In a universe where the entire marketing world has been turned upside down, there's not much talk about researching sales prospects. Why? Well, inbound of course. In a sales world where the sales prospect is 57% through the buyer's cycle before the salesperson has a first conversation with her, the customer has done a lot of research on her own already.

In other words, inbound marketing has made the need for sales people to research sales prospects almost mute because if they buyer wants to talk with you, they will surely find a way to speak with you.

But, if you happen to be living under a rock and are still primarily an outbound shop, then continue reading.

AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

As I mention above, attention and interest are largely covered by inbound marketing - this is where a relevant lead magent offer is provided and those interested exchange their contact information for the eBook or other relevant offer. Once the prospect is in the company's marketing funnel, then there's appropriate nurturing such that the prospect is "moved down" the funnel to the point where a phone conversation makes sense.

In this world, attention and interest are covered by the marketing funnel process.

But, in an outbound world, having those conversations is awfully difficult. In fact, you would need to find a way to get attention, then interest - through your own efforts.

Several months ago, I developed training material for an outbound team that they've found helpful. In no way is this information perfect, but it can nevertheless help you on your way to reducing research time and begin having the conversations with customer prospects that truly matter.

What is Your Customer Profile?

Think about the service and product you offer and asks these questions:

  1. What pain does your product or service solve?
  2. Now, thinking of your territory, which companies likely have the problem your product or service will solve?
  3. Of those companies answered in #2, which ones are "big enough" to merit outreach effort?


Now that you've identified the key companies in your territory you want to reach out to, now you have to decide who to contact.

Often, sales people reach out too low in the organization. A good rule of thumb I've found to work well is this: rather than a single approach by contacting the highest person in the organization, I've found that a more effective approach is to speak to a few people in the target department or business function. Then, and only then, should you reach out to a leader higher in the organization. If you do this right, your key messaging will be very effective.

Read on.

Key and Relevant Messaging - The Plays

If you've had one or two conversations with folks lower in the totem pole and you've reached out to a higher level leader, in that email, voice mail, or actual phone conversation, you can mention that "I've been speaking with joe in legal about x, y, and z". That type of messaging will be much more effective than a cold one. It's warm because you've already had conversations with people - albeit - lower in the company, but nevertheless you've had those conversations.

I often like to focus on these "plays" - NOT scripts - at this step:

  1. Rapport: Who am I
  2. PositioningWhat I do
  3. Benefit: Why customers just like you care
  4. Proof: Evidence or Proof of Why You Should Care
  5. Schedule the Next Event: Permission to move to next step

I've found tremendous success with the above process.

Now let me run through each step. As I do so, be thinking about your product, company, and service and adjust what I share with you to your specific situation.

To help you, learn to describe your products and services in terms of the table below:

Rapport Play

The purpose of rapport is to break the ice, lay the foundation of a relationship, tell the client who the heck you are, and to establish professionalism and credibility.

In this play, remember to keep it short and make an emotional connection.

Here are a few examples:

  • Hello Mister Shmula, I'm Pete with HireVue Accelerate and we help sales leaders like you close more deals and help more of your sales reps meet their quotas.
  • Mrs. Fisher, it's Jaron Brody. Helen from legal suggested I call you.

Now it's your turn. In the space below, write 3 Rapport Plays that you can begin using today.

Positioning Play

Positioning has everything to do with establishing your identity and your role. Remember, the person on the phone is asking themselves "Who are you and why are you calling me?" You must be able to answer their unsaid question in a non-threatening way that puts that person at ease.

Benefit Play

Remember AIDA that I discussed earlier? Well, this is where that is important. In the Benefit Play, you must be able to transition from who you are and why you are contacting the customer to the needs of the customer. In this section, you must be able to provide something that is compelling and valuable to the prospect. Inspire them to meet with you. Tell him or her why other customers like them care and chose your solution to solve their problem.

Don't forget WIFM - what's in it for me? At bottom, customers are self-interested. I dare say that they don't care about you, about your quotas, or whether or not they hurt your feelings. They care about themselves and the issues they face.

You must align yourself to their concerns. If they feel that, then they will listen to you and you will have earned the right to share more with them. But, they must feel that you are aligned with their interests and concerns first.

Features Advantages Benefits

Proof Play

You've heard of social proof, right? Well, proof in this context is no different. The customer prospect on the phone also wants to hear some proof to validate the claims you made in the Benefit Play. So, in this play, your job is to validate your claims using social proof and other evidence that would matter to the customer prospect.

Here are some examples:

  • We helped x, y, z increase sales revenue by more than 300%
  • Through the use of our product, we helped 15% more sales reps reach their quota than if they had otherwise not used our product.

You get the point. Now, think about the proof points and evidence you can use for your specific product and service.

Schedule Next Event Play

Smoothly transition from providing evidence and proof to showing how you can help the customer prospect like you've been able to help other customers. Then, smoothly move into the mode of setting up an appointment, always remembering that the customer prospect doesn't care about you making a sale - they care about solving their problem.

Schedule a meeting so that you can show them how you can help them overcome their problem, concern, and obstacles.


If you think about it, you and your customer prospect are no different: you are both seeking to solve problems and overcome obstacles. If you align yourself to their concerns and truly show it, you will find many receptive customer prospects willing to listen to you. Heck, you might even close some deals out of this approach.

If you do, let us know in the comments how our advice is fairing for you. Best of luck selling. Close those deals.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske

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