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June 7, 2021·18 min read

A Beginner’s Guide to Remote Prospecting

Virtual selling has changed the world of sales forever, so your plays need to adapt. That’s why we created a super stealable remote prospecting playbook, a step-by-step guide to remote selling.

Remote prospecting is on the rise due to the ability to access more markets, save money on travel and reach larger audiences across social media landscapes. But when it comes to the most effective way to prospect remotely, what’s the winning playbook?

Vidyard sales reps pioneered using video for prospecting as they had the perfect tool in their back pocket for years. Because of this, our teams have perfected the ability to connect with prospects virtually in a meaningful way while still driving conversions. Now that many organizations have gone virtual or hybrid, the market is finally catching on that user-generated video is an effective and, frankly, essential sales tool to any prospecting cadence.

With all the knowledge gained from this diverse landscape, we decided to put together a super accessible and stealable remote prospecting playbook to help you on your virtual selling journey.

  1. Contents
  2. 1.How to Stand Out When Remote Prospecting, by Having a Template
  3. 2.Create and Embrace Your Own Brand as a Virtual Seller
  4. 3.The 4 Components of Effective Remote Prospecting Sequences
  5. 3.1Targeting Prospects
  6. 3.2Number of Steps
  7. 3.3Timing Between Steps
  8. 3.4Timing of Steps
  9. 4.The Best Type of Outreach for Remote Prospecting
  10. 4.1Email
  11. 4.2Phone Call
  12. 4.3Social Media
  13. 4.4Direct Mail and Virtual Gifts
  14. 5.A Step-By-Step Remote Prospecting Play for Virtual Sellers
  15. 5.1Vidyard’s Super Stealable Prospecting Play
  16. 5.2Remote Prospecting Play – Day 1
  17. 5.2.1Types of Video You Can Use
  18. 5.3Remote Prospecting Play – Day 3
  19. 5.4Remote Prospecting Play – Day 6
  20. 5.5Remote Prospecting Play – Day 9
  21. 5.6Remote Prospecting Play – Day 13
  22. 5.7Remote Prospecting Play – Day 16
  23. 6.Remote Prospecting Messaging Strategies
  24. 6.1Exercise 1: How to Write Effective Messaging
  25. 6.2Exercise 2: Hone Your Email Tone
  26. 6.3Exercise 3: Personalize Your Message
  27. 7.A/B Testing for Remote Prospecting
  28. 8.Commence Remote Prospecting

How to Stand Out When Remote Prospecting, by Having a Template

Every deal may be unique, but they begin to blur together, don’t they? It’s like watching a movie on repeat. Some patterns come into focus. Some personas grow predictable. Some actions congeal into a checklist. That’s why it pays to adopt sales plays.

If you can systematize your winning outreach patterns, you raise the bar for yourself and everyone on your team. If sales teams are provided with a template to work from, then reps can all start from the same baseline of prospecting techniques specialized to your team and more seasoned reps can take the templates and run with them. That way, everyone can innovate from a better and more streamlined baseline. And for all those who are busy and plan to follow whatever guidelines are provided, they’re put in a position to actually come across as personal.

Remote prospecting video with a persons face.

And if your team can be prescriptive by working from common templates, then you can be predictive. That is, when your sequences are built from a common set of calls, videos, voicemails, and emails, you can run A/B tests to learn which work best. You gather data not just from one individual but across the team, and it’s only by standardizing things at this level that you learn valuable lessons and pave the way for each rep to gradually brand themselves.

Yes, we said brand themselves. That same way prospects can blur together, so can salespeople. Buyers’ inboxes are flooded. All sensors are set to “ignore.” It’s a remote seller’s world and it’s only when someone who’s really perfected their process dares to be consistently different that they stick out. The strategy for being that politely persistent but unforgettable presence? It’s all within this guide.

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Create and Embrace Your Own Brand as a Virtual Seller

What many reps don’t realize is that remote prospecting is largely a game of branding. Their name, their headshot, their clothing, their background, their tone—those are opportunities to stand out. Everything that’s the same as others is something prospects will forget. Everything that’s different is something they’ll remember. Be the pop of color in a crowded inbox.

