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Prospecting with Old “Friends”: Making Outdated Leads Work

blog author
Written by Bob Croston
Vice President, RAIN Group

If your firm is like most, you've been using CRM software for years now. Name after name, title after title, data point upon data point, you've likely stockpiled a huge amount of prospecting information through various lead generation activities. You’ve created countless records and guided each one through your sales pipeline.

What do you do with those records once you can no longer push them forward? Again, if your firm is like most, you probably leave them languishing in your database, perhaps with a sad "lost – chose competitor" or "dead – no budget" tag attached.

But these are more than just dead data. You probably have years of information on individuals that ran into budget issues, delayed decisions, or even hired a competitor. Now, months or even years later, departments may have allocated bigger budgets, industry dynamics may have changed, and competitors may not have lived up to expectations.

This all equals very tempting, low-hanging prospecting fruit. If at one point, you thought you had the right person at the right company, there's no reason to expect they wouldn't be a prime target now.

Reconnect and Reengage

Dealing with old data requires a finesse approach, so leave your generalized value proposition sledgehammer at home. Specific messages, offers, and investigative tactics that identify the most appropriate prospecting candidates will be the most effective.

Old prospect information, properly organized, can be a treasure trove of lead generation gold. Think about it; it's far easier to reach out and reconnect with old friends than it is to make new ones.

Here are six prospecting tactics you can use to step back into your archives and pump up your lead generation efforts:

  1. Develop a rock-solid targeted prospecting profile.
    You have to know what kinds of old leads you're looking for among thousands and thousands in the database. Of course, you can go in with a more general prospecting approach, but, depending on the size of your database, it's often far more productive to have specific industries, titles, and even deal-stages in mind. You don't have to recapture everything at once.
  2. Look to the past, but don't go back too far.
    Review lost opportunities that date back as far as 18 months or so. The farther into the past you search, the more likely the prospecting opportunity was put to rest or your contact has moved on. Use your best judgement based upon what you know about prospecting and sales cycles. Past a certain point, there won't be enough to build upon and you'd be better off starting anew.
  3. Do your prospecting homework.
    This applies to all other prospecting activity, and it especially applies here. Once you've found your targets, check LinkedIn profiles, company press releases, and any other information you can find online to find out what's new with them and their company. A promotion with new responsibility, a new product launch, or a growth initiative are all great pieces of information that will enhance your prospecting efforts. This will also help you filter out bad data and update entries.
  4. Don't be afraid to reminisce.
    Use your notes from past conversations to craft your reengagement approach and specifically note your history with them. You aren't starting from scratch, so remind your contacts where you left off.
  5. Refresh, don't rehash.
    While you can certainly just start where you left off, don't limit yourself to the opportunity that was discussed in the past. It's likely that much has changed since you last spoke, making it possible to revisit old conversations while offering something exciting and cutting edge. In fact, the best prospecting scenario is that you're able to offer something new, but in the same ballpark, to capitalize on known needs while avoiding a replay of an old conversation.
  6. Know what went wrong.
    It's important to state your best explanation for why the conversation died. Often, they will either confirm your assumptions or highlight their own reasons. In the former case, you'll seem exceedingly insightful and prepared (which, of course, you are), in the latter, you'll gain a valuable piece of prospecting insight. Now you can make adjustments, further qualify the opportunity, and work more effectively moving forward.

    You won't always find promising prospecting opportunities from your old "friends." It can never be the sole means of generating leads and has to be worth your while to go through all the information involved. However, when you have an extensive history of qualified past opportunities, sifting through your database for salvageable leads is a low-risk, high-reward activity.

Financial planners will tell you that a diversified portfolio allows you to reduce risk while maximizing return. Prospecting is no different. The best approach is a diversified or layered approach, one that never relies on just one method to fill the front end. These tactics are the perfect way to supplement the other good things you are doing with your marketing and proactive outbound sales, while focusing on the high value targets we all want.

Your "friends" are just a mouse click away. You already have the data; it's time to make prospecting work for you.

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Topics: Sales Prospecting