The importance of prospecting

Applies to: Microsoft Office Access 2003, Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, PowerPoint 2003, Project 2003, Word 2003
Print By John N. Brennan, Shipley Associates Potential customers come in two types: suspects and prospects. A suspect is someone who appears to fit your target market or shows some interest in your offerings; a prospect is someone who has the money, the authority, and the desire (MAD) to become your customer. The function of prospecting is to identify and attract suspects and then convert these suspects into prospects. In business-to-business sales, your typical prospecting objective is to get an appointment with a partially qualified prospect to fully qualify them. Successful prospectors know that to succeed they need to:

• • • • • • • •

Make prospecting an integral part of the sales pipeline. Create a defined and daily routine. Create a sense of urgency as they prospect. Keep cold calls simple. Ask for referrals. Determine when to use a script. Be persistent. Pursue only qualified prospects.

Selling is a matter of converting suspects to prospects and prospects to customers, a process often referred to as the sales pipeline, or sales funnel. Suspects first appear as sales leads at the beginning of the pipeline. Sales leads are generated either by a sales representative who searches for suspects or by marketing programs that attract suspects to a company's offerings. Typical marketing programs include direct mail, opt-in e-mail, trade shows, advertising, Web site hits, showcase events, and telemarketing. Other sources of sales leads are public relations, referrals, and cold calling. Prospecting is a critical practice in sales; without it, there would be very little sales activity at all. Some sales organizations divide their staff into those who prospect to open new accounts and those who develop existing accounts. Others believe that every sales representative must master prospecting and that the best way to grow existing accounts is to prospect within them. To become a successful prospector, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

View prospecting as an integral part of the sales pipeline
Prospecting is not something you do when you have time or something that you rely on others to do, but a routine first step toward a sale. Accept that you have to consider a lot of suspects to find a prospect, and consider one suspect at a time.

Prospect systematically
Whether you organize your prospects by geography, vertical market, or sales volume, you need to prospect systematically. Increase your prospecting not in an impulsive flurry of phone calls, but in a confident, methodical way. Develop a plan, implement it, and review your progress on a regular basis. Adjust your plan based on results and feedback. Half the battle is developing a routine that works for you. There are several reasons for prospecting systematically:

You are less likely to lose good prospects.

. Prospect daily Prospecting should be part of every sales person's daily routine — not a weekly or monthly activity. try this: "I'd simply like to drop off my business card/literature for your <job title of ideal prospect>. voice mail. this is urgent!) "Are you in at 7 A. as shown in the following example: "Mr.. Web sites..) Keep cold calls simple and polite All sales representatives are familiar with cold calling. Invest a couple of hours each day in prospecting." (Name the benefit. which is the practice of systematically contacting targeted suspects by telephone or by visiting their businesses. that will save you money/make you money/improve productivity... Don't rely exclusively on marketing. no matter how small.. "When do you have time?" Again. You use your time more efficiently.. tomorrow?" (Be specific. whether or not you closed the sale. At the end of each call. "What's in it for me?”) "Our senior account executive/director of sales/customer relationship manager./Ms..) ". that particular cold call to the suspect is a little warmer than it otherwise would be." (Never say "sales rep. O'Donnell know they are in control.") ". If you want a steady supply of prospects." (Not a week from Friday./Ms.M. remember these tips: • • • Develop a routine Experiment cold calling. or call-ins for leads. May I have one of his/hers in return? Thank you — and. It provides some relief from the pressure of face-to-face sales calls... and you will be amazed at how many suspects you can meet in two hours. Remember." (Create urgency. To improve your cold calling results. Don't reinvent the wheel. advertising. The best way to do this is to offer plenty of benefits. Plan cold calling." (Answer the question.) ". will be in your area tomorrow.. idea/program/concept/solution/system. create a sense of urgency.) "I'm offering you an opportunity today to evaluate/see for yourself/determine. Don't ask. If you are wondering about those "No Soliciting" signs. This referral can be an effective door opener. None of those will be as good as the leads you generate yourself. we have a new/updated/revolutionary/breakthrough/unique. or 8 A." This is too important and urgent." (Let Mr.. and piece of literature should move the suspect to some action. . by the way. ask your sales contact whether he or she knows of anyone else who would be interested in your product. whether it will be of benefit and value to you. Have a great day. Ask for referrals Referrals should be one of your prime sources for generating leads for new business.. you must have a steady supply of leads.." (Never say "product.. Try different times of the day and week until you determine the most productive time for Collaborate with peers Learn from others in your organization or in similar sales roles.• • You know when you have fully covered a specific market segment.M.) "." Now. O'Donnell. what is the best time to reach him/her? Thank you. Create a sense of urgency Every conversation. find out what already works.. and don't let other activities distract you.

or even a competitor. Use a script when: • • • • • Your message must be concise. Increase your prospecting activity. Mr. "Good day. If there is low risk of legal impact during your introductory call and if the information you're introducing is not highly technical. do your homework on which prospects are worth pursuing. So. Enter results in your contact management software program. topics. Your customer is unfamiliar with your product.Here are a few door-opener approaches you might try: • • • Service approach Get your customer's attention by offering a service right away. "Good morning. you'll get an additional 12-month service warranty free. but before you even begin. those you wish were qualified. those who are partly qualified. review your prospect list regularly. . Leave your sales pitch on voice mail. Mr. limited offers. Mrs. those who used to be qualified. Be persistent Call early in the morning. Many of our customers find that our new Bolts-to-Go service is a convenient way to shop for hardware. we'll defer billing for 60 days. Call again later in the afternoon. read the business pages. This is Carol Philips of Fabrikam. a prompt guide might be more effective than a complete script. One of your associates. Ito. Pursue only qualified suspects Your goal is to find customers who are buying. and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities present strong motivators. colleague. and be persistent with your calls." Endorsement approach Nothing works like a referral from a friend. The sale ends at 5 o'clock this afternoon. This is Bob Gage of Blue Yonder Airlines. Inc. "Hello. A prompt guide is a list of key questions." Special-offer approach "This month. And continue calling each day until you make contact. Pursue only those prospects who are fully qualified." Limited-opportunity approach Deadlines. This is Syed Abbas of A. Your service or product is complex. "Good afternoon. We're running a special sale on software upgrades that I know you'll want to take advantage of. and talk to colleagues and other people in the firm you're contacting. or statements that you can refer to as the conversation with the suspect proceeds. read the trade publications. Mr. Uddin. those who give the impression that they are qualified. Datum Corporation. I just received the results of a helicopter usage study of companies like yours." Survey approach "Your industry's association reported that almost 73% of the companies surveyed had problems with over-inventory. not those you think might be qualified. Eaton." Special-fact approach News about your customer's business gets attention. or those who themselves want to be qualified. • • • Determine when to use a script In pulling together your sales message. According to a recent National Sales Executive Association survey. Legal issues might be involved. You are an inexperienced telemarketer. you need to choose between using a script and using a prompt guide. Kathie Flood. sales professionals make 80% of all new sales in their fifth call to the same prospect. You must relentlessly and rigorously qualify your suspects. suggested that you might be interested in some ideas to manage your inventory. Earls. What is your experience?" To gather this kind of information." Or "If you order a six-month supply. This is Andy Teal of Contoso Pharmaceuticals.

a professional services company focusing on sales and business development consulting.About the author John N. training. Brennan is a Senior Consultant with Shipley Associates. and process improvement. .

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