Welcome to Modern Sales

Outbound Prospecting In a Crisis with Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
How do you prospect during a global pandemic? Well, think about what's going on with your prospect. That's exactly what you should do in a pandemic, and it's exactly what you should do when we're not in a pandemic. Jason Bay, a prospecting expert, gives his advice about how to prospect and lead with empathy. It's not just a way to feel better about how you do business - it's much more effective, too. 

Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Outbound Prospecting In a Crisis with Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting:

Full Transcript

Jason Bay:
Be sensitive to the fact that there are certain industries much more impacted by this than others. If one of your target segments is small and medium sized businesses, you’d better be extremely careful about the ones you’re reaching out to, especially retail. You might not even reach out to them at all.

Liston Witherill:
Right. Restaurants, travel, obviously are the first ones to be impacted.

Jason Bay:
Dude, I saw Restaurants 365 by the way, today. So many people announcing that they had to lay off like 95% of their sales team. So if you’re trying to sell something to Restaurants 365 right now, it better be something that can help them recoup as much of the loss, and not around helping their sales. Like, I would never reach out to them right now to help them with prospecting. That just wouldn’t make sense.

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast that’ll help you sell more, by understanding how people buy. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, founder of Serve Don’t Sell, and I dig through academic research, interview people inside and outside of sales, and nerd out on psychology, economics, and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And I am on a mission to change the way 100 million people sell, so that buying B2B services can feel just as good as finding a home for the 1,000th puzzle piece. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Liston Witherill:
If you’re listening on Spotify, hit the follow button so that you don’t miss a single episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, please subscribe. Leave an honest review, as long as it’s five stars. It helps me get the word out for the show, so we can, together, change the way 100 million people sell. Thank you in advance for your help. Now to the show.

Liston Witherill:
All selling should be done with empathy. Now, this may or may not seem controversial to you, and certainly if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, or been following me in any form, you know that I am a huge proponent of leading with empathy. There is no sale if you can’t understand what’s going on with the other person, and meet their needs. But how do we apply that lesson when we’re all extremely sensitive? And I don’t just mean your prospects. I mean you too, and I mean me. I’m more stressed out. I have different things on my mind. My priorities have changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So, how do we go about prospecting, at a time when, quote/unquote, “No one is buying”?

Liston Witherill:
Now, I don’t believe that no one is buying, but I do believe there is a heightened need for empathy in the way that we prospect. I’ve continued to prospect during this time. I recommend that you do, too. But I’ve also been seeking advice and input from other people I trust about how to prospect at a time like this, and one of the people who I trust the most in the world when it comes to prospecting is Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting. I asked him to come on to Modern Sales to talk about how he’s thinking about prospecting during the pandemic, so that he meets both needs of building his business and delivering what clients need, at a time when everybody is a little bit more sensitive. So, I’m excited to bring you this interview with Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting, coming right up after this short break.

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales. I’m Liston Witherill, and I am here with my friend right there, Jason Bay of Blissful Prospecting. Jason, how’s it going?

Jason Bay:
It’s going, man. It’s, you know-

Liston Witherill:
So, we’re recording this on March 23rd, and I’ve actually had lots of calls with people, and they’re like, “How are you?” And I’m like, “I’ve been better.” I don’t know what to say to that. I sense maybe you’re thinking that, too.

Jason Bay:
Yeah. I mean, I’m really excited. We’ve been talking a lot in the last week, and I’m excited. I would be lying to you if I wasn’t feeling anxious, though, right now. For sure. So, what I’m excited about is any time something like this happens… Because I sold and managed salespeople through the last recession. When that happened, I was managing college students that were selling house painting services. And what we saw in that industry was, all the contractors that sat around and did nothing and didn’t have good customer service, they all went out of business, and the people that were extremely proactive about acquiring clients, they stayed in business.

Jason Bay:
So, I know that I am going to be one of those people that’s extremely proactive. I also know that there is a certain number of companies that really look at things like this as an opportunity to grow, and to really capture mind share. So, that’s the thing that I’m really excited about. I’m anxious because… What we’re going to talk about today is outbound, right? I do think that that is going to become much more difficult. And again and there’s an opportunity there, because companies are going to have to really do it the right way, and really exaggerate, in my opinion, and do more of the things they should be doing. They should be more empathetic. They should be leading more with value. They shouldn’t be pitching their product or their service so much. All things they shouldn’t’ be doing anyways, right? But it’s certainly exaggerated right now, in this time.

