Prospecting can cover many different aspects and often overlaps with a close connection to your marketing departments and or lead generation teams.
- Sales prospecting in my mind is one of the biggest hornet's nest for sales people and often the most misunderstood. To be candid with you, prospecting is not on the top of the list of sales responsibilities that I've liked through the years. You've got to buckle down, be focused, tackle it with 100% commitment and realize that there's a lot of no's along the way. I've gotten good at it, but it's not easy at all. To me, I think it's a step that crosses a number of different department functions from sales and marketing to the lead generation teams.
It's probably the responsibility that creates the biggest tension between these departments. In those movies with sales people in tough, hard sale jobs, you'll hear the line, the leads are no good or we've watched the shady sales person on the telephone, trying to entice a naive or unsuspecting buyer with some hot new stock tip. That really isn't what prospecting is all about as it requires a lot of detailed planning, hard work, and some unique skills to ask the right questions and qualify someone as a legitimate lead.
In my view, I don't see every sales person involved with prospecting. To some degree, it's a special skill. It takes a lot of time and in many cases, it requires a tougher skin. I think it's more valuable to have sales teams focused with all the other areas of the sales process. Most importantly, working with active leads and customers. However, I realize in small companies or if you're self-employed, you do need to include prospecting as a critical initial step.
The interesting and demanding aspects about sales prospecting is that it actually takes some of the critical initial steps of the overall sales process and requires us to it do all in this phase. Research, planning and preparation, focus, targeting our contact list and the most important skill set, which is recognizing a real lead versus one that is a time waster. Without a clear well thought out path of cultivating new leads, a lot of time, energy, and resources can be wasted.
Everyone, from the new sales person to the long time professional, needs to know how to prospect. How to find new accounts, how to handle cold calling effectively and efficiently, and manage it all in a timely manner to focus on real opportunities rather than dead ends. It's recognizing the critical need to respond quickly to leads and inquiries as they will often go cold within 24 hours. Because of this, I think it's an entirely different course and one that historically may not have been given as much attention as the rest of the sales process.
For those of you in sales with prospecting responsibilities, I'd recommend the Sales Prospecting Course by Jeff Bloomfield in the library. If you're able to be a good account prospector, you're a terrific asset for company. However, without the proper training, you can be on a rollercoaster of emotions in trying to secure new business and leads. You need to be aware of the pros and cons of cold calling. Learn to be able to accept no as an answer and have energy for the long days and the enthusiasm to rebound the next day.
Prospecting for new accounts and customers successfully is a skill that starts the entire buying and selling process. Without leads, without opportunities, you'll be spending a lot of idle time. Learn how it works, know when to move on and most importantly, learn the signs of when a prospect can become a lead and generate a sale.
- Gathering information
- Assessing needs
- Presenting and selling your product or service
- Delivering on your promises
- Following up with your customer
- Reporting and communicating back to your company
- Improving your process continually
- Learning from other sales processes
- Applying your sales process to other aspects of your life