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In a world where communication is omnipresent online and attention has become a rare commodity, the art of automated prospecting has become an essential skill for any company seeking to develop its customer portfolio.
At the heart of this strategy lies the icebreaker, the lever without which it is now impossible to capture a prospect’s attention, or engage in an effective sales discussion.
Why spend time on the icebreaker? What’s it for, and how can we make it as effective as possible? What tips can I give you for creating better icebreakers? That’s what I’m going to talk about in this article.
What is a Sales Icebreaker?
It’s not the name of a ship, that’s for sure! An icebreaker lives up to its name; it breaks the ice with your lead.
In prospecting, it’s the first contact you have with your prospect. It opens up a conversation with a reader who doesn’t expect to hear from you, or who has no intention of contacting you.
Personalized by nature, it requires you to gather strategic information about your prospects, in order to hook them right from the start.
Context – My prospect is looking to recruit an Sales Ops profile, and I’m trying to get them to buy a Reporting Solution:
“On the one hand, it’s been a while since you’ve had your growth phase. On the other hand, I’ve also seen that you’re recruiting a Sale Ops, and in the offer, I see you mention: Data Quality in Hubspot, Reporting, & Integrations.
The best way to have clean reporting is to limit manual data entry…”
The idea is to capture the prospect’s attention, arouse their interest in your product or service, and entice them to engage in conversation.
In a context where competition is fierce and prospects are constantly solicited, knowing how to write a good sales icebreaker can make all the difference. An icebreaker can help you stand out from the dozens of prospecting messages your targets receive every month or even week.
The importance of icebreakers in prospecting can be illustrated by a few figures:
- E-mails with personalized subject lines achieve 50% higher open rates.
- 80% of purchasing decisions are made within the first few seconds of interaction. All the more reason to choose your first words carefully!
- Prospects are 4 times more likely to respond to a message with a personalized approach.
In short, a good icebreaker is the key to opening the door and starting a conversation with your prospect. Without it, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get an appointment.
The importance of a Sales Icebreaker:
The importance of a good sales icebreaker cannot be underestimated. It plays an essential role in prospecting for several reasons:
- It establishes first contact: The icebreaker sets the tone for the conversation and can help create a positive first impression. A good icebreaker shows the prospect that you’ve done your homework.
- Attracts attention: In a world where prospects are constantly bombarded with advertising and sales messages, the icebreaker maximizes the chances that they’ll take a moment to read what you have sent.
- It encourages engagement: A good sales icebreaker not only attracts attention, it also encourages the prospect to engage in conversation. To do this, it must provide value to the prospect and give them a reason to respond.
- It creates a bond: A good icebreaker can help create a bond with the prospect. By showing that you understand their needs, you can establish a connection that can facilitate further conversation and potentially lead to a sale.
- It creates an illusion: In prospecting automation, the sales icebreaker allows you to pass off your message as tailor-made when it’s, in reality, sent identically to several prospects,
So it’s crucial not to overlook a sales icebreaker’s importance. A poorly designed one can turn a prospect away before you’ve even had a chance to present your offer. Conversely, a good sales icebreaker can give you a significant advantage and help you effectively engage your prospects.
10 tips for a good Sales Icebreaker
Writing a good icebreaker is both an art and a science. Drawn from years of testing and iteration in different industries and for different products, here are my 10 tips for improving your sales icebreakers, so you can perform at your best in your prospecting:
Tip 1 – Cognitive empathy:
The basis of all good prospecting is a perfect understanding of your target’s needs. It’s all about cognitive empathy. Unlike emotional empathy, which can be defined as sharing someone’s emotions, cognitive empathy consists of rationally trying to decipher and understand the emotions and thoughts of others.
Of course, it’s impossible to understand someone perfectly, but engaging in this process will inevitably bring you closer to your target.
In this way, you can better understand their expectations and needs, and prepare your icebreaker to hit the bullseye.
Find a profile in your network similar to those you’re targeting. Try to enter into cognitive empathy with this person by asking questions about their motivations and obstacles, particularly from a professional point of view.
For example, my B2B targets, managers and/or C-Level executives in the investment sector, are characterized by very rational and calculated reasoning. The arguments I come up with should therefore be as quantifiable and objective as possible
On the other hand, playing on your leads’ heartstrings can be particularly effective with some prospects, to whom you sell consumer goods such as clothing, for example.
Tip 2 – Monitoring:
Don’t expect to approach a prospect effectively without first studying them. To create your personalized icebreaker, there’s nothing better than gathering information about your targets. To do this, you need to keep an eye on the market.
Gather as much information as possible about your prospects and use it in your icebreakers. A recent change of job, something new in the life of your company or in your personal life… Any event in your professional or personal life can be used to design a tailor-made icebreaker that will jump out at your prospects.
Expert Tip 🧠
Identify the media specialized in your sector, visit your target’s company pages on LinkedIn, and create Google alerts (or RSS feeds for the older ones), so you don’t miss any information. Then record this information in a spreadsheet, a handy place to store, study, and above all, exploit it.
Tip 3 – Targeting:
Don’t forget that every prospect is unique. What works with one prospect may not work with another. So it’s important to remain flexible and adapt your approach to each of them, but above all to start by targeting them properly.
The more you refine your lead list, the more you’ll be able to come up with an effective icebreaker that’s virtually identical for your entire list. If you decide to approach several hundred prospects in the same campaign, you’ll need to come up with a unique icebreaker for each of them, as they’ll probably be very different people.
That’s why it’s so important to clearly define your list of prospects. Its composition, size, and homogeneity will determine the wording you use.
Expert Tip 🧠
Always try to make small samples of prospects for your campaigns. This way, you’ll be able to identify a common “icebreaker template” that’s more likely to hit the mark.
My method for obtaining a small, homogeneous sample of prospects on LinkedIn Sales Navigator (Reference: this great replay for doing the best searches on LSN)
Step 1: Perform a search
Start with an Account search using all the filters at your disposal, then save the results in an Account list.
Step 2: Move to the prospect search
Start by filtering with the account list you’ve just created. In this way, the prospects you find will all belong to the companies you’ve identified:
Step 3: Refine your search:
Use the Boolean parameters on Sales Navigator at your disposal:
Step 4: Finalize your search using exclusions.
Go to the last pages of your search results. You’re bound to see results that don’t match your expectations. Exclude these keywords in the “Job title” filter:
Ideally, refine to a maximum sample size of 100 leads.
Step 5: Import into your prospecting tool
Go to your favorite prospecting tool, like La Growth Machine, and import your audience before you start prospecting.
Tip 4 – Ultra-customization:
So far, I’ve given you tips on the preliminary work involved in breaking the ice. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
You’ve targeted your prospects and identified the information you need to create your sales icebreaker. Now we can get down to the design.
Step 1: From TFD to Masterboard
I borrowed this concept from copywriting expert Valentine Sauda. Whatever you set out to write, you’ll always go through that TFD: the Terrible First Draft. Whether it’s the fruit of your imagination or a quick ChatGPT, we always start by making a very unsatisfactory first draft. Don’t worry, it’s normal.
This raw material will be your starting point, which you will then hone with a scalpel, transforming it little by little into your final icebreaker.
Step 2: The format
You’ve got a starting point, an idea for a customized sales icebreaker for your target. Now you need to adapt it to the right format.
Automated prospecting tools such as LaGrowthMachine use several communication channels:
So it’s essential to adapt your icebreaker to the distribution channel. An initial approach via e-mail may take a little longer than one via LinkedIn. Unlike e-mail, social networks have a limit on the number of characters used per message.
However, the golden rule remains the same: be clear and concise. Ideally, less than 6-7 words.
Similarly, the tone you use will not necessarily be the same depending on the channel. In B2B prospecting, for example, an e-mail may be rather formal and impersonal, but LinkedIn or Twitter offer the possibility of using a warmer tone.
Step 3: Automated personalization
- Personalization variables: to write unique phrases
- Personalized variables: based on previously collected information
Tip 5 – Test different approaches
Every prospect is different. Don’t hesitate to test different approaches and see what works best. There’s no magic formula. An approach that’s ineffective in one sector may be indispensable in another.
Here are a few ideas to explore:
- Ask questions:
Asking questions arouses curiosity and leads to action, by making people want to answer. Be careful not to ask unnecessary questions. Your question must really concern your prospect.
