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How to Prospect in Sales – It’s an A Priority

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Sep 08, 2022

In analyzing those salespeople who are successful year after year, we find significant consistencies in prospecting behavior and practice management. These top sales producers adhere to “The ONLY "A" priority is prospecting” principle. Successful salespeople service accounts just like everyone else. They also have fires to put out and meetings to attend. But nothing gets in the way of consistent prospecting.

So, following their lead:

  1. Schedule a time each day to make phone calls and stick to the schedule. First thing in the morning works well. The longer you procrastinate, the better chance there is of something getting in the way of this critical activity. You don't have to like prospecting; you just have to do it. Every day. The more of this activity you do, the more proficient you will become.
  1. Don't look, act or sound like every other salesperson. Create a unique approach – Don't just say that you are different. Put yourself in your prospect's place. Would you take your phone call and be responsive? If not, work on your strategy and script. For example, when you get your prospect on the phone, say “Hello.” and be silent. Wait for the prospect to respond.

Buyers are conditioned to hear “Hello. This is Joe from ABC Company and I am calling you to ….” Prospects hear this, immediately recognize a sales pitch and quickly disconnect.

  1. Successful prospectors understand that the purpose of a call is to set an appointment with a qualified candidate. Stop selling on the phone. Stop seeing just anyone who will see you. Make sure the prospect qualifies to do business with you. On the phone call identify that the prospect has a problem and get him to invite you to come and talk about it.

The quality of the phone call determines the quality of the appointment.  At this point, your goal is to identify if your prospect has a problem that you can solve. Ask questions like “Can you tell me about the problems you are experiencing?”

Ask the question “Why is this problem a problem?” so that the prospect reinforces, in his own mind, that this is something he needs to address. If he can’t answer this question, chances are the problem isn’t big enough for him to spend time and money on it.

Ask the question “How much is this problem costing you?” Asking this will make the client put dollars to the problem. If the money involved is more than or equal to the price of your product, he is more apt to invite you to visit. Establish that he would like to fix the problem.  At this stage, you are trying to get enough information and “pain” to justify a meeting.

Keep the following questions handy when you are on prospecting calls. They will help you weed out the “tire kickers.”  

  • Tell me about your current problems… in administering your 401K (for example).
  • How long has this been a problem?
  • What have you done to fix it?
  • When you spoke with your current provider what did he say?
  • What has he done to make this problem go away?
  • What happens if you don’t fix this?
  • How much is it costing you?
  • Is that a problem?
  • Do you want to fix it?
  • But not today?
  1. Understand that prospects want to meet professionals through introductions, not cold calls, so always ask for introductions as your first prospecting strategy. Ask your best client advocates the simple question “If you were doing what I do, who would you talk to next?” Then ask them if they would be willing to make a call on your behalf. You can find more information on How to Get Introductions here.

You know that prospecting is essential to your selling success. And you know that you can't consistently grow your business unless you consistently prospect. You can't count on market conditions or new products or low pricing to create opportunities. You must find prospects that fit your profile and qualify to do business with you.

So ask yourself which of the above might help you most today. Implement this change for the next 30 days, until it comes naturally. Commit yourself to changing one prospecting behavior or business practice that will dramatically impact your business.

 

Do You Need More Leads? –  Free Sales Prospecting eBook Download

Topics: Prospecting, prospecting skills, sales prospecting

Who Stole Your Prospect?: Holiday Edition

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Dec 09, 2021

If you consider the tactics that are generally covered in sales skills training, you can probably think of a handful of happenings that can steal, or make you lose, your prospect.

In this blog, we will discuss the top 4 situations you may encounter that will cause you to wonder; "where are you, prospect?"

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From the year it first appeared in 1966 until now, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” has remained a holiday classic. Narrated by Boris Karloff, it contains so many scenes that quickly rush to my mind. Who can forget the scene of the Grinch talking with Cindy Lou Who…or the scene where the Grinch turns his dog, Max, into a reindeer?

But let’s talk about another grinch – and this one is much meaner. I’m talking about the one that steals your prospect. You know – the prospect you were chasing that you were sure you were going to win right up until the point that you didn’t. If you consider the tactics that are generally covered in sales skills training, you can probably think of a handful of happenings that can steal, or make you lose, your prospect.

