When I hear the word “Prospecting” my mind goes back to the early western films where the “old timer” armed with his trusty pick, pan & spade ventured off in to the distant mountains to dig for gold so that he could prosper and dramatically improve his quality of life, and that of his family, for ever. Well you know, in Sales terms there really isn’t that much difference! As professional sales people we all are in search of those “golden nuggets” (lucrative prospects) that will help us exceed targets, earn significant monetary commissions and dramatically change our lives too.
To briefly continue the analogy: what would the results be if that old timer started digging in the same confined area as say 10 other miners? Or he didn’t have all of the tools and only used a very small shovel? Or having found one small nugget decided to cash it in and rest on his laurels? Well of course the answers are fairly obvious: he would have had some success but it certainly wouldn’t have impacted on his life that dramatically and no doubt he would have run out of money quite quickly and would have needed to start digging again. The problem being that, given his fellow miners had continued to work day-in, day-out, in a consistent and focused manner then no doubt they would have been streets ahead which would have meant that catching them up would have been an extremely difficult, if not impossible task!
So what lessons can we learn?
Prospect Daily, Every Day
Whatever you do to identify companies that you can potentially sell to, do it with commitment, do it effectively and do it every day, if possible. Selling isn’t about doing one thing exceptionally well, but rather it’s about doing several things very well on a consistent and regular basis. And Prospecting is one of the key activities. There are many, many examples of the salesperson who has spent an enormous amount of time working on the “Big One” – that one single deal that will achieve target and make their year. Too many times they’ve failed and not only did they lose the deal but they lost their job too. And even on those rare occasions when the “Big One” did close and make their year, the salesperson started the following sales year with minimal pipeline and the likelihood of even steeper targets to achieve. The reliance on very few deals is a very risky strategy fraught with dangers, pressure and stress.
Know your Preferred Prospect Profile
It’s a total myth that brilliant salespeople can sell anything to anyone! And frankly, why would you want to? It just does not make any kind of logical sense to think that. The key is to identify companies that have a proven Need for your product or service and then to engage in communication (of which there are many types) to persuade them to buy from You!
Given that you have an existing customer base, then you must analysis the types of companies that have already satisfyingly bought from your company. By understanding their business, their industry and their needs, you will be able to create a typical prospect profile that will form the basis of your “new prospect” targeting campaign.
- What was the role of the person who placed the order?
- How did you identify and engage with that person?
- What was the Sales Process? (we’ll cover this in more depth in another Article)
- Specifically, Why did they buy from your company and not your competitors?
- What benefits did your product or service deliver?
- What USPs (Unique Selling Points) did your company offer?
Remember, companies in similar industries and market sectors, usually have fairly consistent needs and requirements. Once you have analysed and fully understood the reasons why certain clients have bought from you, that knowledge and experience will be invaluable in helping you to generate and close deals with companies of a similar profile.
Generating prospect lists and researching specific companies, industries, markets and sectors can be very time consuming and expensive. The key is to utilise the most cost effective resource to carry out the task in hand. Traditionally salespeople begin to learn their trade in more junior, yet very important, roles before they start to climb the sales career ladder. One of those roles is that of the Telemarketer.
Typically the telemarketer role, in keeping with other high burn out modern roles (such as Call Centre operatives) is carried out by younger people who are usually fairly technology savvy. Whilst the purchasing of prospect lists from specialist list providing suppliers is still very popular, the use of search engines such as Google (as an example) and the internet in general, has seen telemarketers generate a proliferation of prospect lists based on wide ranging criteria. In comparative terms, this is a fairly cost effective and inexpensive method of creating valuable and relevant prospecting collateral. Based on the analysis of your existing customer profile, as referred to earlier, it is quite easy to conduct an internet search based on specific and relevant terms and key-words to compile multiple lists.
Many tactics are associated with the tradition of Cold Calling which is still widely practised although very stringent rules and regulations under the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) must be strictly adhered to. However, many telemarketers and salespeople alike, prefer to initiate contact via an introductory email or letter as their first approach. Additional rules and regulations under the Email Preference Service (eMPS) and the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) then apply. It should be noted, across industry in general, that multiple attempts at initiating contact is required in order to be successful. Typically it takes at least 4 contact attempts before the 1st conversation takes place with the prospect.
Many organisations have invested in new tools to help improve the productivity of their telemarketers specifically and salespeople in general. For example, many now use automated diallers, voicemail automation tools, email templates and click-to-call internet facilities.
Protect & Develop Your “Golden Nuggets”
I’ve been astounded over the years to hear such negative opinion and resistance from salespeople, at all levels of seniority and experience, about the need for them to maintain accurate data and information on their company CRM (Customer Relationship Management) application. To most it is perceived as nothing more than a chore and something that they really do not assign any real importance to – therefore being a total waste of their valuable time and energy!
I really could not disagree more! As the saying goes, Information is King! Having put valuable time, effort and financial investment into identifying your lifeblood prospect collateral, it just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to risk losing that information or missing a lucrative sales opportunity. Unfortunately buyers don’t purchase when you want them to, they purchase when they have a need and can afford the expenditure. Similarly, people and circumstances change in most companies on a weekly if not daily basis.
It is simply not possible for paper based systems to be as efficient as a credible CRM software application. And it is not just for the domain of the Corporate world. There are free or fairly inexpensive solutions available for SMEs.
Nor can any person efficiently hold vast information about a range of prospects in their head. And even if they could, what would happen to that information if they had an accident or otherwise became unavailable?
Gartner, renowned as the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, expects the investment that companies make this year in their CRM applications to be a staggering $5bn. Yet they also estimate that circa 74% of sales teams have poor CRM adoption!
A final thought……
“If you have no prospects then you have NO Prospects”
In the coming weeks and months there will be a series of interesting articles covering various Sales & Sales Management topics including (but not limited to):
- Telesales – The Key Skills
- Time Management – Work Smarter not Harder
- Sales Leadership – Be the Benchmark for your Team
- Client Evolution – Change to Retain Your Customers
- Opportunity Management – Which Deals should you Really be working on
- Value not Price – Increase your Average Order Value
- Sales process – The Key Steps to Success
- Managing Quota – Know Your Numbers and Make them Work
- Recruitment – Hunter or Farmer
Latest posts by Len J Campey (see all)
- Opportunity Management ~ Which deals should you really be working on? - September 19, 2018
- Recruitment & Selection - December 13, 2015
- Prospecting – How to do it Effectively - October 30, 2015