It’s no coincidence that those old-time miners, enduring the elements and living with uncertainty in their quest for gold, have a lot in common with sales reps, who also endure the elements and live with uncertainty in their quest for new business. They’re both prospecting and they both have to turn over a lot of worthless rocks before they find gold. Those old miners did it because they knew if they struck a good vein their fortune would be made and their future assured. It’s the same story for sales reps. Strange then that most of them don’t see it quite like that.
Why don’t most sales reps prospect? Simple. They don’t like it. They see it as a chore and a bore. The chances of rejection are high and nobody likes being rejected, do they?
If you consider prospecting a waste of time, take a minute or two and think about it from a slightly different perspective. Prospecting is just another sales call, albeit one without an appointment. There’s no doubt this makes it more challenging, but aren’t challenges the very things we sales professionals thrive on? Sure, everyone loves the client who is falling all over themselves to get to a pen so they can put their name to your ridiculously over-inflated price. Who wouldn’t like a sale that sold itself? But really, where’s the fun in that? You might as well get a job slinging burgers at a fast food outlet for all the intellectual stimulation you’d get from sales like that.
We sales professionals want to showcase our skills. We want to earn our bragging rights around the water cooler. We love the tales of the ones that gave us the hardest time, but the ones we got in the end. It’s a battle – them versus us – and we really love to win. Prospecting gives you the thrill of the chase, the chance every time you walk through a new door without an appointment to make a truly memorable sale. A sale that you earned with all your skill and salesmanship. Think how you’ll feel when you close that sale. Now hold that thought. It’s the thing that will keep you going through the nine doors that close before you find the tenth one that opens.
What can you do to maximise the opportunities you’ll find when prospecting? Prepare. Make yourself a list of prospects to call each day, week or month. Write yourself a script and edit it when you find things that work for you and things that don’t. Mentally prepare yourself, not by letting that wave of dread wash over you, but by thinking of the tenth door.
Our research has shown that one of the key characteristics of top sales professionals is their ability to prospect on an on-going basis; to have a constant source of new prospects.
What makes a good prospector? There are several different aspects of prospecting to consider, but before you even pick up the phone or step out the door to go prospecting, take time to properly prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Reframe the negative. Tell yourself you love prospecting and let the power of your own beliefs make it so. You may choose to reframe the things you’re not yet comfortable with by working them into your affirmation. “I can prospect with the best of them,” “I will spot the buying signals”, “I will handle their objections beautifully.”
Focus on the client. Make up your mind to make your prospective client the centre of your attention. Know with certainty that you will do your very best for them and they will become satisfied clients. Their word of mouth will be your very best source of new business.
Visualise the prospect as positive, friendly, kind and eager to see you. They’re hoping you will have solutions for them.
Mentally frame the sales call in its entirety. Step through everything you plan to say and do, how you’ll respond to the most common objections, the questions you’ll need to ask, then picture yourself closing with a positive outcome.
Decide where the big pay-off will be in your prospecting. Where are you most likely to find potential clients? Now’s a good time to start thinking outside the box. It’s not just about your business contacts. Who do you know who may know someone who might help you get through the next door you knock on? How about the people at your gym? What about that marketing guy you ran into at the pub. How about your girlfriend’s hairdresser’s boyfriend? Isn’t he in the industry you’re trying to tap into. Maybe he knows someone. Just a name is all you need to help you overcome the first and often biggest hurdle: the receptionist.
Develop a mix of big prospects who often have a longer decision making process with smaller prospects who will usually make fast decisions. By all means, spend some quality time thinking about landing those huge clients that will make your monthly budget with just one sale, but while you’re running around jumping through hoops to get them, don’t forget your bread and butter. It helps to be able to feed yourself while you’re waiting for the big fish to land.
Research your market. Where are you most likely to find new clients? What’s going on in the marketplace? What’s changing? Changes often create opportunities for you to capitalise on, but you need to know what’s happening around you to take advantage of brief windows of opportunity.
Make a checklist. Which criteria do your clients need to possess in order to be a worthwhile target for your attention? Do they have the right kind of business? Are they a large enough player in the marketplace? What other criteria is there that might help you define and identify the ideal client? Once you know these, it’s a simple step to figure out where to find them.
The aim is to work smart, not necessarily hard.
Wendy Berry, founder of Wendy Berry Sales Evolution and Top Gun Business Academy, and Jo-Anne Cole, entrepreneur, businesswoman and sales professional, co-authored “Don’t Stuff Up The Sale – The Definitive Guide to the Sales Process”, available through www.wendyberry.com.au Email wendy [at] wendyberry.com.au or jocole [at] ihug.co.nz