Once they’ve been noticed, the next all-important and yet elusive thing to do is deliver effective help. When reps are on autopilot sending messages, helping is difficult. Under pressure, many default to simply asking for 30 minutes of people’s time. But nobody has time to spare for no reason. To be effective at prospecting, salespeople must become obsessed with understanding how they can actually help buyers solve their problems, whether it’s via your product or just advice, and seek to always give more than they get.

If someone works those two things into their prospecting—a personal brand and an obsession with helping, not selling, they will be unstoppable.

To explore your personal brand, ask yourself five questions:

  • What do I offer that no one else can?
  • How would close friends describe my strengths?
  • How do they actually describe my strengths? (Ask them!)
  • What can I read to know more about my prospects’ problems than they do?
  • What color, tone, prop, or background can I use to appear absolutely unique?

Continue to revisit these questions until you have answers.

The 4 Components of Effective Remote Prospecting Sequences

Every memorable sequence is defined by its four components:

A. Targeting
B. Number of steps
C. Timing between steps
D. Timing of steps

Targeting Prospects

Who is the sequence for? The more you know, the better, and the narrower the audience, the more relevant you can make your message. There is of course a diminishing return—you can’t sell to an audience of one. But segmenting prospects by persona or vertical and writing messages specific to each is a great start.

When you match messages to segments, you get:

  • Higher response rates: It’s more likely to be seen as authentic and not spam.
  • You’ll develop better “pocket stories”: When reps work within a few well-defined segments, they memorize great stories they can repeat over and over.
  • Less room for errors: When they focus on one segment at a time, they’re less likely to get tripped up and say things that don’t fit your industry.
Pro Tip: Publish a segment-specific messaging document. Share quotable insights into their pains, their interests, and phrases to use.

Number of Steps

How many touchpoints should you have in your sequence? Invariably, the number is more than you think. While most sellers stop after three touches, it’s known that most prospects don’t respond until after at least 10. That gap is why most sales outreach success rates languish in the low single digits.

To increase the number of steps in your sequences, consider your tone. If it’s aggressive and assumes they owe you something, you may get a quick response, but it won’t be the one you want. But if it’s politely persistent, you can get away with many touches, which helps familiarize them with your brand. Even if you can’t get them on the phone right away, the message and your brand as a seller will begin to sink in.

To keep your reps within the polite persistence range, teach them to ask themselves, “If this email or voicemail wound up online, how would it look?” Always assume the best in your prospect.

Pro Tip: Look at your historical data. If you have the luxury of data from past outreach as a baseline, look up the average minimum number of touches necessary to reach at least 75% of the prospects who responded. That’s your new minimum number of touches—likely, no less than seven.

Timing Between Steps

How much time passes between each step in the sequence? Just as with the number of steps, an outreach cadence that’s too aggressive can irritate people. But too infrequent is equally bad—if you message someone twice and then pause for a month, they’re liable to forget you. The ‘personal rep branding’ clock will reset. When you reach out again, you are effectively starting over.

The best cadences begin with a flurry of five touches across a variety of channels and messaging formats and then continue at a consistent cadence.

Timing of Steps

What time of day do you reach out? This one’s a little trickier to perfect because, for some prospects, a Sunday-night email is a blessing while for others, it’s a bane. Averaged across enough touches and accounts, however, you should be able to develop a timing rule of thumb and then customize where needed.

Some sales enablement tools save you the trouble by telling you when they’re most likely to open your email based on when they opened previous ones.

Examples of timing rules of thumb:

  • Sales managers clear their email late at night and early in the morning
  • Executives check email after dinner or putting kids to bed
  • Developers start their day late
  • Traditional industries like manufacturing tend not to be on LinkedIn
  • If someone isn’t a desk worker, they’ll be a lot harder to reach by email
  • Restaurateurs are difficult to reach during mealtime
  • Homebuyers tend to pick up on weekends

The Best Type of Outreach for Remote Prospecting

What type of outreach will you select for each touch? Some pair well together, like emails followed by phone calls. Given that you can’t know what channels your prospect prefers, it’s a good idea to create variety, cover many bases, and monitor what works.

