When you start prospecting for new business it is wise to stop and understand exactly what it is that you do and why someone would use your services. This specific information will help you find more customers and convert them to clients. Define your niche business.
In real terms what you do is match your specific speciality into the customer. This single fact will make all of your cold calls more productive and focused. When you keep your niche business narrow and specific, it makes it a lot easier to talk about the offerings and benefits you bring to the client.
This approach to prospecting is simple yet effective. It makes you focus on yourself so you can sell your services and product with greater skill.
To adopt this process, consider the following questions:
- Where is your market located geographically? Define your territory within boundaries. Stay within your boundaries so your prospecting model is specific and organised.
- What is it that you sell? For example, if you sell something like ‘surveyors equipment’, what specific equipment is it? Who would be attracted to that equipment? Drill down on the prospective buyers into groups such as mining surveyors, council planning surveyors, road surveyors. When you do this you have the start of a focused prospecting model.
- With your specific groups, why would they use your surveyor’s product and how would they use it? What benefit would they get from it?
From these simple questions you can refine your prospecting process and your dialogue. No longer is your cold calling a sales pitch; it becomes centred on a very specific question and conversation. Here is an example:
- ‘Good morning Mr Brown, it’s Peter Smith from Acme Surveyors. Maybe you can help me out for a moment. I’m just calling to see if you are struggling with your survey equipment in road planning, perhaps due to the lack of the latest geotechnical updates. Is this an issue for you?’
This is the start of a very deep and relevant conversation. Notice that the call entry point is all about the client and not much about you. Expect the client to ‘push back’ a few times in conversation; most customers hate to be ‘sold’, and that is why you should not pitch. You can do more with a conversation in a cold call than you can with a one-sided ‘sales pitch’.
The benefit of this entry statement is that it opens up into information that you can work with. Keep the conversations moving forward by talking about the client and what they are doing today. Avoid talking too much about your offering. Ask more questions to see what the client is doing and how they are doing it.
The primary target in making the call is to see if the customer or prospect has a need or an interest. Beyond that point you should set up a meeting. Do not pitch your services across the telephone, but ask for a meeting to show the client more information that may be helpful.
It is not hard to win new business; it is just a process. Align yourself to the process and more opportunity will come your way.
In this business environment some companies and industries will be more successful than others, but it is the sales team and customer service team that are now more important than ever before. Consistency in client contact will help consolidate market share and protect your income.
If your business is struggling in any way, take a look at your sales team first to see just what they are doing or not doing. Too many salespeople listen to their peers when it comes to results and activities. If you have any ordinary performers in your sales team it can spread like a ‘cancer’ in and across the entire team. Complacency breeds complacency; top performers are required in today’s sales environment.
When you are not getting your share of the market and the sales, here are the things that you should look at first:
- Split your sales team into high achievers and average performers. Determine who is producing the sales and the orders and find out why that is the case. The balance of the team will be doing a mixture of ‘nothing much’. When you know the differences in your team you can handle the issues of skills improvement, redundancy, repositioning, and refocus.
- When your industry is slow or under pressure, it is the systemised action of your top people that will get you through. It is likely that your top people will be less than 10% of the workforce. Replicate the systems that work into the balance of the team. Those that can’t handle the change should be reallocated or made redundant. Experimental salespeople do not work.
- Split your customers into 3 groups. Firstly your top clients should be determined and allocated into a VIP section of your business. They should get better treatment and service than all other clients. The second group of customers are those that have the potential to move to a Key Account status. You job is to find out how to do that and why it should occur with each customer in this group. The third group are those customers that randomly purchase goods or services and that are unlikely to move up the client pipeline status to a Key Account. If you are going to remove the poor performers from your sales team, then you can drop the third group of customers to free up some time for the remaining salespeople.
- Get your prospecting model sorted and strengthened with your top salespeople. Use the best systems and ideas that they have to consolidate the prospecting system for your business and local area.
This is all about strategy. Focus on your people and the business will generally come in, albeit in a modified form. Business is all about people so go back the people level and sort it through. Opportunities will soon come back to you and the sales team.
It really does not matter what industry you work in, competition is strong and active most of the time. Some of that competition will be relevant and of interest to your clients. The clients will be on the lookout for the best deal or supply arrangement. Those clients will listen to the offering of your business competitors, and over time you can lose your best clients to the competitors in your industry.
Complacency is not a ‘good look’ in business today. All of your clients are doing things with a greater focus on the ‘bottom line’. They know what is required to keep their business on track for the year given the changes in their industry.
The ‘glue’ that holds the client relationship together in most cases is the bond and connection that they have with you as the ‘specialist’ that you say you are. Are you the expert of choice that your clients would go to in times of pressure or need? Would they call you before they contact the competition with a concern or challenge that needs resolve?
Relationships are the Key
In key account management and customer service the ‘expert’ status is really of great importance to ongoing business. Our clients must know that they are dealing with the best supplier of relevant goods and services locally and regionally. You must be the best choice of supplier and they must know that.
Some clients put priorities on different aspects of the business relationships they have with their suppliers. It is up to you to know what those priorities are; ignore them at your peril. Here are some factors that could be considered in that assessment.
- The role that cost plays in the supply of goods and services.
- The pressures of time in ordering and delivery
- Relationships between your clients key staff and your personnel
- Communication regards the progress of orders and supply
- Contact processes and systems when a problem or challenge evolves
- Guarantees on workmanship and replacement strategies that minimise downtime and loss for the client.
- Any business advantage that you can provide your client with, that can improve their business effectiveness, costs and or timeliness.
Today we need to consider the clients business and get to know it comprehensively. When we do that we can see the right ways to protect our client base from ‘competitor attack’.
