When it comes to working in sales, albeit in any industry, it is essential that you have a solid and reliable prospecting model established at a personal level. That will be something that works for you and you can commit to every working day.
The reason why prospecting and networking has to occur every day is simply that consistency builds results. Lack of call and contact consistency tends to ‘reset the numbers’ and you lose ground on all the efforts and things that you may already have done.
Here are some top tips to help you get your system up and running:
- One of the most important parts of prospecting and networking is to create a habit in your business diary. A regular habit of prospecting and networking will take you forward in the marketplace. That being said, it takes quite some time to modify your business skills and habits. That can be some weeks of deliberate prospecting effort of before you accept the requirement to do the job in that way.
- Focus on just a few prospecting activities but make them quite effective and consistent. I go back to the point that consistency will be critical to the results that you achieve. Like it or not, the cold calling process will be part of your prospecting model. Reach out to new people every day through fresh telephone calls, direct letters, and door knocking. Use your business card as an affective and timeless business tool.
- The prospecting process is not a sales pitch. It is a communication between two people to establish common ground and potential interest. When the client or prospect appreciates your knowledge and skills, the chances of new business escalate. It is just a matter of maintaining contact over time and waiting for the right opportunities to arise.
- Every prospecting call should be focused on the opportunity of a meeting. Meetings build relationships, and relationships lead to potential transactions, agreements, and contracts.
- Provide valuable market information and resource updates to your clients and prospects. At every opportunity and certainly on a regular basis send out product and service updates. Follow-up that information with a telephone call or meeting. Most of the business you create will be through a personal relationship built over the long term with the right people.
- 6. Practice your dialogue for presentations and prospecting. At every opportunity refine the words that you use and the phrases that relate to your product or service. Regular practice will help you with your conversions in prospecting.
It is not difficult to rise the top of any industry as a top salesperson. It is simply a matter of determining the right processes to support your actions and activities. From that point onwards, you repeat the process is every day and consistently grow your client or prospect database.
A clear advantage here is that most salespeople do not have the commitment to do the work required in prospecting and networking. That leaves the marketplace wide open for those quality salespeople that can get their industry and focus under control.
In the profession of selling it is wise to remember that the customers and prospects that we work with essentially do business with people they know, respect and trust. It is the personal connections that you establish and the marketplace that will help you win the sales and the deals.
Make it a priority to establish valuable relationships with quality clients and key businesses. The strength and the integrity of the relationships will underpin your market share over time. Some of those relationships can extend for months if not years before a transaction will occur. You will need to be quite selective when it comes to the right clients and the right prospects to work with. Understand the best clients to work with and help them do business with you in a relevant way.
Here are some tips to help you build that foundation of client connection and trust. You can add to the list based on your business type and location.
- Your business card is likely to be the most effective marketing tool that you have. The stock paper that you use should be quite solid and not flimsy. A solid business card gives the perception of strength and relevance. On the front of the business card, have all of the relevant contact information, e-mail address, and website contact. On the back of the business card, have some dot points that relate to your business speciality and professional services. Be quite specific so that the client can retain the card as a quality contact. The size of the business card should be on the larger size of ‘average’. That being said, it should not be too large to be inconvenient to be handled or retained. The colours of the business card will be relevant to your business branding but also to your market. If you work with certain communities and different nationalities, be aware of the perceptions of colour. Choose the colours that work with your business and with the prospect or client communities.
- Most salespeople today will have some form of electronic or e-mail newsletter. The process can be integrated to your website, and your database. A newsletter should be sent fortnightly or monthly to your database. It should contain relevant articles, news clippings, and links to product or service information. You can use an auto responder process to streamline and simplify the dispatch of a newsletter.
- Segment your clients and prospects into valuable categories. Create a VIP club of special clients that should be serviced in a particular way. They will receive a greater percentage of your attention and service. Those clients should have the ability to give you repeat and referral business over time. They should also have the potential for frequent ongoing valuable business at the higher end of the scale.
