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When it comes to sales, prospecting is one of the hardest parts of the process. Ridden with possibilities for error and taking place in a world where everyone on the other end of the phone is busy and stressed, lead generation is a task people come to dread.
But prospecting doesn’t have to be a drag or a constant source of despair. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of sales and show you that it sure is possible to lift your processes out of the doldrums and take performance from average to spectacular.
We’ll look at which behaviors and processes end up just netting a handful of lukewarm prospects, and which ones act as keys to unlocking bags and bags of red-hot leads you can convert into happy, satisfied customers. We’ll also look at specific skills your team can use to change your processes for the better.
The Difference Between a Good Salesperson and a Great Salesperson
Selling is one of the most difficult – yet most rewarding – professions around. That means it’s hard to get to the top, and you have to work intensely at it in order to become great.
Anyone can be a good salesperson. However, only a few have what it takes to become a great salesperson and boost their company’s lead generation levels from average to fantastic.
The first and most important trait that marks out the difference between an average salesperson and a fantastic one is how they treat their prospects.
An average salesperson will spend their days trawling through Google and LinkedIn search results, finding a couple of prospects and then sending a template message. Perhaps they’ll give each message a small personalized tweak, like inserting the prospect’s name and company.
They worked hard. But they won’t get results.
A great salesperson will go further than that. A great salesperson realizes that they will only achieve sales success when they are empathetic and properly immersed in the business goals of their target.
Once they find a prospect, they will do in-depth research on the prospect’s goals and business climate, and then tailor their entire pitch around how the product will benefit them.
They won’t settle for simply changing a name at the top of a template. Rather than spray mud at the wall and hope a tiny bit sticks, they will do their homework and invest time in making sure the relationship develops.
A good salesperson often starts their day cheerful and flags as the day goes on, ending up miserable by the end. Sending out endless emails, being hung up on at least once or twice per hour – it’s hard to keep motivated.
Yet a great salesperson will remain optimistic all day. Why? Because they will have done their research, and they will have nurtured the skill of filtering out useless leads on sight.
They will rarely ever get phones slammed down on them because they will hardly ever call someone who will waste their time. They will have a laser-like focus on their task list and will know what they need to get done to achieve their goals.
They know that sales is not about sending out a certain number of identikit emails, but is about doing the hard work of finding leads who are more likely to convert.
After a day of reaching out to people, they might be tired – but they will still be smiling.
Why is Prospecting So Important for a Salesperson?
No easy button in sales! There are a lot of so-called salespeople out there who are determined to persuade you that sales can be easy or simple.
Have you seen those adverts which promise “5,000 WARM LEADS IN JUST ONE MINUTE!” or suggest you can “GET HUNDREDS OF NEW CLIENTS WITH JUST ONE CLICK?”
For less savvy salespeople, this might seem like a dream. It promises lots of results for little to no work.
But the fact is that these get-rich-quick schemes are lies, designed to fool you and get you to hand over your hard-earned cash in exchange for low-quality leads – or, in some cases, no leads at all.
There is no magic button in sales. The only thing you can do to be successful in this industry is to work your socks off and give yourself the best possible chance of smashing your targets. That’s why prospecting is so important for effective selling.
If we could get anything for nothing, we would all be doing it. But the reason that great salespeople are successful is that they know hard work prevails.
By far the most important way in which salespeople must work hard is on building relationships. In the modern age of texts, emails and one-click social media reaction buttons, the art of the face-to-face conversation is sadly in sharp decline.
If the “easy button” in sales has ever been real, it probably only existed 30 or 40 years ago. Having a kind yet the persuasive conversation with a prospect used to come easily, simply because there was no other option. Even business-to-business salespeople had to literally go door-to-door sometimes because phones were not as cheap or common and the internet was still a pipe dream in the minds of computer scientists.
Now, it’s much harder. We’re all so used to copying and pasting messages into text boxes, hitting “send” and hoping for the best.
Sending an email feels to an average salesperson like a completed task, but too often it’s a waste of time. Great salespeople, though, realize that the “send” button isn’t an easy one.
What matters is exactly what they say in that email, and the next one they send, and the one after that. It’s what they say in the first phone call they make to find out who best to speak to, and what they say when they meet up with the lead.
They know it’s about body language, about listening, and about having intelligent answers and interesting information up their sleeves with which to respond to the prospect’s questions.
All of that is harder than some get-rich-quick sales scheme or spending the day blasting out the same email to 1,000 leads. It’s not the easy button, but in the long run, it could well be the lucrative one. There are email prospecting techniques the best salespeople use for maximum response rates.
What Are the Objectives of Strategic Prospecting?
If you’re in the process of building a career in sales, then chances are you like most aspects of the job.
But as with all careers, it’s not always rosy. One of the biggest risks salespeople can face is the possibility that they will lose motivation – especially if they are working hard and seeing little to no results.
Luckily, help is at hand. The first thing you can do to immerse yourself in a productive and profitable sales prospecting strategy is to carve up your time in an efficient way.
There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a list of prospects to research, contact or document and realize that you’re bored rigid and have another half to go. So why not take action and set aside time to finish the task?
For example, you could say to yourself “I will work productively and with focus on my prospecting tasks between 9 am and 12 pm. Then I will do something else.” This way, you’ll get your necessary tasks done – while avoiding burnout.
The focus this brings may even result in you getting more done than if you’d planned to work on prospecting all day, but ended up getting distracted because of boredom.
