For people in Business Development (“BD”) or Sales, often the hardest part of building your deal pipeline is not the quality of your pitch — it’s getting in front of the right person in the right way. Here’s a rundown of some of the tricks and tools that have helped me through this process many times.
1. Non-Sketchy Internet Sleuthing is Your Friend
Stalking an ex-girlfriend’s bestie’s Instagram feed to try and see what they’re up to is super creeptown, but checking out a potential business partner’s public social profiles is not only kosher, it’s highly recommended. BD and Sales are about relationships, and knowing what someone is all about by scanning their Twitter feed, Facebook page likes or personal Tumblr helps you identify commonalities that you can use to create a trusting relationship over time.
2. Look Out for Personality Clues
You can also pick up useful personality nuggets from people’s social media posts, like their LinkedIn activity or @replies on Twitter. If they don’t care about punctuation and respond to everything immediately, you know they probably move fast and appreciate brevity and directness. If they have endorsements on their LinkedIn profile for Donuts and Salsa in addition to Digital Strategy, you should feel pretty safe lobbing out a joke to them.
3. Use the Right Tools
Internet sleuthing may be a dark art, but the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. There are a number of super useful tools that you should be using. Rapportive is a must-have Gmail plugin, covering up the Google ads in the right rail of your inbox with the social profiles and recent tweets for any email address you hover over.
You can also use Rapportive to assist in reverse-engineering email addresses. Here are the steps to follow:
- Learn the corporation’s email address syntax from any email address that you can find on their site (usually on the Contact page). If you can’t find any, use this Google search (replacing “shakelaw.com” with whatever domain you’re searching).
- Start guessing the prefix based on first and last name. Put each guess into the “To” field of a new email and after some trial and error, Rapportive will tip you when you’ve nailed the structure as their profiles will start appearing on the right side of the screen.
Falcon.io is a similar tool which has a Chrome extension that displays a list of someone’s social profiles on the right-hand side of the page when you hover over their name in social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter.
4. Prepare for Landing
After you’ve identified your target’s email address and learned a bit about them via their online presence, it’s time to move on to actual outreach.
Everyone has their own pitch style and you should be true to yours, but personally I focus on keeping it short and leaving all business jargon out if at all possible. Outside of the actual pitch, there are a few other subtle things you can do to increase your chances of landing a meeting:
- Use an informative subject line
This is your first chance to get someone’s attention, and keep in mind that your note is hopefully going to be forwarded along to executives who are very busy people. A subject line of “Hey” or “Checking In” is a wasted opportunity. Instead, try to mention both company names and a brief encapsulation of the value-add you can offer, e.g. “Shake and Acme: empower your team with mobile-first agreements”.
- Leave them with a concrete ask and specific timing
At the end of your note, always be super clear what you want out of it. Is your goal a meeting? An introduction to someone else in the organization? I’ve also found that you can have a lot of success getting responses faster by creating some urgency around the timing (e.g. “I’m going to be in town next Tuesday afternoon and would love to meet”).
5. Timing is Everything
Everyone has their own workflow of when and how they reply to emails, and sending your note when the recipient is most likely to reply helps ensure you aren’t moved into star-for-later purgatory. While everyone’s email habits are different, there is consistent data out there that more emails are responded to in the morning than any other time, as many people carve out some time in their morning to make progress on their inbox.
Boomerang is a Gmail plug-in that lets you schedule the time you’d like an email to be delivered. I usually try and set delivery for 8:30am in the recipient’s time zone. Boomerang has other handy features including reminder pings if you haven’t gotten a response on an email so you can follow-up.
In anything you do, efficiency is paramount and time is your most valuable asset. Keeping these tips in mind will hopefully help you land partnerships and sales faster and more successfully.