Imagine a successful salesperson, now visualize him or her and tell me what do you see? You will most often visualize a successful sales professional as someone with great communication skills, body language, presentation skills, dressing skills and beyond. While there are many skills that need to be continuously developed to become a successful sales professional, many ignore the background work that is required to make it happen as far as selling is concerned.
One such background work is called sales prospecting. Often ignored by many but at their own peril, prospecting in sales or marketing is one of the most important variables that lead to success in sales or marketing effort It doesn’t matter what mode of selling you use, face-to-face, online, in-house, on-call or any other. Right prospecting or as I call it Power Prospecting is very important in serval ways
- It saves your time and effort required to convert your prospects into sales
- It maximizes your revenue with your prospects with less time and efforts
- As chances of success are greater it keeps you in a positive selling loop and you gradually keep moving toward greater selling success
- It allows you to remain focused and motivated towards your selling goal
In short, Power Prospecting is the smart work that most people keep talking about. Who doesn’t want to work smartly and channel their sales effort to see sales conversions and revenue flowing? The prospecting tools is not only for selling but also finds application in other efforts like marketing.
Before we move ahead to the power prospecting in selling it is important to understand the underlying principle.
What is a prospect?
A prospect is the possibility or likelihood of some future event occurring. In sales process this event is sales conversion.
The Definition of Prospecting
Prospecting is the process of identifying potential customers or prospects and is the first stage in the sales process. Prospecting provides direction and meaning to your selling efforts and ensures that you remain focused on the overall sales objective.
Prospecting in Sales, Power Prospecting Process – 4 Steps
Prospecting can be simplified into 4 step process called Power Prospecting Process in sales. It starts with classification of process and ends with preparation for you actual sales meeting and sales pitch to your customer.
This process ends when you first meet the prospect face to face. In other cases the process ends when you actually act on your prospect already identified in the prospecting process. The act could be your targeted marketing campaign to sending interview calls to your prospective recruits.
Power prospecting model is a simple yet very effective way to organize your prospecting process in sales and marketing.
It is also a customer classification tool to help you classify your customers to get targeted results. It provides the prospecting tools to target the right set of customers to ensure maximum efficiency and desired results.
1. Customer Classification
One of the most important steps in prospecting is to perform customer classification. Customer classification is based on two different variables, efforts, and revenue.
Every prospect requires a different level of efforts to converts into sales and the expected revenue also varies from customers to customers. Applying these two variables you can do customer classification in the following way.
A successful sales prospecting starts with first categorizing all your prospects based on revenue and effort as per customer classification model given above.
Please keep in mind that it does not have be extremely accurate at this stage because you have no way to objectively calculate the revenue and effort required for each customer.
If you are into B2B or channel selling this can be easier as you may already know your customers and difficulty of selling to them. If you are selling to individuals or into retail sales make a matrix with the category of customers rather than the name of the customer.
For e.g, a medical equipment supplier to doctors will categorize doctors based on their specialization like heart specialist, physician, dentist etc. It can also be geographical locations and any other category which is applicable to you.
It can also be geographical location and any other category which is applicable to you. If you need help please comment or mail me and I would help you with customer categorization.
Once you have drawn the matrix, it should be clear to you that the green is to be exhausted first despite whatever your brain and heart say. Move to yellow only when you are selling a niche product or high-value product.
My suggestion will be to avoid the red ones. Only in rare circumstances when like in large defense deals of sorts, would a smart seller even look to sell to red ones.
2. Preparing Outreach
Now that you know which customers to target first, you need to prepare for your first outreach to them.
Again, the customer classification will help you determine how much preparation is required for each customer. The customers in category 1 (low hanging fruits) are the one that you should prepare most for.
The objective is to gather in-depth information on our prospects in order to prepare our sales pitch and personalize our outreach. In this stage we must try to gather information about what matters to your prospects, what are their pain areas?
Some of the best ways to go this is to
- Go through the LinkedIn profile and other social media profiles of your key stakeholder/s and take notes of their professional updates.
- If it is an organization visit their webpage and also look into Google News section of the google search to find out if there are any recent changes or major news about the organization
- If your prospect has good online presence see what topics do they write about. Visit their author page.
