Playbook: Prospecting is hard workTo do prospecting right, you must build a prospecting narrative that connects landing the first deal to account expansion.

“Land with your endgame in mind” is how Ro Saccone, Chief Marketing Officer at Planet, put it in a recent call I had with her.

“We try to build all prospecting initiatives in ways that connect landing and expanding,” she told me.  “When you land with the endgame in mind, it means you understand your economic buyer and connect from the outset to the bigger initiative.  Even if your first deal is small, you can expand a lot quicker with this approach.”

Most teams think of prospecting campaigns as independent activities.  They often do not connect individual campaigns to the broader business goals that can link a first deal to on-going expansion opportunities.

Here are three practices you can adopt to build prospecting narratives into playbooks that accelerate landing and expanding.


Practice #1: Prospect as a Trusted Advisor

Rather than focus your outreach messaging on your product, your company or attention grabbers, start with messaging focused on the business goals and impacts each individual buyer persona cares about the most.  When a team prospects around their product, a buyer knows that if they commit to a discovery call, the meeting is going to be all about the company’s product.  And, no one wants to sit through a product pitch.

By contrast, when a team commits to prospecting with insights around a buyer’s goals, they are saying to the buyer “we are going to provide you with a ton of value in early conversations, even if you decide not to work with us.”  This makes a buyer more interested in taking part in a discovery call.

Also, rather than default to high-volume email sequences because you think you can cover more ground with less effort, focus on a mix of outreach types, including email, phone, voicemail, and social outreach.  For senior decision-makers and people in strategic accounts, you can add premium touch types such as personalized business plans or physical mailings.  Mixing up the touch types is more buyer centric.  It lets the buyer decide how they want to engage.  It can also build more variety into prospecting blocks for teams that are struggling to stay motivated with phone outreach.

All of this contributes to what I call prospecting as a trusted advisor.  This approach starts with a focus on a buyer’s top goals and uses mixed-touch cadences for prospecting outreach.  I have seen teams that shift to prospecting as trusted advisors increase prospecting productivity dramatically, typically with an average of 40% to 45% gain in the number of discovery calls yielded from the same pool of buyer contacts.  These higher levels of success are happening with prospects at all levels — from front-line managers to directors, VPs and even the C-Suite.


Practice #2: Business Goals First, Buyer Personas Second

Most prospecting campaigns focus on themes that are too specific to individual buyer personas.  In so doing, they fail to connect each individual buyer persona to a shared set of goals around a larger business problem.

There can be dozens of buyer personas at a target company, but there are probably only three or four really important business problems that any product or service can help to achieve.  Usually these business problems are related to revenue growth, cost reduction, a budget substitute or changing a user or an employee experience.

A good prospecting playbook needs to connect campaigns that target individual buyer personas to these higher-level business problems.   A typical B2B purchase decision now involves seven or more different buyers and influencers and these individuals may represent just as many buyer personas.  If a team is prospecting at the level of buyer persona, they could end up in seven different sales conversations in the same buyer organization.  The goal of prospecting should be to activate all seven decision-makers and influencers into the same sales conversation around a shared goal that connects the buying roles and personas.

“The problem a buyer is trying to solve is often a couple layers above where your product is,” says Ro. “You really need to ponder this connection and make it easy for each buyer to connect what you do with a meaningful business problem.”

Planet uses high frequency satellite data to help its clients collect data and images on the Earth’s landmass.   Many of its buyers are in commercial agriculture and use the data to manage risk and improve operational efficiency.  Buyers at the manager and director level will focus on the more tactical aspects of Planet’s data feeds.  They may focus on improving a work process or removing a pain point for their team.   Vice Presidents and C-level executives are more likely to respond to the broader economic case for a Planet partnership, focusing on the opportunity for cost and risk reduction.  All are going to be motivated by how real-time data that they previously could not access can improve operations and response times, so bringing this theme up early with all personas connects their individual goals with the larger business problem that Planet solves.



Practice #3: Start Small if You Have To, But Always Think Big

“Sometimes you have to land with a very specific problem, and you may take just a small amount of money off the table,” Ro acknowledges.  “But if you land in a way that is visible to the economic buyer, and you connect to a bigger initiative, then there are much bigger dollars to be had later.”

Expansion campaigns work best when they focus on a buyer goal that has attention from an economic buyer with access to a budget.  In the strongest expansion campaigns, there is a synergy between the initial goal area and the expansion goal area.  The strongest expansion campaigns use a value narrative framework to connect buyer goal achievement in one area to the opportunity to partner on new goal areas.

This is why broad goal exploration in early discovery is always important. Broad goal exploration has a number of important benefits for getting quick to an initial sale as well as laying the groundwork for expansion sales.   Broad goal explorating helps sales teams build deal velocity by inviting a variety of decision makers into the conversation.  It makes it easier to identify the goal area with the highest business impact, strongest potential ROI and least pricing pushback.   It also creates multiple potential sources of budget or funding for a new purchase.

Think of every single one of your prospecting campaigns as an opportunity to do broad discovery on the range of buyer goals in an account.  You do not know when you start if your first positive responses will come from the tactical campaigns to managers and directors or from strategic and ROI focused campaigns to executive decision-makers.  However, if you planned your prospecting playbook so that all these campaigns connect to shared business goals, you will move a lot quicker from the tactical sale that takes dollars off the table to the strategic sale that drives account value to a very different level.

Prospecting to new accounts is really hard work. But you can multiply the returns on these efforts, if you design your prospecting playbook to connect all buyer personas to a handful of business goals and challenges your product is uniquely positioned to solve.