Liston Witherill:
So, let’s start from the top. I’d love for you to just introduce yourself briefly. And then you mentioned, if you could just segue directly into companies shouldn’t be pitching their product or service. What do you mean by that?

Jason Bay:
Yeah. So, my name’s Jason Bay. I am co-founder at Blissful Prospecting. I’m an outbound sales coach and consultant that works with B2B sales teams, to grow and accelerate their outbound sales. So, if you’re sending cold outreach, and it’s not working as well as you’d like, that’s where we kind of step in and help.

Jason Bay:
But in terms of companies should not be pitching their product and service… Dude, when business is abundant, and you have a good brand behind your company, as a salesperson, you’re on easy mode. Hey, people are willing to spend money. “We can help with this,” and, “Here are all the features, and all this other stuff,” and, “Let’s chat.” And that works, to some extent. What we’re seeing right now is really prospects telling you to just F off, basically, if you’re coming in with these really hard product or service pitches. And the reason for that is it’s just a complete lack of empathy for the situation that they might be going through.

Jason Bay:
What is really interesting about that to me is that empathy is the thing that should be leading your prospecting and your outbound conversations anyways, it’s just now that you actually have to do it. The interesting part, though, is that don’t we kind of know what our prospects are thinking right now? It’s probably the easiest time ever to empathize with a prospect.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think everybody’s scared. Right? I think they’re uncertain about the future. And they still have to show up to work and make something happen. So, how do you think about… It’s kind of awkward, right? Or at least I think it can be seen as awkward, to go to someone and say, “Hey, I have something to sell, but I know you might be afraid for your life.” How do you think about the messaging in this situation?

Jason Bay:
I think it starts with a few things. What I am seeing right now… So, I ran a webinar, and I did an AMA style thing, where I had 10 minutes of content. And people, we called on them and I coached them through how to approach their cold emails and cold calls. The biggest mistake that I see salespeople making right now is they’re not actually able to empathize with their prospects, because they don’t really know what’s going on in their business. And the reason why they don’t know is they’re not talking to any of their customers. The very first thing you should do in any crisis, I guess you could call it, right now, or any periods of economic uncertainty, is you should be talking to your clients. The very first thing you need to do as a salesperson is save the business that you have, and look at the contact you have, and really use that as a chance to empathize, and learn what they are thinking and what they’re going through right now.

Jason Bay:
When we did that… So, we have a certain segment of our clients that are nonprofits, for example. The very first thing I did last Monday morning, as soon as I knew this was like a crazy thing, is we sent emails to them and said, “Hey, things are probably really crazy right now, given the fact that a lot of the way you partner with companies is in person, and you’re not allowed to do that. I can only imagine how much scrambling you guys are doing with that, on top of having to work from home.” That’s how I started the conversation, but I didn’t really learn about what they were actually experiencing until we met with them all this week.

Jason Bay:
What I found out is that a lot of them are thinking about, “How do we keep these conversations going? Like, we want to prospect right now, but we’re worried about trying to pitch the partnership too hard. We’re worried about all kinds of stuff.” They listed a bunch of things. And now, we don’t really prospect to nonprofits anymore. We just kind of work with whatever comes to us. But if I was prospecting to a nonprofit, now I know specifically what they’re going through. It’s like, hey.

Jason Bay:
And you might be thinking, for these corporate partnerships that you have right now, what’s going to happen to them in a month or two, if you can’t run these fundraisers in person? I can actually come in. So, I think that’s the very first thing you need to do, because I don’t think it’s okay to pick a prospect’s brain to ask them what their challenges are right now. That’s never been appropriate. You need to talk to your customers, get a better idea of what they’re going through, and how they’re handling it. And you can connect your customers together, which we’re doing later this week. We have all of our customers coming on to one call, and we’re helping them brainstorm ways to get creative around how they can still prospect. Then I have an insight that I can share with prospects.

Jason Bay:
So, it isn’t work from home tips. That’s not going to be good enough right now. You really need to know what their problem is based on customer conversations, get insights, and then share stuff that’s more insider kind of info, and not this surface level, “Hey, have you ever thought of using Zoom? You can still sell.” You know what I mean? It’s like that’s too basic.

Liston Witherill:
Right, right. So, you’re basically saying look for those second, third order kind of issues that people are experiencing now, as a result of basically all social life being shut down. I mean, the speed of this has been incredible, like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s completely unprecedented. So, before we started talking, you said it’s funny to you that what’s working now isn’t so different from what was already working. It just needs to be exaggerated.

