The Complete Guide to Prospecting

The Complete Guide to Prospecting

Most salespeople are good listeners, great talkers, and know their way around the sales cycle. But time and time again, I hear really awesome sales reps asking me, “how do I get more prospects to sell to?”

Unfortunately, there is no quick answer to figuring out the world of prospecting.

Prospecting takes a well thought out game plan, a ton of patience, and the ability to get over rejection pretty quickly. There is no secret fix or easy way around it – it takes time, a lot of time.

For salespeople I’ve worked with and coached before, I find the prospecting discussion more digestible if you break it down into four separate pieces.

PART I: Are You Targeting the Right  Prospects?

Building Your Buyer Profile

1. Look at Your Current Customers.

Even if your company is in its infancy, chances are you have a handful of customers already. Do your research into who is currently buying your product. Begin with some general information gathering to get more details on the companies you are already selling to. Visit their website to familiarize yourself with their size, priorities, and industry.

Then look into the specific individuals at these companies who you have closed deals with. Check out their LinkedIn profile (and other social media sources, if possible) to find out job title, specific role, and how long they have been in this industry. Where do they live? What’s their average age?

It’s also a good idea to take note of how these people came to be customers – did you go after them or did they organically come to your site. What were they searching for?

2. Focus on Your Key Benefits.

Make a list of what your company’s product or service is offering. Take those features and try to articulate what benefits they can provide for your prospects. How will your product make their lives better and easier? Take the time to be specific and thorough. Many times, during this process you will realize that the key benefits you are offering don’t necessarily help the most senior person. So be sure to identify who will see the greatest benefits from your product, and keep those people involved in your sales pitch.

3. Scope Out Your Competitors.

Great salespeople always have their eye on the competition. You have to know who you are up against so you can have an educated discussion about why your company’s product is different and better. You can also get great ideas from similar companies on their best practices. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Visit the websites of your top 5 competitors. Who are they marketing to? Can you get a sense of their customers’ pain points that they aim to solve? What seems to resonate with their messaging?

Building Out Your Prospecting List

Once you have a clearer picture of who your ideal buyer is, now you need to go out and find them. But how?

Let’s say you are selling commercial alarms. Right off the bat, you can rule out the need to target residential properties, and thus zoom your focus in on businesses only. Maybe your product is a good fit for the restaurant world because of the high-tech sensors you offer that detect cooking fires, so you can then narrow your prospect search down again to hone in on restaurants.

Next, try to identify who the decision maker would be, and who benefits most from your product. The owner of a small restaurant personally benefits from a top of the line alarm system that would prevent theft and fire destruction. You most likely don’t want to go after larger chain restaurants then, where the high-level decision maker may not have any direct contact with the property.

You now have a target: small, local restaurants owners. You can either buy a list from a list broker, use a software like ZoomInfo, or build your own list. To start your own database of restaurant prospects, I would begin with Yelp, Open Table, or even Facebook to search for restaurants in my target area. It also doesn’t hurt to begin an online relationship with them – follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page.

You can most likely discover the owner’s name, email and phone number from some quick online research.

PART II: Crafting a Killer Message

Once you have put together a solid list of prospects, the next step is crafting your message To do this, you should gain a deeper understanding of your prospect’s pain points and then work to tailor a message that specifically address those issues.

Identifying Your Prospect’s Pain Points

You have a product or service to sell, but why does your prospect need your product? Your goal is identifying the issues of your prospect, the need they have, and how you can specifically address and fix their concerns. How does your product or service alleviate their pain points?

Once you know the typical buyer you are going to be targeting, you can look to current customers of your product that also fit into the prospect profile category and delve into what gains they get from doing business with you. Don’t sell the features of your product but sell the benefits.

Check out some customer references you may have on your own website from a client that mirrors your prospect profile. What are they saying about you? What problem did your product solve for them? Not all companies that have similar profiles have identical pain points. Using current client stories to project prospect problem solving is a good place to start.

Crafting a Message

Once you have a story to tell, based on similar clients, then you can craft a message referencing way you have helped other companies do X, Y and Z.

Write an email template that lays out what you think their pain points may be, and how you plan to solve them. Maybe you don’t hit the nail on the head and correctly identify that prospect’s problems, but it does show you put in time and effort to craft a tailored, forward-thinking pitch.

Begin with the subject line. Our research has shown that best open rates for subject lines fall into one of these categories:

  • Personal Touch – Reference their love of Ohio or insert the name of their company
  • Mysterious and Intriguing – Put the subject in the form of a question so curiosity wins
  • Simple and Straightforward – Address their pain points right off the bat
  • Humorous – Poke fun at yourself or use the opener of a joke in the subject
  • Honest – Let them know your purpose – you want 5 minutes on the phone, etc.

