What I Have Learnt About Prospecting

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:

  1. Where is your market located geographically?  Define your territory within boundaries.  Stay within your boundaries so your prospecting model is specific and organised.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.

Secrets of Sales Success – Become the Expert of Choice

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.

  1. The role that cost plays in the supply of goods and services.
  2. The pressures of time in ordering and delivery
  3. Relationships between your clients key staff and your personnel
  4. Communication regards the progress of orders and supply
  5. Contact processes and systems when a problem or challenge evolves
  6. Guarantees on workmanship and replacement strategies that minimise downtime and loss for the client.
  7. 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.

Patterns Help You Succeed in Sales

In business and in life many people struggle with the targets and goals that they must achieve.  All too often the path to progress gets clouded and confused.  When it comes to sales, the same process and observation applies.

Think Holiday?

When you want to go on a holiday, what do you do?  You set your targets, you plan, and then you figure out the steps that are required to get you there.  Every week or month you do more things to push the holiday closer to you.  In 12 months or so you will have achieved the holiday of a lifetime.

Think Sales?

Most salespeople stay in the average zone of achievement.  They will have some good months and some not so good months.  Only the very best people rise to the top of their market, and they do so because they know what has to be done and they create a system to do it each and every day.  They work from a base of achievement.

Some of the biggest problems you hear some ordinary salespeople refer to are any or all of the following:

  • Not enough time
  • Incorrect resources
  • No support from management
  • Need to go home early
  • It’s 5:00pm and the clients are not in their office
  • The market has changed
  • It’s time for a holiday
  • The client is away for a few weeks
  • Nothing happens at Christmas time
  • I left a message and they did not get back to me

So these are all ‘excuses’, and top salespeople know that the results that they need come from one source; that is themselves.  They systemise themselves and they take daily action to get the result that they need.  If they have any shortcomings in skills, they practice until they remove the problem.

If you work in a sales related job, and your salary depends on your success in client connection and orders, you would be best advised to look at your systems and your actions that you do every day.  Would you say that most days are effective and positive as to results?

If the answer is not clear, don’t worry; you are not alone.  Do however take a step back and closely review exactly what you do each day that is high priority business.  If 40% of your day is not business generating then you need to modify you actions and focus.

It takes about 3 weeks of deliberate effort to change your focus and develop new habits, but soon you will be on the road to new and better outcomes.

Common Problems with Sales Teams Today

Today I come across so many hurdles and excuses in sales teams; it is as though the sales people are looking for reasons to not do something!  Strange don’t you think?

In this market and economy we need more salespeople that are prepared to do the ‘hard stuff’, like making calls to new clients, dropping cards in with prospects, visiting new sites, finding new people to talk to.  Chasing the competitor’s clients is also a good thing to do.

Why does a business or salesperson fail?  Most commonly it is because they have failed to drive market share and new business.  It takes about 3 months to improve your market share and it takes the same amount of time to start losing it.

Over time many clients will move on for their own reasons; for that very reason you cannot run a business that has no growth pipeline.  Growth is the most important factor in running a business today, if only to fill the gaps of people that may be leaving.

So what are the excuses that many business teams use in holding back from doing the most important and difficult things?  Try some of these:

  • A lack of resources is perhaps the most common reason that comes up first.  It is easy to blame someone else.
  • Lack of management support will also hit the top of the list.  Again it seems so easy to blame the management team for lack of action in the sales team.
  • Many salespeople lack a system to their day and they just take things as they happen.  Lack of system means lack of progress.
  • Confidence and fear can hold back many salespeople from taking the right action every day.  If you tell a group of 10 salespeople that they must prospect every day, only 2 on average will do the required task.  Over time those 2 people will be your top performers.
  • In some sales teams there is always a degree of confusion over what the business offers and how it should be marketed.  A common message is required in the sales team and a process of practice is the only way to improve and solidify the message.

In a sales environment today, the message is simple; more business of the right type is required.  Prospecting should be a feature of every business model above all other issues.  The prospecting process should occur first thing every morning across the entire sales team.  In 2 or 3 hours the team can do all of their cold calling and in doing so systemise a growth plan for the business.

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Develop a Top Sales Attitude

A sales attitude is required to create better market share and more business.  When you look at the average sales team, there is a significant difference between all members of the team and on that basis they will need to be individually managed and encouraged.

There are many different performance models available for sales team analysis.  Essentially there is one of the clear fact that is common to all.  Some salespeople are good on building relationships with customers and people generally; other salespeople will be good at closing the deal then moving on.  For this reason it pays to have a variety of a good salespeople of both types in your team.

It is a notable fact that these two types of sales characters are distinctly different and approach prospecting and selling from different angles.  Your sales manager or team leader is likely to be one of these characters; they will not normally relate to the other sales character well at all.  That will then alienate and frustrate the other part of your sales team.

This is where the team leader needs to carefully manage the two different sales styles regardless of their personal selling style or bias.

Here are some other tips that can apply to the establishment of a solid sales attitude within the business team:

  1. Prospecting for new business should be the number one event in every sales person’s diary each business day.  There is simply no excuse for not prospecting.  A good sales team is built on business generation and not order taking.
  2. Customer contact and customer service follows as a close second to the prospecting process.  In this economic environment, customers need to be encouraged and nurtured through the sales cycle.
  3. There is a real difference between ordinary customers and key accounts.  Importantly, your business and your sales team needs to differentiate between the two and service them differently.
  4. Every salesperson should be responsible for filling and maintaining their sales pipeline.  Over time the pipeline should be growing in your prospects, customers, and quality of sales.
  5. You will need a good customer relationship management (CRM) software program to help with your sales pipeline.  In only this way can you track the relationships with suspects, prospects, and clients.  The selection of software for your business will normally be based on the product or service type, and the contact methods that you use.  Also give some due regard to the ongoing customer interaction and the other departments in your business that will be contacting the same customer over time.  Every stage of the customer contact cycle needs to be entered into the CRM system.

As a final note, your best salesperson should never be promoted to the level of sales manager.  There is a lot of difference between managing salespeople and achieving results.

The best salespeople do not normally make good sales managers as they simply cannot explain their methods to the sales team and encourage the right type of action to be taken.

Good sales management is a very specific process requiring a very skilled professional that understands your business.