Selling more to existing customers is no longer enough. Successful salespeople make prospecting an essential part of their daily plan — but they have to have a plan to begin with.
Here are eight prospecting principles that help salespeople find and convert prospects:
1) Focus on finding the right prospects
Some salespeople spend their time chasing would-be prospects who have no need or interest in what they’re selling. The key is spending time to determine who fits the profile of what you want to sell and then building the prospect database.
2) Look at the long-term
A major weakness in prospecting is making prospecting an event, rather than a process. Prospecting is not an impulsive quick fix. It involves more than making a call and if there’s a negative response, crossing the name off the list. The purpose of continuous cultivation is to build that relationship with a prospect, something some salespeople find difficult when the initial contact is negative.
3) Know the prospect before the call
Doing extensive research beforehand gives salespeople a chance to get acquainted with the prospect’s corporate culture and what has driven past buying decisions. Industry hot buttons are constantly changing, and prospects expect salespeople to keep up with those trends.
4) Speak in terms of value
The salesperson with the highest quality product rarely has the lowest price. That’s why successful salespeople try to think in terms of value for the prospect. What are they receiving in return for their investment, and how does your offer communicate that?
5) Listen first, sell second
Rather than work on assumptions, ask questions first to uncover why prospects buy and how their buying process works. It’s a good idea to take notes during the opening stages to ensure nothing is missed.
6) Time your selling
In every industry, there are better times for prospecting and scheduling appointments. Set priorities. Follow the schedule to the letter whenever possible. Nobody sells them all, but you’re guaranteed to lose 100% of the prospects you don’t call at the right time.
7) Help prospects clarify their thinking
Prospects don’t always know what they want, even though they may say they have a clear picture of the solution. Questions like, “What’s the biggest problem you’re facing now,” might help them get on the right track.
8) Look at former customers
Many former customers may be ready to buy again or try a new product or service. Try to mix in former customers when you’re planning your sales calls. Former customer may also be an invaluable source of leads.
Ted Barrows is the president of Barrows & Associates, a sales and marketing firm based in Bristol, RI.