A Guide to Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting whether using cold calling, social selling, emails or referrals is a vital sales tactic especially for new or small businesses.  Prospecting and sales are not the same thing, prospecting is solely focused on searching and engaging with potential customers in order to nurture a relationship. The sales event happens once the prospect has passed some qualification criteria.  The act of picking up the phone or sending a cold email can seem daunting to a salesperson, especially if they work for a company whose product or brand name might not be instantly recognizable.

50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. [Source: The B2B Lead]

So, here is a guide for sales prospecting success:

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Use Social Selling and Digital Selling to counteract lack of name recognition.

Using social selling and digital selling tactics can overcome many of the bigger obstacles for new or smaller companies. As Confucius stated “Worry not that no one knows you; seek to be worth knowing.” So, start by really understanding your value proposition and be clear about the buyer pain points and business challenges your company solves.
Givers Gain. The ability to demonstrate (visually using video or content on social media) that you understand your prospects challenges and that you can be a useful source of information to help them improve their business will result in increased relevant connections.

Share first, sell later. Sharing insights and quality information without a big sales pitch is what will get attention from buyers. Use video, case studies, whitepapers, references etc to gentle highlight the benefits of considering your business. Give examples of what makes you different, whether it is a unique product, free trials, lower cost of ownership, proof of concepts or improved performance. Seeding the benefits of doing business with you that can be viewed online will only reinforce your other sales prospecting efforts.

The first step is to create a list of unique benefits and values that will displace any perceived lack of recognition or recall. Building a social selling and digital selling strategy aimed at specific audiences will position the business as one worth considering when it comes to looking for new providers.

Know who you sell to and who will buy from you

Knowing who you want to sell to and who will buy from you are not the same. If you want everyone as a customer, you will sell to no-one. Create 1,2 or 3 Ideal Customer Profiles. In fact, focusing in on who you want to engage is probably THE most important aspect of sales prospecting. To maximize your success, ensure that you prioritize the prospects and profiles in order to improve the chances of providing value to them and their challenges.

Effective Sales Techniques Tips Video from The Digital Sales Institute

During the research stage, the goals to work towards include:

  • To determine if the prospect is worth investing time in
  • List, score, and begin to prioritize prospects
  • Identify touch points (via social or otherwise) to develop a connection through content, message personalization, nurturing and influence development

Seek to Be Useful, Valuable and Relevant

Regardless of whether you try to engage via cold calling, email or social selling, you should seek to be a useful, valuable and relevant contact. Learn how to social listen so you can research their company and understand their business. What trigger events can you uncover that would warrant engaging with you. Have they just launched a new product? Hired a new CEO, moving to a bigger office, Acquired a new company? Trigger selling is where you leverage specific information to make a prospecting touch point relevant, more informed, and less cold.

Become skilled at Social Selling and Digital Selling

The fact is that while still they still deliver results, cold calling and unsolicited emails are not as powerful as they once were. They still have a place in sales prospecting if used in conjunction with social selling. This activity involves the use of LinkedIn, Twitter and increasingly Facebook as part of the sales process to raise buyer awareness towards a business and then gradually cultivating new connections. Learn to use social media to build relationships before a prospect even starts a buyer’s journey, to close the conversion gap and eventually move online social conversations into offline sales conversations. Social selling is an additive process to connect with all stakeholders, decision-makers and influencers as the buying process moves from status quo, to awareness and onto consideration.

Using your Ideal Customer Profiles, locate and list your prospects on LinkedIn, then begin by sharing quality content, be seen to add value to conversations prior to sending out a connection request. Using a highly personalized message, referencing something that will twig their interest will greatly improve their likelihood to accept your request to connect to them. Now, this can turn your first ‘cold’ call touch point into a warm call and increase the percentage of appointments or demos.

Multi-Channel Sales Prospecting Touch Points

Not one single sales prospecting touch point (Social Selling, Emailing or Cold Calling) should be your entire tactic. C level executives receive over 100 emails a day and try to avoid numerous cold pitches so the likelihood of success by simply focusing on one tactic will probably deliver slim pickings.

Successful sales prospecting is about communication and getting commitments. There will always be person to person personalised communication, so learn the multi-channel techniques to overcome any lack of name recognition on calls and mails. The buying committee is now on average made up of 5 to 6 people, so think multi prospecting touch points to multiple people as part of your sales process if you want to build recognition for the business.

As buyers self-educate, getting their time and attention isn’t easy, but perfecting the channels and timing of when to engage them will dramatically close the conversion gap and increase the number sales conversations you secure.

