Standing Out When The “Well Is Poisoned”

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Recently, I’ve had a number of conversations with frustrated executives. CROs and CMOs want to have their teams do the right thing in engaging their prospects and customers, “The well has been poisoned!” Everyone is focused on inundating our prospects and customers with messaging through every channel. The volumes of emails, phone messages, texts, social media communications are astounding. “How do we stand out, how do we capture our customers’ attention when they are overwhelmed with messaging?”

Some think they have the answer, it’s the same answer, “We have to do more!” They believe the strategy is to combat volume with volume. If others are sending messages every day, then two messages a day to the same audience will enable you to standout. “We just have to out-shout everyone else!”

We get into endless battles of more volume with each organization trying to “one up” others (Apologies to Anthony Iannarino).

Even the “experts” do the same thing. One expert community on sales and marketing used to email me a single daily update (I didn’t know why I needed updating daily, but I accepted it). Now, so their messaging stands out, I get 4-6 email updates a day. Several sales enablement technology suppliers, none of which I’ve subscribed to emails, feel they must communicate with me 2-3 times a day, not necessarily on different topics, but somehow believing the more they send, the more likely, they might catch my attention.

These same experts, often offer “insights,” tricks, techniques, to catch a prospect attention. I have lost count of the number of “coffee” meetings I’ve been offered, with a sales person offering a Starbucks card for participating in meetings. I’ve picked up on calls, where the caller refuses to take “No” for an answer in asking for a few minutes of time. I have gotten them to accept a “click” for an answer.

Sales people send me endless sequences, not saying anything new, but just trying to catch my attention, “Dave, I hate to keep bothering you, but do you have any interest in following up on the email I sent yesterday and the day before and the day before and the …… (Somehow they believe they have to have at least 15 touches.) They also know they have to reach out through multiple channels. I get the same message in email, voicemail, text, and LinkedIn. One diligent sales person has been reaching out every two days for the past 4 weeks through both email and LinkedIn.

It is a real issue. In the face of everyone doing the same thing, in the face of escalating volumes of communications, how do we stand out? How do we get people to respond?

Without a doubt, it’s MUCH tougher. It’s hard to stand out in the sheer volume of outreaches everyone is making. I have no magic solutions (If I did, I’d sell it, then have everyone destroy its value by jumping on the solution and doubling down on the volumes.)

But some ideas that are seem to be working:

  1. Viciously narrow the target of your prospecting outreach. Narrow your ICP, focus on those prospects that you suspect (through research) have might have a higher interest in your outreach. If you know your ICP, if you know what events/triggers are likely to cause them to be interested, you can identify those individuals and organizations most likely to be receptive.
  2. Make your outreach about issues, not your product or offerings. Consider approaches like, “How is your organization addressing these issues….” or “What impact are you seeing from this…” Keep the entire first discussion on issues, not your products/offering. Find out how if they are experiencing them, how they are managing them, what results they are seeing and the impact. Share what you are seeing with other customers facing the same issues. Focus on an engaging conversation, not an opportunity to pitch.
  3. Develop a sequence that doesn’t repeat the same original message, but builds on it. Don’t go back with the same email, or “did you receive,” or and endless stream of RE: RE: RE: RE…. Consider building a story and stories have chapters. The first outreach is Chapter 1, the second extends, but doesn’t repeat Chapter 1, and so forth. In this way you engage them in different aspects of the issues, increasing your chance that you might hit on something that really resonates and stands out.
  4. Forget the gimmicks, forget the manipulations, be straight forward and direct.
  5. Use multiple channels, make sure you are consistent, but not repetitive across channels.
  6. PICK UP THE PHONE! I know it’s old school, but it works. Dial the customer directly yourself, make sure they see your real Caller ID, don’t use any dialer system or assist. Everyone knows, or guesses really well, that it’s a dialer. Whether it’s a number with the first 6 digits matching theirs, or that fraction of a second pause if you pick up. Prospects recognize dialers and are expert at avoiding those calls. And use voicemail, if your target has it.
  7. Build a presence or leverage your company’s presence in multiple web based channels. Participate in discussions, presenting a thoughtful point of view, provoke people to reach out to you.
  8. Leverage referrals and introductions as much as possible.
  9. If this isn’t producing the customer engagement you want, above everything else, don’t double down, don’t increase your volume. Doing more of something that isn’t working is idiocy. Take the time to figure out what’s not working, try a different approach. Talk to your customers see what might resonate with them.
  10. Consider, where possible, “door to door.” I have a client that is very impactful doing this. No one else is doing it. It starts to build that personal connection–even with a gatekeeper. If you don’t get to see them, they are more likely to respond if you call or email.

To stand out when the well is poisoned, you have to be different, you have to earn the attention by engaging prospects in discussions that are important to them.

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