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Getting Your Sales People to Prospect More and Better

September 29, 2017

So, for many sales people, they avoid prospecting like the plague.  Prospecting is something that every salesperson must do daily.  I was listening to one speaker from Sandler Sales that said the average salesperson spends only 35 minutes/day prospecting.  One would think it should be at least 50% of the time.

Salespeople are lucky today.  There are a myriad number of ways to prospect.  Social Media, Inbound marketing, trade shows, email marketing, networking, direct marketing, or referrals.  And yes, cold calling is NOT dead and must be part of the repertoire.  I suggest never rely on just one way of prospecting, but make sure that there is a daily time for your people to prospect.  Consistency is incredibly important.  No excuses.  No distractions, which means e-mails, internet notices, or employee interruption.  Have your people make appointments with themselves to prospect.

Develop a basic “Prospect Process”, and get each sales person to commit to developing their own process which is based on “The Prospect Process”.  Besides committing to daily prospecting, salespeople must give a forecast of the desired result to see if management and the salespeople are on the same page.  Make sure no matter which way you decide that is best to prospect that it is measurable.  This is easy to track on your CRM.

In today’s world, I feel strongly that the term “Cold Call” should be changed to “Tepid Call”.  All the above-mentioned methods of prospecting are putting your people in an easy position to “Pick up the Phone”.  Even if there has been extensive e-mailing and texting between prospect and company, a trusting relationship can only be built through direct contact.

As professionals, you must put yourself on the other side of the table, and think about the best way for someone to contact you or develop a relationship.  What I find disturbing is when someone calls me and immediately tries to sell.  Your desired outcome of a phone call is not to sell immediately.  It is first exploratory, and qualification.  The main objective may be an appointment.  Or, it may be to just see if there is pain, fear, or desire that possibly your company can resolve.    Or, it may be just permission to contact them again referring to what they said was important to them.  No matter what happens, make sure your people stay focused on the desired result.

Make sure that your people have some key questions to ask when they are on the phone.  And not those banal questions like “What keeps you up at night?” or “What is your biggest challenge?”  Prospects should get the feeling that you know the industry or service well enough to ask them if they have challenges in the following areas?  And maybe a follow-up question how are your presently resolving?  These are not selling questions, they are discovery questions.  This is the only script I would have every salesperson have.

The average salesperson gives up after 1.5 interactions.  The average sale is made after 8 contacts.  A great statistic to remember.  Trusting relationships are built over time.  Don’t let them forget it.  I strongly suggest developing a Touch List as part of the “Prospect Process”.  Keep trying to add value and/or education with each touch.  Some touches can be

  • Per our conversation, this is an interesting article that may be of interest to you.
  • Noticed from articles that your company is doing blah blah.
  • Send whitepapers from your company
  • Have them participate in a survey and go over the results from the industry
  • Perhaps an interesting study, that may be helpful to them.
  • Follow up phone calls relating to the past discussion, not checking-in.

In any case, there must be a consistent follow-up, and a plan to succeed.

So how to start!  This depends on your organization and your own beliefs.  Make sure that you are measuring the results.

From my experience, this is how I would prioritize the different prospecting methods and why:

  1. Referrals from customers are the number 1 way of prospecting.  Many people wait for the referral without asking.  Get your salespeople oriented toward asking for referrals.  At least 50% of the work is done when a third party says how great your company is.  How to ask for referrals is the trick.
  2. Trade shows are great if they are planned properly. Appointments should be set up before the show, and a target list of people attending the show is critical.
  3. LinkedIn is great if you are not trying to sell straight off the bat. Easy to make connections through groups, other contacts, or just asking to be connected.  One can target prospects by company, and position.  This really creates the tepid contact.  Just make sure that your initial contact is not selling, but exploring.
  4. E-Mail newsletters and blogging. E-mail newsletters are great if you follow up on the reports.  One can see who read them and drip another e-mail.  Too few people use those Newsletters effectively to generate leads and prospects.
  5. Networking contacts. Connections are everything in prospecting.  However, networking can be an absolute waste of time, or be a tremendous source of potential customers.  It is all dependent upon the group, your ability to connect, and having similar target customers.  Many salespeople will gravitate toward this prospecting but watch the ROI carefully.  Networking is fun, but measure how much time in a day it takes, and you may not see an ROI for months.
  6. Cold Calling. There are very few effective cold callers.  Today there should never really be that traditional cold call, where you cannot refer to a connection, or having enough background information on the person or business to know how you can benefit them.  It does not matter how many benefits you can site if you do not have some basic information on the company or person.  Your first call is exploratory, NOT to sell.
  7. Inbound Marketing. I think this is a great tool.  I believe that it works, but takes a lot of work.  My concern is that it is missing the key element.  Picking up the phone and following up.  Inbound marketing will never replace face to face.

This is a very brief overview of Prospecting.  If you are interested in discussing more, please “Pick up the Phone” or e-mail.


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