Originally written by Jeff Shearer

I’m a B2B company’s least favorite kind of prospect.

  • I ignore or unsubscribe from their emails (especially if I didn’t explicitly opt in )
  • I’m doubly likely to opt out if my information was clearly bought from a list (In fact, I’ll do this just out of spite)
  • I never answer or return their calls (and in the rare circumstance that they actually do reach me, the very act of doing so usually kills any chances of them getting a successful sale from me). I don’t hate talking on the phone, I just really hate getting called by salespeople unless I’m specifically requesting it.
  • I don’t click their ads (except to see if there are any creative ideas worth poaching from their landing pages)
  • I immediately see through any sort of automation and tracking they’re using: if they have a gate on content I want, I either disable javascript or view source to get to the content without providing my information, or I just give (cringe) fake information.
  • I used to sometimes respond positively to LinkedIn InMail when the volume was low, but nowadays find myself largely rejecting most InMail requests.
  • In the rare case that someone does get me interested in something, I’m terrible at staying in touch with them, and never stick to the timelines they set.

 

And yet, my job is to help  sales reps do the very things to prospects that I absolutely detest. So how do you sell to the most private of prospects? When I look back at how I’ve been successfully sold to in the past, some common themes emerge.

Content plays a big role–and I’m not just talking about white papers and webinars–product details, video demos, etc all are valued, depending on where I’m at in the buying cycle. I’m big into doing my research ahead of time, so I actually find myself consuming most of a brand’s relevant content before ever engaging with a salesperson. While I generally avoid gated content if possible, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and I will give up some basic contact information in certain instances. The one thing I won’t do, though, is give up my phone number for a whitepaper.

When it comes to marketing technology, I’ll always vet a potential vendor with my professional network  for eputation. If I catch a whiff of a poor product from my peers, that’ll usually not only kill the sale, but cause me to warn others to steer clear as well. While references are an important part of deciding on a vendor, it’s actually how I first catch wind of many of them. I try to surround myself with very intelligent people, and if they’ve found a way to solve a problem I too am experiencing, I’ll listen.

Obviously, the timing also has to be right. When this doesn’t line up, even the most willing of prospects isn’t going to be able to make the purchase. But there’s more to it than that. I think most organizations tend to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to determining the timeline of a prospect. The very fact thatthey are asking me if I’m in the market & timeline for whatever they’re selling, they’ve  already lost the sale. The salespeople who generally win with me are those who recognize that I will come to them when I’m ready to hear more.

Even though the average prospect in most industries probably isn’t as aggressively unreachable as me, I do respond well to content (when done right), referrals and reputation count, and timing is everything. The difference is that while you can potentially get my attention with direct sales tactics, I’m not likely to reciprocate. Instead, I’ll readily raise my hand when the need, want and timing are there.

On a side note: I suspect part of my stubbornness around sales engagement has a lot to do with my profession. Seeing how the sausage is made has a certain effect on one’s taste preferences. Part of me is thankful I don’t currently work in an industry where I’m marketing to marketers. We’re a tough group to please.