Let’s go through examples of good subject lines in each of these categories. We’ll stick with the example that you are selling commercial alarm systems to small, local restaurants:

  • Personal Touch – Protect {Their Restaurant’s Name} from theft!
  • Mysterious – Have you heard about my Aunt Mae’s kitchen fire?
  • Simple – Put your mind at ease with fire and theft protection!
  • Humorous – Maybe Billy Joel didn’t start the fire, but…
  • Honest – Can I have 5 minutes to talk about your alarm system?

After you have nailed down a good subject line, begin to focus on the body of the email. Keep it short and lay out in plain language what pain points you plan to solve for them. Add in a personal customer reference, or some stats on your product’s success in alleviating their problems.

Close the email with a clear and concise call to action. Are you asking them to email you back to set up a time to talk? Or do you want to let them know that you will be calling them tomorrow at 10AM. And always include all of your contact information, so the prospect can gain a better sense of who you are as well.

PART III: Putting in the Work

Once you have crafted a killer message, the next step is putting in the time to reach your prospects. Patience and persistence are the ultimate virtues necessary to succeed here.

Persistence Pays Off

Did you know…

  • Only 25% of leads are good enough to advance to sales.
  • It takes an average of 8-12 attempts before you reach a prospect on the phone.
  • Sadly, 44% of salespeople give up after just one follow-up.
  • And 80% of prospects say no four times before they say yes

What does this mean? Let’s say you have a goal of closing 10 deals. That means you’ll need 40 solid leads, and should plan on calling them each about 10 times, so 400 calls for 10 sales. And, you should expect them to say no a lot before they finally say yes. It takes patience, persistence, and a very thick skin.

If you want to have more success with your prospects, you have to go into it knowing the time and effort it’s going to take to even make that first connection.

Getting Over the Barriers of Productive Prospecting

So you know the numbers, what is holding back reps from making the calls until they connect? I think there are two primary barriers at play – just not having enough time in the day, and the very real fear of rejection.

1. Fear of Rejection

Getting over your fear of being rejection is just something you need to figure out fast, or you should start looking for a new job. If you’re in a slump, take some time to refresh your pitch, or talk to your fellow reps on what is working for them. You can use the rejection in a positive way – brush up on the emails you’ve been sending, try a different contact at the same company, or take your lumps and move on to the next lead.

2. Unproductive Prospecting

A recent stat I read said that 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. So one way you can keep your chin up and reduce your wasted time, is to get your prospecting game in order and be more productive.

Even though sales can feel like a 24/7 job, there is no way reps should be on the phone all hours of the day and night. What you need to figure out, is how to be more efficient and productive with your time.

PART IV: Connecting in 30 Seconds

For the final segment of prospecting, let’s look at what happens when you finally get a prospect on the phone. How can you make a great first impression in under 30 seconds?

First off, you probably have a sense of who you are calling since this prospect fits into your buyer profile. And you are hopefully prepared to speak to what you perceive to be their pain points. You have already called them 8 times without any response, but now… they pick up the phone. Oh no! What do you say?

Opening With a Bang

So you’re selling commercial alarms to local restaurants to prevent against theft and fire. Your first call of the day is to Bob that owns a little cafe in Columbus, Ohio. Here are four ways to open up the conversation:

1. Build Rapport from Research

Before any call, you should do some quick online research about who you are calling. You can easily find out that according to LinkedIn, Bob went to OSU. You may want to mention the big Buckeyes game from last week, or ask if he thinks the famous Thurman Burger is all it’s cracked up to be. If you’ve read any positive reviews about his cafe, then go ahead and mention you have heard their apple pie is out of this world. It’s hard for a prospect to dislike someone who compliments them. The internet is your friend in building up an arsenal of ways to connect with an unknown prospect.

2. Use the Negative Close On Your Prospects

Next, ask for their advice or recommendations; you can combine this with the negative close. Try this, “So Bob, I’m trying to figure out if your cafe is a good prospect for me… can you tell me what you think?” For bonus points you can always blame it on your manager.

Almost everyone has a manager, so you might get a bit of sympathy here: “Hi Bob, can you give me some advice? My manager thinks your restaurant is a good prospect for me, but I’m not so sure.”

3. Be Simple and Honest

Always a good approach, tell your prospect you’re a sales guy covering their account. Of course, don’t put on your “I’m-a-robot-salesperson” voice and sound like Bud from Wall Street. Most business executives have a good built-in BS detector, so honesty works. Maybe you aren’t selling the most amazing alarm system, but it is specifically tailored to meet the needs of restaurants. Stick to your selling points and give them the facts!

4. Utilize Technology

If you want more of an insider’s leg up, you can use a service, like Crystal, to give you personality traits of your prospect. You can then help craft the tone of your message to be relatable to the personality of the receiver. If Bob is a calculated person, according to Crystal, then you may want to be a little more formal and clearly define your ask.