I think there are four different types of grinches that steal your prospect:

  1. Lack of compelling reasons to make a change. This surfaces when your prospect has no pain/compelling reason to make a change, but you decided to pursue the opportunity anyway.
  2. Lack of capacity. This comes to you when you do establish a compelling reason for the prospect to make a change, but you fail to ask them about the timing of such a change. It only appears after the presentation when your calls or emails are not being returned because the prospect isn’t ready to make the change.
  3. The incumbent. This shows up when you fail to drill down into two things: 1) the reason why the prospect will leave the incumbent and 2) what they will tell the incumbent when they make the change. Changing providers is a big decision. Probably the toughest decision the prospect will ever have to make.
  4. Not receiving a decision (within a mutually agreed-upon timeframe) after you present your solution. Why does this happen? Because you did not get them to agree to make a decision. You simply presented without any kind of upfront agreement.

So, to all of you faithful readers of this blog: could the actual grinch who stole your prospect be you? Think about it…and Happy Holidays to all of you along with wishes of peace in the New Year.

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Topics: prospecting skills, developing sales skills, sales skills training

Managing 80/20 Prospecting Time to Increase Sales

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Apr 08, 2021

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective and increase sales. However, they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their "A" priority every week.

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They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. If you really want to increase sales this year, you MUST block off time every week for prospecting new clients.

As we think about all of the things as sales professionals that we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things that actually get us paid: 

  1. Find Opportunities
  2. Qualify prospects
  3. Get a decision

I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities. There are many ways we can find opportunities⁠—cold calls, drop-ins, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time. In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem. It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling. For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision-maker) is extremely low. We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem. On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting time is in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

Time blocking
  • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect

Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled

  • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
  • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people. How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
  • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
  • 30 minutes on getting introductions
  • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
  • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, prospecting skills, sales prospecting, increase sales, time blocking

The Art of Silence in Sales

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Apr 01, 2021

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be awkward or a sign that the prospect has mentally checked out. But that's simply not the case! It is critical that you let silence do some of the heavy lifting during your prospecting conversations.

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Ah, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound? If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does. Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests, "To make your conversations more impactful, allow the silence to do the heavy lifting."

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is a bad virus; they instantly run away from it. But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation? What if silence took you to a deeper level in a conversation with a prospect?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them. But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen, so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople- they ask a great question, the prospect goes radio silent, and then the salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting.

I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing. Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Meaningful Sales Conversations, prospecting skills, Qualifying leads, Qualifying skills, sales prospecting

The 3 Things Keeping You From Connecting With Your Prospects

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jan 28, 2021

In today's world of selling, it is increasingly more difficult to get the attention of a prospective buyer after only a few outreach attempts.

We know that they're busy but let's face it, we're all busy. So, how do you stay consistent (and persistent) in your outreach with a prospect while remaining sensitive to their daily lives and the distractions they face?

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From the dawn of time until present day, it has always been a difficult task for salespeople to be able to reach the prospects they call and email each day. They call…and they email…and they keep following up, wondering if anybody will ever do one of two things:

  1. Answer the phone.
  2. Return a voicemail/reply to an email.

While certainly not a new development in selling, engaging with prospects has become increasingly and dramatically more difficult in the last 10 years. If we go back to 2009, it took around 8-10 outreaches on average to engage with a prospect. In 2019, that number has risen to 16-18 attempts. Keep in mind that these are averages. Sometimes it takes even more attempts to get the prospect to pay attention to you.

Recently, I was leading a sales training workshop in Dallas and a high-ranking bank executive asked me why I thought the number of outreaches required had basically doubled in the last decade. In my judgment, there are three main reasons:

  1. Distraction: Prospects are busier than ever before and are constantly battling the numerous distractions that come their way. Their mobile device buzzes and they have to look. The email notification on their computer sounds and they can’t resist. Some have estimated that the typical person picks up and puts down their mobile device between 600-700 times each day.
  2. Competition: There is more of it than ever before and it’s fiercer than ever before!
  3. Commodity: The belief of the prospect that, in at least some industries, the vendor calling them and the vendor they currently use are essentially the same. The prospect just doesn’t see any meaningful difference. To them, a bank is a bank.  An insurance broker is an insurance broker.  A technology provider is a technology provider.

Of these three reasons, #3 is the most concerning (or it should be). And here's why...

If you don’t differentiate yourself from your competition by providing value, your prospect will do the differentiating for you. 

But they won’t use a measuring stick of value. They will more often than not use a measuring stick of price.

Finally, here is another sobering statistic about the world of modern day selling. While the average number of attempts has increased to 16-18, most salespeople quit after less than 5 attempts. 

Maybe they think the prospect is being rude by not replying. Maybe they think that, "in the good old days", people used to return calls. Regardless, the world has changed. Prospects are a hard fish to catch. 

You might need to be out there fishing just a bit longer than you would like.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: prospecting skills, sales prospecting, increase sales, contacting prospects, prospect outreach

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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