Finding sales prospects is hard work. It’s like prospecting for gold – you have to sift out a lot of what you find before you find that single nugget that makes all your time worthwhile.
There may be new technological tools that help make prospecting easier, but not much has really changed about effective prospecting. It takes time, focus and perseverance. I have followed these eight steps my entire career, and they’ve never let me down:
1. Define Your Sweet Spot – Clearly define the right accounts, demographics, applications and niche for your products and services.
2. Create a Multiprong Attack – Find more than one person in a company that would benefit from your offer. Even if somebody is not the decision maker, he or she can influence decisions or help you reach the ultimate decision maker.
3. Create Legitimate Reasons to Call -- Prospecting is even harder when you “cold call” – prospecting someone who doesn’t know you, isn’t expecting you, may have no need of what you are selling, etc. Instead, find out something that your prospect is interested in and helps them versus talking about your product. Social media, the Internet and Web 2.0 applications are tremendous tools to discover your prospects interests and needs.
Take a look at the two different approaches:
Cold approach: “Hello Mr. Jones. My name is Jonathan London with IPG and I have a new product that can train your people over the Internet. Can I meet with you to discuss this?”
Warm approach: “Hello Mr. Jones. My name is Jonathan London with IPG and I noticed your ads for salespeople all over the country [legitimate reason for calling]. I was hoping to discuss with you a way for your new salespeople to be more effective in a much quicker and less expensive manner so they can sell more for you and your company.”
A warm call has more of a relationship to the person you are calling and is more relevant.
4. Find Different Ways to Contact People -- Although you will probably use one or two primary ways to do your prospecting, be flexible and try different approaches. People are more or less receptive to different forms of communication. You’ll want to optimize your chances of reaching someone by choosing the right approach. Options include: phone, introduction, e-mail, invitations, postcards, Internet search, fax, direct mail, blogs or chat groups, social networks, delivery services etc.
5. Get Around Gatekeepers – Getting around the human or technological barriers between you and your prospects can be a challenge that takes creativity and ingenuity. It actually can be a lot of fun to outsmart the system! Leave intriguing voice mail messages, call when a human gatekeeper is least likely to be there, find a way to get the gatekeeper on your side, use referrals, write compelling emails … Use your creativity to make your message something that your prospect wants to hear.
6. Be Ready For Action – Once a person answers the phone, reads your letter, or opens his or her email, three things must happen quickly.
- First, establish immediate credibility and interest
- Next, present two or three benefits as early in the call as possible
- Third, request an appointment or ask for some action you want taken.
- Prepare before you make a call
- Keep comments short
- Be yourself and use a conversational tone
- Be ready for resistance and objections and know how you will respond
7. Anticipate and Handle Objections – The best way to handle resistance and objections is to anticipate them and say something before the person you are calling can verbalize their issues. The second best way is to acknowledge the objection and then say or ask something to get a response. For example, if a prospect says that she is extremely busy, you could say, “I’m glad to hear it because that is why I am calling. I can help you get more done in the same time. Can we speak?”
8. Perform Appropriate Follow-Up – Follow up by phone, email or other methods as frequently as two to three times a week for the first few weeks. After that point, it may be a good time to start reaching out to others if you have not gotten a response.
What’s your system for prospecting to fill your pipeline? Do you have other strategies that work for you?