Prospecting is vital as not everyone in the life sciences industry is suitable or at the right stage to use your product or service; so it would be a waste of time and money trying to sell to everyone. By taking some time to identify and research your ideal customer, you have a much higher chance of reaching and converting the people most likely to buy from you.
‘Prospecting is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers for your products or services.’ Hubspot
The goal of prospecting is to create a database of likely customers and then systematically communicate with them to convert them from potential to current customers.
In an ideal world, one call or email would be enough to convince someone of the benefits of your product/service, but in reality, your initial contact may go unanswered. That is why following up with the person a second, third, or even fourth time (or even 125th time like this man did) is an essential part of the process. Some prospects won’t be ready to buy and so you need to make a plan to contact them again over time.
As the saying goes - ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ - so here we look at some useful and creative ways to make your life sciences sales prospecting methods more effective, and avoid that pushy salesperson persona. Plus, some tips from the team and follow-up tactics to nurture and engage the more reluctant leads through the sales funnel.
There are 3 main stages to prospecting and following up: Research, Reach, Remind
Although there are salespeople who could sell ‘salt to Siberia or ‘ice to Eskimos, there really isn’t much point in wasting time and effort trying to sell to people who don’t need your product. It should be quality over quantity; your aim is to have a list of high-quality prospects rather than a large cohort of cold leads.
Knowing who your target customer is and researching what their needs are is essential to the success of your prospecting efforts. Read more about ‘The importance of understanding your customer’ here.
The goal of researching is to identify high-quality leads and then determine whether, based on their challenges and budget, they’re likely to become a prospect and make a purchase.
Sales teams spend a large part of their time trying to turn their target customer persona into a database of real-life people that they can reach out to. Say, for example, your company sells microscope equipment, your sales reps will spend a lot of their time researching the people, universities, and companies that need these sorts of specialist tools. However, just because someone uses a microscope doesn’t mean they are in a position to buy the one you are selling or its components; and so qualifying a lead’s suitability is also a vital and time-consuming part of the process.
By using the SciLeads platform, you can create a list of prospects in minutes by being able to research and qualify leads simultaneously. Try it for yourself now and get a free data sample of prospects to use in your campaigns.
Find who is ready to buy
Many articles on the internet explain the various websites and ways to research life science leads, but with the SciLeads platform, it is all there in one place. The platform collates information from a number of resources such as PubMed, clinicaltrials.gov, and other publicly available sources. This enables you to quickly locate the researchers and universities who would not only use the product you sell, but who have recently been awarded funding and could be in a prime position to buy new equipment. It will also provide the contact information for each prospect, again saving vital time that could be spent selling.
Check out the competition
The platform also holds purchase information, allowing you to see who has recently purchased microscopes that need the type of parts you sell and how much they paid for them. This is highly valuable insight and can even be used to generate a list of customers that are using a competitive product. You can then contact that company and mention key factors that you know are strong KPI’s over your competitor’s product.
This extensive insight provides a list of high-quality prospects to approach about a product or service and gives better grounds for reaching out to them.
If you have carried out your research correctly, you should have identified the people that are highly likely to want what you are selling and your first contact won’t seem so cold. A good salesperson doesn’t take no for an answer but will find a way to turn the ‘no’ into ‘maybe’ and the maybe into a ‘yes’.
The key to any approach is to use personalization where possible and to make your prospect feel valued. Show you have done your research and add some personal information like ‘I read your recent publication, Dr Smith…’ or ‘Congratulations on your recent funding…’ will set you apart from the other salespeople.
Contrary to popular belief, email isn’t dead and is still a highly effective way to contact your prospects. In fact, as long as you send a personalized email, ‘80% of buyers say they prefer to be contacted by sellers via email’, claims research from Rain Group. But before you hit send on any email, make sure you read our 3 email marketing mistakes to avoid first.
For B2B sales, and particularly for life science prospects, it is likely that they will have a presence on LinkedIn and if they are active on the platform then this can be a very effective way to approach a prospect and set up a sales call or offer a free demo or trial of your product. You may even have some mutual connections who can help introduce you. Again, personalize your opening message based on your research to make them feel valued from the start.
