Prospecting – Everyone has to do it, but few people like it. Without new sales, businesses fail, it happens every day, in every industry. Why are some sales reps more successful at doing this than others? Based on my experience working with sales teams, I have found that those who take a disciplined approach, follow time management skills and have the proper tools will succeed.
My starting point with sales people I work with is to first look at your current pipeline. This will help you to determine the percentage of your time you should spend on prospecting. If you want to be successful and make your numbers each month, then you need to set a minimum amount of time each week prospecting for new business. This amount may go up or down each month depending on your pipeline and forecast. If you have a strong pipeline you may want to spend more time moving your deals through the sales process and closing business, and less time prospecting. But if you’re new to a sales position, or your pipeline is weaker than you need it to be, then you may need to increase your prospecting time to fill your pipeline with more qualified leads.
How should you effectively prospect? First determine how much of your time you are going to spend on prospecting, or at least how much time you can afford to spend. If it’s 25%, that represents about 10 hours a week. Next, set a goal on how many calls per hour you will make. As an example, if your number is 10 calls per hour then your goal is 100 calls per week.
Your next step is to identify the target industries, types of companies, their demographics, and similar information that constitute a target account. A good way to do this is to look at your current customers and create a profile that represents the best ones (best = clients most profitable to you and successfully using your solutions). That profile is what you use to find new prospects.
In order to be effective and deliver a message that contains value, one that will get your prospect to agree to your request for a meeting, you must do some research. Spend time upfront understanding the industry your prospect is in – how do the trends in that industry effect their business? If they’re a public company, look at their quarterly or annual report and see what their business goals for the year are.
Next, create a unique value proposition that the prospect will relate to. Now create your script. Effective prospecting is not just picking up the phone and “winging it.” It’s taking all you learned about their industry and their business, and the prospect himself, and creating a value message that makes sense to the prospect you are trying to reach. The script is simply an outline for you to follow that highlights all these key discussion points.
Often I’m asked where one can find the names of these qualified prospects to call. There are many sources available on the Internet. My only caution is that you must remember that it’s all about time management. If you spend 30 minutes looking for names, you have taken time away from calling new prospects. So be careful not to get too absorbed doing too much research. Balance your time efficiently between doing just the right amount of research and actually making the cold call.
There are a variety of online, or web-based, tools you can use, such as LinkedIn, Jigsaw.com (also available through Salesforce.com as Data.com), D&B, Hoovers and even Facebook. Some are free and some are fee-based. But the mother of all prospecting tools available today is LinkedIn. It’s free and community updated, so the data is usually clean and current. You can search for companies and contacts in your target markets, by number of employees, by geography, by industry, by title and more. Some of the advanced search criteria will require you to purchase a LinkedIn upgrade. But if your company will pay for that, it’s definitely worth it. By joining LinkedIn Groups that represent industries or disciplines you’re in, you will also have access to every member of those groups.
Once you find those candidates that match your existing customer profiles, you can export them out of LinkedIn and then import them directly into your CRM system and continue using the information for on-going contacts and relationship building. You can find additional information, such as phone and email, to add to these contact records by doing further research using other tools, like Jigsaw.com. This process eliminates the need to buy costly mail or database lists.
Lastly, measure your success by establishing success criteria. At the end of the day it has to be more than, “I made the calls.” Successful programs measure not only how many calls have been made, but also the effectiveness of the message, number of appointments scheduled, increase in pipeline and ultimately new business. Basically — your results!
If you’re struggling with new account generation, prospecting and adding new name accounts, start prospecting and mining those valuable, qualified leads yourself using these simple, and mostly free, resources and tips. Prospecting is little pain and huge gain!
About the author:
Russ Lombardo, President & Founder of PEAK Sales Consulting, is a nationally recognized Sales and CRM consultant, speaker, trainer, and author. Russ works with sales organizations and management who want to increase their sales results by acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. As a speaker, Russ presents sales training seminars and customer retention workshops as well as keynote and conference speeches to dozens of audiences every year. He is the author of five books on Sales and CRM.