Seven steps to successful selling – 1. Prospecting

PROSPECTING

There are five keys to successful prospecting. First, you must understand who your ideal customers are and what market niches they represent. By market niche we mean a slice or segment of the market or pool of potential customers that have an interest in your products and services. For example, if you have a plumbing repair business, one of your market niches is homeowners. How would you define this niche further? Are any of your ideal customers owners of new homes or homes that were built in say the last 2-3 years? If you think in terms of your “ideal” customers the answer is more than likely no. You would want to look for homes that were built maybe 15, 20, 25 years ago.

How else can you define your market niches? Are there particular areas of the city or geography that you want to serve or have served? Are there geographies that you will not serve? As you think about how to define your ideal customer and market niche, it is sometimes useful to consider parts of the market that you would not consider customers. This can help you define or refine how you define and identify your ideal customer. Once you have a good definition of your ideal customer and market niches, then you will know who to contact as part of your sales system.

There are several basic questions you can ask to help figure out who your ideal customer is and what market niches you need to use to prospect for more customers. For example:

  • Who are your best customers 80/20? You know the 80/20 rule? It says that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. So, who are these 20%? Do they have any common characteristics or attributes you can use to identify target niches in the market?
  • How did they started to do business with you? What process did these customers go through to learn about your business, become familiar with your products and eventually become a paying customer?
  • Why are they still doing business with you? If you asked them, what would these customers tell you are the top 2-3 reasons they are still your customers? Earlier we referenced a set of “love/hate” questions you should ask your top customers. Find out what they love about your business and being your customer. Also find out what they hate.
  • Who are your competitors? What companies or businesses also service customers like your top 20%? Are there any ways to understand more about what your customers offer that your ideal customers find so valuable? You can also ask the same questions about your competitor’s customers as you did for your own. Who are their best customers? Why are they doing business with competitors?
  • Why are they not doing business with you? Importantly, the top customers of your competitors offer a rich source of prospects for your business. But, you have to figure out how to talk to them just like you would for your own customer targets.
  • What can you do to entice them to do business with you? You already have a killer offer designed with your current customers and prospects in mind. Are there any ways to modify the offer to enhance its appeal to your competitor’s customers?

The second key to successful prospecting is to “know” your offers. By this we mean that you must really have a thorough understanding of the killer offers you designed as part of your marketing strategies. It’s important to know your offer because when you approach a potential set of ideal customers, you have to be ready to give them an irresistible offer. We are all short on time these days or so it seems. Most of us are in a hurry to do something. But we will take the time to consider an offer that we find irresistible. If you have only a short amount of time to talk to your prospects, the better you know your offers the easier it will be to prospect effectively.

For your irresistible offers, as you consider developing them specifically for prospects, try to answer the following questions. The answers to these questions will provide you with the details you need to build offers that specifically appeal to prospects and bring you new customers.

  • What is their pain [Hot buttons]? What specific problems or issues do these customers have that your products and services solve?
  • What can your business give them? Can you select a product or service to give to these customers to help make their pain less?
  • Why would they consider buying from you? What is it that your business provides that will interest these customers?
  • What specific result will they get from doing business with your company? Can you provide examples of results that your current customers are getting by buying your products and services? How will this help potential new customers and prospects that you are talking to?
  • What can you offer them so that it’ll become a no brainer to make the decision to see you? Your offer must make it easy for potential new customers to make the decision.
  • Why can they possibly say NO? How can we overcome their objection? New customers and prospects that have never dealt with you before will have a certain amount of distrust and feel like there is risk in buying from you. How can you neutralize the risk and overcome any objections they may have?
  • What sweetener can you offer them to buy now? Why should they do it today? Time is important to all of us. The better you are at convincing new customers to buy from you today the less time you will have to spend with them tomorrow.

Third, you will need to know where to find your ideal customers and people in your target market niches. You need to be able to look for them at “water holes” where they gather. If there aren’t any centralized locations – and you can use both offline locations and online locations – can you create one? If we consider again the plumbing repair service, where would you recommend this business go to find ideal customers as part of their prospecting? How about real estate agents? If this was your business you could contact real estate agents and ask if any of their customers need your service. Or, the agents themselves may have rental properties that need your services. In addition, you could contact any homeowner’s groups or neighborhood associations to find prospects among your market niche.

