When people think about the purpose of IT marketing, they tend to think about fancy collateral, list targeting, and deal-closing ratios. And when it comes to the closing of deals, they tend to think big.
So big, in fact, that the idea of sales and salesmanship has become a sort of joke straight out of the 80s. The stereotypical salesman is a well-dressed, fast-talking charmer who can’t get enough of flashy presentations, dizzying analogies, and a strange obsession for Bluetooth headsets.
Oh, Bluetooth headsets. Another blog for another day.
But the reality is that IT sales prospecting and salesmanship isn’t just a specialized skill reserved for the sharks of the business world. It’s a necessary part of marketing that’s meant to help the people interested in whatever you’re producing.
So what exactly goes on “behind the scenes” in closing deals for IT sales prospecting?
A Peek Behind the Curtain
For answers to the question, I talked to our resident sales expert Adrian Cue. He explained that marketing generally starts the game for you, using content and campaigns to set you up to score. Let’s say you’ve just sent out a killer IT whitepaper that’s got it all – information, humor, interesting anecdotes, you name it – and someone’s taken an interest in it. They’ve downloaded it, which means they presumably found it useful.
That’s a great start.
But, you’re now faced with a situation that can go in any direction. Did the person really find it useful? Was there a mis-click? Did they want to save it for someone else, making them ultimately a passalong lead at best?
In other words, are they actually interested in learning more about what you’re talking about? How do you gauge the level and type of interest to qualify your lead?
Your next step should be to contact this person soon. Our standard operating procedures at TRIdigital are to be in contact with them within 24-48 hours. Any longer than that … and you’ve just let a chance at establishing a client relationship slip through the cracks.
That’s total sheep behavior. Don’t let analysis paralysis trick you into it.
Never Give Up! … Unless It’s Time to Give Up
Adrian is a master at the TRIdigital process of following up. He says if you’re following the TRIdigital process, you’ve reached out to them with a friendly email. It shouldn’t be long and convoluted – it should be casual and helpful.
He goes on to say you should mention that you’re contacting them because of their interest in what they clicked on (in this case, a whitepaper), and introduce yourself as someone who is a subject matter expert. More importantly, let them know you’re someone they can turn to for more information.
Most people make the mistake of viewing the creation of a client relationship as a binary system. To them, it’s either a definite yes or a hard no. In reality, it’s more like a ladder. Sure, there’s the top and the bottom.
But there are many rungs between the two.
Some client relationships may start at higher rungs than others, but the goal is always the same: get to the top together. Regardless of how you move them up, remember that it’s always going to be most successful if you go at the pace that fits them.
You should reach out to them 4-8 times before moving on. That includes emails as well as calls, with bonus points if they actively respond. Remember, it’s not always about selling them something. It’s not even about becoming partners now. At TRIdigital, we’ve learned that people appreciate it when you’re helpful and when you listen to their needs.
Equally important is knowing when to quit. There’s a fairly large distinction between being persistent and dedicated versus just spamming the living hell out of someone with salesy material. If you’ve sent them multiple emails and left several voicemails with no feedback, it’s time to stop.
You know who else wastes time? Sheep.
The TRIdigital Follow-up Philosophy
Adrian assured me that with follow-ups, it’s up to you to make your own luck. Your future clients are very rarely going to waltz into your marketing material and demand to use your services.
You gotta work hard to catch their interest and build trust.
Consistency is key to all successful endeavors. Your prospect may not need your services right now, but you’ve already caught their eye.
And in the world of client relationships, that’s a win. A big one.
If you truly believe what you’re selling is helpful to people, you’ll never have trouble reaching out to them. The communication between you and your clients should be seen as a useful channel toward the goal.
From there, you can establish a unique tone and get to know their specific needs. Your follow-up isn’t as simple as an email here and there – it involves engaging their direct interests through vibrant marketing that fits the bill.
Client Experiences vs. Cold Calls
Great marketing, much like great art, is all about evoking a feeling. You’re probably not going to find a Picasso painting selling disaster recovery services anytime soon (though it’d be pretty cool to see). Great marketing stirs feelings of many things, such as nostalgia, comfort, and awe.
In other words, it’s not necessarily about pushing the product. It’s about creating the best client experience possible. It should be memorable and genuinely useful.