If you have work that you need to focus on all day, consider using an online timer system such as the Pomodoro Technique. This time management plan breaks down your day into intervals of your choosing, interspersed with short breaks so you can give your mind a quick refresh.
But a good prospecting strategy cannot come from good working practices alone. If you’re feeling burned out, bored or miserable, you also have to change your emotional attitude towards lead generation in order to see the value in what you’re doing.
Many people see the sales process simply as an extended, dressed-up transaction, or a process to go through in order to exchange goods or services and make money. With this viewpoint, as the seller, you are the giver and the customers you’re reaching out to are taking from you in return.
While that’s all true, it doesn’t mean it’s what you necessarily have to focus on in order to be successful. Have you considered altering your strategy so that you see the sales process in a different light?
Instead of thinking about sales as a means to a transactional end, you could look at it as primarily the provision of help. As the provider, you are offering your assistance to someone who needs it – and that’s a good thing.
It might be that you’re offering the client a better IT infrastructure, you’re trying to help them with their office needs, or you’re aiming to change their marketing efforts for the better. Whatever help you’re trying to provide, remind yourself that to them you are a source of assistance.
Once you’re all set for this prospecting strategy, if the sale is successful and money changes hands, then the cash feels almost like just an added bonus.
If you see and present yourself as a source of help, you’re also more likely to end up closing the deal and ensuring your efforts weren’t in vain, because the prospect will see the benefits of your offer more clarity.
So why not change your prospecting strategy today and reap the rewards of positive thinking?
Basic principles of politeness dictate that there is hardly ever a good reason to interrupt someone while they’re speaking, especially in a professional setting. As a salesperson, you must always respect this rule.
But you can still use the concept of interruption to your advantage. Instead of looking rude by interrupting a conversation, why not get your prospects talking by interrupting thought processes instead?
Many sales conversations go round in circles. You introduce yourself, the prospect asks you a couple of predictable questions, then the call ends and they never get in touch again.
At this point, you can borrow from neuro-linguistic programming techniques and put the “pattern interrupt” method into action. This technique can save you when you hear those dreaded words from a prospect: “I’m not interested.”
Picture the scene. You’re on the phone with a prospect and they tell you they don’t want to know any more about your pitch. An average salesperson would accept this, say goodbye and move on. But an excellent salesperson would turn the question back to the prospect and say: “May I ask why you’re not so interested?”
Or picture this scene. A prospect asks you how much your product or service will cost, and their tone of voice suggests they’re skeptical about whether or not it would benefit them.
You could respond with a simple answer, like “Prices start from £100 per month.” That will probably not get you very far because the lead will just see you as another cold caller.
But you can use pattern interrupt to jolt the prospect out of the predictable question-answer-goodbye cycle: “We have a range of prices… tell me about your budget?”
This technique results in your prospect changing their expectations about how the call will play out. They’re now too busy thinking about crafting an answer to your unexpected question that they’ve forgotten they’re on yet another sales call.
Once they’ve provided you with their answer, you can tailor your response to theirs and repeat the process as the call progresses. By the end of the call, you’re in a much stronger position.
Interrupting might be a bad thing when it happens in conversation. But when you use the concept to change people’s thought patterns and stimulate unexpected and different behaviors, you can start to change the outcomes of your sales calls and get the results you want.
Balanced Prospecting Methodology
As a salesperson balance is vital, and there are so many sales techniques out there that it’s really important to work out where to spend your time.
For example, if prospecting via LinkedIn was producing no results because none of your prospects used the site, it would be foolish to spend all day sending out messages on there. How can you prevent this problem?
The best way to achieve a balance is to try everything and monitor the results. Work out a success rate based on how many responses you get per technique and how warm the leads were, and use this to decide how to split your time. Also remember to record other details, like which industry or seniority level responds best to which technique.
Once you have these statistics, you can use them to work out which time investment is the most efficient. You might find, for example, that 40% of your time is best spent reaching out via LinkedIn, 30% on phone calls, and another 30% on email. The best salespeople may have detailed balances which show how factors like time of day, length of the message and even tone of voice affect result rates.
When balancing your prospecting, however, take care not to become inflexible. For example, if you work in a digital industry it will most likely make sense to spend most of your time contacting people through mediums like email, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
But when everyone you want to speak to is concentrated in the same locations, it means that the obvious communication channels are probably quite saturated. For every prospect you want to speak to on LinkedIn, there are likely another ten salespeople targeting them and clogging up their inboxes.
For this reason, it can sometimes actually make sense to contact people using a less obvious means. If digital natives aren’t replying to your emails, you’ll stand out if you call them instead. Also, you can use voicemails to support effective prospecting and lead generation. Or if someone with a very bare LinkedIn presence doesn’t pick up the phone, try sending them an online message.
Constantly keep your balance under review, and don’t let it get you stuck in a rut.
For many companies, prospecting can sometimes feel like a nightmare. But an optimistic, lucrative sales process which gets you the results you need doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.
Changing the prospecting strategy of your sales team and equipping them with the techniques they need to change the hearts and minds of potential clients is key to building that pipeline of paying customers.
Whether it’s advanced skills, like pattern interrupt, which your company needs or simply a change in internal viewpoint and sales team culture, don’t despair: your solution is out there.
MarketJoy is a lead generation, market research and business development company dedicated to helping firms connect with their target market. We’re experts in carrying out market research and building prospect list data and can generate qualified leads for your business.
Do you want to talk? Get in touch with us today and speak to our expert team for more information about how we can help.