Sales prospecting and lead generation are seen as closely related, and they are often used as interchangeable terms. They do have some differences however. Lead generation is the act of generating consumer interest in a product or service through the use of various resources such as making calls and doing online research. Sales prospecting, on the other hand, is actually developing prospects that have been found through lead generation.
There are simple steps you can follow whenever you prospect to help develop customer interest and lead into a sale:
Knowing where your product or service will be best received is of the utmost importance. You cannot sell a product to someone when they do not have any use for it. To discover this, know your products and/or services inside out – know their benefits, features, uses and applications. What market would your product be best suited for? What companies or people in that market are most likely to buy? Are there enough of these buyers? Who are the competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Where, in the company you are prospecting, should you position the product for maximum effect (for example, middle management or the purchasing department)?
Now that you have managed to gather a list of relevant prospects through targeting, find out as much as you can about them. You can do this through an easy Internet search, social media (LinkedIn is your best bet if you’re in the B2B game), networking events, business directories, telephonic enquiries and so forth. You can even use your own website to find out what people are searching for on your site.
Both the targeting and researching steps can be seen as part of lead generation but without them you cannot move on to sales prospecting.
Make frequent contact
Try to call or contact each name on the list every 3 to 4 weeks. This may seem like an annoying move to some customers and even salespeople but only if you don’t do it in a smart way. The positive about frequent calling is that even if a person is not ready to buy at the point in time that you call, they may be ready when you call the next time. Keep in mind to change your sales pitch every time you call so as not to sound like a broken record. Highlight a new feature or benefit of your product or service every time.
Frequent contact does not mean pressurising the prospect. If they decline your offer or don’t want to meet up for an appointment, simply thank them for their time and say goodbye. This way you don’t seem overly desperate. Wait until the next round of calls comes around because they may be more receptive the second time around (perhaps the previous contact was at a bad time). If, by the third call, they are flatly refusing an appointment or sale, leave it for a lot longer than before or simply don’t call again. Your reputation may be tattered if you are seen as pestering by a big and important prospect.
Don’t linger with the wrong prospect
Some prospects on your list may be much more viable than others. Recognise that some people may have been added to your list because you think they might be interested in buying but you are not 100% sure. If it’s not a surefire thing, you can still give it a try at least once but don’t waste time that could be used on something that’s more probable.
The simplest way to sell a product or service is to not really sell at all. It may seem counter-intuitive to your cause but hear us out. Many people are more receptive to a pitch when it doesn’t feel like they are being “fooled” by sales lingo or talked into something. Make it a relaxing conversation between two people instead of a sale.
To achieve this relaxed, conversational tone, you can simply record yourself (with your phone or however you want). Listen to the recording after the sales pitch is over and see if you are perhaps sounding like you are reading off of a piece of paper (even if you are doing just that), too over-enthusiastic or unusually friendly. Simply relax, listen and give feedback when asked. Don’t aim towards being deliberately persuasive – your product or service should speak for itself.
Take note of where you are in the process. This may seem obvious but many people simply go down a list, make ticks next to names and never analyse the calls they have just made. Ask yourself some of these questions:
* Did the prospect respond more positively do certain things than to others?
* When precisely did the call go downhill, if it did?
* What contact method did you use each time (try to deviate from making calls and rather send emails or even snail mail)?
Try different approaches for each call and take note of which approaches worked best. This will tell you the areas you need to improve on and where you are doing well.