Despite all the advances in social media, CRM software, marketing automation and other high-tech tools designed to connect sellers with willing buyers, sales prospecting still involves a lot of old-fashioned pick-and-shovel work to separate the gold from the dirt.
But prospecting isn’t just about working hard. Some people dig for gold all day long and come up empty handed. Others know how to work smarter and get a better return on their effort. Here are six steps you can take to get a better return on your prospecting efforts:
1. Aim high.
Successful prospecting hinges on having a strong and well-targeted list of prospective buyers. Best bet: Reach high for decision makers in the organization whenever possible. Salespeople often start low and try to work their way up, hoping they’ll be better prepared when they finally reach the decision maker, or because lower-level people are more likely to take their call. But it’s a waste of time and effort to talk to someone who can’t say yes. Do your homework first. Then aim for the top. Even if you don’t reach the decision maker, it’s better to be referred down than up.
2. Add value in every contact.
You’ll get more follow-up conversations if you approach every contact with a value mindset. No one cares about your capabilities, history or life story. Prospects want to know how working with you can make life easier for them. When you think about value, don’t focus on the value you will eventually provide when they buy from you. At first, make sure they see the value in just talking to you. For example, share some industry information. Or offer to refer business. Or do something else that makes the prospect think, “This person can be of value to me.” There will be time later to sell your company and your offering.
3. Think about “interim offers.”
The close isn’t the only time you’re presenting an offer to the prospect. Most sales also involve “interim offers” – proposals that will cause the prospect to take action and move them along the pipeline. For example, you might offer to provide a demonstration or conduct a needs analysis. Like your ultimate offer, these interim offers need to be crafted with an eye toward value. For example, “I’d like to conduct a needs analysis because it would help ensure that my recommendations are tailored to your situation.”
4. Stay away from tricks.
Your prospects know them all, and they instantly turn a potential buyer into an adversary. A high-integrity, professional approach will yield plenty of opportunities for you to do business. Don’t do anything you would not want to share with mom and dad.
5. Plan on multiple touches.
Getting through to prospects takes more time and effort than most people think, especially when it comes to top executives. Research shows the number varies from seven to nine or more, across different industries and job titles. Factor that into your call strategy. If you give up too soon on prospects, you’re leaving a lot of gold in the ground.
6. Variety matters.
Cold calling on the phone still works, but it’s more effective when combined with other channels, such as snail mail and e-mail touches that warm up the prospect. Use a variety of touches but make sure that each one adds value, as mentioned in #2 above.
Adapted from John Doerr at www.rainselling.com