Jason Bay:
Yeah. So, outbound has always been three sort of core skills. It’s your ability to identify a good fit account and contacts… So, identify an opportunity… Your ability to engage and start a conversation with them. And then your ability to convert that into a conversation, an opportunity. So, what I was talking about a lot at the beginning of this year was something we called Outbound 3.0. That was essentially those three pillars, but the three shifts that you need to make in your strategy are, moving from mass blast to quality… So, instead of the spray and pray, like, “Hey, let’s look for accounts that are a good fit, and then research them.” And instead of saying, “Hey, I saw you’re a Dodgers fan,” it’s, “Hey. Based on this thing that I saw going on in your company, I think it makes sense to chat for this, this, and this reason.”

Jason Bay:
Then the second thing was moving more from product-centric messaging, and talking about how awesome your product is and the features, and moving more into buyer-centric messaging, which is more about problems and solutions, or problems and results. Right? And then the third pillar of that was moving from taking to teaching. What that essentially meant was, hey, if you just say, “Do you have 30 minutes to chat next Tuesday for a demo?” That’s not going to work very effective anymore, because you’re taking the prospect’s time, and there’s no promise of anything in return for them. So instead, going in to teach something.

Jason Bay:
In my opinion, that hasn’t changed at all. You should still be doing those three things. But when we look at mass blasts and the quality aspect of things, where we really need to do that is be extremely careful about automation. We can’t be using any automation right now that doesn’t have empathy for the situation that a prospect is going through.

Jason Bay:
The other thing, too, is we might need to change our client verticals a little bit, too, and be sensitive to the fact that there are certain industries much more impacted by this than others. Like if one of your target segments is small and medium sized businesses, you better be extremely careful about the ones you’re reaching out to, especially retail. You might not even reach out to them at all.

Liston Witherill:
Right. Restaurants, travel, obviously are the first ones to be impacted.

Jason Bay:
Dude, I saw a Restaurant 365, by the way, today. So many people announcing that they had to lay off 95% of their sales team. So if you’re trying to sell something to Restaurants 365 right now, it better be something that can help them recoup as much of the loss, and not around helping their sales. Like, I would never reach out to them right now to help them with prospecting. That just wouldn’t make sense.

Jason Bay:
And then this product-centric and buyer-centric kind of stuff, the way that you do that is by leading with empathy. The empathy part is an acknowledgement of their situation and what they’re going through, and focusing more on the problem and a result. Right? Or a solution to that problem, and skipping the features and the benefits type of thing. So again, that’s just more of an exaggeration of that strategy.

Jason Bay:
And this taking versus teaching, the call to action should be, “Can I send this resource over to you?” Or, “Would it be helpful if I sent over some insights from our top customers on how they’re handling this?” You should already be doing that kind of stuff anyways when you prospect. You shouldn’t be asking for a meeting right away in an email.

Liston Witherill:
And so, walk me through that. Because in a way, it’s combining inbound and outbound, right? You’re creating a content asset that you know is helpful to someone, and so in that way, you’re becoming a marketer in some sense. But you’re just choosing who’s going to read it, or who you want to distribute it to. So if they say yes, you send over the content asset, and then what? Walk me through what comes next.

Jason Bay:
Yeah. So, I’ll send that over to them, and… Let’s talk about what that content asset should be, though, because a lot of people are really uncertain about what’s valuable and what isn’t. So, I’ll tell you what isn’t valuable right now. If you’ve created a page on your website with two work from home resources, and then one link on updates on COVID-19, that’s not helpful, dude. That’s not going to be helpful for your prospect. So, what will be helpful is a piece of content that addresses those specific needs that they have right now.

Jason Bay:
I’ll give you an example. We help companies with prospecting. All of the content I have been creating lately has been gathering best practices from people that are still setting appointments, and especially our customers. Putting that into LinkedIn videos, putting it into guides, putting it into webinars, and I ask if I can share that stuff. So, that’s the content. That’s how valuable it needs to be.

Jason Bay:
In terms of the ask, then I could ask, and I often do in this case, “Hey, what specific challenges are you coming across right now? I want to make sure this content that we’re putting out is actually useful for you personally.” So, I still don’t ask for a meeting. It’s such a long tail approach. And again, when the economy’s doing really good, or at least when people are not in panic, you might be able to ask for it. I would normally ask for a meeting right there, and I would say something like, “Hey, I’d love to share more on this strategy and two others that we’re seeing companies do to increase their response rates to get ahold of really busy prospects. Is that something you’d be interested in chatting about?”

