The Secrets of Prospecting Ninjas

This article was originally posted to the InsideView Blog on March 4, 2013.  
It followed a webinar that Jill and Ralph hosted on February 26, 2013.

Ninjas are experts in ninjutsu, which is a technique in espionage.  Espionage is the practice of collecting information and gathering intelligence.


4935005Today’s sales world requires superior, relevant, and timely information about prospective accounts and key contacts.  To master this effort, salespeople should model the ninjas.

Jill Konrath is recognized across the globe as an expert sales strategist.  Last week, Jill teamed up with InsideView to broadcast a webinar and share theSecrets of Prospecting Ninjas:


  • They slash time to the initial meeting
  • They chop months off your sales cycle
  • They eliminate competitors
  • They catch the incumbent sleeping
  • They prove themselves to be a worthy resource


Salespeople that have insights on their prospects have an advantage.  According to Craig Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling, insights from company and people alerts see a 24%-32% lift in response rates.

Insights and intelligence must come from thorough (but smart) research.  InsideView harvests critical insights on companies, buyers, connections, and industries, to name a few.

Once you gain insights on…      Make sure to also uncover…
The company                                How did it perform last year?  The last 5 years?
The buyer(s)                                 What recent purchases did the company make?  How?
Your connections                          Do you or does a colleague already know the prospect?
The industry                                 What challenges does it face?  What trends does it experience?

Jill makes The Buyer’s Matrix available online and in her most recent book, SNAP Selling, to guide salespeople through the buying process.  You can download The Buyer’s Matrix here:


Trigger events are internal or external changes that influence an organization’s priorities.  When trigger events occur, and you’re aware of them, they can bring forth big opportunities for you.  Jill unveiled some common trigger events, and highlighted what InsideView calls “smart agents:”

Trigger events…Uncover “tells”…Leadership changesNew decision maker might mean new strategy & new prioritiesEarnings resultsPoor earnings might create opportunity for your offeringCompetitive movesCompanies don’t like to be beat by their competitorsNew strategic initiativesInitiatives often come with urgency that could expedite buying cycles

When the rubber meets the road, prospectors must engage with relevance.  This means that messaging must be right on point — whether done via email, voicemail, by phone, or in person.  A study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business uncovered that 92% of prospects do not answer their phones or emails.


Using newly-captured insights, and knowing the right person to contact, ninjas:

  • Build credibility
  • Pique curiosity
  • Close graciously

And guess what?  Prospecting ninjas get responses to their messages!


The business world constantly changes, often by the hour.  Unless you keep your finger on the pulse – by monitoring insights, leveraging connections, and watching for trigger events – the prospecting ninjas will leave you behind.


From Sales 1.0 to Sales 2.0: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

7699891Fourteen years ago, sales manager Ralph Barsi went door to door selling websites and online advertising to local businesses. Today, he manages a team of inside salespeople that don’t spend any time selling door to door. 

A lot has changed in fourteen years, and Ralph explains what he would tell his past self if he could travel back in time.

There’s an effective sales video out there, by author and speaker Art Sobczak, where Art places a call, 27 years ago, to himself. On the call, he informs his younger self, “the sales part hasn’t changed much, but the technology has.”

Art’s exercise reminded me of late 1999, when I was 5 years into my sales career. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have some tips to share, too.At the time, I was an Account Executive for an online city guide, selling websites and Web advertising. In addition to call campaigns driven from the Yellow Pages and local business journals, I sold door-to-door, evangelizing the power of “going online.”

One afternoon, on Piedmont Avenue, a quaint strip of retail storefronts in Oakland, California, I walked into a small bath and kitchenware shop. A big smile on my face, briefcase in hand (I know), I greeted the shop owner and spewed everything there was to know about going online, having a website, and marketing on the Web.

The owner was very engaged, and asked me to walk with him while I talked. Just 20 seconds later, the two of us were standing on the sidewalk outside the shop. “Great pitch, young man.  Good luck!” He had walked me right out of the store!  Doh! What went wrong?!  LOTS o’ stuff.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d tell myself:

Make It About Them, Not About You
How did he currently advertise his store? How often would he update the ad(s)? What did the ad(s) say? What were other retail stores like his advertising online? What return were they receiving? How much had their sales increased as a result?

Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. Learn their world as much as you can through research and engaging, open-ended questions (Avoid ‘yes-no’ questions). If I had walked into the shop knowing answers to these questions ahead of time, do you think it would’ve been a warmer reception?

Know Your Numbers
What percentage of businesses like his was even online? What did their websites look like? How were they driving (and retaining) web traffic?

Technology in 1999 was making a big surge in business. Over a 4 year span (‘95-’99), the number of websites increased over 50x – but many small businesses weren’t yet online.  Statistics like these would have better informed the shop owner.

Engage Them with Something Relevant
Was the owner part of a retail business association?  Did I know anyone that shopped in his store? Did one of his neighboring merchants refer me to him?

Relationships-connections-referrals are a top source, if not THE top source, of business for salespeople. If I had dropped a familiar name or two, or if a colleague of his referred me to the shop owner, maybe our walk out the front door would’ve taken longer. Better yet, maybe he would’ve become one of my customers!

If only! Well, the good news is we can all learn from our experiences, and apply the lessons to today. Technology’s growth has continued to move up and to the right, enabling salespeople to leverage social media, mobile technology, CRM intelligence, and real-time news to glean what’s most relevant to prospects.

And when the day arrives where you can phone your old self up, ideally, you’ll want to tell yourself, “You’re doing it all the right way!  Keep on keepin’ on!”

Act As If It’s Your First 30 Days on the Job

5457192_origIf you want better sales results, tackle the next 30 days as if they’re your first 30 days on the job.

Knowing what you already know will help your efficiency and effectiveness. Unlike the experience of starting a new job, you will not have to worry about adapting to a new culture, immersing yourself in new processes, identifying what resources you need to succeed, or learning about the competition. You’ll just need to focus on getting work done fast and doing it right the first time.

Coach Vince Lombardi taught that winning is a habit; and unfortunately, so is losing. Follow these steps every day for the next 30 days and you’ll create a winning habit. You, your customers, your company, and likely your checking account, too, will benefit from this approach.

Adjust your attitude. Smile. Life is about to get exciting. Write down 10 positive reasons you do what you do. “I do it for the money!” That’s fine, but why do you do it for the money? Is it to retire on a remote island? Is it to invest in your kids’ education? Is it to pay off that credit card or buy that car? Is it to donate to your favorite charity? Those are the reasons to keep in mind when making your list. Once you genuinely believe and act as if the results you want will happen, the universe will work in your favor.

Know the outcome you want. You can’t begin to build a house until you first visualize everything about it. Write down exactly what you want to achieve in the next 30 days in as much detail as possible. Filmmakers use storyboards, architects use blueprints, programmers use flow charts, and chefs use recipes. See it first, and then make it real.

Anticipate the obstacles and challenges you might face. Have two solutions to every problem you think you’ll encounter. To overcome, address, or avoid potential problems, concentrate on what you can do, not on what you can’t do. Draw up a contingency plan for what you’ll do if and when problems surface.

Create a sense of urgency. Start by getting out of bed an hour earlier than normal. After all, you only have 30 days to make things happen, right? Your desired results MUST be a priority. Do you receive a boat load of emails every day? Pretend your competitor is copied on the important messages and the first one to respond effectively wins the business. Work fast, but work smart.

Stay the course. Keep a 3×5 index card with you at all times that lists your priorities. Glance at it before deciding to turn on your TV or crack open that cold beer. Set reminders in Outlook or on your phone to ensure you complete tasks that will move you towards your goal. Tell those closest to you to contact you every Saturday morning (when getting after your results is unlikely) to ask for a rundown of what you accomplished in the last week.

Measure your progress. You can’t win if you don’t keep score. Keep a detailed record of your progress. Check off your accomplishments and watch your list get whittled down to victory.

When you start a new job, you need to quickly make your presence and value known. The same applies when you need to see results in short order. These steps will set the tone and create a pattern for consistent success. Are you ready to see some results? Then get to work. Go!