5 Ways to Make Your Sales Prospects Smile

Discover approaches you can take with prospects to leverage your network and build trust-filled relationships that result in sales.

December 8, 2014


In a competitive selling environment, efficient sales lead generation is critically important for sales pros. And one of the best ways to convert sales prospects into ready-to-buy leads is to get them to like you.

Read on to discover five ways to make sales prospects happy – straight from the social selling practitioners here at LinkedIn.

1. Make friends with their friends

Building trust online can be extremely difficult. Even established professionals with a great reputation and well-established network can have a hard time breaking in with new prospects.

A warm introduction can make all the difference. Among B2B buyers, 76.2% prefer vendors referred by a connection and 59% reject a cold connection outright. Prospects are likely to welcome a recommendation from someone they trust because it alleviates fears and increases their comfort level.

"If you know their alma mater, you don’t even have to send them something physical," said Rebecca Ross, LinkedIn Sales Solutions. "I find that personalizing a message with their a simple “Bear Down!” or “Go Crimson!” regardless of your personal alma mater, is a great way to bring a smile to your prospect’s face and get a conversation rolling."

Doug Heckman from LinkedIn Sales Solutions adds, "For example, if someone says they are proficient in another language, say French, I write the subject line or first sentence in this language. It’s a clever personal way to capture their attention and show you’ve done your research on them."

2. Do their work for them

Even a warm connection can quickly go cold if you’re not thoughtful about how you approach a prospect. At the very least, it’s important that your communication reflect an understanding of a prospect’s industry. Leading with insights from your market research can help show you get it.

As you go for forward, you can look to strengthen the relationship by providing information that helps solve specific problems prospects have. You might offer to help research a particular topic of concern, turning to your network to get informed answers. Continually think about ways in which you can make it easier for prospects to work with you.

3. Help them realize they're working with an expert

Given the selling environment is so competitive, it’s critical you make prospects see that they want to work with you and not anyone else. Leveraging your network is vital for differentiating yourself.

First and foremost, you must have a complete profile that includes your credentials and establishes you as an authority. Recommendations from clients and industry thought leaders can firm up the positive impression prospects have of you. Creating or sharing great content can clinch your success, casting you as a go-to source in your field.

"When I am kicking off a call or in person meeting with a prospect or client, I typically start by letting them know that I will follow up after the call with a brief note summarizing our meeting, the next steps, and specifically, who is responsible for each of the next steps," said Rebecca. "This saves my prospects time in terms of having to take detailed notes themselves, ensures that we are all on the same page, and holds us both accountable for the action items that we discussed."

4. Send them something personal

As any successful sales rep knows, professional relationships are about more than business – they’re personal. There is an undeniable emotional element to buying and selling, and subsequently, building the type of trust-filled relationships that ultimately result in sales requires a mix of the professional and personal.

Showing that you know a prospect’s alma mater, for example, can be a simple connection to make; perhaps you send a mug, pennant, or other item from their university. You can do this with content as well. For example, if you find your prospect is interested in craft brewing, you can send a brewing recipe, or perhaps an article that highlights the best annual events for craft beer lovers.

"People want to work with people who they know will get the job done, but they just don’t want a 'sales' person who will take the deal and then walk away," said Doug.  "Utilizing your profile and building out the 'Honors & Awards' section is a great way to highlight your success. But leave the your summary and experience to talk about your story and how you’ve helped solve business challenges."

5. Make them laugh
Even after doing everything right, it can be difficult to break through the noise. Something funny can be just what you need to get that prospect’s attention. Just in case the person doesn’t have a sense of humor, hedge your bets by providing value in a message.

"I have found that self-deprecating humor is typically a safe bet, because prospects are people too, and they usually want to feel that they are dealing with a real person on the other end of the phone or the email," said Rebecca. "Recently, while researching a client, I noticed that she had lived on the East Coast but now recently moved to California. I kicked off the call by asking her if she had any tips for surviving winter for me, as the temperature had just fallen to 55 degrees, which is about 10 degrees colder than I had ever experienced as a Californian. It really broke the ice (pun intended)!'