Prospecting is the discipline of sales champions. However, most salespeople’s prospecting still consists of choosing an industry, making a list of leads in that industry, sending semi-personalized emails and making “check in” calls. The problem is, this isn’t enough: if you don’t know who the right decision maker is, can’t name your customer’s needs, and don’t have a plan to establish confidence, these calls aren’t going to drive anyone down the funnel.
Prospecting requires investing in the right steps and strategies that fit you and your market. In his book High-Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter gives us gold: the seven questions you need to answer before building a solid prospecting plan.
1. Do I sell a consumable or something people buy on a regular basis?
The number of times you should be reaching out to a lead or prospect depends on whether or not your customer buys on a regular basis. It could be as often as several times a week. If you’re selling office supplies, leads can easily be making buying decisions daily, so contacting them 2 to 4 times a week may not be excessive at all. If your customer buys on an annual basis, you should only be reaching out every 3 weeks.
2. Is what I sell considered a routine purchase, or is it a capital expenditure/major expense?
Products that are considered a routine purchase will typically not need as much of an approval process to buy. This means that the person responsible for purchasing might be in the lower management level of an organization. If your product is considered to be a big expense, there may be several decision makers to speak with before making the sale. You will have to build your prospecting strategy around multiple contacts in the same company.
For example, if you are selling to a Fortune 500 customer, you’ll find that the decision making process involves 2 or more people, or even an entire team, and can take several months as the customer wants to ensure they are making the right purchasing decision.
3. Are my customers professional buyers who interact with numerous salespeople?
If you’re a sales professional, you’re likely hyper-aware that you’re dealing with people who know how to take advantage of the purchasing process. This means they will not acknowledge your prospecting efforts until they are ready to make a decision. That doesn’t mean you should stay silent - on the contrary, be persistent! Buyers want to work with people they trust, and trust is built over time.
4. If the customer chooses not to buy from me, are they buying from my competitor, or not making a purchase at all?
If the prospect is buying either from you or your competitor, it means your prospecting process must be frequent enough to be remain top-of-mind and on the front end of the buying process. Focus on developing the relationship and educating your prospects throughout their buyer journey.
5. Are my prospects currently buying what I sell from someone else?
This is the hardest type of lead, thus your prospecting efforts need to be geared toward creating awareness. The competitor that currently has the account will, at some point, make a mistake or have an issue. If you have built awareness with that lead, you may be the one they turn to. If you are able to convert that customer, they will become a loyal, long-term one.
6. Is what I sell purchased via a contract, quote, or some other type of deadline process?
Customers who use this approach will actively engage multiple companies and have them bid against each other. A lot of salespeople don’t understand this. These customers have long lead times due to the length of some contracts, thus you really have to double down on your prospecting efforts. Find out their timeline and build credibility. Remember, the objective is to be on the front-end of the process. This is what we call Account Based Marketing (ABM) -the prospecting will take more time, and you’ll need to reach out to multiple contacts in the same organization.
7. Are customers familiar with what I sell, or is it something I need to educate them on?
If the leads you’re talking to are not familiar with how you can help them, your prospecting process must include enough time and communication to allow the lead to become educated on your product or service.
The answers to these questions prove that your prospecting process has to be aligned with your goals. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you can’t copy word-for-word the process someone else uses. Even after you develop a master process, there will always be some variations based on the type of customer you’re selling to, their buying process and of course, any product changes.
Note: This post has been excerpted from High-Profit Prospecting by Mark Hunter, an imprint of AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. Copyright © Mark Hunter, 2016.