Learn the Sales Habit Loop, Set a Daily Schedule for Yourself

It takes 66 days on average to learn a new habit, so as basic as it sounds, plan your day, book time slots for different prospecting tactics in your calendar, daily. Then persist with it and prospect. Make it part of your daily routine and give yourself a reward not just for the success but also for the effort.  Selling is a repetitive job, it can be easy to dedicate ourselves to the “easier” sales tasks. Even when your sales pipeline seems full, remember over 80% of prospects make it all the way through the sales process and never make a decision. So, you must have a sales habit loop that consistently refreshes the number of sales prospects you are planning to or are currently engaging.
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Never stop Learning

Take time to reassess your sales prospecting process to see what activities generated some return and which ones did not deliver.

After each prospecting campaign, take time to assess how well we:

  • Found a pain point or trigger
  • Were able to engage in meaningful conversations
  • Uncovered challenges
  • Understood the buying committee and decision process
  • Gave buyers reasons to move out of their status quo
  • Closed the conversion gap

Persistence. Learn, have a routine, Try, then try again, reflect, refresh, adjust and go again. And again, and again. Taking time to self-reflect will serve to further improve sales prospecting techniques for future campaigns. Here are some more sales training articles and videos. 

Powerful Sales Techniques

Insight into some powerful sales techniques to help prepare when it comes to engaging a customer or prospect. Whether you are a seasoned sales professional or new into sales, you need to have a set of sales techniques you can draw upon to hit those sales targets. The list of techniques to follow should help increase the approach and interactions to improve sales performance.

Sales Techniques begins with Planning and Preparation.

Sales is a process, not an event, meaning that planning and preparation are sales techniques. This technique is about learning to gather information and insights about a contact plus their company. Being competent to have an in-depth discussion about a customer’s industry, markets, news and trends is often one of the sales techniques salespeople struggles with. Coming armed with insights will not only help build credibility with the customer but also show that you have a genuine interest in their business.  Start by using social media to gather some insights, use Google news or companies blog for announcements, research their industry for trends and forecasts. The more information, the better as it can help build a picture of the customers challenges etc. Now plan out the steps, questions and discussions for the call, meeting or presentation. Using the insights, you have gathered, create a personalized value proposition for this customer and what is it in for them to listen to you.  Don’t forget to also plan out the opening statement and 3 or 4 discovery questions so you can get their awareness and attention based on your knowledge.

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Challenge the Status Quo.

Learn to challenge the customers status quo because in sales the biggest competitor in securing a deal is not the competition but the buyers status quo position. Status quo comfort or the natural inclination for people to avoid change is one of the biggest obstacles in sales. On a scale of 1 to 10 for sales techniques difficulty, this one is an 8 or 9.  The sales skill here is to understand the customers status quo then uncover everything that makes up their status quo to determine how, if, why and when any change would be required or more importantly accepted internally. To master the sales technique of challenging the status quo, we need to change our mindset to “Servant Sellers”. Servant sellers are willing to work with the buyer as a change agent. This involves undertaking all the grunt work, the running around, the gathering of information from multiple parties and other members of the buying committee who will also not have shifted their status quo position.

The sales techniques include magnifying the pain points, making the challenges, obstacles or opportunities as real as possible plus positioning the true cost of doing nothing as unbearable.  The result we all look for is that our proposed solution gets moved up on the customer’s priority to-do list.

A few questions to note are:

“How would you describe your current situation? (in relation to your product)”

“What is your process for [name it] right now?”

“Which improvements would you seek if you had a choice?”

“Is there anything about your current solution to [name it] that you wish was easier?”
“Could you help me understand this better?”

“What is the impact of leaving things as they currently are?”

“What would you consider to be the obstacles in finding a solution?”

“What is the knock-on effect and cost to the business if your current solution can’t [ scale, adapt, cope, change, etc]?”

“What insights or event would trigger you to explore alternative options now?”

 

Be a MOP – Master of Performance.

All the worlds a stage, and salespeople are the players who make buying easier. You see, every single interaction with a customer is an opportunity to perform, to build credibility, to influence, to be seen as useful, and to gain their trust. Everything from our tone of voice, from the way we dress, to what is said and just as important – how it is said, is all part of the sales performance. The quality and relevancy of the information we impart is what determines how we progress. People buy from experts and advisors, so confidence is vital. Similar to an actor, learn to tell stories, talk at a measured pace to allow the words flow naturally. Use facts or data with a raised pitch within the story to display confidence. Have the business acumen to know the customer is asking themselves “Why should I listen” and “How are you different from my current supplier”. So be prepared to answer this as part of your sales performance.

Sales 3.0 is about Collaboration.

Use collaboration to uncover sales opportunities, remember the switch rate ratio is 54% listening to 46% talking. Practice and measure the switch rate that you and the customer take turns listening and then talking. This sales technique allows for the flow of information to be two-way. Some sales training will help you master the sales skill of “active listening”, this opens the door to insights, allowing us to work together to help find the solution that best meets the customer’s needs. To help the switch rate runs smoothly, have a list of discovery type questions to ascertain if any real sales opportunity does in fact exist.

