By Scott Gilmore
“Sales prospecting is the lifeblood of a sales organization.” Our founder, Tim Magwood, often said this. In my 20 plus years of sales prospecting experience, I’ve seen this statement hold true.
Sales prospecting is key to replenishing your pipeline. As deals move through the funnel and opportunities close, salespeople must always be thinking about how they will replace those opportunities with new ones – whether from existing clients or new relationships.
As a salesperson who works with some of the largest sales organizations in North America, I have seen many challenges and successes with sales prospecting. Here are 16 sales prospecting tips that will help you turn your quarter or year around – whether you’re a salesperson or a sales leader.
Tip #1: Create a prospecting process.
Research suggests it can take up to 13 touchpoints to make a sale in today’s marketplace. Therefore, salespeople who don’t have a prospecting process will likely give up after the fifth or sixth try. Without a process, other priorities will get in the way.
Sales managers play an important role in ensuring salespeople have structure and a proven process they can follow. Leadership involvement in prospecting activities keeps every salesperson accountable.
Tip #2: Get motivated to prospect.
Some days, you just may not feel like picking up the phone to prospect. So how can you change your mindset and allow yourself to get motivated to find new business?
One way is to remember that there is a formula to generating sales results. If you don’t make enough calls, have enough conversations, or get enough face time with clients, you aren’t going to be closing enough business. Let your fear of not closing enough new business motivate you to prospect.
Tip #3: Take a team approach.
Instead of meeting with salespeople one on one to discuss their prospecting styles and efforts, hold regular sales prospecting meetings with your entire team instead. Two or three times per week, you can kick off prospecting as a team in the morning and set goals and debrief at the end of the day. This creates positive energy and consistency, and holds everyone accountable. (It also makes less work for you, as the manager, since you can meet with the group rather than following up with everyone individually.)
Tip #4: Involve marketing.
With the increase in customer touchpoints, alignment between sales and marketing has never been so important. What better way to keep the teams aligned than for marketing to play an active role in sales prospecting?
Enabling the sales team with compelling messages, relevant collateral, and engaging content is one way to create energy and excitement for sales prospecting.
Tip #5: Do the right amount of research.
Salespeople who don’t spend enough time researching prospects (using tools like Google or LinkedIn Navigator) won’t understand the organization, make connections, or find points of commonality.
Remember, however: Though some salespeople don’t feel comfortable making a call unless they’ve done 30 minutes of research, too much time spent researching can result in analysis paralysis and low call activity.
The thing is, most of the time you won’t get the prospect live on the phone anyway. This excessive research slows the process considerably. It’s about striking a balance between being prepared and making calls.
Tip #6: Craft the right prospecting message.
When communicating with prospects, get to the point quickly and make sure you clearly articulate value for the prospect.
There’s also power in uncovering the six degrees of separation to make a personal connection with the person you are reaching out to. If, within the first 10-15 seconds, you refer to someone you both know, you can build trust right away.
Tip #7: Leave a good voicemail message.
Nine times out of ten, you’re going to leave a voicemail. Often salespeople forget the impact that practicing can make on how you come across over voicemail. Call yourself and leave a voicemail message four to six times until it rolls off your tongue. Once you sound confident, you’re prepared to make the call and leave a voicemail.
Record your message and play it back. Does this message resonate? Be mindful of your tone and be concise. Share what the prospect will gain by speaking with you. Seek feedback from your peers or have your manager observe. Watch out for buzzwords, consultant-speak, and stiff language. Use plain language and try to be as personable, professional, and genuine as possible.
Tip #8: Create efficiencies.
Finding ways to be productive with prospecting is important in reaching your activity targets. However, quality activity is equally important.
Try taking a compelling message and find a way to thematically group your focus for the time you are prospecting. Stick to an industry, solution, or message type and send 20 emails at once.
Be careful not to be generic. Take 80 percent of the message and find a way to personalize it to the industry, for example, to save time while preserving quality.
Tip #9: Shift your mindset.
Adopt a “give to get” mentality when prospecting. You’re asking for someone’s time, so find ways to provide something of value to demonstrate what you have to offer. For example, send a white paper, article, or case study when you email prospects.
Tip #10: Try to secure a meeting instead of going for the close.
There is a common misconception that prospecting is selling over the phone. Many sales reps spend most of the call on the “script” or sales pitch versus trying to set up a meeting. The real objective of a prospecting call is to engage the other person and articulate the value you represent for them, which will give them a good reason to set up time to meet with you.
Tip #11: Take a “one-two-punch” approach.
Sending an email and following up by phone 10 to 30 minutes after has proven to be very effective in sales prospecting. The email sets the tone with a compelling reason for reaching out and highlights a personal or industry connection. The call to action on the email is that you are going to follow up by phone. This gives your prospect a reason to be interested in taking your call.
Tip #12: Don’t put off prospecting.
Don’t procrastinate or let other priorities get in the way. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, you may not see a lack of prospecting show up immediately in your results. There is a time lag between low prospecting activity and paying the piper down the road. In my case, my prospecting activity (or lack thereof) is going to show up three or four months after I start putting in my initial effort. Don’t wait: Once you have a thin sales pipeline, it is much more challenging to “fix.”
Be proactive in asking for referrals, too. You’ll be surprised how many referrals you get when you ask for them – and how positively they can impact your sales results.
Tip #13: Listen more than you speak.
Most salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Ask better questions to uncover what challenges prospects have. The more quickly you can get the other person on the other end of the phone to talk and share, the higher the likelihood you’re going to get a meeting.
Tip #14: Get to the point.
This may seem like common sense, yet it’s still worth mentioning, because concision is not a common practice. Keeping messages short and concise applies to emails, calls, and voicemails.
If you send a long voicemail, for example, the prospect will likely delete it within 10 seconds of listening to it. The email, call, or voicemail must be just long enough to secure a meeting.
Tip #15: Be consistent.
As a salesperson, you don’t want your sales results looking like a rollercoaster. Not only is sales prospecting consistency important to maintain low stress levels, it also allows your organization to count on you and to resource properly. Consistent sales prospecting efforts significantly contribute to being able to create predictable sales performance.
Call blocking is critical. Blocking your calendar on a consistent basis – such as Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8-10 a.m. – is a great way to be consistent. Carving out the time and not overbooking are keys to success.
Tip #16: Overcome rejection.
Most salespeople would prefer not to pick up the phone and make a prospecting call. Not only will there always other priorities to get to, most salespeople prefer to avoid rejection – especially when, most of the time, the prospects aren’t interested, or the timing isn’t right.
Prospecting is a critical activity in which both sales managers and salespeople play a part. By implementing these ideas into your prospecting efforts, you will find an increase in the quality and quantity of your prospecting activity – which will, in turn, drive your sales results.
To overcome resistance to prospecting, consider investing in your team to improve its confidence and capabilities through our customized proactive prospecting training solution. Connect with us to learn more.
Scott Gilmore is the SVP of sales and marketing at DoubleDigit Sales. He is a seasoned business development professional who is passionate about helping people grow and reach their full potential.