Outreach formats:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Video
  • Social media
  • Direct mail and virtual gifts

Email

The good news is virtually everyone in the business world uses email—and in fact, business professionals receive 126 emails at work each day on average. The bad news is that much of it is spam and people are primed to ignore it. Your challenge is writing an email that gets past their spam trap, a subject line and body copy that passes the ‘Is this a real person?’ sniff test and a call-to-action clear enough to inspire a response.

Advice

  • Ask yourself what else in their inbox is competing for their attention
  • Use shorter emails if you know they’ll be reading on mobile
  • Many readers tend to sort emails on mobile but return to read on desktop
  • Schedule them to send at the optimal time
  • Ask how your personal brand can fit into the subject line
8 out of 10 prospects prefer to hear from salespeople via email.”
HubSpot
Free Video Prospecting ToolEasily record and share prospecting videos.
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Phone Call

A phone call is your most direct outreach method. Unlike softer asynchronous communication like email or video, you can have a live conversation, and address misunderstandings or objections in the moment. And, because calling can be uncomfortable, it is among the most underused tactics. Few of your competitors are doing it.

Advice

  • Always leave a voicemail—that’s a brand touch
  • Prepare a script, but then wing it—it’s better to sound like a person
  • Use a headset—higher call quality is a subtle differentiator
People check their phones every 12 minutes, or 80 times per day.
Asurion

Video

Video helps convey a lot of information plus your personal brand in a simple, intriguing format. Few people can resist the triangular “Play” button on a video thumbnail, and just the fact that its video creates a high expectation of value. Lots of people get emails. Few people get an email with a video recorded just for them, especially outside the software industry.

More than any other format, video builds personal connections and trust. When people can see and hear you, they get to know you, even if it’s a one-way message. Plus, on video, you can be informal and candid in ways that would sound presumptive in text. Videos are typically delivered via email using a video sales tool like Vidyard, but can also be sent via social media and other direct digital channels.

There are three types of video:

  • Selfie
  • Screen share
  • Selfie + screen share

Advice

Sales teams using video get 26% more replies.
SalesLoft

Social Media

Social media is a controversial channel but can be a great place to deliver supplementary touches. The key is knowing that it’s a place for conversations, not pitches. Spend your time helping others, not reminding them how they’re supposed to help you. Connect directly with your prospects and if they do accept your request, don’t start with the hard sell. And if you post more broadly, be more thoughtful than just posting links without context.

Advice

  • Stay positive
  • Seek to help
  • Have a personality
  • Stay professional

Direct Mail and Virtual Gifts

Direct mail, or sending physical letters or gifts by mail, is a dependable channel and a good way to connect online to offline. Somehow touching things gets people to react in ways that reading online doesn’t, and people at least scan nearly everything they receive. The challenge these days is discerning whether someone’s office is still a valid place to send something, whether they’re comfortable receiving something at home, and whether the cost of the direct mailer will produce a positive return. An alternative approach that is rising in popularity is sending a virtual gift via email, such as a relevant or eye-catching gift card.

Advice

  • Handwrite your letters
  • If giving a gift, send something useful
  • Be clear about who it’s from, and why
  • Include a clear call-to-action
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A Step-By-Step Remote Prospecting Play for Virtual Sellers

Buckle up as we explore our ideal and stealable prospecting play. It’s an exact play you can borrow and run with, or something you can easily adapt for your unique market. The more you test and adapt it, the better it’ll work for your team.

There are seven stages or days on which you conduct outreach, with one or more touches on each day.

Vidyard’s Super Stealable Prospecting Play

Remote prospecting play in detail.

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 1

Day one begins with three touches, each on a different channel. This gives you greater coverage, and even if you don’t get through today, it makes it unmistakable that someone is trying to reach them.

Pro Tip: The right mindset to have is that you’re trying to reach a friend who’s always busy. If they don’t pick up, no problem. You aren’t offended. But you do have something they’ll want to hear if only you can get through. Don’t express your frustration that they aren’t replying. This only creates an off-putting tone. After all, who wants to be hassled by a stranger?