Examples include:

“Where are you experiencing the biggest challenges?

“What has been your own experience in trying to narrow down solutions in the past?”

“What type of events or trends would make you review your current solutions?”

“In which area [personalized to product] are you seeing most challenges?”

“What is your process for going about solving these issues?” 

“What would be the criteria for you to consider solutions or options to [name it]?”

“In an ideal world, when do plan to have found some options for consideration?”

“What would the normal decision-making process for my type of solution be?”

Real sales collaboration shouldn’t be rushed, receiving insightful and honest answers will give a good indication of whether there is a sales opportunity or not. If the switch rate is highly interactive, the questions and answers should reveal the customers main pain points. This allows for a progression in the sales process, however if no opportunity exists or can’t be crystalized then it is time to move on.

It’s about Buying Ease not Buying Please.

The sales mindset here is Let me work for you and show you what you need to complete this purchase.” The customer does need more, they already live in a world of more- more information, more data, more options, and more people involved in a buying decision.

We need to focus on buying ease, to bring clarity in the sales process. To collaborate and help customers simplify the buying process, to make it easier to buy. Research shows customers who experience a high level of “buying ease,” opt to do with that supplier, in fact they are 62% more likely to win the deal. Buying ease includes making the customer feel comfortable about moving out of their status quo, that new possibilities are only positive, that the cost of change is manageable, to show them how to sell the solution internally and then make buying easier by being a servant seller.

Sales techniques are a never ending and constantly changing story. They reflect the environment we sell into and our customers evolving preferences for how they buy.

Are Women Better Entrepreneurs

Gender issues between men and women have long been standing. For countless decades, women have struggled to rise to fulfill their roles as leaders and game changers. Even when, over time, names of women who have made huge changes in the communities they belong to have surfaced, gender-bias remains alive, breathing, and plaguing.

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Despite the different work-related gender issues women, from anywhere around the world, face each day of their lives, the success of women leaders in the corporate world have made responding differences. In a world dominated largely by men, the tide is apparently shifting before everybody’s eyes. More and more people have come into realization how the female qualities impact and bring forth positive changes in businesses. While in the past it was nearly impossible for women to gain acceptance in business, now businesses need women beyond their nurturing skills. More are appreciating the different yet effective approach of the women in business on problem analysis and solving, creativeness and innovation, and their general drive to success.

The business landscape is still dominated by the male population, and there still are those started by women that have failed and have never been attempted to revive. However, survey suggests that in many large cities like Melbourne, women-owned businesses out survive those men-owned, from different industries. The staggering rates of success of women in the business world, with their unparalleled and unconventional approaches would make them equal to if not better entrepreneurs than men. Now how is that possible? Let’s check out why.

Open and honest marketing

Gone are the old marketing ways where consumers are blindly being led to believe whatever companies want them to believe. Today, with the changes in mass media, social media and the availability of information at the hands of consumers, dumb marketing almost never works anymore.
Consumers are much wiser and appreciate authenticity in marketing more than ever. This is where women are good at — open and honest marketing. When consumers see honesty from your business, trusting becomes so much easier on the part of the consumers. Once trust is established, getting ahead in business is not a difficult task.

Women connect better

The choice and voice of consumers these days have taken their leverage over companies on a higher level. An unresolved or poorly resolved consumer issue can bring a whole company down in a short matter of time. The women’s connection skills come in handy in before such situations even arise. This is because of the natural instinct of women to listen first before acting on the problem; while men on the other hand, immediately act first to save what is left and then only listen after.

Women are better negotiators

The less aggressive approach of women on so many ways makes them better negotiator. In negotiations they engage in, they do not bend things just to gain foothold over the situation. Women go for decisions where both or all parties gain advantages and win.

Women share the credit

Any success that women gain in the business, they do not take all the credit to themselves. They boost the confidence in their employees by making them feel that their efforts and contributions are valued. This approach makes employees strive to do better and add in an extra dose of dedication in their work because they understand the implications of their actions.

Women value relationships and well-being more than the business

This point does not instigate that men do otherwise. It is just that women have the tendency to act based on these values before the business itself. They place importance of their families and relationships outside their work, creating a sense of balance and putting off grab effects of burn-out. Also, in terms of businesses, they are able to create a personal touch in dealing with both their employees and teams, and customer. Women put in a heart in their business, which gives them an advantage in their relationships with their clients.

Overall, what really makes women better entrepreneurs is their natural ability to adapt to the changes in the business scene. Today, consumers seek connection to businesses who provide them services and products. Trust is built on these things, when they are assured that the businesses are on their side. Women’s natural abilities to connect, and nurture are very handy tools in giving businesses a human touch that consumers crave for.

This is a guest article on The Bitter Business.

Guest Author Bio:

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Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.

Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace