’ve updated yesterday’s analog sales tips for the digital sales rep today:

 

1.    Maintain eye contact

The classic. Every man, woman and child who’s had to speak to strangers has heard this old chestnut. Eye contact allows you to instantly build a connection, and develop empathy. It’s what helps to humanize you, while also instilling feelings of confidence and reliability. 

 

But what do you do when your prospect is on the other end of that phone call? 

Or at the receiving end of that email? 

 

What we do – and let me preface this by saying that the silliness of the idea is only rivaled by its effectiveness – is we take the picture that we have of our buyer persona (if you don’t have one, you should), print out a nice high-quality image, and stick it to the wall in front of us. 

 

Now, I want you to talk to the picture. 

 

It takes a few tries to get out of your head and stop thinking how silly it looks, but once you do, I promise you, you’ll start to see the changes. You’ll be sitting up a little straighter, you’ll be projecting your voice better, and you’ll be able to keep your eyes from darting around and being distracted. In fact, if you record your calls, listen to them before and after – you’ll be able to clearly hear the difference in your voice.

 

If you do it enough, you won’t need to actually look at a photo anymore. You’ll visualize the buyer in your head, and naturally be able to communicate the same impact with your voice. But it takes practice.

 

(We prefer leaving the print ourselves mostly because we’ve been known to take out some of our frustrations on it after a particularly hard day – but don’t tell anyone!)

 

Maintain eye contact and smile when you talk

 

2.    Smile when you talk

This isn’t really new information, but it does make an impact. We all know the value of smiling when we meet our prospect in person, and we also know the value of smiling when we speak to them over the phone. But did you know that smiling can even have an impact on how you communicate over email and social media too?


Studies have shown that a smile – even a fake one (in the study, the fake smiles were actually created using chopsticks!) – can decrease stress. And earlier studies have shown that it can reduce depression, and actually cause happiness. This counter-intuitive approach means that, even if you have a fake smile, you are more likely to communicate a happier, more relaxed, and more natural tone in your communication – even in the digital world!

 

To achieve this, it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true approach – just get a couple of post-its and stick it on your computer or surrounding walls with helpful reminders such as “Are you smiling?” or “Keep smiling”. People who are used to making calls can even rely on “Smile and Dial” to trigger the desired action, especially since it’s already ingrained.

 

3.    Listen to yourself when you practice out loud

You know how when you get a script for phone-calls, or you’ve got that perfect elevator pitch in place, all the old pros tell you to be sure to practice it out loud? You’d be surprised to hear that that still holds true – maybe more so – in the digital world we live in.

 

Let me explain.

 

Nowadays, everyone knows that emails are automated. Everyone knows that they’re receiving a template. Everyone knows that there’s a set structure in place, and that you’re just filling in the blanks with details that are relevant to them. The trick is to make them forget that for that split second when they read your email.

 

There are enough resources out there on how to craft the perfect email to ensure that you get the best open rates, improve your click rates, and generally ensure increased engagement. That’s not what this is about.

 

What this is about is the language that you use. With the sheer volume of emails, texts and IMs we share, it’s become second-nature to us to “hear” what we read. We do it all the time, unconsciously. Just think about that text you got from your mother – didn’t you hear it in your head in her voice? Or that email you got from your sister – didn’t it sound like she was talking to you? 

 

That’s what you have to keep in mind when you’re writing that email. Your prospect isn’t going to read it so much as “hear” it. So read it out loud and hear it for yourself first. You’ll notice that a number of words are easier to listen to if they’re contracted, i.e. “you’re” instead of “you are”, “it’s” instead of “its”. These fixes, while seemingly tiny, all help to deliver your pitch to the prospect’s ear, and not just to their eyes. 

 

4.    Be prepared with information

Again, a fairly obvious suggestion, but one that’s easy to misunderstand. About twenty years ago, “being prepared” was about knowing the ins and outs of your offering. You had to have answers for everything the prospect threw at you, but you could be safe in the knowledge that it would generally be product-specific.

 

Not anymore. 

 

With the cloudburst of information that prospects have access to, prospects are better informed than ever before. As a result, they already have the usual answers ready. What they want, and expect, is for data and information that is specific to them but not openly accessible. Your company would already know this, and would be creating tons of high-quality content for just such a reason. 

 

Naturally, no one expects you to be able to rattle off the findings of a 40-page industry analysis report. But they would expect you to be able to share that with them instantly. Any hesitation would rattle that carefully constructed image of confidence and expertise you’ve worked so hard to build.

 

This is why it’s important to have a good sales enablement tool that manages your content and makes it easy for you to access, create custom presentations and share it instantly, while having the conversation with the prospect. Paperflite allows you to do all these things, while also track engagement and who your prospect shares the content with.

 

5.    Mirror their behavior

Most psychologists and salespeople have talked about the value of mirroring your prospect’s mannerisms and body language (carefully – you don’t want to overdo it and make it seem insulting) in order to subtly establish a bond with the prospect. For instance, if they tend to cross their hands while talking to you, or speak at a slower pace, it would be helpful to cross your hands a little more, and maybe adjust the pitch of your voice accordingly.

 

How would you do that online though?

 

One of the many incredible things about the modern age is the easy access you have to personal information. Everyone is on social media, and prospects are sharing personal details and having conversations willingly on public platforms. Just going through their social media profiles will give you an idea of their likes, interests, places they frequent, and more. 

 

What it also does, though, is tell you how they communicate. 

 

Reading your prospect’s posts can give you subtle clues as to how they communicate. Using emojis and text-speak aside, you also get an idea of how they would communicate face-to-face.  Do they like to maintain a professional tone? How much do they focus on their grammar? What kind of fillers do they use? Are they very careful with their punctuation? Do they go back and correct typos, or do they just let them be? The list is almost endless.

 

These clues and hints can all help you better construct your communication to them, and quickly slip into a more familiar tone. Rather than keeping the conversation strictly formal, minor tweaks and adjustments can communicate how “real” you are, and can reinforce the message that you understand them. Establishing this rapport can really make the difference between getting your prospect’s attention, and blending into the background.

 

These methods have proven super-effective for us in communicating with our prospects. They have allowed us to really break through the initial walls and have that more meaningful “how can I help you succeed” conversation that every good sales rep wants to have. By incorporating these ideas, your team will realize how valuable good communication is, even when sitting behind a computer, miles away from your prospect.

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