4 Ways to Start a Conversation with a New Sales Prospect

June 19, 2018

4 Ways to tap your network for a way “in.”

Initiating a conversation with a new prospect can be the hardest part of a sale. Especially if you don’t have a prior relationship. Having a strategy to connect with the prospects you need to reach can help you overcome the communication obstacles that stand in the way of lead generation.

Here are four ways to clear the path toward that initial conversation with a sales prospect.

Check LinkedIn for Second or Third Degree Connections

Buyers engage with people they know, which means you should look for opportunities to get introduced. While this can seem daunting, one way to remove the stress of chasing a full Rolodex is to leverage second and third degree connections.

Part of the value of LinkedIn connections is the relationships that come with them. Here are a few ways you can leverage your connections to find new leads:

  1. Ask for an introduction. We entered the post cold calling era a while ago, so the idea of blindly reaching out to someone is tough to swallow — for the salesperson and the prospect. Asking for an introduction by a shared connection can add instant familiarity.
  2. Ask for a referral. If you have a particularly good relationship with someone, you could request a referral to their connection. This endorsement adds a little more weight than a simple introduction.
  3. Highlight your shared connection. If you still prefer to reach out to the prospect yourself, you could highlight a shared connection. This may be enough to open the conversation and begin cultivating the relationship.

Map Mutual Connections Between You and the Decision Maker

How much do you know about your network? If your goal is to connect with everyone who can potentially impact the decision, your process should reflect that goal.

For example, say you’re selling IT performance software. The key stakeholder may be the department director. It may be the CTO. It may be the CEO. Or, it may be all the above.

Consider that the average number of stakeholders involved in a B2B sale has climbed to 6.8. At first glance, this may be a daunting number, but it also presents opportunity. All those people have influence on the final decision, and all are valuable leads. Your strategy for finding prospects with true influence should trace a path to the people who have a say in the final decision. To do so, it’s best to map out the buying committee and your connections to them. You can do this by:

  • Finding the stakeholders. Who are you trying to reach? Who is in the room when the final decision is made? Whose input is most valued?
  • Creating a path to make contact. Once you’ve identified the right people, look for ways to make contact. You may have second or third degree LinkedIn connections in common. You may find connections in your CRM. Or you may have no obvious path. But there is a way to track the right people and use your research to engage insightfully.
  • Tracking your results. Whether you track results via LinkedIn Sales Navigator, your CRM, or have synced LinkedIn and your CRM to create a sales enablement superpower, you’ll want to set achievable, measurable targets and track your progress.

Look for Internal Company Contacts

You’re prospecting on LinkedIn and come across what appears to be a great lead. You click into his connections and discover that he’s already connected to a member of your accounting department. This shared connection could your “in.”

Your company’s collective network is a great place to look for new sales prospects. If you work for a large organization, there are hundreds of employees in different departments who aren’t actively looking to drive sales, but can help you do so. For all you know, Margaret in accounting may live next door to one of your top prospects.

It can be easy to overlook the contacts right in front of you, but you may be missing out if you aren’t leveraging the connections in your own company.

Using the TeamLink feature in Sales Navigator is an easy way to unearth hidden connection opportunities. You can’t sell on an island, and this feature offers a simple and intuitive way to see if others on your team already have a connection to a prospect. By combining the power of all your connections, your sales team can pinpoint the best path to connecting with decision makers.

Search Your CRM for Records of Past Contacts

Is your CRM up-to-date? It’s an important question because your contacts will also be some of your best leads. Equally important is analyzing how you use your CRM. Research shows an average CRM adoption rate of 47%, with some as low as 27%.

If you’re in the group that hasn’t adopted consistent CRM use, you’re likely missing out on opportunities. An updated CRM database gives you a wealth of information to pull from, and contacts to leverage. And by syncing your existing system with Sales Navigator, you can maximize its value while integrating unique LinkedIn insights.

With all the tools at your disposal, the initial sales conversation doesn’t need to be daunting. Having a clear plan for how to reach leads will help you get the results you seek.

For more prospecting and lead generation tips, download our guide, Read Me If You Want to Uncover Relevant Sales Insights on LinkedIn.