Putting Together a Prospecting Plan
The prospecting process starts with turning suspects into prospects, then continues with preparation. Let’s say you’ve identified Ms. Johnson as the person you want to contact because she works for X Company, which is in your targeted industry, and there are disruptive technologies having a negative impact on X’s go-to-market strategy.
Ms. Johnson is new to her role as senior vice president, and you have a great story to tell about how you can help get X back on track. Before you pick up the phone and call Ms. Johnson (and all those other prospects you’ve been researching), you need a prospecting plan.
3 Elements of a Good Prospecting Plan
1) Make it SMART.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Just as with setting SMART goals, a SMART plan brings structure and accountability to prospecting.
For example, you might develop a monthly prospecting plan in which certain outcomes are identified: “I want to schedule meetings every month with ten qualified prospects.” The exact number could be five meetings or 100 meetings, depending on your organization. The point is to be SMART in defining your plan, and over time, to refine the plan so it reflects what works and continues to challenge you. If you establish a target of ten prospect meetings each month and continue to get fifteen, then your target is too low. If you only average three prospect meetings per month, your target is not realistic or relevant. Continue to test and refine your plan so it is challenging and workable.
2) Develop a process.
You need to establish a daily or weekly process to work your prospecting plan, and the best process is one built on leveraging activities that work. Because every sales organization operates a little differently and all industries have different requirements, it’s hard to generalize about the proper activities to undertake. Instead, step back and think about what has worked for you in the past. “What activities have I done that help me identify new prospects or create new opportunities for my business?” Think of this as an activity inventory. Take ten minutes to brainstorm all the things you can do in a day that can lead to business: visit people, go to industry networking events, make phone calls, leverage relationships on LinkedIn for introductions, etc. Then rank each activity from most effective to least, based on your experiences. The ones at the top of your list are high-leverage activities.
Once you have your list of activities, you might reach out to a sales mentor or top performer in your organization. Share your list with them and then ask what activities they use in prospecting. What you’re trying to do is validate your list with someone who’s been successful, uncovering activities that you may not have considered. Next, select the activities that you will use to work on your plan. You don’t need to do everything, as the 80/20 rule reminds us: 20% of the activities can drive 80% of your results.
3) Identify outcomes.
Based on your SMART plan and the activities of your daily and weekly processes, identify key indicators that verify that you’re achieving your goals. If your plan specifies having ten prospect meetings, and face-to-face meetings are a high-leverage activity, the outcome might relate to proposals. “How many proposals do I want to send each month?” Whatever the outcome identified, it must relate back to the SMART plan and be furthered along by the process.
In my world, once a proposal is sent, the prospecting opportunity becomes a sales opportunity, which involves multiple stages of the sales process.
Prospecting is a disciplined art and science. The science part has more to do with the framework and process, while the art involves constant refinement and improvement. You cannot continue to do the same thing, or the same activities, over and over because each prospect and situation is different. You have to interweave elements of the scientific process with the art of understanding and finesse to be successful at prospecting.
With your prospecting plan in place, it’s now time to make that call to Ms. Johnson.
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