Guest post by Skip Miller
Raise your hand if you like to prospect.
If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re not alone. The intense fear (and hatred) of prospecting is so engrained that I can’t persuade you to fall in love with it. Good news: I’m not going to try. Now, raise your hand if you want to be successful at sales. If the answer is yes, prospecting is going to be in this equation. So, let’s accept that prospecting for leads and closing those deals will be part of your job: cold calling.
Have you heard these phrases kicking around in your head? Maybe even heard yourself say them out loud?
1. “I am a salesperson, not a lead-generation machine.”
2. “There are two types of salespeople: those who like to prospect and those who would rather focus on working current business relationships. I am one of the latter.”
3. “I’m just too busy to prospect. I have a ton of stuff to do.”
Unfortunately, none of those excuses will work (try them… you’ll see). And here is where you can gain an enormous competitive advantage. Since we know that all sales people have a strong dislike for prospecting, honing this skill will be about as valuable as natural 10 karat diamonds. In other words, it is a skill that is EXTREMELY PROFITABLE. Thinking strategically, let’s categorize your prospects to increase the odds of success by giving you targets that are easier to hit. These tips will strengthen your prospecting muscles, increase your overall worth, and create some new relationships along the way.
Cold to warm
Cold calls are the toughest calls to make because the prospect has no sense of familiarity with you. Your goal is not to make hundreds of cold calls, rather, to turn as many cold calls you make into warm calls. Remember, you are increasing your chances at success. How do you thaw the freeze?
- Reference someone inside the prospective company
- Reference someone outside the prospective company
- Refer to a flattering story in a publication about your prospect’s company or yours
Choose the right firearm
If you are hunting elk, would you venture out into a desert and start blasting away, hoping to hit an elk? Of course not. You have to choose a location where elk are most likely to be. And once you find said location, you have to be deliberate in your actions. Even though a shotgun spreads a broad pattern, you still have to aim. This applies directly to prospecting. If you expect to get the attention of a prospect, you have to go where high quality prospects are likeliest to be before you start calling. How do you refine your approach to become more productive?
- Create Goals: A written goal is three times more likely to be achieved than one that is not written down. And, be specific. How many prospects are you going to contact, and by when? Words like “soon”, or “a lot”, won’t cut it here.
- Be Timely: Contact your prospect when it’s a good time for THEM—not you. Typically, the best times are early in the morning, in the evenings, or 10 minutes before and after the lunch hour.
Increase your power by focusing on your strengths. Two ways to gain leverage:
- Be The Expert: Do you or the company you work for, possess a special expertise? Don’t be shy – speak up and let the prospect know!
- The Question: You are calling your prospect because they need your help. What are the one or two burning questions your prospect needs the answer to?
Remember, practice makes perfect. Gain leverage in your position by practicing the very thing all sales professionals loathe: prospecting. Warm up your cold calls by thinking like a buyer, not just like someone who would like to make a sale.
Skip Miller is Founder and President of M3 Learning, a ProActive Sales and Sales Management Training Company based in the heart of Silicon Valley.