ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Fishing for Sales Prospects

Posted by Alex Cole-Murphy on Mon, Jul 01, 2019

Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand.  Without leads, salespeople will have a hard time selling.  Without marketing, salespeople will have a difficult time sharing their product and features with prospective clients.  

But how much is too much?  In this article, we discuss the difference between giving salespeople every lead and teaching them how to cultivate their leads to strengthen their pipelines and their careers as a whole.  

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I’m sure a majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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Several of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems in the long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis, we encourage you to continue to do so.

However, your salespeople can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive, and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads, they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they are given.  They won’t try to uncover new opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect, but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identified.

After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salesperson's job, although difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components:

  1. Go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities,
  2. Qualify those opportunities and close for the business.
  3. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads  fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales.

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Topics: qualifying prospects, sales prospecting, contacting prospects, reaching prospects, prospect engagement, prospect outreach

Declare Independence From Your Own Obstacles

Posted by Walt Gerano on Fri, Jun 21, 2019

As we approach the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, our own Walt Gerano shares his thoughts regarding the obstacles holding us back from experiencing the sales success we desire.

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243 years ago, 13 colonies declared themselves as newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Have you declared your independence from the things holding you back from experiencing the success you desire?

When you look at your business today, you might agree that you need to prospect more consistently, qualify better and know when to move on from a prospect. But you still have opportunities in your pipeline that are stuck. The question is why and what are you going to do about that?

Why don’t you prospect more consistently

  • You don’t have enough people to call on.
    • When was the last time you asked for an introduction or spent meaningful time on LinkedIn?
  • You don’t have the time.   
    • What activity is more important to the growth and success of your sales practice than prospecting? Schedule prospecting time first.
  • You are fearful of rejection. 
    • Rejection is nothing compared to failure.

What about qualifying?

  • Do you prepare with a pre-call plan for every call to make sure you know how you will get the answer to the question; “why am I here?” (First question you should ask on a call)
  • Are you ready for the curve balls? Those are the annoying questions that you wish they didn’t ask.
  • How and when will you deal with the incumbent?

Why are “opportunities” stuck in the pipeline?

  • Does the prospect really have enough PAIN to move forward and make a change?
  • Do they have the money to fix the problem?  Did you even ask about it?
  • Are you meeting with all of the decision makers prior to presenting your solution?
  • Have you dealt with the “return of the incumbent?”

There is nothing here that you don’t already know. It’s the middle of the year so take a few minutes and evaluate where you are and what you will do about it.

Claiming your independence requires nothing compared to what was sacrificed all those years ago. Let’s remember this week what was at stake and what an incredible gift their fight and sacrifice is to this day. God Bless America.

Topics: qualifying prospects, freedom, sales prospecting, getting sales decisions

How to Find and Cultivate Prospects That Fit Your Business

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 03, 2019

Today, our customers are bombarded with sales, marketing, and advertising pitches from companies all hoping to win their business. They’re overwhelmed, or, in most cases, they simply tune us out.

So, we try to reach as many potential customers as we can, but our salespeople spin their wheels and end up stuck in the same place, week after week, month after month, or year after year.

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The problem? We’re not sure who we’re trying to reach. Many of our potential customers view their time as their greatest, most valuable asset, and so should we. We can protect that asset by having a clear understanding of who our target customer is.

Identify What a Zebra is:

In order to hone that understanding, we have to begin with first identifying our “Zebra,” or our ideal prospect persona.

 We can do that in three easy steps:

  1. Begin by segmenting our business’s book into thirds. For most companies, that top third brings in 90% of the company’s revenue. They are generally the best clients.
  2. Look for common traits and demographics in that top third. Ask questions like:

·      What do these customers have in common?

·      What industry are they in?

·      Who is our main point of contact?

·      How do we contact them?

·      What is the size of their organization?

Having the answers to questions like these helps identify other potential customers in the market.

3. Once we know what traits we’re looking for in that top third, we should commit 2/3 of our time to looking for, or attracting, customers from this group.

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Identify What a Zebra Isn't:

Of equal importance is to know, and clearly articulate, what isn’t a Zebra for us. If we know who doesn’t fit our ideal customer persona, we’ll bring clarity to our network and prospecting efforts, and again, continue to value time as our greatest asset. Here’s why it’s important to know what a Zebra isn’t:

1.    We eliminate ambiguity

Introductions have been proven to be the No. 1 way that top producers grow their business. But if we aren’t specific about who we serve best, it’s hard to get those introductions. We need to be specific and clear about what type of zebra we serve best.

