Managing director of Vincent Consulting
There are many ways to prospect for sales and the professional salesperson uses as many as possible.
You never know where your next good prospect will come from, or which approach will appeal to a specific prospect, so the more methods you can use, the better results will be generated.
Keep in mind that prospecting is a numbers game. The more you do, the easier it will be to reach the better, more qualified, high-potential prospects. Techniques I use include:
The best salespeople constantly conduct research. The advantage is it provides you with names of decision-makers, telephone numbers, addresses and background information on the company. In today’s marketplace, the internet can provide you with excellent data since most companies have their own web pages.
The key to using the telephone, is to sell the appointment rather than trying to do your selling over the phone. With planning and good skills, the telephone is clearly the most efficient method for prospecting large numbers of potential accounts. The downside is you have to be skilful in overcoming obstacles like voicemail and “gatekeepers”.
Face-to-face prospecting calls (inappropriately referred to as cold calling), can be effective in some, but not all types, of businesses. If you sell to smaller businesses or deal with decision-makers/influencers at middle-management levels, then this can be a very good method. It’s particularly good for salespeople who sell to a broad marketplace (such as a copier salesperson who can prospect any office or business), or a distributor salesperson who can simply make a timely call on the owner).
The general rule is always ask for referrals – and ask at every opportunity. This means that when you visit a customer, or make a sale, you should ask. A referral is often a powerful entry into a prospect’s business and frequently will result in an “easy” sale.
Mail and email is a useful approach for prospecting and pre-selling. It is simple to send a “personalised letter” to a prospect to trigger interest and get a response. Typically, the letter, even when accompanied by literature, will generate a small response. The real value is that it sets the stage for a phone call or visit.
Networking is simply creating opportunities to meet other people who may want to form mutually beneficial relationships. Most professionals do insufficient networking, so build a network of partners to keep an open eye and ear for new opportunities. Always have your business cards at the ready and an elevator pitch well prepared.