Send a Video Email
Send a video within an email where if they click the thumbnail, it opens in a browser where they watch. First impressions are lasting impressions, and using a video both sets you apart and ensures they’ll associate all your following outreach with a face and a name.

Types of Video You Can Use

Selfie or Webcam Video
A selfie or webcam video is the best way to project your personality. If there were a virtual version of knocking on someone’s door and being invited in, this would be it. You can record a selfie-style webcam video directly from your browser, desktop, or inbox using tools like Vidyard. Keep it short, direct, authentic, and full of energy.

Screen Share
Use a screen share tool to show something you want to talk through, like their website, LinkedIn profile, a diagram you’ve created, or your product. Use this opportunity to show, not tell, how you’ve done your research. Keep it under 60 seconds and end with a very clear and compelling reason they should talk to you, and how to book a time.

Selfie Plus Screen Share
You can record a selfie video in the bottom corner of your screen share video—it’s the best of both worlds.

Woman waving while remote prospecting.

Phone Call
After your video email, wait 15 minutes to an hour and call. If you connect, introduce yourself, reference the email (if you can track your video, you may already know they’ve watched it), and get right to the point. Suggest scheduling a time to talk further—while you may have ambushed them here, you can give them time to compose themselves and talk things through while not under pressure. Book it with them on the phone, and if they’re interested, don’t end the call without securing that next step.

If you don’t connect, leave a voicemail that also introduces yourself, references the video email, and concludes by asking them for feedback on the video you sent. If people know you’re being politely persistent and this isn’t the last touch, they’re more likely to respond, and even if the answer is no, it’s good to hear that sooner.

Social Touch
Social touches can be a touchy subject. The most effective thing you can do is connect over a genuine shared interest and slowly invite them into your social circle—either by connecting via LinkedIn or commenting on their tweet. The least effective thing you can do is pitch. LinkedIn is rife with people who pitch in the connection request and it turns people off. It’s a sure way to be blocked, even if your offer is relevant.

Pro Tip: If the prospect accepts your connection, offer a friendly thanks, perhaps even via video or audio message. Do not pitch. Once connected, they’ll see your posts and content, and next time you use social touches, you can use a direct message to let them know you’re trying to reach them.

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 3

Plain Text Email
Reply to the email where you sent the video and this time, keep things very short. The goal is to get them to watch the video. Could be as short as, “What do you think?” or “Would love your feedback on the video I made you below!”.

Man waving while remote prospecting through email.

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 6

Phone Call
Call again—if you connected the first time, review your notes carefully and pick up where you left off, or pick up referencing the thing they said they’d go check on, or the meeting they “had to run to.” Keep it natural and conversational. The goal here is to convince them to schedule a longer call, though if they want to talk through it now, which is sometimes the case, have your notes ready and go for it.

If you don’t get through, leave another voicemail, once again referencing the email you sent them.

Direct Mail or Virtual Gift
While you might skip or replace this step for leads who aren’t a top priority, a direct mail or virtual gift touch can be very impactful for key accounts that you know fit your ideal customer profile. Like a video, the handwritten letter or gift is a mark of authenticity and reminds them they’re dealing with a real person who has something important to tell them. Keep it very short, with a clear call to action.

If you have their home office address, send a handwritten letter or something similarly thoughtful—depending on the value of the account, perhaps swag, or perhaps something specific to get them to attend one of your company’s events, like popcorn to enjoy while watching. Before sending, confirm that the address you have for them is correct, and tie the gift to the ask. For example, “Enjoy dinner on us while you attend this presentation.”

If you don’t have their address, you can send a virtual gift via email, such as inviting your prospect to ‘connect virtually over a coffee’ and including an electronic Starbucks gift card, or an ebook.

Pro Tip: A gifting platform can make sending as easy as a few clicks, and easier to conduct as part of nearly every cadence.

