3 Sales Prospecting Strategies to Succeed in the New Normal, with John Barrows, Episode #146


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The sales landscape has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Sales leaders’ priorities shifted and sales prospecting strategies pivoted. Many companies went from growth forecasts to survival mode, and those sales professionals who have not adapted to the new normal of remote selling are struggling.

What is the solution? That’s the topic of conversation in this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast with John Barrows, CEO of JBarrows Sales Training. John provides sales training and consulting services to some of the world’s fastest growing companies like Salesforce.com, Google, LinkedIn®, Slack and many others. His over 20 years of experience spans all aspects of Sales at every level from making 400 cold calls a week as an inside sales rep to a VP of Sales at his first start-up that was sold to Staples. He’s an active sales practitioner who trains in what he does every day.

He’s also the author of an Amazon best-seller children’s book called “I want to be in Sales when I grow up” that he wrote with his daughter.

Listen to this episode as John shares great insights on how to succeed in sales in the new normal.

Developing Relevant Sales Prospecting Strategies

Many sales people lost their jobs during the economic downturn of the last few months. However, John says there was a different outcome for average sales reps than for good sales reps: those reps that didn’t improve their skills and relied on automation to hit quota got laid off when COVID came, but those who leveled up their game, kept their jobs.

There are no silver bullets in sales, no email templates that guarantee sales success. As a sales leader you must teach your sellers to put in the hard work, to take their profession seriously, honing their craft and improving all the time.

Now is the time for salespeople to go deep into personalization, stay relevant and start caring for the people they are trying to reach.

John shares three sales prospecting strategies that sellers can use to succeed in the new normal.

1. Go Deep with Personalization

John says sellers should stop using strict cadences, stop automating everything and start personalizing. They should do their homework and put themselves in the shoes of their prospects.

For example, sellers could research the issues that VPs of Sales are facing right now and ask themselves, what is the component of our product or service that helps them solve that problem? Then they should reach out and connect with the VPs based on their research.

2. Lead with Empathy and Thoughtfulness

John says there is a lot of fake empathy going around, meaning sales reps sending “friendly messages” in cold outreaches. For example, generic messages such as “I hope you and your family are doing well” are not well received.

The formula for real empathy is:

Empathy = Personalization + Relevance

Real empathy comes from understanding your prospect’s real needs today, not the needs they had two or three months ago before COVID. That involves revisiting your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) or buyer personas, because they have changed (or if the personas have not changed, at least their priorities have).

When was the last time you called your top clients and asked them, “What are you facing right now?” By finding what your current customers are going through, you can understand what your prospects may be going through as well and develop real empathy.

The great thing about this exercise is that your clients will be happy to tell your reps what type of messaging would resonate with them, so your sellers can use that messaging during their sales prospecting.

3. Gain insights

John says that the top three priorities for sales leaders right now are:

  1. Revenue
  2. Qualified meetings
  3. Insights

Revenue and meetings are obvious, but gaining insights is also vital for sales prospecting. Figure out the three questions your sellers must ask in every single meeting and have them record their answers in a shared document for the whole team. Then look for trends to discover what works, what doesn’t and what are the indicators that a deal will close or will be lost.

Listen as John shares the questions his team asks their prospects and how they use those insights to sell more.

Leveraging Sales Video

Another sales prospecting strategy we discussed was sales video messaging. Video has the highest response rate because it allows sellers to show empathy through facial expressions and body language.

During the current pandemic, it’s important to teach your sellers to genuinely connect with prospects through video. How? Matching their target buyer, whether smiling and being passionate or staying calm and professional.

Finally, John advises sales leaders to be flexible and to not hold their reps to their pre-COVID goals. Instead, they should reassess their goals and their ICPs in the new normal, and plan for the short term, not the long term. Sales leaders should be transparent with their team and share what is happening every week. Only then, you will succeed.

Listen to this episode for more tactical tips on sales prospecting in the current environment.

Outline of This Episode
  • [2:23] John’s story: from Xerox seller to CEO to Sales Trainer
  • [8:59] What sales reps need to be doing differently.
  • [16:04] There are no silver bullets in sales.
  • [21:41] Why you must revise your IPC and buyer persona now.
  • [28:33] How to avoid fake empathy.
  • [39:12] Leverage sales video.
  • [40:32] How to identify your prospect’s real needs.
  • [48:04] The top three priorities of sales leaders right now.
  • [58:52] Lessons for sales leaders.
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168 episodes