IT sales prospecting isn’t really that much different. You may not be designing a new email format every time you want to thank someone for taking your call, but you should still aim to create a valuable customer experience.
Let’s take a look at an example of talking to a business owner named Frank Smith.
Frank happens to be in dire need of managed services. Frank has navigated to your site and downloaded your managed services whitepaper. He hasn’t contacted you directly, but he’s come back to the managed services portion of your site 4 times.
You’ve got both his phone number and his email. Let’s see what happens when you give him a call.
The Good Follow Up
Frank is clearly interested. Here’s an example of a good follow up call:
You: Hey there, Mr. Smith! My name is Ricky from MSP Co.
Frank: Hello. What is this call in regards to?
You: I saw you downloaded our managed services whitepaper. If you’re interested in that, we have a bunch of other resources you could take a look at. Or, if you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to us anytime. My number is ______ and my email is ______. My job is to make sure you have the best possible experience with our company online or over the phone when you call in.
Frank: Oh, thank you! I will.
The truth is that Frank may not call you. Heck, he may not even email you. But Frank’s need for managed services hasn’t diminished, and you’ve established contact already.
During your brief call, you didn’t push your services. You were helpful. You’ve paved the way for a healthy relationship by establishing yourself as a reliable source of information and assistance.
After the call, it’s beneficial to send Frank a follow-up email with some resources and additional information. He may not have explicitly asked for it, but you’ve given him tools that he can use whenever he needs them. Your next steps should be to discover Frank’s needs, as well as the needs of his business.
The best way to win an appointment is to engage the client in meaningful discussions that lead to the next steps.
The Bad Follow Up
Let’s see what happens when you don’t follow up properly. Here’s a bad follow up call:
You: Hey there, Mr. Smith. I saw you downloaded our paper on managed services. You know, it’s more important now than ever to have reliable sources. You don’t want to leave your business in the hands of unskilled people. Our team of professionals is ready to assist your business now.
Frank: Who is this?
You: It’s Ricky from MSP Co. I’ll go ahead and send you a contact form to fill out so that you can get back to us when you’re ready.
Frank: Oh, um … thanks.
With this approach, there are several glaring flaws. For starters, you were far too aggressive. You pushed your services in front without even bothering to address Frank’s needs. Secondly, you started off with a fear tactic that made you sound untrustworthy.
Many salespeople adopt this tactic for IT lead prospecting in the hopes that pressuring someone into a sale will work. While it may be effective here and there, it’s not a good way to establish healthy and lasting client relationships.
The Worst Follow Up
There’s no need to write out an example of this. The worst follow-ups by far are cold calls. Business owners have personalities – they’re human beings that have business needs to fulfill and limited time to do it.
And cold calls are the complete opposite of respecting that.
Cold calls are annoying, old-school ways to get leads. Instead of generating helpful content through marketing and acting upon it with informed, interested salespeople, cold callers desperately grasp at any sort of lead they can get with little more than a sales pitch.
On the other hand, client experience calling is memorable and leads to longer, more fulfilling professional relationships. They also boost your reputation based on credibility.
Our Big Secret
Adrian wanted me to share the big secret to all of our successful deals and follow-ups.
We use this secret ability to power us through sales and get clients to respond more while appreciating our approach. Using this secret is the single best thing that could ever happen to your sales efforts.
Here’s the secret to best-in-class, ultra-successful hyper mega IT sales prospecting:
Believe there is no secret.
We follow best practices for sales and genuinely believe in what we’re doing. If you believe in your business and your service, you’ll do great. We continue to use the best practices listed in this blog to push our marketing forward and drive excellent salesmanship.
You don’t have to be a sales whiz to do it. It works for every industry out there. It works so well because people want to be taken care of and informed, rather than sold.
And that’s our big secret.
In IT Sales Prospecting, Be a Shark. A Helpful One.
If you come at your prospects like a sleazy ‘80s salesman, you’ll ensure they never want to click on anything of yours again. You’ll come off as unhelpful, annoying, desperate, or just super-pushy.
Sounds like sheep-related behavior.
But if you follow-up properly, you’ll start a powerful client relationship that is likely going to lead to a fruitful partnership and benefit both parties for years to come.
Being a smart salesman that combines creative marketing with proper sales etiquette, using tips from TRIdigital?
Total shark move.
Liked this blog? Check out our secrets for the most successful IT marketing emails.