Nov 28, 2007

5 Myths of Sales Prospecting

Sales Prospecting.

When you see those two words, what do you think about?

In my training sessions and talks on Cold To Gold: Prospecting Methods to Overcome Fear and Build Long-lasting Successful Relationships, I find people have some misconceptions about prospecting.

Here's the Top 5 Sales Prospecting Myths:

1. Prospecting is a numbers game.

This isn't completely true. It is about the QUALITY of the numbers. If you are marketing to people who can't afford what you're selling, you'll probably not make as many deals as you would marketing to people who CAN afford what you're selling. When I sold time shares, this was proven true on more than one occasion. If people were allowed to tour who didn't meet the minimum income, they usually didn't buy. Why? They had a hard enough time just keeping a roof over their heads and food in their kids' mouths! Not only that, but if we didn't qualify the tour properly, we might lose a chance to sell. For example, if only one of the partners in a marriage was present, our odds of making a sale went down to almost nil. So, we'd NQ (not qualified) the tour.

You could have a huge leads list, and poor leads, and a small leads list, and great leads. The key to good prospecting is to have a QUALITY list. Working to build your list is the goal of the expert marketer. When you combine great marketing with great prospecting and great selling, the only other things you need are great products and great service.

2. Prospecting is the same as selling.

I actually see marketing, prospecting, and selling as three separate activities. Marketing is the activity you do to discover prospects. This might be an ad, a radio show appearance, or a trade show. Those activities are all marketing related; they are meant to attract people to your company. Prospecting, on the other hand, is outbound activity you make DIRECTLY to targeted companies or individuals who you believe might have an interested in your company's products and services. If you do not prospect, your odds of making a lot of sales by sheer marketing go down dramatically. Selling is the activity of what happens once you have the appointment (telephone, webinar, face-to-face meeting) to determine the prospect's needs and pitch your solution.

Notice: I didn't say you ought to pitch in your prospecting activities. My direct experience indicates you'll have more success by RELATING to your prospect and finding out something that they need than you will by pitching to them. The best way to do this is to share a story, filled with a few key nuggets on how they might benefit, then asking how they might need something similar.

3. All prospects are worth selling to.

In fact, many suspects are simply that. Suspects. You really don't know if someone is a prospect until you've spoken with them. Even then, you might want to disqualify them prior to meeting. After you meet, they still can disqualify themselves. If you are honed in on what people need, and your solution meets that need, then you need to match those two together. Anything outside of that is either a custom solution or not a prospect at this time. Your time is valuable. We can only make so many calls and if you're getting nowhere, move on. Just remember that 90% of sales are made after the 6th contact with a suspect, not the 1st.

4. Strategy and scripting is for newbies.

Strategy and a Prospecting Script are both important to prospecting success. I don't believe you should sound like a rote telemarketer, I just think you ought to know what you're going to say, choose your words carefully, then follow that plan. When I've been most successful, I followed a script. Why? Because I was the most focused and knew why I was doing each step of the prospecting process.

Your strategy is something like this:

a. Get lead from marketer
b. Determine quality of lead
c. Find commonality with prospect (research)
d. Write a letter
e. Make a phone call of introduction
f. Follow-up phone call with a gift

Your script ought to be something more like this:

Example phone call:

ME: "Hello John? I'm glad I reached you. I just spoke to one of your counterparts, Jane Doe, in the Rotary association who indicated you're struggling with some of the similar problems she has at ACME corporation. When we worked with Jane, we helped her grow sales by over 50% in just six months. Her sales team was missing their quota routinely before working with us. Do you have similar challenges with your sales team?"

PROSPECT: "Yes, we do... we're actually having some challenges with sales here, too... who is this I'm speaking with?"

ME: "Thanks for asking. I'm Scott Andrews, from ARRiiVE Business Solutions. John, would you mind sharing, briefly, what type of challenges are you having with hitting sales objectives?"

PROSPECT: "Sure. We're missing quotas. Not only that, but sales people are having a hard time completing their weekly activities. We're seeing a lot of the same prospects week after week. I'm pretty sure they're not picking up the phone enough. My boss wants me to fire half the team, but I know we have good people. They're just not getting enough activity happening."

ME: "Ah. So, the challenge is in getting your team focused on better methods of prospecting, then, would you say?"

and so on. As you can tell, I have a script, but I'm willing to modify it depending upon what my prospect says. I'm not immediately trying to close for an appointment. And, I'm trying to determine if my prospect is, in fact, a qualified prospect, rather than just a suspect. If I value my time, my prospects will value it, too.

I share the scripting process in much more detail in my Cold To Gold sales training program.

5. Propecting is a time-consuming, grueling process.

Actually, prospecting doesn't have to take too long, if you know what you want to accomplish.

When you're blocking out time for prospecting, make sure you dedicate that time to the process of calling prospecting clients. Pick up the phone and ask for them, directly. Get in and talk with them as if they were an old friend. Don't be too chummy, be professional. But, you may find that when you call people you ought to aim to discover what they need more than worrying about whether or not you have the appointment.

Frankly, I'd rather not meet with someone who is only meeting to be nice. If they don't know they need what I offer, and are ready to buy if I meet their need, then they might be wasting me time. Be aware of what they tell you. Ask them if they will buy your solution if you meet their need and offer an price that meets their budget. If they say "no" to this question, you've got an obstacle. You've either got to clear the obstacle or clear meeting with them in lieu of meeting with someone who will actually buy from you.

Prospecting can be fun, if you give yourself little rewards. For example, when I'm making calls, I'll block out a four hour stretch. I break this down in to one hour segments. Then, I work each hour to get into three companies. If I can get into a total of 12 companies, I had a pretty productive prospecting session.

Try to focus on what you want, begin with a strategy, script your call around what the prospect needs, and then block out time to make your calls. See if this doesn't help you turn around your new sales appointments and improve the quality of your sales calls.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.

ARRiiVE Business Solutions helps executives improve sales, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at) ARRiiVE (dot) com or call us at 1 (805) 459-6939. Visit Cold To Gold for our newest sales training program.

Copyright © 2007 by ARRiiVE Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You may republish this article only if you publish in WHOLE with the COPYRIGHT and ALL ACTIVE LINKS intact.

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