After we have gathered more about our prospect’s business and role, you need to find a touchpoint and reason to connect.
- Do we have mutual connections?
- Has there been a trigger event?
- Have they recently browsed through your website If so, which search terms drove them to our site? Which pages did they look at?
It is based on the unique situation that we need to evaluate how much deeper we want to go in terms of understanding the customer. Based on how important the customer is
- We can draw a decision map to outline our prospect’s options and end-goals. This often helps us in objection handling and customizing the initial sales a pitch that can instantly grab their attention.
- We could also conduct a competitive analysis to determine how we can better position our company’s service or product within the industry and how we can combat prospects’ objections.
3. Power Contact
This is the stage in which you make the first contact with the customer. Remember this state is not for the actual sales pitch but establishing the contact and fix up a meeting.
It is during the meeting when you use your sales pitch. The preparing outreach was all to ensure a well-prepared contact that is customized, relevant and concerns to your prospect.
There are several ways to connect or make the first ‘Power Contact’ with the prospect. Two of the most common ones are through email and phone. No matter which mode of contact you chose you should try to follow these general tips.
- Customize – Verify your information that you collected during outreach and provide a solution or alternate proposition.
- Be relevant – Avoid talking general issues, the closer you stick to the client’s problem areas the better it is
- Be Timely – Ensure that you talk about the present problem areas and not something from remote past that may not matter anymore
- Use conversational tone – This is a controversial topic, while many companies hand you over with per-written initial contact script, I am not a big fan of those. No matter how much you try when you stick with your script, you will sound robotic. People want to talk to people and it is always better that you talk in a conversational tone rather than robotic scripted manner.
- Solve a problem, don’t sell – Selling is all about solving a customer problems. These free demos, free trail, free audit are all about trying to solve the customer’s problem. It is more about mindset than words. However, don’t go overboard with freebies but genuinely help customers if required.
- Stay natural – Be yourself and stay natural during the first contact, no need to pretend something you aren’t. If you claim something, be ready to substantiate it with facts and evidences.
Once your are aware about the basic tips of establishing your power contact next job is to decide on what method of communication will you use. People are often confused between email outreach and a telephonic outreach.
While both of them work together, which one to initiate first will depend upon your unique sales situation. A cold call or cold email, whichever you want to decide will totally be contigent upon your situation.
However, you can look at the advantages and disadvantages of both of them to decide yourself
Advantages of writing email for first outreach in sales
- Visual and detailed
- Ability to add reference and testimonials
- Instant call-to-action feature
- Provides prospect with adequate time to research our company and product
- Easily forwarded to key stakeholders who might be a better fit to speak with
Disadvantages of writing email for first outreach in sales
- May not even reach the customer and marked as spam
- Email is a cluttered space so it may be harder to grab a prospect’s attention
- Emails are easily deleted or forgotten
- Lacks personal appeal
- We may have to follow up multiple times before we get a response
Advantages of phone calls for first outreach in sales
- Calls are less common than email, so they can grab a prospect’s attention quickly and more easily
- Immediately establishes a more intimate connection and offers salespeople the chance to develop rapport
- Often timelier than email communication and can accelerate the time it takes to close a deal
Disadvantages of writing email for first outreach in sales
- Some prospects may feel overwhelmed by a call and thus be less inclined to consider a pitch or schedule a second meeting
- There’s no guarantee a prospect will pick up
- Voicemail can often be as cluttered as email
- Successful first touch strategies often incorporate both approaches to take advantage of the pros and minimize the cons.
We all want to make a call, leave a voicemail or send an email that prospects will wantto respond? Let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of each communication method below:
The Warm Email
If we’re looking to send a first-touch email that gets opened, there are some essentials that we must include:
- Engaging subject line: The subject line has to pique the prospect’s interest while avoiding cliché hooks.
- Personal opening line: We should begin our cold email by saying something about them, not about us. After all, this process is about finding the prospect’s pain points and determining a way to add value to their business or processes.
- Creating a connection: Now we have to make the connection. In our opening, they learn why we’re reaching out to them, but now they need to know why they should care about what we do.
