For as long as I’ve been in sales, the bane for executives and salespeople has been finding ways to prospect effectively. All I need to do to bring a look of terror to a CEOs face during one of my presentations is to mention the word, “prospecting.”
The increased adoption of inbound marketing has certainly helped to alleviate some of the pain and fear associated with prospecting, but it has not reduced its importance. Prospecting is akin to making your first impression (remember - you only get one chance). Done correctly it shortens your sales cycle. Done ineffectively and your whole sales system can break down.
Given its importance, I thought I would share the five most important lessons I’ve learned to prospect effectively.
1. Your focus should be “Let’s Talk,” not “Let’s Buy”
This is probably the most common and damaging mistake I see in prospecting. We get on the phone, we follow up with a lead or meet someone at a trade show, and we go right into pitch mode. We bore people with the “we-do’s.”
Not only does this annoy the person you’re connecting with, it’s totally ineffective. Your first sale is why someone should talk with you. This is the question that is going through your prospect’s brain every time you’re talking, “If I take the next step with this person, how will my life be better off?”
When you’re clear about how you can make their life better, even if they never buy from you, your success increases exponentially.
2. Build your business case before you connect
The days of meeting a prospect and asking questions so that you can learn about them are over. You need to know your prospect before you meet them.
Spend the time before prospecting to identify the high probability indicators (HPI) that connect to the 3-5 causes that lead a prospect to buy from you. From there, you can build your story, challenge their thinking and create a stronger impression that will lead to action.
3. Keep It Simple
Simplicity lies on the opposite side of complexity. This means that you must go through the complexity to arrive at simplicity. Most prospecting fails because it’s merely dumbed down. Spend the time to create clear messages that resonate.
The number one reason that salespeople make everything so complex is the fear of losing someone. They make their interactions complex because they’re trying to cover every conceivable reason that someone would buy. Let go of that. Don’t worry about who you may lose, focus on who you are trying to gain. It’s critical to your success (and sanity).
4. Have A System
Don’t prospect haphazardly. It’s a discipline that requires consistent attention. It also requires multiple media. You should be calling, emailing, utilizing inbound techniques, and seeking 3rd party introductions. The more channels of communication you use the more likely you are to be successful.
Your system should be clearly articulated through your sales & marketing service level agreements (SLA). Another important piece of your system is measurement. You need to be maniacal in tracking and measuring. It’s a great source of intelligence, and the more you track the more you’ll improve naturally.
5. Sharpen The Saw
is an important one here. Make sure you are taking planned breaks. Celebrate successes (it’s a lot like baseball – you’ll fail more than you succeed and you’ll still make the Hall of Fame) and learn from your losses.
Success requires separating your actions from your ego. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn. Small increases in success will have dramatic increases in impact and revenue. The faster you learn, the greater your successes.