Prospecting 101

Peady’s Selling Engagement

No matter what sales team I work with the challenge most often raised is that of prospecting.
How to do it, when to do it, what methods are best, even why do it?

The facts are simple. Every sales person will lose or churn a percentage of their current customers. Numbers as high as 35-40% are not unusual, so its vital to have a plan to find new customers to replace them. And there’s only one way to do it – prospecting.

Welcome to this week’s post on sales and selling success.

Here’s a simple definition: Prospecting is the process of searching for potential customers to develop new business. The goal is to move prospects through the sales funnel (or pipeline) until they convert into revenue-generating customers.

How do you do it?

Having a robust and healthy pipeline is key to ensuring a successful sales outcome.  If there are not enough prospects going into the top of the funnel, it becomes impossible to gain sufficient meetings and a sales outcome at the bottom of the funnel.  Getting into the rhythm of consistently adding to your pipeline needs to become second nature.

There’s no ‘silver’ bullet but there are some simple steps to make it easier.

Every business you call needs research in advance. This ‘due diligence’ helps uncover what you’ll talk to the decision maker about to drive curiosity and interest. That’s the only way you’ll gain an appointment. You’ll also need a plan of attack to deal with ‘gatekeepers’.

Firstly, have an ideal prospect profile. What type of customer have you worked effectively with in the past?

Second. What are some sources for prospecting – lapsed (or past) customers, networking contacts, referrals, social media such as LinkedIn, purpose built prospecting tools like IRD Prospector and cold calling.

Number three. Due diligence and research is a must to uncover vital background information on the company and decision makers. The research also assists to determine if the prospect ‘fits’ your portfolio and medium.

Four. Allocate a ‘phone block’ to make calls to the prospects. Normally Monday to Wednesday are the best days to prospect (Tuesday/Wednesday are better than Monday) and morning is better than afternoon. Put aside one to two hours to do this.

Five. Create a script or roadmap for the call. What outcome do you want? Most times it’s to set up an appointment. Why are you calling? Ensure you make it all about them. Create interest or curiosity. Offer ‘social proof’. Don’t use the hackneyed phrase “I’d like to learn about your business.”

And finally. Be prepared for simple objections and for a gatekeeper to ask, “can I tell her what the call is in connection with?” Have a short simple response that will push through.


A couple more tips

Avoid email blasts. Generally, you spend waaay to much time writing the ‘perfect’ email and the response / open-rate is very low.

Be a regular ‘blogger’ on your industry or product. Quite often the first thing a new prospect does after the initial contact is to Google your name – make sure you are relevant.

Don’t invite someone to join your LinkedIn network then immediately prospect them – most times you’ll just irritate your ‘new’ contact!

Practice your scripts and introductions. Test them with your peers and review what worked and what didn’t after every call.

Don’t give up! Prospecting takes time and is a learned skill.

Until next week good prospecting.

About the author 

Stephen Pead is a media industry veteran of 30 years with significant experience in direct sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in helping SME’s market their businesses more effectively and providing training for salespeople and sales managers.

He can be contacted at [email protected]