- Establish a call contact program where you can be prospecting for new clients and contacting established clients each day. Devote approximately 3 hours to the call contact strategy. Half of that time should be devoted to those clients that you already know, and the other half of that time should be devoted to new people that you want to connect with. In that way your pipeline of opportunity will grow. The best time to make the calls will usually be the mornings. That leaves the afternoons for important meetings and contracts or negotiations.
From these points, it is easy to see that the client should be at the centre of your business model. Remaining in contact in a relevant way will help you build market share over time. People like to do business with people. That business secret will never change. Establish the required levels of trust and commitment to the prospects and clients that you know.
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When you work in sales and it is a major part of your career, you should be very serious about prospecting. It really does not matter how long you have been in the industry or in your career, the prospecting process should not stop.
Here are some rules to help you understand this important priority:
- If you have been in your career for some time and you have an established market share, then you should be prospecting for 2 or 3 hours per day. Half of that time should be devoted to existing contacts whilst the other half should be devoted to new contacts. Do not overlook the requirement to find new people to talk to.
- If you are new to your career and have few contacts of any type, then your prospecting time should take up at least half of your day and in that case over 4 hours. The research required to make that work should occur outside of those hours. Use your prospecting time to make calls and meet new people.
- Make at least 40 to 50 outbound calls per day. You will need a tracking system and database to help you there. Monitor your calls to meeting conversions. Also track your meeting to new business conversions.
- The way to get your ‘head’ into the process of productive prospecting is to understand that you are a ‘specialist’ in your field and that you are calling to see if the person has a need or an interest.
- Understand the best segments of your market and the best clients to keep in contact with. Maximise your efforts in the productive areas and segments of your market.
- If you are new to prospecting, you may require a script to help you get started. After 3 or 4 weeks the process becomes more natural and you will not need scripts to keep you on track and professional in your call connection.
To make all of this work, you will need a good time management process that allows you to do the right things at the right time. Prospecting and cold calling should become a regular daily event in your diary. It has to become a habit.
One of the biggest problems with some salespeople is that they do not have a ‘customer list’. They have no understanding of just what a customer looks like or where to find them. They wait for the customer to call the office or drop into the business. In many respects they wait for the marketing efforts of the business to pull in the enquiry and make the telephone ring.
Without a customer list you are doomed to failure. The customers that find you or call you are to a large degree a result of your actions; everything else is ‘luck’. Whilst some salespeople may be ‘lucky’ from time to time, dominant market share is only driven from systematic actions on the part of the salesperson.
So there is a very simple message here. If you want to rise to the top of your industry and earn a good income, you need to develop your customer list; you will only do that through prospecting every day.
To get things started let’s set up some systems to the process:
- Why do customers need you? What do you do or have available in your business that customers will find useful? Define these things so you can focus your prospecting and marketing efforts. Understand the value that you bring to your customers.
- Given any particular calendar or business year, are there any seasonal sales patterns that you need to watch and integrate into? Most of your marketing should be directed to this time of year; some businesses find that the seasonal selling time is 9 to 10 months of the year.
- Define the ideal customer as to profile, location, cash flow, and value. When you have this information, you can focus your prospecting efforts into a particular zone or territory. You will know exactly who you are looking for and why. You should create a template with those key issues in standard format; it can then be uses as a check-list in any customer contact or prospecting process. Capture key information throughout the day and enter it into your database at day end.
- Understand the impact of your competitors in the market today. Identify their customers, as well as the threats that the competitors impose on your market share.
- Some customers in your market will have pressures of price, timing, product performance, and long term value. Local business sentiment and the national business economy will impose variables on your clients and customers during the year. Whilst some customers will be slower to make a decision in a longer sales cycle or slower economy, you simply need to have a customer list that allows you to act with more people. Maintain regular contact with your customer list will help you build your business in any market and at any time. It is a personal process that requires a special focus and system.
