Tag Archives | prospecting

Prospecting by email: Does the early bird catch the worm?

when to send your prospecting emailIf you’re prospecting by email a key question is: what time of day you should send your mail? Like any hunter you need to put yourself in the shoes of your prey to be successful (think wildebeest and waterholes). That means understanding the email habits of your prospects. Intuition suggests that most people check their email first thing in the morning (bad idea!), at lunchtime and at the end of the day. If like me you are a inbox zero person you perhaps think that it doesn’t matter what time the prospecting email arrives, because all emails in the inbox will be reviewed and dealt with. But inbox zero people are few and far between.

In my experience most people operate the “infinite inbox” system. Actually that’s an insult to the word “system”. They let stuff pile up in their inbox, occasionally filing the odd email that they think they may need again. When they check their email they do a cursory scan of the inbox, only opening stuff that looks like it might be important, for instance from their boss. What this means is that emails from people that they don’t know, even with the most eye-catching subject line simply won’t get opened. When they next check their email a few more will have landed and the earlier ones will have scrolled off the page into email oblivion (kind of like your Twitter timeline).

For this reason it’s imperative to send your prospecting emails at the right time. Ideally you want it to land as they process their email, or slightly beforehand and when they have time to read it. Research from Pure360 suggests that actually the best time is between 5 and 6pm in your target timezone. You can either do this manually or use a tool such as Boomerang for Gmail or Outlook to schedule your mail. So remember, in prospecting, as in life, timing is everything.

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Always customize your LinkedIn connection requests

Who am I linking in to?

Who am I linking in to?

I think we all agree that LinkedIn is a invaluable business tool. However, recently I’ve had several requests to link in from people who I have never met and their invitation is the default LinkedIn connection request. There is zero chance that I will accept these invitations; I’m not against accepting invitations from people I haven’t met, but if they can’t even be bothered to write a couple of sentences then why should I?

So take some advice from someone who uses LinkedIn professionally, every day, to connect to people and win business for clients. I suggest you never, ever send a connection request without customizing it. If it’s someone you know well then out of common courtesy you ought to ask how they are and greet them. If it’s somebody you met in a meeting or at an event recently then you should thank them for the meeting, tell them it was a pleasure to meet them and ask to connect. If you want to connect to someone you’ve never met then at least explain who you are, what you have in common and why you want to connect to them.

Start by introducing yourself briefly (because the person can see your detailed profile on LinkedIn) and explain what you have in common, for instance:

  • You went to the same college
  • You worked for the same company
  • You met and did some business at some point in the past
  • You have some contacts in common
  • You’re members of the same LinkedIn group
  • You’re working on the same type of business, in the same market, etc
  • You admire what they’re doing

And then say why you want to connect. Be honest. Your product may be a great fit for their company, or it might be useful to kick some ideas around, or it would be good to “compare notes”. You don’t need to go to town on this because most people want to grow their networks and are willing to link in if you genuinely have something in common.

And here’s my final tip. Once someone accepts your connection request use the relationship tab in their profile to complete the “How you met” section. You might not need to contact them again for two years, and at that point you may have completely forgotten how and why you connected and what on Earth you had in common!

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Why warm-calling via email is the way ahead

I recently came across this great infographic provided by my friends at Unifyo. It goes a long way to explaining why cold calling by phone is no longer successful and why warm calling by email is the way to go. Check out the infographic and then I’ll tell you more…

No More Cold Calls

by lewisspearman.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


Why prospect using email?

The fact is that prospects don’t want to be contacted by phone and are very resistant to buying when approached this way. Also modern comms technology means that it’s easy for people to hide behind voicemail, checking out caller IDs or just letting everything go to voicemail and then deciding whether to respond.

According to Unifyo’s research prospects claim they would far rather (77% vs. 2%) be contacted by email. The astute amongst you will be thinking that sending strangers emails is a far from certain way of winning business! So the issue is how we can successfully prospect using email?

Measure twice, cut once

If you’re going to prospect for B2B customers by email then your mails must be personalised. By this I mean it has to be specific to that person and company not just a merged email starting “Dear f_name”. You need to do some research to find the right companies, the right contacts and background on them. I’ve written on this before if you want to find out how.