Calling someone on the phone and hearing their voice is still a very powerful tool. It gives you the opportunity to build up a rapport and gauge their tone and attitude much faster. Plus, you can say much more in a shorter period of time on a call than you can in a message. What you need to avoid is the scripted sales pitch, but instead foster a two-way conversation where you can learn about their pain points, needs, what stage they are in their decision process. Think about the time of day you call - first thing on a Monday morning might not get a welcome response, but equally think about who you have to go through before you speak to the person you need:
‘Most cold calls didn’t get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. If I simply made all my calls from 8:00–8:30 A.M. and 6:00–6:30 P.M., for a total of one hour, I was able to avoid secretaries and book more than twice as many meetings’ Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
Trade Shows, poster presentations, and symposiums are great because you know where and when the speakers/presenters (aka your prospects) will be available in person. Use the SciLeads platform to check out the talk/poster titles prior to the show and then schedule your trip to engage with everyone all under one roof. Just make sure you have your “elevator pitch” ready to go.
By using the SciLeads platform, you can get all the contact information you need about a prospect such as their latest publications, recent job moves, as well as tradeshow and event attendance. This will give you plenty of background information when approaching someone for the first time, and will help inform your follow-up efforts also.
Utilize your current network A great way to find new customers is to get referrals from current customers who are advocates for your product/service. You can also use them as a case study when contacting the potential customers by saying ‘Dr Smith at X University has been using X product with great success to achieve XYZ’. The network feature of SciLeads platform can be used to speed up the process of finding connected profiles.
Moving someone through the sales funnel stages takes time and effort, and that’s why it is important to have put the groundwork in with your research. If you have a list of high-quality prospects and background information on them (such as their publications and funding information) it will make your follow-up more productive. Don’t let your interaction with prospects lapse if you fail to get a reply the first time. Instead, have a systematic and consistent approach for engaging with them over time. Check out our picks for sales productivity tools to help you organize your time more efficiently.
‘60% of customers say no 4 times before saying yes, yet 48% of salespeople never even make a single follow-up attempt.’ (Invesp)
Timing is everything
Sales prospects have to find the balance between being pushy and proactive. If you have emailed someone on a Tuesday morning, don’t email them again in an hour asking for an update as chances are they haven’t seen your first message yet. No one likes to feel rushed or harassed, so leave an appropriate amount of time in between messages/calls. Equally, don’t leave your interaction too long, if you only contact a prospect once every quarter, too much time has passed for them to remember your last message. Set yourself a reminder when it is time to follow up with them.
Use an omnichannel approach
Using multiple channels to follow up with your prospect can be an effective way to keep in touch without seeming too ‘pushy’. If you have sent them an email, you could then send a LinkedIn message notifying them of your message and an overview of the main points you made. Or vice versa: send them a LinkedIn message first and then elaborate with an email after. If you call your prospect, rather than making your sales pitch over the phone, you can simply tell them that you have already sent them an email and you would love to hear their thoughts if/when they have read it. Text messages are an underutilized tool for contacting prospects, yet according to Reviews.org, ‘66% of Americans check their phones 160 times every day.’ So if you have their mobile/cell number, an SMS or Whatsapp message could reach your target customer much faster than the other channels.
‘The key to prospecting is to share with the other person how you can help them, and the best way to do that is by providing them valuable information. It’s not about screaming in their face “Buy from me!”’ (Saleshunter)
It can be tempting to start your first message with who you are and what you want from your prospect, but putting your ‘ask’ too soon can be offputting. By first giving your prospect something useful like a blog or report that you think will be beneficial to them, you are more likely to get their engagement. Watching a video of your product or giving a free trial are also great ways to add value, let them experience your product/service without obligation and push them through the sales funnel quicker.
If a customer asks you a specific question or wants information that you need to go away and find out the answer to - tell them so. Always make sure you keep them up to date on what is happening and always ensure you get back to them even if the answer is not what they want at that time. You are building up trust in that relationship and they will appreciate being kept informed.
It is essential to keep a record of the results of your outreach to know when next to contact someone and keep track of your progress. CRMs like Salesforce keep all the information in one place and help you track your prospects’ position in the sales journey. It is also very useful to add some personalized notes about each contact, for example, if they have just received Series C funding, launched a new product, been successful with a society research award, or even if they have an upcoming holiday; you can use this information to show your interest is genuine and that they aren’t just another contact to follow up with on your list.
Successful prospecting and follow-up strategies involve being consistent in your approach and building a relationship with your potential customers to drive more meaningful interactions.
People ‘buy on emotion justified by logic’ so you want to foster a sense of trust and credibility with your prospects and introduce the ways you can help solve their problems.
‘Closing the deal’ shouldn’t be the end of the process. it is important to continually make customers feel valued and create a long-standing relationship rather than a quick one-off sale. If they prefer you and your approach to your competitors, even if the competitor is slightly cheaper, you will no doubt win the sale.
The SciLeads platform provides sales and marketing teams with an essential toolkit for targeting high-quality life science leads. Experience the platform for yourself with a free demonstration and receive a sample data list to use your prospecting strategy.
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