Businesses and salespeople often struggle prospecting for new business.
Because they hate prospecting. They think that it’s too hard so don’t try. Yet sales are the lifeblood of any business and without constant business, you risk going out of business.
1. Prospecting is about attitude
Prospecting is the act of researching and contacting people you haven’t done business with before with the view of starting a conversation with a prospective customer. It’s also about attitude – your attitude towards prospecting.
One of the reason prospecting is perceived as being too hard is, because most people have a negative attitude towards prospecting. Instead of believing that prospecting can help a customer solve a problem or realize and opportunity, they are concerned that it’s a waste of time or they won’t get the results they are hoping for.
The fear of prospecting on the other hand is more about the fear of rejection. Let’s face it, no one likes the feeling of rejection. Yet it happens all the time. You ask someone out on a date – and they don’t respond to you. You go for a job interview and you don’t land the job. You go to buy something you really want and the store has sold out. Rejection is part of life – it’s how you handle it that determines success. You get rejected for a date so you ask someone else. You get rejected for a job – you apply for another one. In these case you keep trying until you get what you want.
Prospecting is no different. You will get knock backs but it’s not personal. They are not rejecting you, they are rejection something they know nothing about – yet!
With a change of attitude, the fear of rejection can be minimized simply by believing that your products or services will genuinely help your prospects. It might be to help them become more efficient, increase profitability, access new business or even resolve issues with productivity.
When you change your attitude from prospecting is too hard to helping your customers succeed, it puts prospecting into perspective.
2. Prospecting is not selling
Prospecting is not sales!
The goal of prospecting is to create interest and to start a conversation.
Prospecting should not be confused with the buying and selling process. If you were an artist, think of prospecting as having a blank canvas. A canvas is the starting point of creating a painting – it is not the painting itself. Only after you have bought the canvas that you begin to formulate your idea on how the painting will take shape.
Prospecting is simply the act of locating potential customers who would benefit from the products or services you provide. It’s the first stage of the overall sales process. Once you have located potential customers, you then move into the next part of the sales process where you identify or qualify their potential to become a customer.
3. Prospecting is the first stage of the overall sales process
The first stage of the overall sales process is to identify a prospect that is in the market to buy your products and services. Without a prospect you have no one you can convert into a paying customer.
Prospecting for new business can take many formats and it doesn’t always have to be a cold call. Think of prospecting as a sales and marketing activity that gets a prospects attention, stimulates interest, creates desire to want to have a conversation with. It’s actually the AIDA formula we use in marketing. The acronym for AIDA is Attention – Interest – Desire – Action.
Advertising is a form of prospecting as is networking and social media and for prospecting to work, you have to grab the attention of the potential buyer, get them interested in hearing more about how you can help them and create a desire within them to have a conversation with you.
You don’t get to sell anything until you are actually in front of a prospect which is the second stage of the overall sales process. It’s not until you talk to a prospect or meet with them where you can find out if there are any synergies between you. Do they have a problem you can help solve or an opportunity you can help them realize?
Even after you talk to them or meet them, not all prospects will see the benefits your products or services offer. Therefore, you must also have enough prospects in your sales pipeline or sales funnel for not every prospect you come in contact with will become a customer.
4. Research your prospects
You can waste a lot of time (and money) talking to the wrong people – people who are either not in the market to buy your products or services, now, or will never be the market to buy your products or services.
Your goal is to find prospects who are potentially interested in resolving a particular problem or opportunity or someone who is actively looking to buy now. These are quality prospects.
The most time consuming part of prospecting for new business is the time it takes to research your target market and identifying who to contact within your target market, preferably the decision maker. By taking the time to do your research up front, you can identify those prospects who best match your ideal customer. By conducting research in advance, you save yourself time contacting the wrong people who are not the market to buy from you.
Your research needs to include:
- What does your ideal customers look like? (location, industry, size, etc)
- Who are their competition?
- What common challenges do they face or opportunities exist?
- How can your product or service help them succeed?
- Who are the decision makers?
- What is the best time, day, month or quarter to contact them?
- What is the best way to contact them? (email, cold call, advertising, social media, networking etc)
- How can you capture their attention, stimulate interest and create desire for them to have a conversation with them?
5. Prospecting is not a numbers game
Many people are of the belief that prospecting for new business is a numbers game. That is true to a point, but if you have identified the wrong target market, then your prospecting efforts will become null and void. That’s why doing your research is vitally important if your prospecting efforts are to succeed.
Prospecting is only a numbers game only if you identify the right target market to work with. Successful prospecting is about generating quality leads – not the quantity of leads. This depends on the quality of your research and being able to match a prospects potential needs with the products and services you offer.
One few the best ways to research your target market is to create buyers personas to understand who your ideal customers are, where they live, what their likely problems and opportunities are and how to reach them.
6. Have a prospecting objective
How you go about contacting your prospect will determine your prospecting objective. For instance, if you are using social media, your objective might be to build trust and rapport with your brand. With advertising your objective may be to get your prospects to visit your place of business or go to your website. If you are cold calling, your objective would be to get an appointment to meet with them.
Whatever your objective is, design a strategy that will help you achieve that objective.
Remember people don’t buy from people they don’t like so one of your objectives will always to build trust and confidence.
Also remember that you don’t ask someone to marry you on a first date – your main objective is to find out about them and their needs not push your products and services onto them. Your prospects want to know how you can add value to them and help them succeed.
Creating a value proposition for your business will help you understand how you can bring value to prospective customers.
7. Prospect with integrity
Nothing puts a prospect off more than a pushy salesperson. Buyers aren’t stupid, they know if you are trying to help them or sell to them. They also know if you are looking to help them succeed or if you have contacted them to meet a sales quota.
There is no need to use trickery or cut corners to create interest in having that first conversation. Integrity and authenticity will help you achieve your prospecting goals because the prospect will feel if you are genuinely trying to help them – or help yourself!
8. Never give up
Very often it takes more than one attempt to reach a quality prospect. Sometimes it can take up to 7-10 attempts to reach the decision makers. It’s like training for a marathon, you can’t go for a single run and hope to succeed. If you believe in the prospect and you believe that your products and services can genuinely help them, you need to be in it for the long haul.
Try a variety of prospecting techniques of which cold calling and email marketing are just two approaches. You could even try – snail mail (perhaps even handwritten). WHY? Because in this day and age of social media and hundreds of daily emails it has cut through and likely to get your prospects attention.
Regardless of how you choose to prospect for new business, make sure you add value every step of the way.
On a final note
When you do your research and have a positive attitude, prospecting will positively impact your sales growth
In a Nutshell
- Successful prospecting is about having a positive attitude
- Prospecting is the act of researching and contacting people you haven’t done business with before with the view of starting a conversation with a prospective customer
- Prospecting is not the buying and selling process – it’s the first phase of the overall sales process
- The better your research the better your prospecting outcomes will be
- Prospecting is not a numbers game it’s about quality lead generation
- Always have a prospecting objective
- Be authentic and have integrity
- Never give up