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 9

Send a Video Email
If you’ve sent this many touches and not received an out-of-office alert, it’s likely they at least know you and your company, but aren’t sure what’s in it for them. Resolve that with a screen share video where you walk through some of the benefits. The more personal to their industry, role, and exact situation, the better—don’t say “Most businesses save time.” say, “Product managers like you at companies like yours save four hours each week.”

Your tone and cadence should be such that it’s like you’re simply carrying on a conversation (that so far, has been a little one-sided) and explaining further, for their benefit, with zero judgment. Keep it short—under two minutes—and end with a friendly cliffhanger that’ll convince them yes, it’s worth 30 minutes of their time.

Learn From the Pros

Matt Hall from Woodway UK made an unboxing video to show prospects where they’re going wrong with packaging, and how he can help. To double down he also used the Vidyard bubble feature over top of his unboxing video so that he could walk the prospect through the pitch.

Showing the prospect their own company’s product provides a compelling reason for them to click.

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 13

Plain Text Email
Same as last time, reply to your prior video message with an exceedingly short reminder to watch.

Social
Enough time has elapsed since your connection or last social touch that you can begin using that channel to direct attention to your other communications (assuming they connected). Consider recording and sending a short video in a direct LinkedIn message using Vidyard’s Chrome Extension, or using what LinkedIn calls a Voicemail Drop, where you can record and send a direct audio message (60-second maximum). Audio messages are unusual and can be refreshing and intriguing.

If they didn’t accept your connection, tag them in a post along with a current customer and start a conversation about something shared that they’ll likely want to talk about. Or, tag them in a relevant article. As a last resort, use one of LinkedIn’s infamous InMails to send a direct message, which is like an email, but even shorter.

Screenshot view of a direct video message in LinkedIn using Vidyard.

Screenshot view of a direct video message in LinkedIn using Vidyard.
Record and Share Videos on LinkedInScreenshot view of a direct video message in LinkedIn using Vidyard.Sign up for a free account to record and share videos on your LinkedIn page and through direct message.Sign Up Free

Remote Prospecting Play – Day 16

Plain Text Email
This is it—after today’s outreach, you’re going to put this person or account on pause. There are a million reasons maybe they didn’t respond but now is your opportunity to disrupt your pattern of friendly outreach and get real. Express that you understand they may have a lot going on, but in the face of what your solution can offer and the fact that there are all these benefits, won’t they reconsider?

Remote prospecting key points script.

Phone Call
This is the last touch—give the email five minutes and then call on the phone. If you don’t get through, leave a voicemail letting them know to check out your email.

Woman on phone remote prospecting.

Remote Prospecting Messaging Strategies

Remote sellers now spend 20% of their time writing, yet few think of themselves as writers per se, and exceedingly few focus on writing as a skill. Yet it’s a huge differentiator, and you can really stand out from competitors (personal brand, anyone?) by being excellent at messaging. Here are three exercises to help you work on your messaging.

Exercise 1: How to Write Effective Messaging

Ideally, you have messaging from your marketing or product teams, to begin with. Adapt it to the specific needs of those you’re reaching out to. In particular, have your reps ask themselves three questions:

Would this be helpful to them even if they never purchased our product?
Buyers are busy people trying to solve problems. They also get a lot of outreach, and most of it is begging for their attention without offering something in return. List out things they want irrespective of your company. Write messages to deliver that. If you can be helpful in that way, you can build a relationship where they’re willing to hear you out.

Can I explain it in fewer than five sentences?
If not, it’s too long or too complicated. Perhaps you don’t yet understand it well enough to distill it down. Take a look at what others are sending.

Would someone not from this industry understand what I’m talking about?
Everyone is coming from a different level of understanding, and while you don’t want to state the obvious, you also don’t want to assume people know as much as you do. Write simply, and if you must introduce potentially unfamiliar terms, explain them.

Exercise 2: Hone Your Email Tone

Everything you write has a tone. Do you know what yours sounds like? Ask teammates for feedback and tailor yours to the buyer and situation.

Does it fall within an eighth-grade reading level?
As they say, simple writing isn’t dumb. Simple is clear. Some of the most famous authors write at an eighth-grade reading level and you should too (or less!). Otherwise, you may sound scolding or professorial. Check your reading grade level (known as the Flesch-Kinkaid score) in any word processor. To reduce your level, use shorter words and sentences.

