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Six Thoughts on How to Sales Prospect More Effectively

six critical skills for professional selling


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When I first started out in sales, I didn’t expect sales prospecting to be so tough. I was a bit naïve and expected more instant success. I wasn’t prepared for strong objections and rejection.

I wish someone had said to me beforehand, “Look, this is going to be hard. You’re going to get knock-backs and rejections. The win rate is going to be low at first; you’ve got to expect that.” Now, I know how tough prospecting can be. If it’s not page one of the sales manual, it should be.

That’s why I’ve prepared several posts to help sales professionals improve their sales prospecting. In Four Tips for Better Sales Prospecting and Five More Tips for Even Better Sales Prospecting, I shared some thoughts on ways to make prospecting an easier and more integral part of the job. In this post, I present six final thoughts on how to sales prospect more effectively.

  • Set an objective. Know what you want to achieve with every call to a prospect. The goal of the first call might only be to set up a second call during which you can have a needs dialogue. Or, the goal might be to have a physical meeting. You have limited time to get your point across, so know what you want to accomplish beforehand.
  • Develop a really sharp elevator pitch. Yes, you will need an elevator pitch for your first contact, so prepare a compelling statement that grabs the prospect’s attention in 30 seconds or less. These days, prospects are so bombarded by sales calls and e-mails that you have mere seconds to establish a connection and pique their interest.
  • Develop a few good lines. Let’s say you’re in a sales meeting with a prospect who has just admitted that there is an incumbent provider who is performing satisfactorily. You just might open the door to some new opportunities by pulling out a few broader lines of questioning. “If you had an unlimited budget, what else would you like? What would be the dream scenario?” Sometimes, this approach can lead to a wider discussion about what’s working well and what’s not, and it can also uncover new paths of possible collaboration.
  • Forget the formula. Most people don’t like being sold to or feeling coerced or pushed into a corner. They want to feel like they’re having a sensible conversation with someone about something that’s quite interesting to both parties. The problem is when the conversation begins to sound more like a script. The most successful sales professionals know how to have conversations with prospects without sounding formulaic. They hit all of their marks, following their targeted questioning techniques while making it all sound natural and conversational.
  • Consider marketing colleagues as allies. There used to be a distinct boundary between marketing and sales. That boundary is now more porous, if it exists at all. I’ve heard it said that business development is really that strong link between marketing and sales. As sales professionals, we need to be much more aware and savvy about effective ways to work with our marketing colleagues. Even in recent years, sales professionals might have thought that e-mail or LinkedIn campaigns were marketing tools and that, instead of electronic communication, they should “just pick up the phone and see if anybody’s interested.” Now, the capabilities and work alliances are more fluid, and sales professionals are realizing how much more effective they can be when sales and marketing work hand-in-hand.
  • Do your homework. If you’ve done all the hard work to get yourself in front of a sales prospect who’s interested in what you have to say, you certainly don’t want to blow it because you’re not prepared to engage in a proper needs dialogue and to discuss the value of what you can offer. Success in prospecting only opens the door. You’ve got to draw on your selling skills in order to walk through the following phases of the sales process: developing the opportunity, developing the solution, presenting the solution, negotiating and closing, and then maintaining and expanding the relationship.
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