“Why won’t my salespeople prospect? All they ever do is complain that they don’t have enough leads.” In the first article of this series we looked at Marketing, which can be one of the main contributors to this lament. In the second article we looked at another major contributor, not hiring the right salespeople. Generating leads is typically part of a salesperson’s job even if they receive help from marketing or a telemarketing group. Consequently, sales managers have to become experts at hiring salespeople who can prospect, and then make sure there is a process in place that encourages and rewards them for doing it.
In this article we will look at the reasons that most salespeople do not like to prospect. Okay, there are always a few who do. When I am doing a sales training and ask, “How many of you love to prospect?” A few hands always go up, but the majority are willing to admit that they don’t like it and don’t make time for it.
Many salespeople equate prospecting with cold calling, and because of that, associate it with rejection. Some salespeople think it is beneath them; they are closers. Prospecting for many salespeople amounts to taking a list of names, picking up the phone, and trying to reach the person on the list. If they do, they start their pitch. Typically the person on the other end says, “Not interested,” and the call ends. The salesperson runs through the list this way calling 20 – 50 people and hoping to get a few appointments. Hope is not a strategy. (make a larger box with this quote in it).
So how do we get salespeople to like prospecting? If they like, it they will do it. Right? For most, if prospecting equals cold calling they will never like it.
If they’re not going to cold call just how are they going to generate leads?
Here are a few ideas.
Prospecting in their current customer base. There is never an easier sale than selling an existing product to a satisfied customer. Salespeople should be in touch with their customers to uncover needs. They need to keep in touch with all of the key people at each of their accounts. Salespeople should ask themselves, “Do I have a systematic plan to keep in touch with my customers?” If not, make one and put reminders on the calendar. Keep in touch by phone, visits, attending industry meetings, mail or email. Use notes, letters and emails to thank them for their business, ask if they need to reorder, introduce new products, follow up, or invite them to an event.
Consistently asking for referrals. Everyone loves referrals but how often are you actually getting them? If you keep your customers satisfied they should be a walking advertisement for your company. (put in as a larger quote) If they’re not satisfied, do everything in your power to change that. It’s very easy to ask a satisfied customer for a referral, but most salespeople don’t do it consistently. Get in the habit and watch your revenue soar. Here are some tips: In person, by letter, by email or on the phone, thank them for their business and tell them that you are growing your business and looking for more great customers like them. Ask if they’d introduce you to someone they know that would be a potential customer. If they don’t know anyone to refer you to, ask them if you could use them as a reference or if they would give you a quote to use. Make a plan to ask every satisfied customer you have for a referral.
Networking. Get out to the organizational meetings that your prospects attend, but just being there isn’t enough. You need to develop a networking strategy. Here are some tips:
1. Figure out the best places to meet your potential clients. This may mean that you have to experiment a bit and that you may have to “think outside the box.” Our best clients are not always where we think they are.
2. Dress for success. Wear something comfortable that makes you feel like a million bucks. Don’t overlook this important detail.
3. Attend new events with a member that will introduce you. If you don’t know any members, call the president of the organization and let him know that you’d like to attend as someone’s guest. Call that person in advance and ask her to introduce you to the members at the event.
4. If you’ve been there before, make it a point to meet all of the people in the room that you don’t know. Don’t forget to say “hi” to those you do. If you bring a guest, it gives you a reason to talk to everyone as you do the introductions.
5. Have plenty of business cards with you. Should I have to mention this? The answer is yes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at networking events and asked someone for their card and can’t believe my ears when they say, “I didn’t bring any,” or “I am out.”
6. When you approach someone, always make conversation by asking questions about their business. Don’t pitch your product. Don’t even mention your product unless you are asked. If asked, talk about the benefits of your product and possibly tell a short success story. Rehearse, not so that it sounds scripted, so that it sounds great.
7. If you say, “Let’s get together for coffee or lunch,” then make that happen. It shouldn’t be something you just say to make conversation. You can call or email after the event to set it up.
8. Follow up by sending an email or snail mail stating that it was nice to see them or to meet them, which ever the case may be and enclose your business card.
9. Do not add them to your mailing list unless they specifically request that you do. There’s nothing worse than a salesperson who collects cards at a networking event and then adds them all to his mailing list.