For most of us as business owners or revenue generators, the frustrating part of sales is not the moments we spend in front of interested parties uncovering needs and explaining our services. That’s the fun part! It’s getting to those moments—you know, prospecting—that we really don’t want to do.
Why is prospecting such a dreaded activity? In talking with clients about this, our consensus is that prospecting can seem 1.) time-consuming, b.) unfocused, c.) too “cheesy,” or d.) all of the above! For most of us, prospecting takes place when we have a few extra minutes (and need some new business). We make a few calls or send some emails, resulting in some hits and some misses. Then we’re on to the next piece of “real work” we need to do.
Are there more systematic, efficient and effective ways to prospect? We think so. Use our top 5 prospecting tips below to get started on the path to learning to love prospecting:
- Redefine prospecting. One of our clients told us he “hates” to cold call, but he’s “happy to ‘warm call.’ ” Although prospecting can and should involve calls, expand your definition of prospecting to activities such as sending a newsletter, setting up a meeting, writing a “nice to meet you” note, inviting to an event, posting a comment on a blog or LinkedIn group discussion, or sending an article you think will interest the prospect.
- Make a list of your top 25 prospects, your top 5 clients, and your top 10 referral partners. (If these numbers don’t quite fit your business, they can be tweaked.) This is where you should spend 80% of your available prospecting time, as this is likely where you will get 80% of your business.
- Narrow the field. Analyze your top 5-10 clients; what do they have in common? Define the characteristics that make them a top client (size, industry, buying cycles, type of decision maker, etc.). Now, list the top 3 problems or pains your business solves for them. Build your prospecting efforts around solving these issues for this type of client.
- Qualify, qualify, qualify. This is the most important thing you can do to increase your closing ratio and maximize your prospecting time. Qualify by using broad appeal approaches such as Webinars, white papers/reports, free newsletters, and/or email campaigns to separate the wheat (prospects) from the chaff (suspects). Once you’ve figured out who’s interested in what you have to offer, now you can nurture them with more time-consuming strategies such as calls, personal emails, and meetings. (Again, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your database.) Work with your go-to marketing resource (need one?) to develop a plan for different levels of prospecting efforts.
- Automate the follow-up process. “I’ll shoot you an email with that information.” We have all the best intentions in the world to follow up as promised with our prospects. However, we are human, and our attention is constantly diverted. To get started with automating, look at your 3-5 most-often sent emails (such as a follow-up email after a meeting) and decide if they can be setup as templates that automatically generate, merge in specific contact info, and send to your prospect (known as auto-responders). Once sent, this activity then sets off a series of subsequent emails or other sales activities.
There are marketing automation systems such as Infusionsoft, Hubspot, etc. that can automate content marketing and integrate contact management, email tracking, Web forms, and other functions as well. However, developing a simple workflow on paper and building out templates in Word to support it can go a long way toward automating your sales process.
Have questions? Contact us, and we’re glad to help. Happy Prospecting!