Warm calling

Having done this I always start the email with “the hook” which is something linking me to that person and/or that company. There’s a pecking order in terms of the hook…
1. You know the person personally.
2. You have a contact in common.
3. You have a personal link to the person. e.g. you went to the same college.
4. If all else fails manufacture a link! E.g. You read in the press about their latest announcement (from the News section of their site) and felt moved to write.

email content

  • Subject: Eye catching, compelling and specific to them.
  • The hook: above…
  • The body: Brief and to the point summary of what you do and why it’s beneficial to companies like theirs. If you’ve done your research properly what you do/offer should be of interest to this person.
  • The call to action: Short, simple and specific. A good one is to ask for a brief conference call at a specific time/date.
  • The “get out of jail free” clause: Words to the effect “If this isn’t of use to you please let me know. I don’t want to waste your time”. It’s professional and better to get a “no” now than waste your time chasing them 10 times.

It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings

It’s not unusual to have a very low response rate to your first email. I get a far better response rate to the polite reminder that I send them a couple of weeks later. How long you’re willing to chase someone is up to you, but I give it 2 reminders and assume if they haven’t responded by then it’s unlikely they ever will.

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Using Evernote to track your competitors

Research your competitors with Evernote

Research your competitors with Evernote

I saw this great post by Joshua Zerkel on the Evernote blog and wanted to share it with you. We’ve looked at using Evernote for prospecting but, of course, there are many other things that you can use it for and tracking your competitors is an ideal task. As Joshua outlines, Evernote also makes it easy to share your research with your coworkers. It’s no use if you have great information on your rivals but keep it to yourself.

It’s great to understand your competitors and what they are up to, but remember to be very careful about knocking your competitors when dealing with your customers. It can easily backfire on you.

When you have insight into your prospects and competitors, you’re able to make better decisions. Since Evernote lets you collect many different types of information, it’s an ideal tool for capturing business research.

Read up on prospects. When you’re going into meetings and sales calls, it’s helpful to have background information on the individuals you’re meeting with and the companies they work for. Using the Evernote Web Clipper, capture industry information and recent news about your prospects in Evernote. If they’ve sent you white papers, reports, RFPs/RFQs, or other data, store those in Evernote as well. To keep things organized, tag notes with the prospect’s name or put them in a notebook for that prospect. As you prepare for a meeting, you can quickly refer back to the notes you’ve collected.

Keep an eye on the competition. No business operates in a vacuum. Chances are there are multiple players in your industry, and even if they’re not direct competitors, it never hurts to keep an eye on what they’re up to. Again, use the Web Clipper to capture press mentions, relevant blog posts, and articles about what companies in your industry are doing. If your competitors are using email marketing for newsletters or updates, forward the messages they send to your email-to-Evernote address to keep them permanently.

Review the notes you’ve collected as you’re planning what’s next for your business.

Know what your team knows. If you work on a team and have multiple people who perform research, create a Shared Notebook so everyone can contribute in an organized way. Evernote Business can help your team further leverage each other’s efforts. For instance, as you’re clipping articles about a prospect, you’ll automatically see Related Notes your colleagues have previously collected about them. The same is true for researching competitors.

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Using Evernote for prospecting – part II

Prospecting is easier with Evernote

Prospecting is easier with Evernote

If you followed my last post you should now be in the enviable position of having some target companies, prospects names and contact details in your Evernote system. You’re no doubt keen to get to grips with them and have your phone or keyboard at the ready. Read on…

What’s the big idea?

First things first. We are prospecting here, not selling. Which is to say that we want to find out if we are talking to the right person, if they have a need for what we’re selling and if we can have a meeting with them. The goal is to get a meeting, or suitable follow-up such as a conference call but not to sell them on your product the first time you contact them.

Which way is best?

Whether you use phone, email or some other method to prospect depends very much on your business, the value of your product, length of your sales cycle, social and business norms in your field and geography. In the old days prospecting was done door-to-door which may still work for you if you have a very small territory. A technology client I worked with would stick their heads around the doors of other companies in the shared innovation centre they inhabited to introduce themselves and find out if they could help them. This is a perfectly valid prospecting campaign, but most companies will be prospecting by phone or email.

