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.
If you are looking to improve your business model, sales, or market share, have a good look at the number of times that you call your customers or prospects on a regular basis. Persistence pays when it comes to opening up opportunities in sales with your clients.
Why Make Contact?
Prospects are always on the lookout for tips and ideas to help them do things at a better price or a lower cost. For this very reason you can be a solid source of knowledge and information relative to your industry. If the competition is not serving their clients well or keeping in regular contact, you have an opportunity in waiting.
Far too many sales people stop the contact process after just a few approaches; if they can’t get the prospect or client to move to the next step in the sales pipeline, they shut down the contact process and simply move on.
Top salespeople keep the contact process going with real and relative ways. Here are some ideas to help with that:
- Use different techniques of contact so you can be real and relevant in each approach.
- Be memorable in a positive way. That will mean some relevance and importance to the client.
- Have different comments to use in each approach. Practice dialogues for seasonal sales and shifts in market trends.
- Do not show desperation in any approach or client contact. Prospects and clients can sense it and will close the door on your approach. Clients like to deal with ‘winners’.
- Ask the client or prospect if you can remain in regular contact into the future.
- Keep your database accurate and up to date in all respects.
- Get to know the Key Clients of the competition so you can disrupt and disturb their market or dominance.
Do you know what your ideal client looks like? Do you know what your client wants by way of product or service? Do you know when they want to buy or sell? Key questions like this will help you tap into the right people at the right time.
When you first approach a prospective client you never really know where the conversation will head, or if they have a need or an interest in your offering. This is particularly the case when it comes to cold calling and basic drop in canvassing.
For this very reason you need to be very flexible and conversational in getting the connection going. If you sell a service as opposed to a product, it is better to be biased towards building trust before you get to the real point of the approach. In a few words I can summarise this as ‘reducing the pressure’.
In business today, most clients and prospects do not like to be ‘sold or closed’. The days of manipulative selling are well gone. Information and trust are the keys to moving the conversation forward. Today, it could be called ‘relationship’ selling. As to how long the relationship should be, really depends on the product and the service that you offer; the relationship required can be from a few minutes to months or even years.
Get to the Facts
To qualify a client or prospect you need to know the right things relative to their business or personal situation. Here are a few tips to do that:
- Check to see if you are talking with the decision maker. There is no point talking with a person that has no relevance to your product or service. Asking questions will help you here.
- Find out what the prospect has now or if they have used similar products or services over the years. Do they actually understand what you are about to talk about? This is really important in a complex product or service offering.
- If the prospect has used that product or service before, was it helpful in their business or personal life? Working from a base of previous experience will help you connect with the situation for them today. Be aware that the situation may have changed for them; there is no point selling a concept, product or service if they have a changed business situation or circumstances.
- Could the prospect see the same solution occurring again or will it be helpful for them today or in the future? Previous experiences that the client may have had with your product or service help you relating to the situation today.
These questions will lead you to information that can help you proceed with moving the conversation forward. From all of these concepts, take the time to really listen to the facts and responses from the other person.
When you work in sales of any type you will see prime examples of clients that are not serviced well. It could be that they do not purchase often enough, or not in sufficient volume to rank as a priority. That being said, they are likely to be an opportunity in waiting.
Many of those poorly serviced clients not purchasing much today can be key clients of the future. Everything changes in business and you should not accept the status quo when it comes to clients and their business situations. Keep in touch so you know when their business or personal situation requires your product or service.
It is interesting to note that many salespeople do not maintain regular and consistent contact with their entire database. In most situations they will contact less than 25 clients on a regular basis. All other clients will be relegated to the ‘call me when you need me’ process.
It has been proven that a regular 90 day contact system with all clients in your database will build greater business opportunity than just waiting for the ‘client to call’ when they want something. After the third contact of 90 days, the client or prospect starts to see that you are really interested in them and their needs. It is likely that they will get closer to your business and could potentially over time convert to a key customer.
So often I have seen sales and customer service situations where many clients and prospects move to another supplier simply because they felt overlooked or neglected. That’s something to be avoided.
