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.
Are you one of those people who are timid when engaging a prospect with tough questions? Maybe you are someone that tries to gently nurture a lead or a prospect, so you don’t lose them?
GAIN 8 Ways to be Better at Prospecting…
1. Consistency Counts: Prospect Daily!
Prospecting is the art of opening new relationships. The new business opportunities that later turn into sales are initially identified through prospecting, making prospecting the lifeblood of sales.
The first way to improve your prospecting results is to acknowledge its importance to your sales results and treat it accordingly.
Improving your prospecting results begins with setting aside the time and the energy to prospect each and every day. And, yes, we do mean each and every day.
Schedule to make time to prospect every day. It is best to set aside the time first thing in the morning to ensure it gets done before the world makes other demands of you.
2. Turn Off the Distractions
“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.”
– Adam Hochschild
Turn off the Internet, email, and turn off or mute your smartphone. We have found that Social Media to be the largest source of distraction.
Tell your family and friends that you have a new found discipline and that you need their support. Promise to catch up with them later.
Hang a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb! Prospecting!” If you don’t have a door, use string and hang the sign over your desk.
3. Use Every Method Available
Prospecting is the activity of opening new relationships, but it isn’t really what we are focused on here.
We are focused on the outcome that is better described as opening new business relationships to identify potential new business opportunities. There are many ways to do this, and all of them are effective sometimes.
To prospect well, you need to focus your time and energy on what works best for you, but not exclusively. If you are great at cold calling, you should absolutely focus on cold calling.
But that doesn’t mean that you should never use email marketing, inbound marketing, networking, trade shows and conferences, direct mail, social networking, or referrals. You should include all of these tools in your arsenal.
Make a list of all of the methods that you can and will use to prospect.
Plan the time that you will set aside for each method and how many prospects you will gain from your effort. For example, you might commit to attending one networking event per month with the result that you acquire two new prospects from each networking event.
Measure these results and focus on what generates the greatest return on your investment of time, but remember that your prospects may have their own opinion on how they best like to be approached, and you shouldn’t exclude any method.
4. Write Scripts
Two things cause poor prospecting results. The first is not spending enough time prospecting. The other is ineffective prospecting. This mostly comes down to language choices. It comes down to what you are saying when you prospect.
There is no substitute for scripts.
“But wait!” you say. “I am a professional salesperson and I can’t sound like I am using a script!” We hear you loud and clear. And you can’t sound like someone that your prospect isn’t interested in meeting either.
First, you have to recognize that you are already using a script. The words that you use when prospecting and on sales calls, are choices that are comfortable to you because you have rehearsed them.
They are comfortable to you because you have them memorized, not because you are reading them. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best script to use.
Your effectiveness is improved by choosing your words carefully. Making observations about what is working and what isn’t working. This takes an awareness, focus, and discipline. It also allows you to experiment with language structures to see what is most effective.
Write scripts for each of the prospecting methods you use. Write responses to the common objections you hear. Rehearse them. If you are part of a great sales team, do this together and rehearse them together.
5. Focus on the Outcome
The outcome of prospecting is to open the relationship. This almost always involves obtaining the commitment for an appointment.
Effectiveness in prospecting is improved by simply focusing on the outcome. This means that you don’t allow your prospecting to turn into a needs analysis, a presentation, or a discussion about the merits of your product or service.
It means you apply a laser-like focus on scheduling the appointment.
The reason some people struggle focusing on the outcome of an appointment and the reason often they slip into the sales mode is because they feel that they have to prove that they can create value for the prospect during their prospecting activity.
Selling, at this point, is premature.
Just know that a successful outcome here is almost always an appointment. It doesn’t matter how much you liked them or how much they liked you if you didn’t schedule an appointment.
6. Ask Value Focused Questions
From the start, we have to be focused on moving the lead forward, and that includes creating value as quickly as possible.
You create value by asking questions early, and we mean very early in the process.
If you fail to have a plan as to how you tie value to the outcomes the prospect desires, then you run a major risk of the prospect never going anywhere. This means you need to ask “value-focused” questions sooner than you most likely have been doing.
“Value focused” questions are ones that get the other person discussing the real issues they’re facing. They aren’t absolute questions regarding price, but rather they’re questions that help uncover the outcome the customer wants.
You can’t afford to not ask tough questions early in the process. The questions you ask will vary based on what you do and who you’re working with, but here are just a couple to get you thinking:
What is the risk if you don’t do anything?
Why has this become a problem for you?
How will this impact other parts of your business?
You see these questions are designed to engage.
Don’t think you can’t ask questions like this during the first call. If you don’t ask questions like this, you run the risk of having the other person focus the conversation on the features of what you sell and that you’re nothing more than a low-price vendor.
Today your job is to up your game with the questions you ask. Don’t hold back. The faster you know the outcome the prospect is looking for, the sooner you will be able to equate it to value. In the end, your customers will only pay for value.
7. Get Good at Cold Calling
There is too much to write here about how to get good at cold calling. But it is important that you have it in your repertoire, and that you build your competency picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment.
Cold calling is still one of the fastest ways to schedule appointments and to open relationships, and the very best salespeople are the very best at cold calling. They are also the very best at all other forms of prospecting, and the only people we have found that are willing to consistently ask for referrals, something else salespeople avoid.
Start cold calling.
8. Nurture Relationships Over Time
Even when you use all of the ideas above, you are still going to hear “no.”
You are going to hear it a lot. But relationships, including business relationships, are built over time. Your consistent and unrelenting pursuit of your dream clients is part of a longer-term plan for success and not a quick fix.
Consistency here means that these prospects hear from you more than sporadically. It means they hear from you frequently and with all the predictability of the Sun rising each morning.
Some of the best relationships and the biggest deals will take the longest time to win, and your consistent nurturing of these relationships will open opportunities for you over time.
This approach proves that you are not going to disappear like so many of your peers, that you are truly interested in working with them, that you are a professional who executes well, and that you are determined.
These are some of the attributes that people look for in salespeople, partners and friends.
Write a nurturing plan.
What will you do to create value for your dream clients even before they decide to set an appointment with you? How often will you call? How often will they receive something from you? What will they receive? What will it say about you? How will it create trust?
Opening relationships is built upon the ability to prospect. Follow these steps to improve your prospecting results.
If you want or need any help – connect with us on one of our social media platforms or on our contact us form!
Nicky and Dave