Historically when prospecting by phone the key issue was getting past “the gatekeeper” which may be a receptionist, or in the case of a senior person, their personal assistant. Nowadays this is probably the least of your problems. Most people hide behind their voicemail, only taking calls when they wish. In fact the gatekeeper may be your best friend, persuading the prospect to take your call rather than putting it straight through to voicemail.

For this reason I favour prospecting by email. But what we’re talking about here is a customised email specifically targeted at each prospect, not a “cookie cutter”, mail-merged marketing campaign. I’ll blog in detail on how to do this in a separate post.

If you decide to prospect by phone it’s useful to have a script to work from. If you get through it’s important not to waste the limited time that you have rambling. I use a script that is little more than a few bullet points so that I know where I’m going, but don’t come across as phoney. I suggest that your script is an Evernote note that you can have open in front of you whilst you talk stored in our “sales” notebook and tagged “script” (since you may have a number scripts for different prospects or campaigns).

Note taking

Record-keeping is important so that we can see how our campaign is going and follow up appropriately, and Evernote makes this easy. Remember that you can save searches on say your “sales” notebook and “camp1” campaign tags and drag them to Shortcuts for quick access.

For emails blind copy (bcc) your Evernote email address and forward any responses so that they go straight into your system. You can direct them into a specific folder by adding @ followed immediately by the folder title in the email subject and tag them by adding # followed immediately by the tag word. Using our previous suggestions we could add @sales #camp1 #email.

To make notes of your phone calls I suggest that you use a template to record the information. You could even combine the template with your script so that you have your prompt and jottings in the same note. Check out this post on how to create templates in Evernote.

To easily see how your campaign is progressing you should tag your contact notes appropriately. I use the following tags, you can use your own…

  • no_response: I’ve called or emailed but had no response
  • dead: I’ve called/emailed multiple times and had no response. No further action.
  • no_thanks: I’ve had a response and they don’t want to take it any further. This may be an outright “no”, or they could be the wrong person in the organisation (if so ask who the right person is and put them into your prospecting campaign as a fresh contact record).
  • pending: I’ve had a response and the timing is wrong (e.g. run out of budget, busy on old project, re-org underway), so I need to set a reminder (below) and get back to them appropriately e.g. in 3 months time.
  • meeting_arranged: Success! They are willing to meet us. At this point you may wish to put them into your CRM system (if you use one) or continue using Evernote to track progress.


Critical to successful prospecting is relentless and timely follow up. Whether you use phone or email it’s unlikely that you’ll get a response from the prospect first time round. I suggest you give them a few days to respond and then you need to schedule a follow-up call or email. There are two or three easy ways to do this…

  • Using Evernote’s reminder capability. You will now notice in desktop and web versions of Evernote a small alarm clock in the top right of each note. Clicking this you can set a date and time for a reminder associated with that note, in this case your “contact” note. Mobile versions of Evernote now support this feature.
  • Using followthen.com, a great service that let’s you simply bcc an email to say, 1week@followupthen.com, and almost magically the email will appear back in your inbox a week later regardless of what email system you are using. This is an incredibly fast way to set reminders when email prospecting.
  • Boomerang for Gmail does a similar job to followupthen.com but is specifically for gmail users. It can also schedule emails if you want your prospecting email to pop into someone’s inbox just as they are sorting their mail at 9am.
  • Use Outlook or a similar email/calendaring app to schedule a follow up reminder.

When email prospecting I allow myself three goes at a contact. The original email, a reminder and a final reminder. If at that point I’ve had no response I bin them, or in the case of Evernote tag them “dead”. Usually I get my highest response on the first reminder. If the original email was personally targeted at the prospect and relevant, and your reminder was polite then guilt often drives them to respond. I’ll be posting in more detail on the hows and whys of email prospecting soon.

So there you have it. Evernote is a great tool for researching and tracking a prospecting campaign. If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to comment below.

