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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.