While it’s great to have leads provided to you by the Marketing organization and to work with existing clients, if you don’t engage in sales prospecting on a regular basis, you will struggle when the need to find new clients arises — as it always does.
Simply put, sales prospecting is a fundamental part of being in sales. Most sales professionals will admit that, yes, it has to be done, but they would probably also admit that prospecting is not their favorite activity. In recognizing its importance to selling success and the tendency to put it off or avoid it altogether, I’ve developed a list of sales prospecting tips and techniques to help make prospecting a more regular and successful part of the job.
- Schedule time on your calendar. Put your commitment in writing by blocking out time on your Outlook calendar or whatever other scheduling system that you use. Set aside time each week just for prospecting, and tell yourself you’re not going to do anything else for that period. This will give you a target to aim for, with time set aside to focus on this activity. When you write something down in your calendar, you tend to take it more seriously.
- Don’t rely on data tools to drive the process. The prospect must come before the prospecting. LinkedIn and other online tools are rich with helpful data about people and companies, but before you try to connect online, consider the human element. Don’t let the ease of online access drive your prospecting process. Certainly, you should use these tools to help you define who the prospect should be, what type of organization they work for, their job title, and the industry challenges that they’re likely to be facing. Then, figure out why they would want to talk to you, and think about the people you know. Look to your real-world connections: people you know well, your business network, your personal network, etc. Do you have a friend in the target industry who, while maybe not directly connected with the prospect, might have connections that you could tap? Personal connections can be a real differentiator in today’s world of increased digital communications and social media.
- Get out of the office. Sales professionals who grew up with the online world at their fingertips — whom I refer to as digital natives — tend to focus on these tools and use them as much as possible. I consider myself a digital immigrant, coming to the online world later, so it’s not second nature to me. I use the tools when needed, but I also make sure to go to real-world events, such as expositions and industry-specific seminars, in order to meet people face-to-face. I think that personal touch is so important, and it’s something digital natives need to incorporate more into their prospecting. I am not diminishing the importance or power of mining the available data, but it can’t be all there is when you’re trying to make a connection with someone and build a relationship.
- Cultivate continuously. Sales Prospecting should never be a one-off event. It has to become an ongoing process that fits within your wider sales activities. Just keep at it, working to nurture long-term relationships with prospects instead of going for a quick win.