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Prospecting using Evernote – part I

Prospecting using Evernote

Prospecting using Evernote

So far we’ve seen how Evernote can help sales people by providing them with a free-form way of capturing data such as contacts and notes from meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. So now let’s mix that Evernote goodness with a core sales task and see how it can empower us.

Prospecting is an aspect of selling that many people dread. In my experience there are two reasons for this. Firstly the fear of rejection and secondly the monotony of the task. There’s not much we can do about the former other than to realise that it’s a necessary evil and we are aiming to help people with our product or service. In psychological terms, the more time we spend prospecting the more we will undergo systematic desensitisation i.e. we get used to it! So we are playing a numbers game, which is fine, but it can be very repetitive and dull. Many prospects nowadays hide behind voicemail and rarely return emails, which can prove frustrating and means that you need a cast-iron follow-up procedure. Evernote can help us with this.

Market and Companies

The first stage in this process is deciding on a target market for our prospecting. This will be specific to your business and based on factors such as geography, product fit, growth markets, sales cycle, events and seasonality. Having decided on our target market we need to do some set up in Evernote. Let’s create a notebook called “sales” and three tags, say “sales_companies”, “sales_contacts” and “camp1” which will allow us to tag notes specific to our sales activities and this prospecting campaign. Feel free to use tag names that you are more comfortable with, but you get the idea!

Having done our prep we now need to find some target companies in our selected market. Once again, how you do this is going to be largely dictated by your business. For a geographical market it may involve using everything from local directories, to networking events to plain old googling. Remember that with Google’s advanced search you can select region. For some niches great lead sources are trade bodies and events. Many of these have members lists that you can clip straight into Evernote using, for instance, the Evernote web clipper. So one way or another we have a number of target companies, all of which should be captured into our “sales” notebook and tagged with “sales_companies” and “camp1”. You may wish to set up one or more saved searches in your shortcuts to make it easier to find your prospecting campaign data quickly.


Next we have to find some contacts at our target companies. Perhaps you already have contact names from your initial digging but if not let’s do some research. If your most effective point of contact in a company is a senior person, for instance the CTO or CFO, you will often find that information on the company’s website under “About” and “Executive Team” or similar. Use the Evernote web clipper or helper app to clip the information that you want into Evernote and store it in your “sales” notebook and our “sales_contacts” and “camp1” tags. I often don’t bother to tag as I clip information, it can be faster to go into Evernote afterwards to move and tag several records at once. While you’re on their website you will want to check out their contact details such as phone number, address, etc. You’ll find them under “Contact” and, of course, we’re going to clip them into Evernote into the “sales” notebook and tagged appropriately with “sales_companies” and “camp1”.

A great alternative source of contacts, especially if your contacts aren’t on the target companies’ websites, is LinkedIn. If you are lucky enough to have 1st degree (direct) LinkedIn contacts at your target companies you can not only clip the person’s identity and background, but also their contact details into Evernote. For 2nd degree contacts you won’t be able to see their contact details, but we’ve already got their company phone number and should be able to work out their email address (more on that in a minute). For 3rd degree contacts and beyond, you might not be able to even see the person’s full name. For instance you might just be able to see, say, “Mark G”. Not to panic there’s a neat way around this. Cut the person’s full job title and paste it into Google search along with the company name and “linkedin.com”. Press return and lo & behold up comes their full name, “Mark Goodson” in this case!

Contact Details

If you’re going to do your prospecting by email, something that I’d recommend (see Part II), then you will need an email address for your prospect. If you haven’t got it already during this process it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. If you google “@company.com” you should eventually find in the results (most likely one of the later results pages) an email address from someone at the company. You will then know what the corporate email format is e.g. fred.bloggs@company.com or fbloggs@company.com. If you can’t find an example address there are services that can help you do so, such as email-format.com, and then you can use Free Email Verifier to confirm the format very quickly. You might also want to try out 192.com to find someone’s address. Worst case you can send two or three prospecting emails, one to each address variant and see which one doesn’t bounce. Once you have the email address it’s time to squirrel it away in Evernote.

We should now have a nice collection of companies, contact details and prospects stored in our “sales” notebook on Evernote, tagged appropriately and ready for us to get to work on. In Part II we look at how to go about doing this.

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