Some prospects are just harder to reach than others. Sometimes it’s because they’re at a higher level in your customer’s organization than you usually call on, or they’re protected by an executive assistant or two, or they may be the type of people that are fairly unresponsive to outreach.

Here are three tips for getting through to hard-to-reach-prospects

  1. Understand the world your customer is living in. You need to think like your customer, imagine what it’s like to be a customer in today’s world. Let’s imagine for a second that you are on the other side of the desk, and salespeople are calling you. Let’s imagine that not only one person is calling you, but imagine people from 25 different companies are calling you in any given day. You would probably get fairly numb to some of that outreach. We tend to not recognize from the customer standpoint what one email or one voicemail looks like. When we sit down to do some prospecting, we might do this in batches. One of the things we teach in our workshops is to set aside a couple of hours, make a number of phone calls in a row, build up your momentum, your inertia if you will. You might sit down and make 25 phone calls, you might sit down and bang out 10 or 12 emails, you might send off a half a dozen faxes to different companies, for example. You’re working hard, you’ve put out a lot of energy, but to your customer who received one of those phone calls, they have really only received just one phone call. A lot of times an isolated outreach like that simply doesn’t get anyone’s attention.
  1. Organize a series of correspondence into an “Orchestrated Approach Campaign” or an “Approach Pattern” leveraging several different mediums of communication. Consider starting out with a printed letter. People tell me that nobody does that anymore, but that might be just the point, right? Perhaps send a nice printed letter with what you’ve learned about their company and how you’ve helped companies like theirs, requesting a time to talk with them the following week. A printed letter might be just what we need to stand out. We certainly want to use the telephone – the forgotten art of calling people. Too many of us are conditioned to send out emails and then wait to see if anyone calls us back. What about the fax machine? People laugh at me in workshops, but I’m continually humored by this because every customer you have has a fax machine sitting there, turned on, full of paper and ready to go and nobody ever faxes anything. Think about the opportunity here – what’s going to happen when the fax arrives at the front desk of the company? They’ll see who it’s for and will probably hand walk it down to them. What a fabulous way to differentiate yourself in terms of prospecting! I recognize that many people don’t have actual fax machines anymore and instead receive faxes via email, but when they receive email with something unique, like a fax attachment, who is not going to open it to take a look at what it is? A statistic I heard recently blew my mind: a message sent via LinkedIn is 19 times more likely to be opened than the exact same message sent in a standard email. Doesn’t that tell you something? They open it because it’s unique.
  1. Get creative. Maybe it’s stopping by when you’re in the area, walking up to the front desk and saying ‘Is Bob Brown in today?’ I know many salespeople that would be terrified to do something like that in today’s world, but those who’ve overcome the ‘embarrassment’ or social stigma of walking into their prospective client’s companies find that they can get access and talk to people that would otherwise never answer their phone call. Think outside the box, come up with inventive ways to get someone’s attention. A letter sent via FedEx or DHL or Priority Mail from the Post Office can get a prospect’s attention when a typical email won’t. People have become numb to email and voicemail, if they even check it anymore. Start with what you think works the best – I like a printed letter first as I think there is nothing quite as formal as an introduction to someone you don’t know than taking the time to write a nice letter from you to them; not a form letter, but something that specifically speaks to something you’ve learned about them, their company or them individually. Specify three bullet points of how you’ve helped companies like theirs, specify a request to talk at a certain time next week: ‘Mr. Johnson I’d like to reach out to you Wednesday morning at 8:30, please let me know if that works, if it doesn’t please let me know of a time that will.’ Introduction letters like that can get attention when nothing else will.If you let them know in a letter that you will be calling at a specific date and time, and when you call you don’t get them live, leave a voicemail saying “Mr. Johnson, I’m sorry I didn’t connect with you, but I’m going to send you an email right now; please reply whichever way is more convenient and let me know if a different time this week will work better. I’ll call you Thursday at 10, if that time doesn’t work for you, please just let me know of a better time during this week.” Weave together a letter, voicemail and an email, or send a letter via FedEx or anything else you can think of that is a creative way to get someone’s attention. I love to call the front desk and ask if they can take a handwritten message to a potential client. Sometimes a written message or one of those handwritten ‘While You Were Out’ messages can get someone’s attention when a whole bunch of emails won’t.

If you get creative I think you’ll be surprised at the response rate you get; of course you’ll have to reach out frequently enough to get recognized. You’ll hear all kinds of responses, but you can deal with those as you get them. The key is to get some kind of response, instead of the frustration of sending emails or leaving voicemails and getting nothing. If you’ll follow these suggestions, you’ll get a higher response rate and many will lead to the next step of a scheduled call or a meeting.