Jason Bay:
So, the call to action is not for a meeting. It’s, “Hey, would this be helpful?” Or, “Hey, if I was to share two other strategies that sales teams are using right now to be more empathetic with their prospects around coronavirus, is that something that would be valuable to you?” Do you know Chris Voss?

Liston Witherill:
I do. Well, I don’t know him personally, but yes, I know of him.

Jason Bay:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
And Chris, if you’re listening, you’re welcome on this podcast anytime.

Jason Bay:
Oh, dude. That would be really cool, if you interviewed Chris, because I would be talking to him more from a prospecting standpoint. But I’ve been experimenting with his style of questioning, too, where instead of getting people to say yes, which feels like such a big commitment, ask them a question where they could say no.

Liston Witherill:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jason Bay:
So the call to action could also be, “Hey, would it be crazy if I shared a couple more strategies with you that would help with this?”

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. So, it sounds like one of the kind of key things that you’re thinking about, in terms of reframing all of this, is being more patient. You’re totally okay with spending more time, more back and forth, less going straight for… Even in this case, let’s say you have the content asset. You send it over. And rather than just having automation two days later that says, “What did you think of it,” or, “Did anything come up for you? Was it useful, whatever,” some sort of follow up, you’re going to manually reach out to them and just sort of take your time with them, and understand you need to be patient. Things are crazy for them. Am I getting it?

Jason Bay:
Yup. So, you’re really probably going to have to reduce your volume. And the very first thing I recommend doing is adjusting your client segments, like I recommended before. Where, hey. Dude, those C priority people you’re reaching out to, and the B part? It’s like, stop all of that. Keep it to A priority, clients that are not too heavily impacted by this right now, and really take your time to have a conversation with them. What this might amount for you doing right now is, you might not be able to get a meeting. But you could get a conversation started, where you can then nurture and send more content as you guys create it, and more helpful resources so that… Dude, I don’t know when things… I’m no expert in this kind of stuff with the economy or coronavirus. But the coronavirus, people could stop freaking out about that in a month or two. I don’t know. So if that happens, are you going to be in a position where you can ask for a meeting at that time? And if you’ve shared some helpful stuff, it’s going to be really easy to ask for a meeting.

Liston Witherill:
Right. And I’ve been writing, and kind of publishing on the importance of leadership during this time. And there’s all types of different leadership, but I think if you were there, and not asking for… Not sort of contributing to the panic, right? But being a voice of steadiness, and sort of solidarity, people will remember that. In all of this, is there a sort of trigger? Like, are you just waiting for them to ask you, “Hey, Jason. Can we meet, because we have this problem or that problem”? Or do you ever get to the point where you’re like, “Okay. Now this is clearly the point where I would ask for a meeting, or at least tell someone, “If you wanted to go a further step in this direction, we think we could help you in this way. Would you like to talk about that?'”

Jason Bay:
I’m still going to ask for a meeting, because what I do at our company, we can’t help people right now. That’s the biggest question everyone has right now, is should we prospect? So, you’ve got to think about is your service and your product legitimately helpful for the prospect right now? Is it going to help them deal with a current situation? So I’m just extra careful about how I ask, and then I leave them a way out. So, “Yo. Hey, listen. This is actually something we could talk about on a call, and I’d be more than happy to run you through how we’re helping our clients, and other companies like yours, navigate through the big question of how to prospect during this time. Let me know if now is not a good time. Totally understand.” So you’ve still got to ask for the meeting, but let the person know that it’s okay if they don’t want to chat right now.

Liston Witherill:
Don’t you think it’s always important to give them an out, to let them know it’s okay to say no?

Jason Bay:
I don’t know. That’s something you’ve got to A-B test. I think it depends on the persona. I’ve noticed the more A-type the people are, the more responsive they are to an easy way out.

Liston Witherill:
Meaning the more likely they are to say no?

Jason Bay:
No, the more likely they are to say yes, if I give them an easy way out. And the people that are less drivers… You know, if it’s not a sales position, for example, that the person’s in, they typically need a little bit of extra encouragement.

Liston Witherill:
I see. Okay. Got it.

Jason Bay:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Now, are you ending all automation completely? Because one thing I think about as you’re talking is I do a ton of content marketing. That’s what this podcast started as, and now it’s like it’s own thing. But I also write an email newsletter. I’m on LinkedIn. I do webinars. I do all this stuff. And one of the big goals of content marketing, obviously first and foremost, is to help the consumers of that content, but I also want to capture their email address, and be in touch with them, and that is automated. It seems to me that if you’re driving more people towards content, and you’re less aggressive in asking for meetings, there’s got to be some sort of back stopper way to catch them and bring them into your system, and maybe that could be email automation. Is that something you’re thinking about could do more lifting for you now, as you may be a little less direct about asking for sales or meetings?

