By Tom Scully
Ask salespeople to describe their prospecting plans and most will describe a medley of activities which often include: a little networking now and then, asking for referrals from time to time, following up with the leads generated by the marketing department, and “touching base” with former clients. But, the last thing you’re likely to hear is an actual PLAN – a step-by-step process for identifying and contacting prospects on a consistent basis.
Because prospecting – especially proactive prospecting (a.k.a cold calling) – is a last resort activity for most salespeople. Even those who engage in activity and obtain favorable results are quick to abandon it as soon as they find an opportunity to pursue.
Why would they abandon activities that are working?
They abandon them because a hodge-podge of activity with no particular goal, no well-thought-out steps, and no way to gauge effectiveness is not a plan. And consequently, the results are inconsistent, unpredictable, and not likely to motivate one to continue along such a path.
Ironically, taking the “easy” route to prospecting – the hodge-podge approach – rather than investing the initial time and effort to develop a comprehensive plan, makes the activity more difficult…and less rewarding.
Developing a real prospecting plan will take a little work. But, the long-term payoff is well worth the effort.
What goes into a prospecting plan?
Rather than take a shotgun approach, hoping to find someone to whom to sell something, decide which market segment you want to pursue. The more you define and focus on the profile of the prospects you’re attempting to find, the more likely you are to find them.
Next, identify the specific product or service you will be focusing on during your quest for prospects. Unless there is a specific reason to do otherwise, focus on the product or service that provides consistent desirable outcomes for your clients.
Once you’ve identified the product or service and the target market, you need to develop a prospecting “message.” The message is not a sales pitch, but a short statement and question to capture the attention of the decision makers and explore the relevance of your product or service to their current or potential future needs. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Finally, you will need to develop some follow-up questions for those prospects who respond positively to your relevance question. These questions should delve a little deeper into the prospects’ situation and engage them in short conversations that reveal reasons to scheduling appointments.
There you have it – a systematic prospecting approach that can be implemented at regular intervals. It will take some effort to develop and refine your approach. But, with a little patience and practice, you’ll have a process for consistently and predictably finding new prospects.