Working in sales is one of the toughest jobs around, it is hard to not allow yourself to take rejection personally, and it is difficult to bounce back when you feel like you have fallen into a rut, but there are techniques you can use to make sales flow a little easier; one of these techniques is through sales prospecting.
The first thing we have to address is, what is sales prospecting? Sales prospecting is the process of reaching out to a company or an individual in order to try and develop new business. This will be the first stage in directing that individual or company through your business’s sales funnel, which will then hopefully lead to a revenue-generating client. Sales prospecting is not to be confused with sales leads, wherein the individual or company approaches you to express their interest, and from there you can evolve the lead.
Sales prospecting is highly disliked by many, as it can be an extremely tough job to do, but it is also one of the most important parts of sales; however, there are practices you can put in place to make your sales prospecting more successful, it is all about following the best process.
The first step with sales prospecting is that you will be contacting someone who doesn’t know you or your company, with your proposal. It is essential that you tread carefully, so you are not immediately turned away. Since people don’t really like to be approached in a ‘cold-call’ manner, if possible try and approach the potential client before you go in for the sales pitch. There a number of ways you can do this; perhaps you have a mutual friend who can set up an introduction, it can be during a work event or a social setting. On the other hand, you could use the fact that you both share a mutual connection as your conversation opener, you will often find that this builds the connection between you and the prospect quicker. Alternatively, you can try and engage with them on their LinkedIn profile, but without mentioning any sales pitching or your proposal yet. The most important thing that all these options do is create some type of familiarity between you and whoever you are contacting, this enables you to have a better chance of a successful first contact.
While it is tempting to try and push for sales or agreements in the first contact, this is not the best approach. It is easy to get ahead of yourself and go in for the kill too early, ruining any opportunity you may have had if you had just slowed down a little; overselling can make the prospect feel under pressure and they immediately disengage, it is paramount that you build a relationship with the prospect, the more trust you build, the more comfortable they will feel, and this will, in turn, help your selling pitches to be more fruitful.
During the initial conversations, keep things casual, focus on having real conversations, tell them about you, and your company, ask them about themselves and their company, listen and respond appropriately, be genuine in your questions and genuine in your responses, if the prospect feels like you are being fake, you will only end up wasting everyone’s time. Use the information you obtain from their answers to further help you, and them; get to know their requirements and explain how it is that you and your company can help meet their needs, or ascertain if the product you are wanting to sell can fit into their business even if it needs a few tweaks. But, as before, keep things casual and be patient; gathering information and getting to know the client is the priority, it also doesn’t hurt to find a thing or two that you have in common so you will genuinely enjoy speaking to one another, and the focus of every conversation isn’t just the build-up to the sale. Building a relationship will go a long way with how the natural the sale process will become, and suddenly, the idea of pitching to someone who was recently just a sales prospect isn’t so difficult after all.
You have now reached the most important step in sales prospecting, and up until this point you may have put in more than a fair amount of hours of work, and of course, you do not want it to feel like it has all been for nothing, so choosing the right time to ask if you can set an appointment for you to give your sales pitch, is key, Generally, it is up to you when you feel comfortable enough to ask when they are available to schedule you in, if you think you and your prospect have bonded well and you think they will now be open enough to the idea of you asking for their time, then just go for it. Make sure you make them feel like your meeting will be of value to them; mention to them that after hearing everything they have to say, you are confident that you have something that could meet their needs, or perhaps they will be able to take away some valuable information from the meeting, either way, don’t focus on the fact that it will be a sales meeting, rather highlight the benefits it will have for them. If they are happy to proceed, give a few options of dates and times, and let them choose; this is just another little thing that will make them like you more.
Sales prospecting has changed a lot over the years; people often think of it as cold calling, but there is certainly a lot more to it nowadays than mass emails, or 60-second phone calls using numbers from the phone book. Sales prospecting is a process that can take days or weeks, with many elements to it, and it is a far more effective technique, where you can have a lot of success if you are willing and resilient. As a final note, do not let the relationship with your prospect dissipate once the sale has gone through, keep checking in with your client, and make them feel like they have your attention, this is vital if you are going to have on-going success.