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.
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.
When it comes to working as a professional salesperson you must have some form of prospecting model you can use every day. Failure to prospect will be the ‘fast track’ to mediocrity in your industry.
So what does a good prospecting model look like? Try some of these things:
- Your prospecting time should be split 50/50 between new contacts and existing contacts.
- Every day you must do your calls and make the contacts for about 2 or 3 hours.
- At the end of the day, try one more prospecting call. It sets the scene for the next day.
- Forget about pitching your services across the telephone. Create conversations where people will talk to you about their needs and interests in your product or service.
- Create meetings from your calls. Meetings allow you to build trust and relevance with the prospect.
- Maintain your database yourself so you can shape its use and application to any leads or information that may be a lead.
- It takes about 3 calls to the same person to get a meeting organised. For this reason you must be diligent in making your calls to new people. When you start building your prospecting model, keep refining it and shaping it for your market conditions.
- Practice your canvassing call dialogue so you can improve your call to meeting ratios.
Top salespeople know how to prospect. They own their system and focus. They keep it going no matter what pressure they are operating under.