And, as you consider how to find more of your “ideal” customer to be part of your prospecting process, consider detailed answers to these questions.

  • Who’s sharing our prospects but not in direct competition with Your Business – COI? From any Centers of Influence that you have access to from your current customer base, can you get more information about where else you might be able to find prospects? And, it’s important to identify as many companies as you can (that you don’t directly compete with) that have the same or close to the same “ideal” customer. It is much more effective to share from a pool of prospects that have been developed through several business connections than to try to create your own prospecting pool.
  • Why would they consider to JV with you? How can you put together an attractive program with another company to create a joint venture that appeals to your target market? And, as part of your JV efforts, how can you make it easy for them to deliver your offer to their clients? How can you endorse them to promote your products – WIIFM?
  • How can we maximize existing sales opportunities (upsells, cross sells, JV, referrals)?
  • How can we follow-up with prospects systematically?

Fourth, to successfully prospect you must leverage your time. Time is your precious resource, as it is for most of us. We’ve already discussed ways to make sure you stay focused and only work on money-generating activities. For prospecting, you must also take advantage of opportunities to leverage your time effectively. With prospecting, you have several choices of how to spend your time. This is part of why it is so important to first identify your ideal customers and know your killer offers. With these already defined, you won’t waste time prospecting with people that are not your ideal customer or that won’t be motivated by your offer.

Fifth, focus and discipline are important parts of your sales system. Stay focused on the objective of each phase of the process. For prospecting, keep in mind that the only objective you have is to develop a list of potential customers for the next step in the system or process. Once a list is developed, you then move into the Approach phase or Step 2. Like most of the rest of the material we have presented or will show you, a systematic approach that is applied consistently over time – or focus and discipline – is what generates such BIG results.

Prospecting is a critical part of your business growth and development potential. Without a new stream of customers coming into your business, you will max out sales to your existing customer base and eventually get to a point where your business will no longer grow. To provide a mechanism for ongoing growth in your sales and profits so that you can achieve your dividend and profit goals, you must spend time prospecting.

There are a few more guidelines for how to be the most effective you can be at prospecting for new customers. Many of these are based on material we’ve discussed in your marketing strategy. But, they are equally important as part of your prospecting activities.

  • Know potential lifetime value of a prospect – so that when you talk to prospects you know how much they are worth to your company
  • Know what each lead costs – in order to be aware of whether or not the leads you have are worth pursuing. This perspective can help you prioritize and leverage your time.
  • The “telephone/mail/telephone” method – this method is used to introduce yourself first on the telephone. Then you mail an offer or other communication to a prospect. And you follow up by phone to see if they are ready yet to take action. This cycle can be repeated as often as necessary.
  • Send “sorry I missed you” notes – in order to start building a relationship with prospects and let them know that you are respectful of their time. Notes like this one – and you can think of others that apply to your business and your ideal customers – will help prospects build trust in you as a viable business to consider the next time they are ready to purchase what you offer.
  • Make friends with gatekeeper – if there are people between you and the end customer that pays for your products and services, then you need the help and assistance of whoever is between you and the end consumer.
  • Develop a 3-monthly call cycle – this is intended to give you a platform for consistently building prospecting into your sales system. The 3 months is somewhat variable and can be adjusted for your specific business. But, you want to make certain that you do not contact prospects more often than necessary. Sometimes this additional contact can become annoying and you then have lost a prospect.
  • Have a minimum of 200 working prospects – this size list is big enough that you will see some of these prospects turn into paying customers and be able to see the results of your hard work. But, the list is still small enough to be manageable.
  • Attention grabbing statement on each call – you must know your offer well enough to have a short, clear, crisp statement to capture your prospects attention.
  • Be persistent and call each prospect at least 7 times – there is an old rule in the sales business, that no one individual or prospect can or will say “no” to you more than 6 times. If you have gotten 6 “No” responses to your prospecting calls, try to make sure you make that 7th call. You might be surprised by the results.

Next we’ll go over your approach as part of the sales system.

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