Jason Bay:
I mean, that’s what we’re focused on heavily right now, is audience building and capturing subscribers. Because these people, they’re getting what they want from us right now, and the engagement rates on the emails are extremely high. But I want to backtrack a little bit. I don’t suggest turning off automation on that end of things, on a marketing end. On the sales end, I recommend backing off on the automation from your outbound sequences. But once you dial in something, you can still automate it. So if you have a sequence, you basically need a coronavirus sequence right now. Right? Where you’re just using it for this time, and you can build in the empathy and all that stuff in your messages. You don’t have to manually send every email.

Liston Witherill:
Right, but you just have to be careful about how often it’s going out, and what exactly is the content of those emails.

Jason Bay:
The content is more important than how often.

Liston Witherill:
So, in terms of something that’s helpful, a piece of content that someone could put together or start sending out, whoever’s listening to this, one option is they go talk to their clients, and essentially interview them. “What are you experiencing right now? How is this hitting your business? What are your clients experiencing? What are the discussions internally? How are you guys dealing with it?” That could easily generate a piece of content. Are there any other ways that you think about how to solve this content problem?

Jason Bay:
Yeah, there’s a couple things. One, I think you ask yourself, is your audience on LinkedIn? So, if you’re selling to salespeople, marketers, HR people, recruiters, LinkedIn is going to be the place to do. All you’ve got to do is open up the newsfeed, and you’re going to see what people’s challenges are. It’s the only time ever I’ve seen where everyone is talking about the challenges that they’re having. So, that’s an easy way to crowdsource ideas.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah.

Jason Bay:
And that’s also a really easy way to create the content, and connect with the person, and say, “Hey, listen. I saw that you posted about this challenge you have. I actually created a piece of content. If you want to go check it out, here it is.” Right? I mean, that’s ideally the way to do it. And then you’ve just got to look and see where your audience might be hanging out. So, if it’s not on social media, is it in any industry forums? Is there any industry news? Trade publications? Like anywhere that’s releasing industry related information on how they’re being impacted right now, which I guarantee you could find that with a quick Google search. So, you could get ideas that way, too. That is less effective than actually talking to people.

Jason Bay:
You could also approach a prospect, and you could use language that’s a little bit like, “Hey, listen. If you’re like any of the other VPs of sales I’ve been talking to, this, this, and this is a challenge that you’re having right now. But I would love to know from you firsthand, if you have a moment to share what you’re going through right now, because I’m really trying to put together content that would be helpful for folks in your position. If you don’t got time, totally understand.” Yeah, that’s the type of outreach that I would do.

Liston Witherill:
So, your advice is to continue to prospect, I guess with some caveats. It’s about how you prospect, and it’s also about if what you’re doing is actually helpful to the people you’re prospecting. I don’t even want to get into what if it’s not, because that’s a bigger challenge, that I think we can’t solve on this podcast.

Jason Bay:
Dude, yeah. I’m kind of stumped for… Like if you’re Restaurants 365, for example, I don’t know what to tell you from a sales and prospecting standpoint, besides you laid off a bunch of your staff. I don’t know what else you would do. There isn’t really anything you can do for your audience right now that’s going to save you, unless I’m missing something. Which I probably am.

Liston Witherill:
Well, I’m sure we all are, and we’re trying to figure it out kind of as we go here, in real time. Jason, thank you so much for being here and talking about this very timely, timely, timely issue. You’re a friend of the show. You’ve been on before. I’m sure I’m going to have you back. But for people who don’t know about you, where can they learn more about you?

Jason Bay:
There’s two places. If you’re just looking for free information on how to do this stuff right now, blissfulprospecting.com’s going to have a ton of stuff. There’s even a coronavirus page on there, with like specific selling and prospecting content that we’re putting out and others are putting out, on how to navigate through this time from a prospecting standpoint. So, I would just go to our website for that. Then, you can also check out our website if you’re looking for help on how to actually approach your cold outreach. We do training and workshops and that kind of stuff, and we’re doing a lot of help with companies right now on this specific topic and how to navigate it. I would check it out at blissfulprospecting.com, as well.

Liston Witherill:
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Jason Bay:
Cool. Yeah, this was fun, man.

Stay In the Loop

Get a daily sales insight sent straight to your inbox – sign up for our newsletter.

Like what you heard? Help us get the word out! Just leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It’ll take you less than a minute and it’ll help us spread the word about Modern Sales.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn