Predictable Prospecting by Marylou Tyler Jeremey Donovan

There are a lot of challenges in business, with a predictable revenue generation process almost always taking top spot. It’s kind of like oxygen for your business – without it, you die.

To get predictability in revenue, you need to have predictable lead generation. And to do that, the authors of this book suggest, we need to have dedicated prospectors who feed experienced closers.

So while there are thousands of books written about the sales process as a whole, there are very few that have created a detailed process for keeping the top of your funnel full of prospects that have a high likelihood of buying from you.

Until now.

And here’s the kicker – it’s based almost entirely on phone and email based outbound prospecting. No, the authors argue, social selling isn’t the panacea that some people would like to make it out to be. If it’s successful at all, it’s certainly not predictable.

So until a book comes out that suggests a predictable and dependable process to fill the top of your funnel, you should take what you are about to learn very seriously.

Step #1: Internalizing Your Competitive Position

The first thing you need to do before you reach out to your prospects is to determine how to position the value of buying from your company rather than the competition.

The Six-Factor SWOT Analysis

The best place to start here is to run a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on six different things.

1. The 4 Ps: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. This is a marketing mix framework created by Michigan State University Professor Edmund Jerome McCarthy back in the 1960’s that has stood the test of time. So you would first take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your product. Then move on to your price, and so on. For the “place” analysis, keep in mind that your website is most likely going to be included, which obviously wasn’t in the consideration set when the 4Ps was created.

2. Reputation Factors: one of the best ways to assess your reputation in the marketplace is to use the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a tool developed by Fred Reichheld while he was a consultant at Bain & Company. It measures customer loyalty by asking, on a scale of 0 to 10, “How likely is it that you would recommend [company X] to a friend or colleague?” You should be analyzing your reputation with both your customers and partners at this stage.

3. Internal Resource Factors: each company has four pools of internal resources to pull from – (1) financial resources, (2) intellectual property, (3) human capital, and (4) physical assets.

4. External Forces: there are 3 forces at play here – (1) customer (how much bargaining power do your customers have), (2) competitive forces (how much competition do you have today and in the future), (3) bargaining power of suppliers.

5. Trends: social-demographic and technology.

6. VUCA factors (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous occurrences), which include things like natural disasters and other important forces that are hard to predict.

If all of this sounds daunting, keep in mind that all you are looking to do is to come out the other side with a very clear picture of what your company provides, and how that fits into the marketplace both today and in the near future.

Step #2: Developing an Ideal Account Profile

So now you’ll have the ability to clearly communicate the differentiated value proposition your company offers.

Now you need to identify the ideal accounts to target. You are looking for the segments of the market that have both a high lifetime value and a high likelihood of purchasing.

You should also keep in mind that whatever segmentation you land on should (1) give you a large enough market to target, (2) give you targets that have a specific set of needs, and (3) allow you to communicate with that segment easily in a consistent way.

Here are the different ways you can create target segments.

1. Firmogrpahic fit. This is where you should start, and will get you 80% of the way to your Ideal Account Profile. This will usually include factors like the industry, company size and geography. If you are focusing on company size, keep in mind that there is a tradeoff to be made. Large companies generally control much larger budgets, but smaller companies are generally much easier to sell to.

2. Operational Fit. Next, we are into looking at the prospect’s medium to long-term business operations. For instance, one thing that might impact your ability to sell to a prospect is what “equipment” they are currently using. Generally, you’ll have a very hard time selling to somebody who just bought from your competition. You might look at their purchasing policy and how they make their buying decisions. If your sales process isn’t a good fit for those things, cross those prospects off your list.

3. Situational Fit. Finally, we look at things that are more “opportunistic” in nature. For instance, finding out that a prospect just launched a strategic initiative that requires the use of your product or an alternative, that’s a good fit. You might also look at things like executive transitions.

Step #3: Crafting Ideal Prospect Personas

Now that you know what companies to target, you need to hone in on the ideal prospect persona – understanding the specific people in the organization you need to sell to.

This includes knowing who the buyers are, what they care about, and how they communicate.

Here are some of the items you’ll need to know:

1. Job Title – which includes both job level and job function information. For instance, VP of Marketing is probably the final decision maker when deciding on their marketing agency of record.

2. Professional Objectives – these are the goals, critical initiatives and KPIs that those people have. A pro-tip here is to look at any job descriptions your targets have posted for key hires – if done well, it will usually include all of this information.

3. Influence Map – obviously, many people in a company influence a buying decision. Understanding who the influencers and gatekeepers are in your sales process is key, as you’ll want to include them in your outreach.

The next thing you need to do is to find the “pain” that your prospects are facing, especially as it relates to their overarching objectives.

There are a few ways you can do this, but two of them stand out.

First, interview 10 people who you would consider good prospects for what you offer, and simply ask them to talk about the their objectives, what they are doing today to achieve them, and what the biggest challenges standing in their way are.

Second (this is the only place in this book you’ll see social media mentioned), spend some time in LinkedIn groups or other social networks where your prospects hang out, and look at the questions they ask the community.