Having products or services without a prospect to sell to is like having a car with no gas. You and your business are not going anywhere. However, mention the word cold calling to the average person, they think it’s a dirty word. Who me – cold call – NEVER!
Cold calling is only one way of prospecting for new business but it’s not the only way.
There are other growth strategies that can work for you as well. Regardless, someone in your business needs to generate new leads to make up for natural attrition (the customers who leave regardless of how well you look after them).
If you’re not prospecting for new business, then who is?
Unless you can afford an experienced sales team or a business development specialist, you might have to be the one to bring in new business. Let’s face it – without sales there is no business. No business means no customers; no customers means no jobs.
Why are so many people adverse to prospecting for new business? Mostly because they don’t understand the difference between networking, prospecting, sales, marketing and cold calling. They each have a place and a time where it’s relevant.
Here are three myths about prospecting.
Prospecting is not selling
Prospecting is not selling. It’s a lead generation activity and only the first stage of the entire sales process. It’s the act of attracting ‘potential customers’ who will benefit from using your products or services. This can be achieved through cold calling, email marketing, advertising, promotions, networking and a plethora of other prospecting activities including a well-designed website with opt-in forms.
The objective of prospecting for new business is to identify potential customers who may or may not be interested in your products or services. You are primarily looking to set up a meeting with a prospect (on-line, face-to-face, via email or telephone) to explore if you are the right fit for each other.
Prospecting is not a numbers game
Many people think if you knock on enough doors, make enough phone calls or send out enough emails, some will stick. It can be if your targeted prospecting activities are on pointe. But what if they are not? If you are targeting the wrong prospects or using the prospecting activity, it doesn’t matter how many contacts you make, you won’t be successful. It is quality that matters not quantity. The better your research, the better your results which is why creating buyer avatars or buyer personas is a valuable use of your time.
Prospecting is not too hard
Like anything, prospecting is a skill that can be learned. However, if your perception of prospecting is that it’s too hard, then it’s an attitude problem, not a skill problem. If you genuinely believe your products or services will be of value to potential customers, then prospecting and growing your business should be an activity you do like doing because you are genuinely helping customers in need.
Cold calling is only one way to attract new business, there are many other creative ways to grow your customer base.
Creative ways to prospect for new business.
1. Narrow your focus
You can’t be everything to everyone. The narrower your niche, the better-quality prospects you will attract. Identify your target market by creating buyer personas of your ideal customers. Do this well and you will know the right prospecting medium to use to attract their interest. The better your research, the better the quality prospects, the better your outcomes.
2. Treat your employees like kings
You might think the customer comes before employees. It should be the other way around. When you treat your employees like kings and queens, they will feel appreciated and experience greater levels of job satisfaction. When they feel appreciated, and love what they do, they will not only look after your customers, they will promote your business outside of work.
3. Excel in customer service
Treating your employees well means they will provide excellent customer service. When you provide exceptional customer service, your customers will remain loyal to you. It is six times more expensive to attract a new customer than to look after and retain existing ones. Your goal should be to retain existing customers as part of your growth strategy.
Existing customers can become brand ambassadors if you excel in customer service. Word of mouth advertising is free and very effective.
4. Personal networking
People do business with people they like. Equally, people won’t do business with people they don’t like. Developing relationships through personal networking is a legitimate growth strategy albeit you need to be consistent and in it for the long term.
Invest in your personal communication skills so that you can talk to anyone, anywhere. Networking is a powerful way to connect with new prospects. Remember networking is about making connections not pushing your products or handing out your business card to as many people as possible.
5. Develop a powerful elevator pitch
You never know when you may connect with someone new. It could be on public transport, at a party, at a networking event or even introductions through friends or business colleagues. You want to make sure that you have a powerful elevator pitch ready to go when asked “What do you do?”
A compelling elevator pitch needs to relate to a problem or an opportunity present in your industry and how you resolve the problem or help others realize an opportunity.
6. Offer to help others
Consider joining a local business association or attend networking events. Whether you are at a business networking event or a community gathering, offer to help. You never know when such good deeds will come back to you. It’s known as the Law of Reciprocity. As you offer to help others, you become known as a person others respect and want to know.
If you make a connection with someone outside of your niche or industry, connect them with others who can help them. When you refer others, you in turn will get referrals back.
7. Cross-promote your business
A great way to cross-promote your business is to team up with other related businesses. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, you might team up with a marketing agency or copywriters. Consider who in your industry you could team up with, including suppliers and customers. This becomes a win-win growth strategy if you both add value to each other.
