5 Places to Look for an “In” to Reach Out to a Prospect

5 Places to Look for an “In” to Reach Out to a Prospect

Research tells us that personalized emails have 29% higher open rates and 41% higher click rates than emails without any personalization. And experience tells us that one of the easiest ways to create this sense of personalization is to find and communicate a shared connection or mutual “in” as part of your sales outreach messaging.

But where do you find these types of outreach opportunities, and how do you use them in a way that’s impactful, instead of forced? Read on for five places you can look to find individual and company-wide insights:

Individual Outreach Opportunities

There are two different approaches you can take when it comes to finding an in: looking for common ground with an individual or with their company. Both are appropriate in different scenarios, so consider all of the following options when deciding which to pursue.

LinkedIn

Start by analyzing your prospect’s LinkedIn profile, looking for any of the following connections:

  • Did they recently change jobs? If so, you could congratulate them on their new position.
  • Do they belong to any LinkedIn Groups you’re also a part of? If so, you could highlight a recent Group discussion that might be valuable to them.
  • Where did they go to school? If you share an alma mater, note it in your outreach. Even if you don’t, you may be able to comment on recent events at the school, such as a big sports win or promising new research.
  • Do you have any shared connections? If so, calling them out can create rapport (just be careful to ensure that the connections you shared aren’t LinkedIn spammers who reach out to every profile they come across).
  • Do you have common skills, certifications or follow any of the same influencers? Asking them what they thought about the leader’s latest blog post or video can be a good jumping-off point, as can asking whether they can recommend any great skill-based training resources.
  • What have they posted recently? Keep an eye on any published content, post comments, or other public engagements, as these can all provide conversation-starting fodder.
  • Have they shared their personal website? Many LinkedIn users list theirs in their bios. If so, check it out. Something like a new blog post, a new portfolio project, or a new case study can help you kick off a connection.

Take a look at my LinkedIn profile, as an example:

If you were going to reach out to him, there are at least two ins you could identify from this top portion alone:

  • Because my profile features a picture of me skydiving, you could ask if I’ve been on any jumps recently or if I could recommend any resources for people who want to try it for the first time.
  • It also notes that I live in Austin, TX. If you’ve been to the city before, you could reference a restaurant or other landmark you loved. If you haven’t, and you plan to be in the area soon, you could ask for recommendations for your trip.

Twitter

Next up, take a look at your prospects’ Twitter feeds (add them to a Twitter list while you’re there to make future research easier). A few pieces of information you’ll find there include:

  • Any personal projects or websites listed in their Twitter bios.
  • Past tweets sharing personal or professional updates.
  • Content they’ve shared from others.
  • The influencers and companies they follow or engage with.

You may not find all four of these on each Twitter profile you follow, but even one can give you an in. For instance, if you follow the same influencers, your outreach email can ask what they thought about a specific article. If they’ve tweeted about receiving a promotion or achieving some other milestone, congratulating them in your message creates instant personalization.

Web Analytics Tools

Finally, if you’re using a tool on your company’s website to track visitor behavior, make sure you check it before sending any outreach. If you haven’t connected with a prospect before, you may not have any activity records associated with them yet. But if you have (or if they’ve filled out a form on your site), you can easily personalize your message by asking if they found what they were looking for on their recent visit.

Company Outreach Opportunities

Personal ins are great if you can find them. But if you can’t? Don’t try to force some tenuous connection. If you do, you risk coming across as disingenuous or as if you’re trying too hard to manufacture a relationship.

Instead, set up Google Alerts or use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify news items relating to the companies where your prospects work. Specific types of information to look for include:

  • Announcements about new funding rounds or new investors.
  • Press releases sharing news about the company.
  • Job postings that are relevant to your offer (that suggest a growing need for capacity and resources you may be able to fulfill).
  • News of internal promotions.
  • Upcoming events, new research, or newly released resources.

Not only do these signals serve as possible areas of common ground, but they can also be thought of as “buying signals” or “trigger events.” According to Alex Greer, founder and CEO of Signal HQ, “Finding a prospect counts for nothing if you don’t contact them at the right time.” 

As an example, check out the Startups feed on TechCrunch news:

If Frame AI, Onfido, or Credit Kudos were on your list of target companies, these articles – which would have shown up in your Google Alerts for their brand names – represent an ideal in for sales messages. Adding a line to your email that reads, “Congrats, just saw Frame AI closed its Series A round,” forms a connection and proves that you’re paying attention.

Get in the habit of paying attention to what’s going on at your prospect’s companies. You’ll identify not just potential connections you can leverage, but the right time to deploy them as well.

Be Smart When Leveraging Mutual Ins

Each of the sources above can be used to find shared connections that help you capture attention and strengthen rapport. But they can be abused as well.

Imagine that I shared a tweet of funny dog memes on a whim. That’s not an invitation for a salesperson to come barrelling into my inbox with a message reading, “I see you like dogs, and I like dogs too – how crazy!”

The golden rule of leveraging mutual ins is that, if you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, don’t say it in email. Be thoughtful about how you wield them, and you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of alienating a potential prospect over an awkward, forced connection.

What other sources of mutual ins do you use? Share any others you’d add to this list by leaving a comment below.

Sujan Patel

Sujan Patel is a partner at Ramp Ventures & co-founder Mailshake. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

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