Without prospecting, your sales pipeline will quickly dry up. Your company’s products or services – no matter how stellar – will not sell themselves. So, like it or not, prospecting is critical for every sales person’s success. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to boost the quality of your prospecting. You can stop spinning your wheels, and you’ll get much better results.
Let’s get back to basics for a moment. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the AIDA formula:
You have to get your prospect’s attention in order to interest them in your company’s wares. Whether or not they are interested depends on their current desire – the need they have that your products might address. Once you have their attention and demonstrate specific value, they will be spurred to action. You’ve made the sale. This process should be a conversation. You want to build a relationship, not make a pitch.
Success usually comes when you cultivate relationships from the beginning. But all too often, sales people want to start in the middle. It’s so tempting to focus prospecting on those who are already looking for a product or service like yours. Or who are even farther along, getting closer to making a buying decision. After all, if you do this, you can save time, right? You can close sales faster. The problem is that these are often “problem prospects”:
- If you sell a specialized product or service, people who aren’t aware of your company have no reason to look to you to solve their problem. You aren’t even on their radar, so they’re focused elsewhere.
- If they are ready to buy, they have probably decided on a product and company – obviously not yours.
So in reality, you’re fighting an uphill battle — expending as much or more effort on less likely results. When you focus on prospects who have a distinct need but who are just beginning to consider solutions, you’re in the best position to help.
Approach prospecting systematically.
There are plenty of ways to meet prospects – networking, cold calling via phone or in person, and various online marketing tactics. However, perhaps it’s no surprise that top-performing sales pros suggest you focus on people you already know.
Asking for referrals is another way to uncover prospects, so why not start at the top, with your best existing clients? These people know and love you and your company’s products or services. Who within their networks might also be interested in what you have to offer? Ask for introductions.
With this approach, you’ll be more efficient, and more effective, and that equals more sales.
Act with confidence.
Know your product(s) inside and out. Research your prospect’s company inside and out, including via social media. That way you will be able to zero in on the prospects who are the best fit for you — and it will be easy to explain why you’re the best fit for them. Successful prospecting is all about context and value.
Think of yourself as a consultant. Listen carefully to their challenges, both functional and personal. Offer suggestions, or insight based on other customers’ experience. Never exaggerate the prowess of your product or service, stick with the facts about what it can do for them. As you do these things, you’re building rapport and trust. You aren’t just a sales person, you’re a resource.
Sure this takes time. But don’t forget that’s the norm. You may have to make several touches before your prospect is ready to move forward. When they’re ready to do that, they will know you and your product are the best choice for them.
Today’s prospects are tomorrow’s customers – as long as you target them well and implement effective strategies to build strong relationships with them. Honing your prospecting skills is the first step toward keeping your sales pipeline filled.