Is it too aggressive?
There’s a way to write directly without being pushy. Push emails use words and phrases like “need to,” “should” or “have to,” and can make people reluctant to hear you out. To drain the aggression from your writing, make it about the benefit to them, and make it their choice. E.g. “If it would be helpful, let’s talk.”

Does it seem robotic?
As Tyler Lessard of Vidyard says, 100% of people we sell to are human and it ends up, humans like to laugh and connect with other humans. Dare to be human in your outreach so people know it’s a person on the other side. Not sure what “personal” sounds like for you? Go look at how you write emails to family and friends. Adopt a bit of that directness and informality.

Exercise 3: Personalize Your Message

It may seem counterintuitive, but your message doesn’t have to be 100% personalized to be relevant. If you have a marketing ebook that perfectly suits their needs and helps them solve a problem they’re actually running into, that’s relevance. Personalization then is all the little touches that accompany that message and help them understand why it’s for them.

There are three levels of personalization:

  1. Basic—Using basic information about them like first name, company, or title. Many sales engagement tools will pre-populate this for you. While not dazzling, it’s a start.
  2. Mid-range—Something about this email or video is relevant to the individual. Perhaps you recorded it just for them, or perhaps you referenced something they posted on LinkedIn. This type of personalization is eye-catching.
  3. High—This email or video was created just for them and happens to be relevant to a problem they’re solving. For example, you can tell from a job post that they’re having trouble with their CRM and need someone to manage it, and you offer genuinely useful insight and advice. High personalization all but guarantees a response.

A/B Testing for Remote Prospecting

Every bit of outreach you send isn’t just a shot at a meeting—it’s an opportunity to learn. What separates those salespeople who hit quota from those who linger below full attainment is the ability to continuously learn. There is no better way to accelerate your learning than to A/B test.

You’re likely familiar with the concept of A/B testing, but for those who aren’t, this is where you send two versions of a message to see which performs better—an A variant and a B variant. (It’s also sometimes called a challenger-champion test, if you know A works but you’re curious if B will work better. A is the champion, B is the challenger.)

What’s needed to A/B test?

  • Isolate your variables—if you send email A to a healthcare company and get no response and email B to a financial company and get a response, was it due to the email copy or the vertical? Unless you send both A and B to healthcare companies, you’ll never know.
  • To know how you’ll measure results—is it clicks? Opens? Meetings? Decide before you send.
  • Enough email volume to have meaningful results—If you don’t have at least 100 prospects to send the test to (which could happen over a period of months), the data may not be helpful. For instance, if there are only five recipients, and four open, you might have an 80% open rate, but more likely, you have an anomaly.
  • A way to send and track—Likely, your sales engagement or email tool can do this, as can a video sales tool like Vidyard.

What can you test?

  • Subject line—Test which of two (or more) subject lines gets more opens
  • Media—Test emails with videos and without videos
  • Time of day—Morning or afternoon? Friday or Sunday?
  • Call to action—Book a meeting or download a white paper?

Pro Tip: Only test one variable at a time. If you’re testing whether sending a video increases your responses, keep the message (and everything else) the same. Otherwise, it’s difficult to pinpoint where success is coming from, and your A/B testing data will be skewed.

Commence Remote Prospecting

This guide is full of remote prospecting plays that Vidyard relies on, and which you can steal and adopt. If you take nothing else away, it should be these three points:

  1. The best processes are prescriptive and repeatable (plays)
  2. Personal branding is how you get noticed
  3. Delivering actionable help is how you get responses

Video playlist hub for remote prospecting

Help your reps put those three things together—starting with the play shared in this guide—and you’re off to a great start in a remote prospecting world.

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Chris Gillespie

Chris Gillespie

Chris Gillespie is the writer and founder behind Find A Way Media which helps great businesses create killer marketing content. Based in Brooklyn, Chris spent years selling SaaS technology solutions and now helps those companies craft their content marketing strategies.

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