You'd think the hardest part of the sales process would be the call itself -- talking one-on-one with a client and mastering the art of persuasion. For most salespeople, though, the hardest part starts before they dial any number.

More than 40 percent of salespeople believe prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process, even more than qualifying leads or closing the sale. But making that initial connection isn't just challenging -- it's the most important step. This makes it crucial that you help your sales team develop strong personal relationships before making a single sale.

Personalization: An Overlooked First Step

The key to developing personal relationships is just what it sounds like -- making it personal. Nobody wants to buy something from a robot. No one's going to stay on the phone with someone reading from a script. And this applies to all platforms. Seventy-four percent of customers, for instance, feel frustrated when website content is not personalized. No matter how much someone may need your product, your sales team members are wasting their time without a personalization strategy.

Using a personalized approach is a proven success. Seventy-nine percent of companies that outperformed their revenue goals have a personalization strategy in place, and 81 percent of consumers want brands to get better acquainted with them. Personalizing your strategy may require a bit of creativity, but it's something consumers want.

Connecting With Leads

There's no quick formula for developing an optimal personalization strategy. There are, however, a few universal tricks for connecting with leads more effectively. See whether these tips can make the most challenging part of the sales process worth your effort.

1. Geotarget your audience.

The first step to personalizing your sales strategy is to narrow your focus. Casting too broad a net wastes time targeting people outside your base. Targeting a specific region doesn't just mean limiting your audience to those in your immediate area. It's about only focusing on people who are interested in your product.

Not only does geotargeting help you get more specific with your messaging, but it also helps put positive customer reviews in front of your audience. "Many people will not even consider seeing a certain physician, eating at a certain restaurant, or shopping at a certain store without first reading good reviews online," according to Lathan Fritz, founder of the sales funnel builder Amerisales. "Having high local rankings will only promote any reviews that have been done for your business and enable even more people to see them."

2. Create emails that will sidestep the spam folder.

Knowing your audience is essential when it comes to sending emails to prospective clients. Generic emails are doomed to users' spam folders. Personalized emails, however, improve click-through rates by an average of 14 percent.

According to Ryan Myers, content manager at email marketing firm Sapper Consulting, the trick to personalizing emails is to focus on the client, rather than just your product. "You want to make your client the story's hero," Myers notes. "You need to find out what your customers care about then reflect that back to them." It's tempting to send someone a list of your product's best features, but a unique email that matches each client's needs gives you a much better chance at generating leads.

3. Fine-tune your website.

Compared to emails, your website may be considered impersonal. But even though it might seem like your website cannot be personalized for each client, it's one of the best opportunities you have to connect with your leads. This is your chance to call everyone to action.

Doing so, however, demands more than a flashy sign with your phone number on it. It requires thinking through exactly what information visitors need to see on your website when they get there. After glancing at your site, your prospects should know exactly what you sell and why it matters to them. They'll be more likely to call, and when they do, the conversation will flow naturally.

You can make your website more accessible by answering questions you anticipate during this conversation. This way, you're not only attracting more leads, but you'll only get incoming calls from interested clients.

4. Lure them through your gate.

In addition to your website, gated content is a great way to engage with your leads. It also allows you to collect more information about potential clients. The problem with most content is that it doesn't tell you whether your visitors are interested in your business. Creating a whitepaper, a webinar, or some other form of content that requires prospects to enter their name and email address to access it gives you the chance to learn more about members of your base while attracting them at the same time.

Prospecting doesn't have to be the most difficult part of the sales process. Sure, it's tough to generate leads from scratch, but by personalizing each part of the process, you'll soon find yourself generating more leads than ever.

Published on: Jul 10, 2018