Prospecting. The hunt for New Business
Prospects are found in four main ways.
- Cold Calling
When someone completes a form on your website or gives your company a call, they are interested in what you have to offer. These prospects are called “warm”. They have identified either an issue in their business that needs to be resolved, or a factor of their current operation that is limiting their growth. It is generally much easier to open up a conversation with these prospects since you can immediately respond to their enquiry.
There is a theory in sales that the interest of a prospect that makes an enquiry has a half life of about one hour. It is critical that you make contact with these prospects as soon as possible after their enquiry is made. Here’s why:
- You want the nature of their enquiry to still be at the top of their mind when you talk to them
- You want to prove that your business is efficient and is eager to help with their enquiry
- You want them to think of you and your business before any of your competitors.
You need to make sure that enquiries end up on your desk as soon as they are made. No manual handling and allocation. If there is manual handling in the current process your company uses, lead the charge to have the handling automated. Workflow automation tools can help here.
Occasionally the enquiry is to invite your company to participate in a tender process. Be very cautious of these enquiries. If they have already prepared the RFP document then the chances of your company being able to win that tender are slim, even if your solution meets every one of their requirements.
When an enquiry is received, call them. DO NOT email. If you have their phone number, use it. Call them.
If your business has friendly relationships with partners and affiliates, you may be handed a prospect that has already been dealt with to some degree. These prospects are generally pre-qualified by the partner, making them “hot” prospects. As with enquiries, referrals should be contacted as soon as possible. The one hour rule can be relaxed a little here and perhaps pushed out to one day depending on the nature of the referral. Still, the sooner you contact them, the better.
It can help to have a preliminary call or meeting with the partner that made the referral so that you can better understand the customer and their requirements before contacting them. You should be armed with a lot of information around the prospect’s initial requirements before contacting them.
Once you have enough information to get started, call them. DO NOT email. If you have their phone number, use it. Call them.
Generally, referrals and enquiries will have a higher conversion rate then those prospect found by cold calling. However, referrals and enquiries require significantly more marketing and brand awareness of your company, and the prospect has to know they have a problem that needs fixing in their business. More often than not, prospecting is done by cold calling. You will need to look for businesses that may benefit from your solution and really dig into them as much as possible. All without actually contacting them… yet.There are many fantastic resources for learning about people and their businesses before you call them.
- Google. What is their presence like. Who is talking/writing about them and what are they saying?
- LinkedIn is a great resources for finding prospects. Simply traversing the chain of people that you are connected to, and looking at how you are connected to them, can provide you with a great way to introduce yourself. You can also find a lot of great information about the businesses and individuals, especially their past, hobbies and interest groups – this is great fodder for building the foundations of a successful business relationship.
- Make sure that their business objectives are somewhat aligned with the type of solution you can provide. Also look at things like:
- Office location(s) – the more the better
- Phone numbers
- Any customer’s of theirs – look for recognizable brands
- The overall design and usability of the website (this says a lot about how much importance the company puts on their brand)
- The types of products and services they offer
- Their ‘About’ page
- Recent news/blog posts they have published
- InsideView is another great online resource that gives you valuable information on the business you are looking into. InsideView can also be easily integrated into most Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, making the act of collecting information even easier.
- Hoovers, JigSaw and ZoomInfo can provide you with even more information and again can be integrated with many CRM applications.
- Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Social network
stalkingresearch gives you a wealth of information on the person and not so much on the business. This is amazingly useful information to help you understand the mentality of your prospect. By understanding what they are interested in, what they dislike and who they network with you can fit yourself into the type of personality they will better connect with and talk to them in their language. DO NOT try to friend them on facebook, follow them on twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn when researching. Only AFTER you have spoken to them should you consider following them on twitter and connecting with them on LinkedIn. Facebook you should reserve for you “out-of-office” activities.
Once you have identified a possible prospect and you have a plethora of information and know exactly who to contact first to have the biggest impact, get on the phone and call them.. DO NOT email. If you have their phone number, use it. Call them. At first, go through the main business number. If you get to the right person then great! After your conversation ask them if they mind if you called them directly next time and get their direct number (if you don’t already have it). If you are unsuccessful getting through to them through the main business number, try calling their direct number (if you have it). If you are still out of luck, leave one voicemail. Just one. Do not leave more than one voicemail or message. You will start to sound desperate. Remember, your prospect will generally not be expecting your call. If all else fails, consider sending an email as a last resort.
Any social situation is an opportunity to scout for new prospects. Interpersonal skills are extremely important in sales and play a major role when networking. It’s important to be approachable and to approach people to. Depending on the number of people around you, you may only have minutes to perform a quick assessment and preliminary qualification of someone.
You’ll need to quickly introduce yourself and determine if the person should proceed in the sales process. You need to give a great impression about your company and yourself. Exchange business cards and schedule a day for a follow up call. Don’t tie the person up in too much conversation – they may not know you that well just yet. Plus, you need to continue networking!
Once you’ve identified your prospect and made contact, it’s time to qualify.