If you want to exceed your budget consistently and bring new business into your company, you need to be successful at prospecting, period! This is why the most successful sales professionals earn the big bucks! Sales managers hire sales people that can bring in new business, not manage existing accounts. Yet there are many ‘newbies’ that come into a new company hoping that they will be handed a gravy train account that just keeps sending in new purchase orders. Maybe that happened 20 years ago but not in this millennium.
To successfully prospect, you have to understand these three realities so that you have realistic expectations.
1. Get focused and dedicate the time. Successful sales professionals prospect between 4-10 hours a week and in some sales environments, it’s double that. Whether it’s doing research on a prospect, going to an industry event, a network meeting or cold calling to set up meetings, you have to do the time. Sitting by the phone for 3 hours and hoping you will get calls from a prospect to set up a meeting has about the same odds as snow in Texas in August! You must be proactive & focused to be successful in prospecting. The good news is that prospecting today is much easier than ever before thanks to the Internet and social media. You may wonder, how can that help my prospecting? When you post articles on websites in your industry and on LinkedIn you gain recognition and eventually status. Link these back to your website and it moves you up the rankings in Google and other search engines. You can also invite prospects you’re targeting to free webinars or Tele-classes. Or sign up to speak to professional, community and civic groups like Rotary or Chambers of Commerce. All of these methods will build your brand and your credibility!
2. Understand cold-calling. This is one method that many of you will avoid like the plague. Why? Because when you call prospects that don’t know you or your company, you will likely meet resistance, and who enjoys that! When it comes to cold calling, you are guilty until proven innocent. When prospects receive calls from sales people they don’t know, their initial reaction is to get them off the phone. They aren’t necessarily rejecting your solution; they are rejecting you – and, that’s tough to handle. Their perception is that you are interrupting them to sell something without having a clue about their business, goals, problems or needs. At least that is their perception and we know that perception is reality. To get around their mindset that we are guilty within the first 10 seconds you have to change their perception.
3. Set an intention. When you prospect, your intent counts more than technique. I’m not saying that technique doesn’t matter- it definitely does and my colleague Barry Caponi has the best technique I’ve seen when it comes to cold calling. The key point is that your “intent” is not to make a friend or a sale over the phone. How often have you called a prospect and the first words out of your mouth are “how are you doing today”? You don’t know them well enough to ask that! What if they say something disastrous? You’re not calling to find out about their personal life, you’re trying to get an appointment—period. To get an appointment, you need to quickly convey that you have something they can benefit from. In order to capture their attention you can focus on the following:
Do your homework – show them you have knowledge of their company or industry by citing a key issue or trend.
Align your message by telling the prospect what problems you solve and mention a company in their industry that has been successful with your solution.
Ask thoughtful questions that uncover issues they might be having today. Go beyond the overused, “what keeps you up at night” if you want this conversation to continue. Then listen. Your demonstrated understanding of their answers will increase the likelihood of a face to face meeting.
For you to be successful in prospecting you need to start with the right frame of mind. Get focused and dedicate the time, understand cold-calling and then set a solid intention on behalf of your prospect. The more you focus on their goals, the more likely it is that your solutions will meet their need.
About the author
Stu has spent over 25 years in sales management, sales and sales training with…