- Clear call-to-action: Suggest a concrete time to connect or ask a close-ended question to make it clear that the ball is in their court. Try using one of these lines: “Do you have ten minutes to catch up tomorrow?” or “Are you available for a 30 minute call on Tuesday between 9-11 a.m.?”
The Prospecting Call
If we decide to call a prospect, whether in conjunction with an email or not, we can follow this basic structure for the call:
- Establish rapport: We shouldn’t shy away from personal conversations, like asking how a prospect’s weekend was or what team they’re rooting for in the game tonight. These intimate touches help us develop a more meaningful relationship with prospects and enhance our likeability which, hopefully, means a prospect will be more likely to buy from us.
- Leverage pain points: Dive into their pain points during the call. By the end of the conversation, we should know all of their primary business challenges and the underlying causes associated with them. Once we have an understanding of these key issues, we can better position our product or services to solve them.
- Create curiosity: Ask questions about their business. Ask more than tell. This conversation is about them and understanding their needs and problems. The less we talk about our business and product, the more our prospect will be interested to hear the final pitch.
- Wrap it up: Find a calendar time between 24-48 hours after discovery call to book a follow-up meeting. Try this line: “Would you have 30 minutes to follow up this week? My colleague, John, will join us — he’s an expert in X, Y, Z. My calendar’s open, what works best for you?”
Power Sales Preparation
If you have done well with the rest of the three stages of the Power Prospecting Model you have increased your probability of sales conversion to the maximum. The last stage in the prospecting process is power sales preparation.
This stage entails gathering key learning from your sales prospecting to help you close the actual sales.
This stage also involves that you keep a note of your mistakes that you may have made at earlier stages to help you analyze and improve for the next sales prospecting process.
At the end of the sales prospecting process you need to look back and analyze the following:
- Discovered various challenges that you have faced
- Learned how to create well-defined goals
- Established a budget and value proposition for the client
- Understood the decision-making process of your prospect
- Determined consequences of inaction
- Identified potential results of success
This self-reflection will help us improve our calling techniques in the future.
Finally, to boost our prospecting productivity through each of these stages, we can utilize the following sales prospecting tools.
Sales Prospecting Tools
You can use social media tools like Twitter to get an idea of what your prospect finds important. By showing them support through a retweet or favorite, or even engaging them in conversation, we can show them that we have their interests, challenges, and needs in mind.
Because we’ve already opened the relationship through a personal medium like Twitter, we’ll have a greater window of opportunity to adjust our pitch.
How to use it: To inform the sales process. Use Twitter’s Advanced search to quickly sift through a prospect’s feed and find what’s important. For example, if we see that a prospect posted a question about our product, it’s a perfect opportunity to respond.
CRMs like Zoho, Hubspot and many others allows salesperson to keep track of sales activity and source new prospects. It also helps salesperson to assign probability to predict expected sales
How to use it: Surface warm prospects who have already visited our website. Store contacts and companies, track deals, and easily manage tasks such as follow ups and meetings.
3. LinkedIn Company Pages
This provides us with a feed on the company’s recent updates to help discover industry news, marketing campaigns, events, product launches, and recently published content.
How to use it: We can reference these updates as trigger events to engage our prospects in real conversations.
4. Google Alerts
Google Alerts allows us to track web mentions on a company’s name, product, competitors, or industry trends.
How to use it: Customize alerts to send real-time, daily, weekly, or monthly updates on whichever keywords are relevant to our prospects. We can use these to tailor our outreach.
Datanyze tracks competing technology providers and informs us of companies who have started or stopped using their solution.
How to use it: Connect with prospects after they stop using a competitor’s product to catch them while they’re on the market for a better offering.
This is an extension for Chrome and Firefox that lets us keep track of local or foreign time zones in our status bar.
How to use it: Manage time zones and never miss a meeting due to a misunderstanding between PST, EST, CT, etc.
Stay organized and efficient by taking notes in Evernote which syncs notes through their mobile, desktop and web apps.
How to use it: Use this tool while on an exploratory prospecting call to keep track of pain points, company details, and action items.
Prospecting doesn’t have to be a pain — and it doesn’t have to be annoying for your prospects. Adopt a few of these strategies into your workflow, and enjoy better prospecting and better results.