Did you know that Sales Reps consider ‘Prospecting’ to be the most dreaded part of their sales process? That’s where they seem to struggle the most; followed by ‘Closing’ and ‘Qualifying’.
Can’t agree more. Sales Prospecting is the ‘necessary evil’ if you like – Being in sales, you’re required to create opportunities, and that essentially means ‘prospecting’… there’s no other way around it.
You could however work with the opportunities (leads), created through Inbound Marketing, or through your occasional referrals and networking gigs. But these may not suffice to keep a steady flow for your pipeline with good leads - Especially with startups, Inbound takes more time and effort at the front end; and referrals and networking benefits could be few and far between.
Any salesperson will tell you, that failure to prospect now can severely paralyse you later. You could very well go for weeks without prospecting or creating any opportunities; but after a quarter, you will definitely feel the brunt- when you have an empty pipeline and it’s impossible to fill one fast enough.
Estimates say the first vendor to reach a prospect and set the buying vision has a 74% chance to close the deal – a good enough reason to rev up your ‘prospecting’ gears and nail your next call, so here are 5 effective tips to help you do just that:
1. Have You Done Your RESEARCH Yet?
Without a doubt, putting in the required research to qualify your prospects; is the primary activity of any ‘prospecting’ process. When the estimates say that 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting – you need to make sure you start off with the right prospects.
As sales expert and author of High-Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter aptly says, Salespersons should be selective and spend more time with fewer prospects – which is a lot more efficient and effective than hoarding large numbers of ‘unproductive prospects’; and most likely with the few ‘focused’ ones, you’ll be closing at full price, rather than mulling over discounted deals.
The rule of thumb is to start off with companies that fall under your radar – meaning, does it fit your ‘buyer persona’? Or do you sell in their industry? Look for other indicators like, how many years have they been in operation; number of employees, their location and their value proposition?
Say for instance, your target market is small to medium-sized enterprises with employees ranging from 100-1000; then you need to drop any prospects that don’t fit the bill - because a 20-person company’s pain points could differ from the one that has 500 or 1000 employees.
Once you’ve zoomed into your prospective companies, you dig deeper into the personas of their executives – especially the C-level executives, decision makers and gate keepers.
You can look into their LinkedIn profiles or scan their social media postings to get clues to their personalities, their tastes and their pain points. For instance you have greater chance of making a good first impression if you know he’s more of a Footy lover than a fan of Cricket. Or you could immediately connect with an executive if you share common values surrounding leadership, about which she frequently writes in her LinkedIn articles.
2. WARM Calling
Warm Calling is essentially about calling a prospect (albeit for the first time), who has been ‘warmed up’ to a certain extent beforehand.
For instance, you may have followed the prospect on her Twitter account and had a quick conversation; or have exchanged your greeting card at a conference while chatting on a topic of common interest; or you could have sent a cold email with a compelling offer and clear call-to-action under your name; or may have commented on her blog and received a genuine response…
Whichever medium you choose, it’s essential to ‘connect’ with the prospect on multiple touch points (the more the better), before you make the ‘warm’ call – because you’ll come across as a familiar voice/face for the prospect; and will be set for a positive response. After all, being human we do have a sense of connection and feel ‘warmer’ to those who are familiar (a psychological trigger known as the ‘exposure effect’)
3. KILLER Openings
Let’s face it, as soon as your prospect picks up the phone, all you have is a 15 seconds window to capture his/her attention and make an impression. When your phone rings, he/she could well be in the middle of something important and might as well be saying, ‘this better be good’…
Prospects have only one thing on their mind at that moment, ‘Why are you calling me?’ And the next few words from you will either engage them in a nice conversation or completely put them the back foot, which will immediately end the conversation.
You obviously start with a quick introduction of yourself; not too long though. If you’re lucky (depending on the warmups you’ve nailed before) they’ll immediately recognise your name when you say, “Hi this is Aakash from Element 7 Digital” – and the conversation can sail smoothly from that point onwards.
However, if the prospect does not remember you; you need to throw in a ‘killer’ opening line that either jogs her memory about you; or entices them to keep talking by tapping into their ‘value propositions’; or pain points or by simply pulling references from an article they may have recently wrote…
For example: “I was really intrigued from your last article on design techniques to boost Landing Page conversions; the ‘X’ technique seems very interesting, so I thought I’d pick up the phone to have a quick chat with you to see how it worked for you.”
This will provide them with the impetus to keep talking - because it compliments and instantly engages them into something they care about; after which you can follow up with other relevant questions and build the rapport.
4. Don’t Sell Anything
Yes, you read it right. Although it’s the start of any selling process, you should be wary not to go into the ‘selling’ mode while prospecting.
Prospecting is only about sourcing the right leads; who will then be gradually nurtured as they pass through various stages in the sales funnel, to become ‘qualified leads’. And only after that, selling can begin.
If you rush in to push a deal with fresh prospects, you might end up putting unnecessary pressure on them, only to see them go away.
Selling rests on your ability to build a basis of ‘trust’ between you and your customer; which can only manifest when both are more comfortable with each other and understand and respect each other’s objectives - and that is obtained at the bottom stages of the funnel.
5. Post-Call Follow up
It’s crucial you connect with the prospect via an email, after you hang up the phone. You can do it immediately or later that day; but do not delay. Follow-up emails to touch base and reconnect with the prospect ensures them you value their time and are keen on strengthening the relationship further.
It’s the beginning of ‘qualifying’ the leads or nurturing them towards the bottom of the funnel. Generally, in the follow up mail you thank them for their time and provide them with any materials (i.e. eBooks, whitepapers, product demo, links etc.) you promised on the call. You should also remind them of the schedule of you next call, if any; and their input/role for the meeting. There’s a high probability now that the prospect will respond to your mail, as you’re no longer a stranger, but a friendly professional who seems eager to provide solutions to their business challenges.
To Sum It Up…
A successful salesperson knows that ‘Prospecting’ should be developed into a habit; and a process you nail and follow through on a continuous basis. What you prospect today is what you’ll be closing in the coming months!
Let me leave you with a sales poem (The Buyer’s Lament) by author and sales guru, Jill Konrath, who’s written this from the buyer’s perspective:
The Buyer's Lament
Don’t waste my time, please go away.
I will not talk with you today.
You call me up, you want to sell.
But all you do is tell, tell, tell.
I do not want to hear your spiel.
I will not play let’s make a deal.
So listen up, take my advice.
Discover how you can entice.
If you aspire to earn my trust,
Research is an absolute must.
Know my goals, the issues I face.
Use them to build your business case.
What have you done for firms like mine?
How have you helped their bottom line?
Can you cut my costs or help me grow?
Now that’s the info I want to know.
If you can help me solve my plight,
I'm wide open to your fresh insight.
I always look for new perspectives
So I can reach my big objectives.
If you want me to remember your name,
Launch an account entry campaign.
When big opportunities are at stake,
Ten or more contacts is what it may take.
To get yourself past my no-entry zone,
Think of this before you email or phone.
Once you get your foot in the door,
I guarantee you'll sell lots more!
Sales Poet & Author
If you'd like further assistance or would like to discuss anything covered today, we'd love to hear from you.
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Website is www.element7digital.com.au