Selling Skills: Prospecting
The part of selling that I dislike the most and consequently battle through every time, is telephonic prospecting for new clients. It all sounds so simple. Just phone the prospect and get an appointment to see them. Not so easy in practice! This has got to be the most de-motivating aspect of any sales function.
Making appointments with prospects can be nerve-racking, difficult and yes, at times de-motivating. But there are techniques you can apply that will make this challenge much easier and certainly more effective.
Identifying your target market
The place to start is by correctly identifying your target market. If you do gain an appointment but find that your products or services are inappropriate, you have wasted your time. The following is a simple technique to enable you to identify suitable prospects. Take time to answer the following questions in detail:
- Describe the type of customer that your product or service typically appeals to.
- What type of Industry is it most suited to?
- Where are these customers usually situated?
- Who would be the right person to contact? (What position does the decision maker hold?)
Once you've identified your customer profile, you can use several on-line resources which often include maps of the area to help you locate prospective clients. It's then time for background work. Look at your own company records to check if you have ever dealt with the prospect in the past or are even dealing with them at present. To ensure that the call will be worthwhile, do some background research about the company's history, size, locations, strategy, values, products, people, etc., before trying to gain an appointment.
Time Management and Discipline
Prospecting is a structured activity. Set an objective to make a specific number of calls and don’t stop until you have achieved them.
During this time, ensure that no calls are put through to you, clear your desk of all other work and give this task your complete attention. It seems easy to justify delays in getting started, after all, this work has been uncomfortable in the past.
Strategy and structuring your call
The strategy required for gaining an appointment is very different to that of face-to-face selling skills. You cannot sell a high-value product or service over the telephone. Your main objective at this stage is TO GET THE APPOINTMENT, not to sell your product or service. You can safely assume that your prospect normally screens many calls from salespeople as part of a daily routine and so your call has to be professional, brief, assertive, and most of all, convincing. The following three-step strategy will help you to increase your rate of success.
1. Introduce yourself and your company
Confidently ask for your prospect by name, not by designation. Take the time to identify who you will be speaking to before you make the call. Introduce yourself and the company you represent clearly and briefly. It will help if you can mention a credible source of reference at this stage.
2. State the reason for your call
How will the prospect benefit by seeing you? Confidently provide a valid reason before asking for the appointment. For example, you might say, “We have an exciting new development that has been especially designed for your industry’s marketing needs.”
3. Ask for an appointment
Your main objective is to get an appointment and to do this you’ll have to use assertive closing techniques. For example, you could say, “I’m going to be in your area on Thursday and Friday, which day would suit you best?” When suggesting a convenient time to meet, give the prospect two alternatives and if neither one is suitable, ask for another.
If you are faced with an objection, and this is going to happen from time to time, keep trying until you get the appointment. Above all, don’t underestimate the power of the personal assistant and the typical role that this person plays. It is their function to shield the boss from unnecessary calls. Your manner should be warm and professional and at the same time persuasive. Don’t settle for sending brochures or e-mailing information. The chances are you’ll never hear from them again. You have to gain an appointment or you have failed. When you are gaining more appointments than you are losing, then consider yourself successful.
Don’t try to sell high-value goods and services on the phone! Your objective is to gain the appointment and you’ll need to sound professional, interesting and most of all, persuasive. Remember too, that referrals are a much easier way of gaining new business and this is usually only obtained by developing and nurturing long-term business relationships of trust.