- Establish a link:
If you establish a link between you and your prospect, you increase your chances of an immediate response. Establishing a connection is like putting your hand on your prospect’s shoulder: he won’t be able to resist reading on.
Quick Tip 💡
If you haven’t identified a link with your prospect, make one up!
Ex: I thought I saw you at the X Show. Was that really you?
- Compare to peers/competitors:
Demonstrate that you’re already in touch with other influential players in the sector. This will give you credibility and arouse the interest of your prospect, who will potentially say “I want to do that too”.
“Experience makes knowledge It’s by multiplying tests and failures that you’ll identify the best icebreakers for your targets.
Tip 6 – Exploit the full potential of your prospecting tool
The automated prospecting tools at our disposal have some very practical features for optimizing your icebreaker and your wording in general.
La Growth Machine offers two features in particular:
- Using SPIN in your content
This feature lets you create and randomly vary the same word sequence. In this way, you can create a number of alternative versions of your sales icebreaker, which will be randomly sent to each prospect at the start of the e-mail.
Spinning content not only enables you to A/B test but also to increase your deliverability by differentiating your emails. The more you use it in the body of your texts, the more unique your emails will be.
- AI: Magic messages
Recently launched on La Growth Machine, artificial intelligence message generation can provide you with new ways of approaching your target audience.
Still, in its infancy, it’s difficult to use the messages generated as they are, but it remains a good basis on which to build your sales copywriting.
Fill in the required fields to generate a precise and effective prompt.
Run the message generation process and use the results as a starting point for correction and improvement, to achieve a powerful icebreaker and wording.
Tip 7 – Avoid
When designing your icebreakers, there are a few shortcomings that are easy to avoid. I’ve tried to list a few below.
Some structures should be avoided because they’ve been used too often. Here they are:
Any variation of these approaches is likely to work very badly.
Last but not least, don’t use negative language.
Prospects are more likely to react positively to a message that uses positive language. So avoid negative terms and negations, and focus instead on the benefits of your offer.
Tip 8 – RE-Read your sales icebreaker several times:
Proofreading your icebreaker is essential for a number of reasons:
- Correction of grammatical, spelling, and automation errors: even the best people can make mistakes. Proofreading identifies and corrects these errors to ensure that your icebreaker is correct.
- Clarity and coherence: proofreading allows you to check that your ideas are clearly expressed and logically organized. An icebreaker that is poorly structured in relation to the rest of your message may be difficult for your readers to understand.
- Tone and style: when proofreading, you can check that the tone and style of your icebreaker are appropriate for your target audience. An inappropriate tone can turn readers away or give an unprofessional impression.
- Eliminate redundancies: proofreading allows you to spot and eliminate unnecessary repetition or superfluous information, making your icebreaker more concise and impactful.
- Increased message impact and effectiveness: a well-written, carefully proofread text will have more impact and be more effective in communicating your message. Proofreading is an essential step in ensuring that your text has the desired effect on readers.
In short, proofreading is an essential step in the design of your icebreaker to avoid disappointing, irritating, or discrediting your prospects.
Tip 9 – Don’t confuse a successful sales icebreaker with a closed sale
It’s important to note that a good icebreaker doesn’t guarantee an instant sale. In fact, on average, it takes at least 8 follow-ups to close a sale, between the first interaction and the signature. It’s a process that requires patience and perseverance.
That said, it’s crucial not to underestimate the importance of first impressions. A good icebreaker can be a powerful tool for initiating a conversation with a prospect and gradually leading them toward a sale.
10 – People, people, people.
Finally, to come full circle, don’t forget that your target is human too. Behind every prospect is a real person with their own needs, desires, and challenges. Hence the importance of empathy. This will help you write more relevant and effective icebreakers.
In conclusion, writing a good icebreaker is an art that requires both creativity and strategy. It’s not just a question of attracting the prospect’s attention, but of arousing their interest, providing value, and encouraging them to engage in a conversation.
A good icebreaker can give you a significant advantage in the world of digital prospecting. However, it’s not enough on its own.
It needs to be supported by a solid message, with a clear business proposition and a powerful CTA.
So, by combining a good icebreaker with an effective prospecting strategy, you can maximize your chances of success and build lasting relationships with your prospects.