Prospecting is a crucial selling skill that every sales person should cultivate. If you are a savvy and ambitious sales professional, effective prospecting should always be high on your list of priorities. Your job is to find ways to attract a steady stream of prospective buyers who have the need for your products or services. Whether you are swamped with work or experiencing some down time, allot a specific amount of time every week to building your pipeline, nourishing your leads and cultivating relationships with potential customers. Design a follow-up strategy to stay on their radar, remind them of your services and build credibility, which is a time-consuming yet crucial process.
Here is a list of proven sales prospecting techniques you can use now to keep your pipeline filled with great prospects.
1. Define your ideal customer
Take the time to create an ideal customer profile, before hitting the pavement and knocking on doors. How do you make sure they have the need for your input and could benefit from your offerings? Did you cast a wide net or narrow your field, taking into account such factors as geographical location, company size, job title or seniority level? Do you have a few specific attributes in mind or do you constantly make the same mistake of calling as many prospects as possible without properly pre-qualifying them? Keep in mind that chasing bad leads may be equivalent to slacking off, doing a poor job and wasting your company’s resources.
Don’t initiate the tedious prospecting process without putting together a specific course of action and outlining the most crucial characteristics of a good prospect. In addition, you need to come up with a set of particular questions allowing you to find out what their budget is and figure out if they are ready to work with your organization. You may even want to divide your prospects into different categories (hot, warm and cold leads) and follow-up accordingly. Is it possible to turn warm leads into hot prospects or convince hot prospects to sign a deal? And should you stop actively pursuing some of your cold leads and put them on the backburner, while focusing more on better and more profitable customers? These are the challenging decisions every sales person should make, as well as rely on their instincts and learn from their previous sales encounters.
2. Do not get disheartened by rejection
If a prospect turns you down or does not show much enthusiasm for your offerings, there is no need to throw in the towel and cross him/her off your list right away. Figure out if your product can impact their profits or productivity in the long run and find ways to keep in touch (without being too obtrusive). Adjust your pitch, customize your approach or present some additional information that may spark some interest and turn the tide in your favor. Don’t let viable prospects fall through the cracks by easily getting discouraged, NOT doing your homework and failing to polish your approach. While handling apathy and turning a prospect’s “no” into a “yes” is no easy feat and might require additional effort, it CAN be accomplished with the right strategy and positive attitude.
3. Do not ignore former customers
Sometimes, all it takes to increase results is to revisit old leads who might be ready to resume their collaboration with your organization. Set up a time to reconnect with former prospects and let them know that you are still here – ready to initiate discussions, offer great solutions to their team and make their lives easier. A little bit of that can go a long way and help you dramatically improve your earnings in a shorter period of time. It’s astonishing that so many sales reps forget about old relationships and fail to revive former “flames.” They don’t realize that that they are sitting on opportunities and could benefit considerably from long-forgotten resources, prospects and customers who might still be in the market for their services. Besides, it is always easier to capitalize on the level of trust that has already been established in the past.
4. Develop a powerful value proposition
As a smart sales professional, you should not only determine, embrace and understand the value of your offerings, but also learn how to articulate it properly and make sure that every prospect appreciates its importance. Adjust your description and explanation based on each prospect and their unique needs, goals and challenges, as opposed to delivering a uniform message that may suit some customers and appear to be out of synch with others. Give each prospective buyer a few specific reasons why they should do business with your team and what outcomes they should anticipate from a potential collaboration. They should know exactly what they are getting themselves into and enter into a relationship with realistic expectations.
5. Diversify your approach
To increase your chances of prospecting success, you need to utilize a wide variety of techniques, rather than rely on just one or two strategies (i.e. cold calling, emailing, etc). There are a myriad of ways to approach a prospect and learn about their business, goals and aspirations. You are more likely to expand your pipeline, if you tap into the power of social media, start attending networking events, and get the most of trade shows, workshops and seminars where you may encounter your ideal customers and initiate long-term professional relationships.