Here is a contact model to help your business growth:
- Understand who your key clients are by definition and location. Yes they will need special attention; however that attention should be in balance with all other clients.
- Create a contact model for Key clients and then all others. Key clients should be contacted at least every 30 days. Other clients should be contacted inside 90 days regardless of their status.
- Use a multi faceted contact process to give your clients information about your product or service and any changes of product that they may be interested in. The contact tools that you can use should include email newsletter, direct calls, and drop in meetings, product updates, and industry briefings. In balance they create a good source of market and product information.
- Look at the competitors in your industry and identify their client base. It is likely that you can open the contact process with some of their clients.
- Devote the first part of your day to contacting at least 10 new people that you have not made contact with previously. When this is done in balance with your existing database you have a pipeline of growth.
Those clients that are underserviced will be great allies, if and when you convert them to greater levels of business. It may take months or years to move them closer to your business, however the journey is worth it with some clients.
When you work in sales in any industry, there will be one thing that stands out as the most important thing that you should do above everything else. It will be the thing that helps build your business and strengthen your sales.
So what is that thing? Could it be any of the following?
- Prospecting for new clients
- Keeping in contact with your existing clients
- Gaining more market share from your competitors
- Improving service and supply solutions for your key accounts and clients
From time to time throughout the year some of these things will change and take a different priority. You could even say that some of them are equally important to others.
When I work with sales teams I like to draw their thinking to the factors of their business that are really important in their industry. This reality check tends to open up the thinking that maybe every salesperson can get back ‘on track’ and away from the things that are distracting them from the most important issues of the business.
It’s a fact that most of the time these things are happening:
- Customers are examining costs
- Competitors are chasing your clients
- Overseas business is creating a level of product supply that has not previously been a factor in your customer base and client purchase decisions.
- Margins are being lowered to attract more sales in just about every industry
- The global world of supply and demand is opening up to a wider supply chain and differing cost base.
- The internet is letting the customer interact with their sales and orders to a great degree.
When your industry is highly competitive or the levels of orders and sales are changing, it pays to step back and do this simple analysis. If you can clearly see some things that are being overlooked or lacking in intensity in your business activities, take action today so that you preserve market share as things change around you. Decide what that one thing is that will help your business thrive. Is it ‘prospecting’?
In selling or negotiating anything, it is really important to get to the facts and understand the other party. When you do this well, you can match your dialogue and your ideas to the right outcome. Your questioning techniques are really important.
There are 3 basic types of questions or probes that can be used in negotiation; they should be used in balance to the discussion on the product or service. You should select the right type of questions with care because they will have direct impact on the response of the other party. Here are those question or response types:
- Open Questions – this type of question will require a factual and detailed answer. For example, ‘How do you see this tractor being used in your current harvesting program?’
- Closed Questions – this process is suitable when you want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. For example, ‘Can you see this tractor helping your harvesting program this year?’
- Extended Statement – this is a process of going further into a subject or discussion of the other party. For example, ‘Please tell me how the tractor will be used in your harvesting program.’
It is interesting to note that many salespeople do not use the third example above much at all. They do not probe deep enough into the issue or deal. Lack of information will make it harder to get a result or positive outcome. The open or closed question can always lead to the ‘extended statement’. It takes practice but the extra time spent in finding out all of the facts will always help you with your negotiation.
The more that you can move the discussion into the subject and need, the easier it is to understand exactly what they require and create agreement with the other party. The real facts of the matter will always help you in any negotiation; for that reason, remember that the negotiation is about them and not about you.
Here are some good question starters that you can use at any time with clients and customers:
- Tell me
- Couldn’t we?
- Shouldn’t we
- Didn’t you?
- Don’t you?
- Haven’t they?
- Doesn’t it?
- Hasn’t he?
- Isn’t it?
These statements will help you tie down the detail and move to a solution for the customer. They say that practice makes perfect, and that is certainly the case in professional selling and negotiation. Asking questions and getting closer to the requirements of the customer will always help you through the negotiation with greater efficiency.
Asking the right questions is a form of customer qualification. It pays to have a checklist designed for your product or service so you can really get to the important points quickly and effectively.
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