8. Develop a network on social media
If considering using social media to grow your business, be aware, like networking, it takes time nurture relationships. So many business people set up a Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram accounts expecting immediate returns. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you are using paid advertising to grow your business.
Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason. In the first instance, it needs to be social. It’s about making connections and engagement. If all you do is push, push, push your products or services without a balance of other posts, you turn potential customers away.
Social media as a growth strategy is about building a name, a brand and making connections. To become an influencer, you must give potential customers a good reason to connect and follow you. You can only achieve this through posts that they respond to such as a blog article, motivational memes or links to other influencers. Don’t forget to share influencers posts or blogs and they may in turn share some of yours.
9. Join in on-line forums
There are hundreds perhaps even thousands of on-line forums many of which are bound to be related to the products or services you offer. Be careful that you don’t push, push, push your products or services as this will result in either being removed from the group if it’s a private group, or you will turn potential buyers off. On-line forums are about getting your name out there and making connections in the same way you would at a live networking event.
10. Write a blog or on-line articles
When you write informative, value-added articles, potential customers sit up and take notice. This is because, over time you become an authority or expert in your field. Becoming an expert creates an element of trust with potential buyers which is essential to the prospecting and sales process. Becoming an expert in your field makes others want to get to know you as opposed to the other way around.
11. Give away some free samples or advice
When you consider giving away something for free, make sure it’s of value to your target market. If it’s not, then it’s a wasted effort. If you give free samples away to the wrong target market, it becomes an expense you don’t need. For instance, if you are at a trade show and give away branded promotional items, often people just like picking up free stuff which end up in the trash. Instead, ask for something in return like an email address where you keep control and can follow up with the prospect at a later date.
Again, don’t look to sell something, you are looking to make connections with the possibility of doing business in the future.
12. Host a free seminar or webinar
If you belong to a networking group, why not host a free seminar. This is the one time where you can promote yourself, provide free samples, give free advice or even give away promotional items or materials that adds value to your target market.
Consider holding a free seminar for the customers of your customers. For instance, if you are in the financial services or business insurance industry, you might team up with an accounting firm and hold a free seminar with their customers. Even if not everyone comes to the seminar, you are still getting your name out there.
Alternatively host a webinar sharing some of your best content. Don’t be afraid to share great content for if your participants relate to what you are sharing, they will mostly likely want to learn more about you and what you provide.
13. Phone an existing customer
A simple thing like picking up the phone to an existing customer can bring in additional business. Like you, your customers get busy doing stuff. A simple phone call asking them how their business is going and if there is anything you can do to help can trigger a sale. It can also mean retaining that customer by making it easy for them to do business with you.
14. Send out an email link
If you keep up with trends in your industry, a great way to add value to existing or potential customers is to send them something of value, like a link to a news article or blog. This simple tactic can result in additional business as you are seen a person who adds values and keeps on top of industry trends. This is not about pushing your products, it’s a tactic for making a connection and keeping your name top-of-mind. Remember to have a compelling subject line and the first line of the email must capture your targets attention to entice them to read on.
15. Ask for referrals and testimonials
When you have concluded a successful business deal, and you have established a good relationship with your customers, why not ask for a referral or testimonial to get you to the next prospect. If you have done your job well, and your customer trusts you, then for the most part they will be happy to give you a referral or testimonial.
Don’t limit referrals to existing customers, tap into your network or friends and business associates as well including your accountant, lawyer or other professional you deal with on a personal basis. They have a customer list too and often know of someone who could use your products or services.
Prospecting and growing a business also requires consistency. Waiting until business is slow then looking to develop new business is not a good strategy. At that stage, it can be too late. Prospecting needs to be an activity you are mindful of every day. Vary your approach and method to find what works best for you and your business.
On a final note
Be creative with your prospecting activities. If you do, you will generate enough leads in your sales pipeline to keep new business coming in.
In a Nutshell
- Narrow your focus and target your niche.
- Treat your employees like kings so they look after your customers.
- Excel in customer service to retain existing customers.
- Develop relationships through personal networking activities.
- Develop a powerful elevator pitch so you know how to answer the questions “What do you do?”
- Offer to help others and they will help back.
- Cross promote your business with others who are aligned to your products or services.
- Develop a social media network.
- Join in on-line forums and add value added comments.
- Write a blog or on-line articles to become known as an expert.
- Give away some free samples or advice.
- Host a free seminar or webinar.
- Phone existing customers to see how you can help them.
- Send out a value added email link to your subscribers.
- Ask for referrals and testimonials.