In these times of business stress, the client is the key to your ongoing liquidity and market share. Focus on the client and give them the best information, service, and backup solutions available. When you find new clients, look to improve the process where and when you can. Become that expert of choice that clients expect in these challenging business times.
Once every 6 months you should analyse your customers and prospects. When you do this correctly you can stay on target when it comes to prospecting and converting new business. The analysis becomes part of your business plan.
This process is actually part of a Key Account business model, and will produce a list of Key Accounts that will require different response and interaction than ordinary customers. So let’s go back to the process, and here are a few stages that can be optimised for your industry and market.
- Identify all the customers in your market today. You will need to collect the customer information and review it for relevance and opportunity. Look at all the variables and types of customers that you can work with such as existing customers, competitor’s clients, new customers, and old customers. All of them will offer some benefits. Some of your customers today may be working with competitors at the same time, so they should be identified for the special treatment that the ongoing relationship with them will require.
- Review the information for accuracy, opportunity, relevance to your business, and timeliness of the next sale or purchase of goods and services. If your product or service is a seasonal based unit, then you will be mindful of that selling season and you should prepare for it.
- Analyse customer details so that you know of any opportunities to expand your offering
- Segment your customers and validate them into groups that you can act on. Prioritize the members of each group into levels of action and importance.
- Determine your Key Accounts from ordinary customers so that you can service them differently and specifically.
Key account management is not hard; it is just a distinct process that requires a system to take you through important decisions.
When it comes to building your market share or establishing your market share as a salesperson, a good database program or customer relationship management system will help you greatly. Keeping in contact with the right people in the right way is really what this is all about. Systems will help you do that and open the door with more prospects at the right time and in the right way.Here are some rules to establish a contact management program in your business:
- Define your market geographically so you know where your clients are going to come from. Unless you do this first, you could spend far too much time spreading your efforts too broadly and seeing little outcome. You want results as soon as possible and on that basis you should limit your efforts to a defined area at all times. Importantly that area should contain enough clients for you to focus on and convert to new business.
- Establish a list of raw data including a list of companies and people that should be contacted as part of marketing efforts. To keep the pipeline of opportunity moving ahead, this list should be added to daily at a rate of 10 to 20 people from selected businesses. Take care in setting the right level of decision maker that should be approached regards your product or service. Keep the calls going and eventually you will have a solid database of opportunity.
- Suspects are the people that you will be making contact with. They will come from the research undertaken as part of the ‘raw data’ stage above. On a daily basis, ring down your suspects at a rate of 20 per day. You will only reach 5 to 10 on average per day, so those that you missed out on should go back into the call register for another day.
- Prospects will be the people that you have spoken to and identified a need or interest in your product or service. When they are noted to be prospects, you should be moving them towards a meeting with you if and when such can be arranged. This can take time to achieve depending on their business and their need, so keep talking to them on a regular basis until you can the meeting that you require.
- Face to face contact is important in most industries before any orders are achieved. Rarely can you sell your services and products across the telephone. It is far easier to sell a meeting over the telephone and then to get to know the right people. Relationships are everything in business today.
- Hot Prospects are those people that know you and are actively looking for something to buy or sell as part of your industry and market type. Keep in contact with them every few days to open the door on a sale or order.
- Clients that you work with should be kept at the top of your contact register. The contact made will include calls, meetings, conferences, product or service briefings, product releases, and regular client events.
- Your competitor’s clients should get a special category in your database. Over time you can convert some of them to your clients, so a strategy of high priority contact should be established with these people.
Given all of these things, it is wise to ask for referral business whenever possible. Every client and prospect in your database will know other people, some of whom will be valid contacts for future business; ask the question at the right time with the right people.
When it comes to building your market share and your business, it is very easy to get tied up in the unimportant things that happen every day. If you work in sales, this can be a disaster that will destroy your market and eventually your commission or income.
In an ideal world you want your good reputation to spread around your industry and client base. You need to be seen and known as the expert that people go to when they want help. This ‘guru’ status does not come easily and can only be built by what you do and who you know. You earn the ‘expert’ mantle of a top expert in your industry.
The key to this process is in being different in an acceptable and relevant way. Business is not all that complicated if you follow the rules.
- Build your brand with clients and prospects after every meeting or contact. Send them your business card in the mail. Write something on the business card that is personal and connecting. Thank the person for giving you some of their time.
- Speak at business conferences or community groups on your speciality. In doing this you can give relevant information and tips that help people. Do not sell from the front of the room. It just puts people off.
- Set aside 90 minutes of your day to make calls to new people that you have not spoken to before. In this way your market share will stay positive and potentially grow.
- Leave messages when you cannot reach someone. You are a brand and your name means something. Some of the most successful salespeople have very unusual names that are hard to forget. This then says that leaving your name will in some minor way form part of the bigger marketing picture for you.
- Send short messages by SMS after a meeting to thank the person that you just spent some time with. Adopt a similar process when you are to meet with a person. Send an SMS message first thing in the morning or the night before so they know that you are coming to see them as expected.
- Go beyond email and lift the telephone as often as you can. Voice contact helps you build your credibility. Most emails get lost in the world of the email trash can.
- Follow-up the prospect or client after every sale to ensure that they are happy with what they purchased from you or your business. It also gives you the opportunity to answer any questions that they may have on product use or application.
- Spend 50% of your day out of the office visiting clients. It is harder to win business from your desk, so make it a part of your diary each day to get out and talk to people.
Is business all that hard? Is there something that some salespeople do that is special? No, the answers are quite simple; the top salespeople in any industry know that personal contact and branding will help them more than anything else. You are in charge of your branding, so build your contact system and start moving it forward every day.