At the early stages of connecting with a customer, make sure that you are dealing with or talking with a decision maker. So many prospects like to think that they are the decision maker when it comes to ‘buying’, but in reality there is a head office or board of directors somewhere that will make the final move on any recommendations.
So how do you get around this? Through ‘selective questions’ you will get the facts; that is the right answer in most meeting and prospecting situations. You can usually ‘read between the lines’ when it comes to the responses that you get.
In saying this, be aware that some prospects are ‘doorways’ to the top people or decision makers. You may only have that ‘doorway’ to use in reaching into a business for a sale or order.
So what can you do here? Set some rules like the following:
- Research the business or the customer on the internet and in any other way possible before you start to approach them.
- Find someone in ‘management’ that can give you relevant facts about the business and the people.
- Get to meetings as much as possible as the personal approach allows you to read and interpret the body language as well as the words spoken.
- Find out what they are doing today and if any of your competitors are active with the prospect. If so, respect the relationship and find out how it works.
- Understand the ‘lead times’ to requirements and if any ‘pain points’ exist when it comes to the business or the prospect using your products or services. Can you save them any money? Can you make their business more productive?
- Practice your dialogue for prospecting and in attending meetings. The practice process will help you lift your conversions.
- Understand that all prospects and customers have pressures and challenges. Speak to enough prospects in the market and you will find that you can ‘open more doors’ on future sales.
Sales and customer service today will always have challenges, but the reality is that the challenges have always been there. Focus on the value that you bring to the market and the sales that you make will escalate.
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.
In professional selling I see so many salespeople that are struggling or at best are just in the ‘average’ zone. The problem evolves from one single fact. They are ‘reactive’ and not ‘proactive’. I call it being on the ‘back foot’.
To get anywhere in sales and customer contact you really do need to have a process of being on the ‘front foot’. In other words you are taking the right action and you do so in a controlled way. You are moving ahead under control.
So what issues can this have an impact on? Try some of these:
- Client contact programs
- Key account management
- Sales or order follow up
- Referral business or leads
- Database contact
Any of these things offer the opportunity for you to be proactive and in a position of taking action. That’s how you win new business and grow your market share.
All of this being said the ‘front foot’ process involves a sales person planning what they want to do and action. It is a deliberate process of moving ahead.
Let’s take prospecting as an example. Here are some stages to taking the right action:
- Researching the new people to call and contact
- Establishing the best time to make your prospecting calls
- Getting out into your market to door knock the local businesses that may need your services
- Tracking the responses from your prospecting processes in a database
- Making return calls to people on a regular basis
- Creating meaningful content to provide to your clients and prospects
It is easy to see why some people are more successful than others. It’s a choice. Put your front foot forward and take the first step.
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.
In sales today you must build relationships. It is those relationships that will bring you long term business rather than short term gain.
If you put a networking process into your prospecting model, you will see better results from a customer and sales perspective. So how do you build a networking process? What do you need to do? Here are some ideas to help you.
- Encourage friendship and common interests. Find out what the prospective client likes to do and what sport or interest they may have. Providing their interests are legal and ethical, get involved and do something with that prospect through that common interest. Ask them to join you at the golf course, a sports game or theatre event; whatever may be of interest to them. Involve their partner in the process if that seems appropriate.
- Keep the prospect up to date with market or product updates that can help their business. Invite them to product or service information workshop and industry briefing. Let them test out some of your latest products or services.
- Get some other people in your team involved with the client so that the relationships broaden. Have your most experienced people touch base with your prospect.
- Have frequent coffee meetings or go to lunch. Keep those meetings of high value but not overly long to interfere with the client’s business day. Show respect for time and the client.
- Introduce the client or prospect to other like-minded clients of yours that you have worked with for some time. In this way the friendships can be built.
- Show interest in the clients business and put one of your experienced team members into the clients business for a few days or a week (at no cost to the client), so the systems and processes that the client operates with can be fully understood.
- Give the client some samples of your latest products to use and test. Ask them to give you feedback ‘as an industry based response’ for your head office team.
A lot of this may seem common sense, although experience says that much of it is not done enough today. When you get really involved with your prospect or client by giving them some tips and ideas to save them money or time, your long term client relationship will start to thrive. Good relationships and networking in business today are built from valuable contact.
Many people think that sales and a career in sales is a ‘cushy’ job where you do not have to work hard. Many administrative or office based ‘backroom people’ will frequently question what the sales team or key account team are actually doing for their salary.
The fact of the matter is that the sales team and individual salespeople work differently. They are creators of opportunity; they look for the next sale and they push towards it. That being said, there are great salespeople, and there are ordinary salespeople. In every industry you see the ‘greats’ and you see the ‘not so greats’.
A salesperson without action, drive and vision is like a car without wheels. It has an engine, makes a lot of noise, but travels nowhere.
If you have chosen sales as your career, you are in a good spot, but you are also in a hard place that will require real work and effort. Great sales specialists are self-motivators and drivers of their business. They know that the business will come in if they get out the door and into their market.
Here are some ideas to help you move into your industry and sales career with greater success.
- Define your focus so you know exactly who your market is and where they are. Every prospecting effort and client connection should be to a plan and strategy of approach. Your vision should be specific to what you sell and how you do it. Practice will help you improve as you move ahead. It should be remembered that this is very personal and in that respect you and the motivator to get the job done.
- Connect with clients each and every day. When you open the door with your clients, ensure that they know you well and that you connect with them on a frequent basis. Client contact should be a process in your diary. It has to happen every day.
- Grow your database of prospects on a daily basis. Devote about 2 or 3 hours each day to regular prospecting; that is talking to new people that are not clients at the moment. It is a fact that many clients will disappear over time, given that their situation will change. You must fill the pipeline of opportunity with new people.
- Practice your craft and your dialogue. Connecting with clients and prospects will involve a number of situations such as presentations, sales pitches, product updates, negotiations, placing orders, and service requirements. All situations require practice and very good dialogue. If you practice what you say and do with the most important parts of client connection, you can lift your conversions of sales.
- Believe in yourself and sell yourself at every logical opportunity. You are the best person to do this. Self-promotion is all part of being a salesperson. You promote with relevance, style, and professionalism.
- Look for new ideas and people to connect with. Read papers, surf the internet, and ask for referrals. There is always a new client just around the corner if you know how to find them.
If you have chosen ‘sales’ as a career you are at the start of something exciting. Take charge of your day and your actions. Start driving yourself into your market. Get to know lots of the right people. Be a professional.