Essentially, prospecting is like an aeroplane taking off: It uses 50% of its fuel between take-off and landing. The rest of the time it’s flying it mostly uses momentum and air currents to get from A to B.
Prospecting at the start of the year is like that, so the best sales strategies make the most of their fuel in the first 90 days of the year so that they can coast for the rest of the year.
Prospecting and connecting is and always will be a crucial stage of the sales cycle. Without building up the leads and momentum at the start, how will we ever close the great deals at the end? The problem with prospecting is that it has a nasty knack of becoming one of the most laborious and painful jobs going. ‘When you consider that the best sales people are at their happiest when they’re negotiating and closing deals, you start to see why long days of prospective ‘door knocking’ are universally dreaded.
However, at this early stage of the year, it’s essential. Success during the rest of the year is dependent on effective prospecting in January and February.
The way we see it, sales professionals have two choices: Either prospect the same way they always have (usually endless ‘smile as you dial’ phone calling), or actually inject some variety into the process. How? Simple really, just mix it up and get more creative with the prospecting processes rather than just pinning all your time and hope on one route.
The phone is still an integral part of this process, but it’s only one option. There are plenty of others that will help keep your creative mind buzzing and your engagement levels high.
Here are THREE prospecting methods that will help you tear yourself away from the phone during the prospecting months of January and February…
1. Go [even] further with Linkedin:
Developing a prospect list has got easier with Linkedin. I know we tend to go on and on about Linkedin (we even dedicated a chapter to it in our book – The Natural Sales Evolution!) here at Natural Training but it is such a useful sales resource you should be using it to its fullest.
When it comes to prospecting, Linkedin allows you to create your own hotlist of potential business – all you have to do is be precise with who you are identifying as a prospect and then drill down using the search tools.
If you go to the company section you can focus on companies in London, for instance, and get a list of people within each company. The more contacts you have the more people (and potential prospects) you are exposed to. So if you’re a third level contact, you may only get a name or initial, but at first or second level you get a pretty much everything you need. So, spending 30 minutes linking in with as many people as you can, and then creating a list of people to contact and sell to is a great prospecting strategy.
Here’s a great example:
I did some sales training with a business consultancy firm some time ago, and while they were struggling with some areas of the sales cycle, their prospecting methods were innovative and original – particularly on Linkedin.
Remembering that people love to feel important and that they had a whole heap of potential business logged into Linkedin at any one time, they created a number of groups inviting so-called ‘experts’ to join. Those ‘experts’ happened to be their exact target market.
Every day the groups grew in size – their prospect list organically developed and grew on its own.
2. Creative posting:
Sending a letter in the post to your target market may sound like a backwards step in the digital world we live in. But, I still think there is a place for it in the prospecting process – even today. The reason I say that is because of a rather clever direct mail campaign that I was sent a short while ago from a confectionary company.
The engaging and innovative letter told me all about their latest chocolate bar, but to get my hands on the free sample I had to go online to the company’s website.
The beauty of online is that it naturally captures and records the actions of your prospects in a way that offline will never be able to. However, if you can grab attention offline then drive your prospects to take action online, you’re leveraging the best of both worlds. Another productive way to burn up the prospecting hours that doesn’t involve endless phoning!
3. Email marketing:
Often, the problem with hitting the phones with a cold list of prospective customers for hours on end is that you have little idea where the interest really is. You could make 100 calls before someone even gives you the two minutes you need to deliver your well-oiled pitch.
Enter the world of email marketing. Email marketing software allows you to send emails to your list of prospects and actually see who opened, clicked and forwarded your email on.
And, while database-wide newsletters will remain the responsibility of the marketing team, sales professionals should look at opportunities to send emails to their own list of potential prospects and customers. Go through your contact list, business cards and emails, find all your potential business for 2013 and devise an engaging email to send out.
Click here to watch our fabulous webinar on this very subject!
You can instantly see which areas of your email were ‘interesting’ to your database and then when you go back to the phone calling you can be far more targeted with what you say and who you say it to. Plus, spending an hour or two writing an engaging newsletter with links to your online brochures or relevant web pages will be a fruitful and productive break from the traditional smile and dial approach.
In truth, prospecting should be an exciting part of the sales cycle – it’s an opportunity to try out new methods of reaching out to customers, being creative and developing a strategy to keep you ahead of your competition.
The moment it gets boring and monotonous, change it up.
Want to discover more creative and innovative ways to carry out your prospecting? Develop your selling strategy for 2013 with the sales training experts at Natural Training.