6 Ways for More Effective Prospecting
Like many sales leaders we speak to, your sales reps' conversations are becoming even more buyer-focused, which means they need to be creative when it comes to prospecting. Many reps are trying to develop their own hacks, techniques, and processes for prospecting in order to move prospects through the sales funnel and turn them into customers. But most sales experts will tell you that starting conversations with prospects is the most important step in boosting your success in sales.
Yet, the dynamics of how to do so can seem mystifying, even if you've been in the game for a while. Part of the problem is that different situations call for different approaches – so it helps to have a handful of tips and tricks at the ready instead of going in cold. Here are 7 ways to prepare your sales reps for better prospecting that will help you turn those prospects into paying customers.
1. Consistency Counts: Daily Prospecting!
In order to be successful at sales, salespeople have to acquire new clients. To do so, they have to know how to develop new relationships. Prospecting is the art of creating these new relationships. The new business opportunities that later turn into sales are initially identified through prospecting, which is why prospecting is really the lifeblood of sales.
The first way to improve your prospecting results is to acknowledge how imperative it is to getting sales results and treat it accordingly. Improving your prospecting results begins with setting aside the time and the energy to prospect each and every day. Yes, EVERY day. You would never suggest that your only chance to close was on Tuesday mornings? It is foolish to suggest that there is only a particular time of the week during which a rep can be effective at prospecting. And you also cannot suggest that your prospects are only open to taking calls every Monday and Friday. So create that "habit" for daily prospecting with your team.
2. Remove the Distractions
Turn off the Internet. Turn off email. Turn off the phone… and FOCUS.
Have your reps tell their colleagues they have a newfound discipline that will need their support; they promise to catch up with them later.
Hang a sign on the door saying "Do Not Disturb! Prospecting!" No door? Hang the sign over the desk to signal the same. The more seriously a rep can focus on this work, the more seriously others will take them. If they have a lazy attitude toward prospecting, it will fall to the wayside. They will let other things take priority while your competitors start surpassing you. It will happen just as it's always happened.
3. Use All Tools In Your Toolbox
Prospecting is the activity of opening new relationships but don't forget that it is also part of a larger picture. Reps should be focused on the outcome of opening new business relationships – which is to identify potential new business opportunities. There is no one method of doing this. In fact, there are many, perhaps dozen, and they can all be equally effective if done right.
To prospect successfully, reps need to focus time and energy on the methods that work best for them. But that doesn't mean they should neglect everything else. If they're great at cold calling, they should absolutely focus on cold calling. But that doesn't mean they should never use email marketing, inbound marketing, networking, trade shows and conferences, direct mail, social networking, or referrals. Reps should include all of these tools in their arsenal.
Create a list of all of the methods you can think of that are used to prospect. Plan how much time you will set aside for each method and set goals for how many prospects you want to gain from your effort. For example, you might commit a rep to attending one networking event per month with the result that they acquire two new prospects from each networking event. Measure these results and focus on the area that generates the greatest return on investment of time. But also keep in mind that your prospects may have their own opinion on how they prefer to be approached. The goal is always to cater to the needs of your prospect, so you want to constantly analyze and adjust your prospecting methods and the amount of time you are devoting to each one.
4. Develop Scripts
Poor prospecting results are usually caused by two things. The first is spending too little time on prospecting. The second is ineffective prospecting. Ineffective prospecting largely comes down to language choices. What your reps are saying when they prospect can mean the difference between gaining or losing a lead. That's why scripts are of the utmost importance.
"But wait!" your rep might say. "I am a professional salesperson and I can't sound like I am using a script!" Of course not. No one wants to talk to a robot. But you can't sound like someone that your prospect isn't interested in meeting either.
If you have reps that are averse to using scripts for prospecting, it helps to recognize that they are already using a script. The words they are using when prospecting (and on sales calls, by the way) reflect a certain way that they have chosen to speak to people. They are words that are comfortable for them because they've have rehearsed them. Because they've have rehearsed them, your rep probably has them memorized. The words they use are comfortable because the rep knows them by heart, not because they're reading them. But this doesn't necessarily mean they are the best language choices.
You can improve your reps effectiveness by having them carefully choose the words they use and making observations about what is and what isn't working. This takes awareness, focus, and discipline. It also allows the rep to experiment with language choices to see what is most effective. Just think of it as sharpening the pitch.
Have them develop scripts for each of the prospecting methods they use. Write responses to the common objections they hear. Rehearse them. If you are leading a great sales team, do this together and rehearse together with them. Have them commit the best language to memory and use it instead of the unwritten and ineffective scripts you may already be using.
5. Focus on the Outcome
The ideal outcome of prospecting is to open the relationship. This almost always involves obtaining a commitment for an appointment.
Effectiveness in prospecting is improved by simply focusing on the outcome. This means that you don't allow your team's prospecting to turn into a needs analysis, a presentation, or a discussion about the merits of your product or service. It means they maintain a laser-like focus on scheduling the appointment.
Some salespeople struggle with focusing on the outcome of an appointment and often slip into the sales mode is because they feel the need to create value for the prospect during their prospecting activity. But this is getting away from the point of prospecting. Always remember that the goal of prospecting is to open a relationship. It is just the introduction of the possibility to create value and do something together. Selling, at this point, is premature.
There is no list to make, no plan to write here. Just know that a successful outcome in prospecting is almost always an appointment. It doesn't matter how much the rep liked them or how much they liked the rep if an appointment isn't scheduled.
6. Get Good at Cold Calling
There is too much to write here about how to get good at cold calling. But it is important that you have this method in your repertoire, and that your reps build their competency in picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment.
Cold calling is still one of the fastest ways to open relationships and schedule appointments, and your very best salespeople are the very best at cold calling. Of course, they are also great at other forms of prospecting, but they never let cold calling fall to the wayside. If your reps do it regularly, you'll find that it offers the greatest return on investment. And the more they do it, the better they will get at it.
Start cold calling.
Prospecting is not a science. But you can save time and maximize your numbers by investing your team in the right processes, activities, and skills. Incorporate these tips into your prospecting game and your reps will be more likely to open valuable relationships and turn prospects into leads over time.
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