You have butterflies in your stomach like you are going on a blind date. You are about to meet someone that you are not entirely sure you will like or have things in common, other than what you have been told by someone, or in the age of internet, found out about this person online.
You enter the coffee shop and you look for the person whom you are supposed to meet. What do you say? Are you dressed appropriately? Is this going to lead somewhere? How many times do you meet again before entering into a relationship? Remember those days? Or perhaps, you had never been on a blind date and this is your first time. Well, prospecting is similar to a blind date. You are exploring the possibility of entering into a business relationship with a prospective customer.
Rare are the salespeople that truly enjoy prospecting because of the unknown involved in making that call or visiting someone for the first time. Those “butterflies in the stomach” sometimes are what prevents salespeople from calling. Or, they will call, leave a message and by the third call they give up. “I called them three times and I have not received a reply. I don’t think they want to talk to us”. I sure have been there, haven’t you?
Over the years people made careers out of this “fear” of calling others. Studies have been conducted to determine how many times someone needs to be reached before “going on a blind date”. And the question always comes up – Is prospecting a numbers game? Is there more to it?
Over my 20 year career in sales, I have learned that prospecting is more than just a numbers game. In order to ensure that your chances are better than anyone else’s there are a couple things that need to be in place:
1. Qualify your prospect - Is this prospect good for my business, and am I a potentially good fit for theirs?
In order to grow a business, prospecting is an essential part of the job. Establishing criteria to define the types of clients that fit your business objectives and using that criteria when calling on prospects will increase your chances of contacting someone that will mean business in the future.
2. Do your research - Develop an understanding of your prospect’s business and the
trends in their industry.
Have you been in this situation? You get a prospect on the line and think to yourself, “now what do I say?” Be prepared. If you have done your research you will have a better understanding of your prospect’s business and their industry. Part of being successful at prospecting is having that knowledge. You do not need to become an expert, but you do need to be able to demonstrate credibility and gain some trust during your first connection. This will help to move the first connection into a potential face to face meeting.
3. Prospecting- Once you have qualified your potential accounts and done your research, it’s time to actually start connecting with people.
Be ready! Make sure that you are in a good place. Despite what people may think, your “mood”, “state of mind”, and “smile” do come across when calling people or leaving voice mails. People tend to respond to people that are friendly and smile when they are speaking. It is amazing the difference it makes. Here is where the question of “Is prospecting a numbers game?” comes into play. Research has shown that in today’s world where people are busy and performing more than one job, your success rate will be higher if you connect with them over time at least 15 to 20 times. Clients are always amazed when I share those numbers with them, and then they stop to think about their own experience and realize that the number is pretty accurate.
Overall, prospecting is timing meets opportunity. Do not get discouraged, and remember that if you approach prospecting with enthusiasm you are most likely to be remembered when you finally reach your target.
1. Practice makes perfect - Practice in front of a mirror. Are you smiling? Are you animated?
2. Record yourself - Understand how you sound on the other end of the line. Do you have the right amount of enthusiasm?
3. Be prepared - Have an outline in front of you, at least until until you become comfortable prospecting.
Overall, remember that your prospect is not expecting your call and that a number of other companies just like you are calling on them. Differentiate yourself by simply stating “ I know you weren't expecting my call today, is this a good time for us to talk?”
You will be amazed what this simple question will do! Most of the time, the response is positive and your prospect will schedule a proper time to speak with you.