2.    We reduce frustration with our Centers of Influence (COI)

We want to capitalize on our COI’s relationships, but if we’re not crystal clear with who we’re looking for, our COI may make an introduction to someone we can’t help. When working with our COI, it’s helpful to articulate the type of business or individual we’re looking for, along with what we’re not looking for and why.

3.    We reduce our opportunity cost

Our opportunity cost is what we’re not working on that might have been more viable for our organization. If we’re calling on Company ABC, we’re not working on Company XYZ. Are we losing out on better business, because we’re not calling on the right prospects?

If we know what we don’t want and the reasons why, it might reduce the quantity of opportunities in our pipeline, but the quality will increase dramatically. 

 Cultivating Zebras

Once we’ve determined which customers are and aren’t Zebras, we need to understand the best ways get in front of them and build relationships.

Start by doing some research.

Should we call or email them?

What is their preferred social media platform – LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter?

Knowing how and where to reach our target persona will positively impact our ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business. Undoubtedly, our most effective approach is to utilize the relationships we have with our top third by asking them to introduce us to others they know, who will most likely fall into that ideal customer profile.

It takes work to find these prospects and then contact them, but it’s well worth the effort. Our chances of success are now much higher because we know we’re reaching the right audience, the Zebras who become our best clients.

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Topics: Questions for Prospects, qualifying prospects, sales prospects, consultative selling, how to prospect

Stop Accepting "Think It Over (TIO)"

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

stop in the name of love

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities you had in your pipeline where you didn’t get a yes.  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you?  Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO” do you get the business? My guess is that if you are like the rest of us, the number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier that you think.  First let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over” you are going to get “think it over.”  If you don’t have an effective sales process, well then get one and follow it every time!

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: qualifying prospects, increase pipeline, Qualifying skills, Closing skills, salespeople

Bringing Clarity to Ambiguous Conversations

Posted by Jack Kasel on Wed, Jan 23, 2019

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In selling, properly qualifying a prospective buyer is crucial in order to move an opportunity through the pipeline and ultimately close in your favor. Highly effective salespeople do this through the art of asking great sales questions and not fearing the outcome if they challenge a prospect’s statement, or question, in order to gain clarity.  

In this blog, we cover the 3 things to remember about all prospects and how to fully understand and qualify their motivation to make a change.

 

Seek to understand, rather than being understood is a very loose paraphrase of what Steven Covey said in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I think that statement is especially true for sales professionals. When we coach our client’s we try to get them to understand and remember these three tips when in conversation with prospects and client’s:

  1. The statement they make isn’t the actual statement.
  2. The question they ask isn’t the true question.
  3. The problem they have isn’t the actual problem.

Your job is to fully understand, is this a symptom or a problem? Problems get solved, symptoms are tolerated. I was working with a prospect and he kept saying he needed to fix his cash flow problem. The more we talked, it became clear that wasn’t the real problem, the real problem was he missed out on an opportunity to purchase one of his competitors. The symptom was cash flow, the problem was missing opportunities to acquire market share. We focused on fixing his true problem. There are many ways a sale can be killed. Too many times sales are killed by Assume-icide. We assume we know what they want.  However, we never truly understand the real problem or challenge.

One of the ways, and really the only way, to bring clarity to the conversation is by asking or saying the following when we hear prospects make statements or ask questions

  • Tell me more about that . . .
  • What happens if that problem isn’t fixed?
  • When you say (insert statement here), I’m not sure I know what you mean.
  • Many people ask me that question for a variety of reasons; I would like to hear yours.

We also need to listen to emotionally charged words such as . . .

  • Need to fix. .
  • I’m going to. .
  • We simply can’t tolerate. .
  • Others include. . Worried, upset, mad, frustrated

These are emotionally driven words and emotion drives sales.  Listen for them!  Facts and figures justify sales, but emotion drives it.  If we don’t fully understand the reason for the statement, the purpose of the question, or dig deeper to find the real problem, we will waste time and miss opportunities. 

Topics: qualifying prospects, Qualifying skills, sales management, consultative selling, sales advice, salespeople

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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