In 1848, James Marshall struck gold in them thar hills of Coloma, California. This prompted more than 300,000 people to grow beards, don overalls, and go prospecting. Billions in gold was discovered, but only a handful of people made money. However, the rush was a boom for business and propelled California to statehood. In the same way, sales prospecting is as old as the proverbial hills, and while it might not provide immediate dividends, it works over the long haul. It can be grueling, tedious work, but it’s time-tested to provide a greater return on investment than sifting dirt for shiny things. While technology has changed prospecting for the better, the basics are still about finding people you can help and building mutually beneficial relationships. Here are five practical prospecting tips to boost sales:
- Define Your Ideal Customer
The best tip for prospecting is to remember all that glitters is not gold. Sure, there is gold out there, but it takes time to find it, and it’s impractical to target every glittery object. Instead, successful prospectors first define their ideal customer. Use business directories and social media to develop a picture of who can most benefit from your products or services. The more research you do before you start calling or emailing, the more you can find the targets most worth your time and energy. Once you develop this buyer persona, you can then create questions to identify their concerns, decision makers, their budget, and work toward setting a meeting.
- Embrace Rejection
Another key to successful prospecting is understanding the process. If you get disheartened by rejection, prospecting is not for you, and you might rethink a career in sales. The best sellers all have fish stories of how many calls it took to land their first clients, and the numbers grow larger with each telling. The truth is, you never know when a call will work, so if you stop and brood after each unsuccessful attempt, you’ll never get anywhere. Instead of judging calls as wins or losses, enjoy the process of engaging someone, asking the pertinent questions, finding a fact that can help you reengage later. If the customer has a positive impression of you, keep that in your pocket as a potential win when you revisit.
- Remember Former Customers
Successful prospectors have great memories. While not every rejection will provide a memorable encounter, keeping notes about each call will help when it’s time to try the prospect again. Maybe the market wasn’t right at the time of your initial call. Perhaps there has been a change in their industry or a change in personal. This could be the difference maker. Successful prospectors know the sales environment is constantly evolving. Yesterday’s rejections are tomorrow’s best customers. Therefore, it is essential to view each call as an opportunity to glean information and make an impression that can kickstart a deeper conversation later.
- Develop and Define Your Value Proposition
While all good salespeople have a basic value proposition, great salespeople tailor it for each prospect. Use the information from your initial research to best articulate the value you can offer this customer. Show them that you have already invested in them before you called. Remember, busy professionals do not have time for canned speeches from strangers. There is no spiel you can spin that is going to sound new or inviting. Instead, get to the point quickly. Identify how you can help them with a problem. Prospecting is about gaining meetings, not making sales, so the goal is to distinguish yourself from the competition and present a reason they should listen to you.
- Mix It Up
To position yourself for prospecting success, don’t let routines turn to ruts. While cold calling and emailing are tried and true methods that are still effective, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and, for lack of a better word, just phone it in. Instead, vary the days and times you call, and always try new things. Today, the best results come from social media. This is where your customers congregate. Not only that, but they share so much, where they went to school, their favorite teams, a LinkedIn profile can be a treasure trove of information to help build rapport. Also, now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting, it’s easy to track who’s attending which events, such as tradeshows and seminars, where you can once again mingle and meet the very people you most want to reach.
Whether searching for gold or customers, prospecting requires patience. There are no shortcuts to success. The best prospectors know to pack a lunch and settle in because you never know what a call might yield. You might be politely dismissed or even hung up on, but in any given minute, the tide could turn, and you find the right prospect at the right time. Like the Gold Rush of 1848, you’re probably not going to find one giant nugget and get rich quick. Instead, you are putting the pieces in place to form relationships that turn into long-term partnerships, which beats standing under the hot sun, sifting through dirt. And no one has ever looked good in overalls.