- A daily prospecting process should involve a fixed period of prospecting time, a good dialogue, and a database software program. Every day you should develop your prospecting systems so they improve over time; practice will help you improve your calls to conversions. Devote approximately two or 3 hours to daily prospecting. Maintaining contact with suspects will allow you to turn them into prospects. The object of any prospecting program should be to generate a meeting and establish a valuable customer relationship.
- To a large degree, most of the new business that you generate will come from the long-term relationships that you establish. Your prospecting efforts should therefore be focused on establishing key relationships and building them with the right people. That is why the prospecting plan is so important.
The sales process gets a lot easier when you know a lot of people that can be considered future customers. Constant contact into your database and sales territory will help you identify those people that need your services and your products. Top salespeople understand the importance of prospecting and the customer list they create.
You have three main prospecting strategies when it comes to connecting with more clients and prospects. When you use all three in a balanced prospecting program, things can come together quite well. Prospecting is a personal process in all respects.
So here they are:
- Using the telephone to do cold calls (new people that you have not connected with before) and warm calls (people that you have spoken with before or have sent a letter to).
- Direct mail to introduce your product and or services. If you do this you should as a general rule follow up all letters sent.
- Face to face meetings and ‘drop in’ door knocking systems.
The telephone is the easiest and cheapest way to prospect; that being said the calling process and system will require daily action for you to get any traction. From regular calls you can create meetings and in some circumstances find immediate direct business to work on. The dialogue process requires practice and effort. Many salespeople struggle with that discipline.
If you are new to sales or are entering a new territory it is wise to consider just how you can implement these prospecting processes for yourself.
Here are some specific tips when it comes to making lots of cold calls:
- Prepare your calls and new targets each night for the next day. Don’t waste precious time when it comes to your prospecting time on the telephone. Get your research done before the business day starts.
- Stand up when you make your calls. That single strategy will improve your conversational ability and meeting conversions.
- Prepare a simple entry script of 2 or 3 sentences. After that point the call should revert to a conversation.
- The calls that you make should be about the person you are calling and not about you.
- Get away from fixed ridged call scripts that are unnatural.
- Practice your calls each morning when you first rise. Soon the calls will come to you easily and your conversions to meetings will improve.
- Use the telephone to create meetings; don’t pitch your services across the telephone. Get to meet the people and use your personality as part of that process.
- Build relationships with the people you meet so that you will be the ‘go to person’ when they have a need for your services and or product.
Prospecting is not hard. It is just a discipline that requires practice. Make more calls and improve your skills in doing so. Over time you will build a better market share and client database.
In looking at a prospecting model, you should consider prospecting as a marathon and not a sprint. It is something that you do every day and consistency matters more than speed.
To build the right prospecting model for you consider the following questions:
- Where is your market located? You will need to focus in a region to connect with the right people.
- What does a prospect look like? What are the attributes of a prospect that help you choose the right connections to make? Clarity is required.
- What will you do every day as part of personal prospecting for new clients? How will you get the process under way?
- What will you say to prospects and new people when you connect with them for the first time? Why should they listen to you? Simple dialogue development will help you with the connection. The conversation that you create should be about the person you are talking to and not what you’re offering. Questions should form the core of your approach to new clients and contacts.
- Why should the person meet with you? The best canvassing calls focus on the opportunity of a meeting. Your call should be focused on just one thing; to create a meeting where you can connect with the person and get better information. Most new business will come from the trust you can create and the relationship establishment that will be built over time.
- What service or product will be at the centre of the prospecting effort? You cannot confuse the process with too many ideas or statements. When you understand what people need from you, the conversations you create should centre on that topic and requirement.
- What prospecting process will be at the core of your contact and database model? It pays to only use one prospecting system so you can improve in the method and practice what you do.
- When will you start the process and how often will you do it? Regularity is the key to getting results in networking and prospecting.
As you can see, clarity is required to take your prospecting efforts to the market and your location. It is not a random process.
One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make in canvassing and networking is in doing too many things and not focusing down on just a few. When you focus you can track and improve the results that you are getting. Practice and self-improvement are key attributes of a good prospecting model.