A Better Way to Prospect: Six Steps That Can Keep Your Funnel Full
It’s easy to put off prospecting. It doesn’t immediately rack up sales and it can be time-consuming. However, it’s critical to your success. Before you can close sales, you have to fill the funnel. And, you have to keep filling the funnel week after week.
If you aren’t excited by the prospect of prospecting, you’re not alone. More than 40 percent of salespeople say prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process – more than any other stage.
If this sounds familiar, we have a few ideas that can help with prospecting. There are better ways.
Put It On Your Calendar
If prospecting is sitting on your to-do list, you may put it off until the end of the week and then decide to get to it next week. To avoid procrastination, mark it down on your calendar.
You need to carve out time each week just for prospecting. Put off answering emails, shut off distractions, and make prospecting a full-time job for at least a couple of hours each week. Some salespeople will block out a morning or afternoon once a week. Others will mark off an hour every day.
Whatever works for you is fine but calendar it and don’t let anything interfere with your prospecting time. You need to do it regularly, on a schedule, to form the habit.
Find A Connection
One of the best ways to get connected with prospects is to use a connection you already have (or one you can find).
There’s also a matter of trust. If they don’t know you or your company, you haven’t earned that trust. Getting a referral from someone they know creates an implied (or actual) endorsement. It may also create a sense of obligation on the prospect’s part to facilitate a meeting.
B2B buyers are wary of salespeople. They don’t want to get dragged into the sales process until they’re ready to get serious.
In a recent study, B2B buyers were presented with 10 information sources. They were asked which three they would choose to address a particular business problem. Salespeople came in 9th on the list of 10. The top choices were those seen as industry experts, peers, and colleagues.
If you can make that connection, get that referral, or position yourself as an industry expert, your prospecting will immediately improve.
Use Social Selling Tools
One great place to find these connections is on LinkedIn. You can quickly look up prospects and see if you have a connection. If you do, reach out and ask for the introduction. In a variety of industries from computers to healthcare to financial services, more than half of the revenue generated from sales was influenced by social selling.
It’s important to optimise your social profile. There is a good chance prospects will check you out online before they commit to a conversation. Look at your profile from a customer’s point of view. Is it more about positioning yourself for the next job or the next sale?
Staying on top of industry trends (in your prospect’s industry) can increase your knowledge base. It gives you the opportunity to talk specifics. Connecting on social media allows you to tap into what your prospect’s thinking is. It also gives you an easy way to share relevant information and stay connected.
Another good place to prospect online is in Facebook or LinkedIn groups. Groups are organised by industries, jobs, and interests. Offering relevant comments on industry-related topics is another way to raise your profile and establish yourself as a credible source.
Pre-Qualify Your Prospects
Salespeople can waste a lot of time chasing prospects that are never going to buy. Make sure you pre-qualify your prospects before you invest any serious amount of time.
If they are a quality prospect, you will be able to answer yes to three distinct questions: Does the prospect have a need for your product or service, do they have the financial ability to buy, and do they have the authority to do a deal. If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is going to be a long road to sales.
Most salespeople’s instinct is to go after anybody as a prospect. After all, you have to keep that funnel full! While sales can often be a numbers game, it’s not the quantity of prospects that lead to sales, it the quality of the leads.
Make The Connection
Once you have identified a viable prospect and made sure they are qualified, it’s time to make the connection.
The days of cold calling are over. There’s so much information available for free online, there’s never a reason to go in cold. Look at their website, their social profile, search for company and industry news. It takes only a few minutes but may give you good information to make a better approach.
Another tactic from days gone by is the CNA (Customer Needs Analysis). While it’s critical to assess prospect’s needs, asking for a few minutes of their time to have them explain their business to you is not likely going to work. Customers today expect you to understand their business and their problems. They simply don’t have time to educate you on their business.
When you do make the connection, you should listen and much as you talk. It is not about just letting the prospect talk, it is about really listening to what they are saying. 65 percent of buyers surveyed said they felt salespeople were more interested in talking and selling than listening and figuring out their needs.
If you are really listening and you’ve done your research ahead of time, you are more likely to have a substantive conversation. By being able to have a real conversation, you increase your chance of moving the prospect to the next stage and you build up trust.
These days, it’s all about providing value. Your prospect’s time is valuable. Your time is valuable, too. You can’t afford to waste theirs or yours.
Practice & Train
Like anything else, it takes practice and repetition to get good at something. You have to do it often enough to create a positive habit. Prospecting every day, or at least every week, can help solidify the muscle memory.
Sales training on prospecting tools can help accelerate the process. Practice will only make it better.
Keeping The Funnel Full
If you can follow these steps, your funnel will be full, and you’ll close more sales. It really can be that simple.
Key Steps To Better Prospecting
- Put it on a calendar
- Find a connection
- Use social selling tools
- Pre-qualify your prospects
- Make the connection
- Practice and train