To begin our discussion on Prospecting, let’s start with a word association game:
If I said, “Closing the Sale” you’d probably respond with words such as relief, commitment, excitement, success, happy days, etc.
If I said, “Prospecting” your response might not be so positive. Words that usually come up are ouch, root canal, nightmare, pulling teeth, lots of work, etc.
Unfortunately you’re not going to be “Closing” much without “Prospecting.” If prospecting brings you (and/or your sales team) visions of misery, read on and keep in mind that it really doesn’t have to be this way. The fact is that prospecting, and lots of it, has to be done if you and your company want to grow.
For the most part, sales people tend to be very creative at avoiding doing the right thing when it comes to prospecting. Any excuse will do! I am sure you’ve heard some of these… Too early to make a call, too late to make a call, too close to noon, too soon after lunch, Mondays are never good, Fridays are horrible, It’s Tuesday (Wednesday, Thursday, whatever), What’s the use – voice mail will pick up and they never return calls, Never before a holiday weekend, etc.
A great sales manager once said about prospecting (and many other sales related activities as I think about it) “Liking it is optional – Doing it is mandatory. Period.”
So, what would it take to change things around? How about the right attitude and a good system. Actually, the right system might even help with the attitude, so let’s just say: A good system.
Having a good system keeps you on track for doing the right things with the right people at the right time and for the right reason. It also reduces the “pre call stress” that causes the dreaded sales epidemic known as “call reluctance.”
But what is a prospecting system? Here is a glimpse at one. Not a complete outline, but enough steps to give you a good idea.
Put together a plan.
What are your prospecting goals? When are you planning on calling? How often? What would happen if you reach your prospect? (Sometimes they do answer the phone…) What if you don’t reach them? What would the next step be? What about the one after that?
It is very important that you have a way to touch the prospect multiple times over a short period of time. Take the time to think of the 5-10 opportunities to have something significant in front of them.
What media are you planning on using? Prospecting letters, Three Dimensional Marketing, Voice Mail Messages, Email Messages, Post Cards, Articles, etc.
Articulate the message
It’s never a good idea to call or write with the message: “I sell __________ – do you want to buy some?” We’ve got to be much more creative than that.
Depending on whom you call, you better be ready to talk about things from their point of view. What are the priorities on their radar screen? Do you have any ideas that might help address them? You get the idea.
Define the right accounts and people to call
What are the characteristics of the accounts that are best suited for your products and services? Calling on the “right” accounts increases your probability of success and as a result it would be more likely that you’ll stay with the program.
By the way, batch your calls (e.g. accounts within the same industry) so once you start making calls you can be very effective as you would be more familiar with some of the issues, wishes, and concerns within that sector.
Anticipate and prepare to handle objections
You know they are not just sitting around waiting for your call. So, when they say “we are already doing business with someone else” or “I am too busy to talk” don’t be surprised, be ready. Be prepared for these and any of the other objections you are most likely to hear.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
It is always better to sweat in front of your peers than to bleed in front of your customers so… get with your manager, your team members, or anyone willing to work with you and hone your skills. It will pay huge dividends.
DO IT NOW! Take the first step and good selling!
Do you have any other suggestions or practices that you’ve found particularly helpful in your prospecting efforts? Share below or drop me a note.
Photography by Andrew Wippler
John Kypriotakis is the President of Lysis International,
a Tampa based Sales and Management consulting firm,
specializing in B2B Sales, Management and Leadership.