Google “prospecting in sales” and you’ll get more than 17 million search results in less than a second.
But if you’re looking for an easy, quick way to find prospects, forget it. No matter what anyone may say, it doesn’t exist.
It takes a lot of effort to get results from searching for prospects, and sometimes that effort is wasted. Salespeople often hear that it takes 10 calls to get one appointment—and that they can expect to make one sale out of 10 appointments.
Whether you do a better or worse than that ratio, the message is clear: Finding prospects who are interested and ready to buy is inefficient, and it often doesn’t work.
When you think about it, selling and prospecting are two different animals, which means they require two different skillsets. Whereas prospecting is all about getting the fish on the line, selling is getting it in the boat.
In other words, successful prospecting depends on getting customers to find you—specifically, those who actually want to do business with you, which takes work. But if you’re investing time and energy and not getting the results you want, that’s a lot of work, too. So why continue doing what doesn’t work? Why not take a different approach—one that’s consistent with how prospects think and what they expect from today’s sales professionals?
Your task is helping prospects find you, which requires helping them recognize that it’s in their best interest to seek you out and learn more so they can make informed decisions. Instead of trying to get through a prospect’s door, your job is to shape the way prospects think about you. No matter what you’re selling, it's all about pulling prospects into your orbit so they’re sold even before meeting you.
So how should you go about finding prospects who are not only interested in buying, but also willing to do business with someone they don’t know, let alone trust? Here are the four basic principles that attract prospects to you:
1) Never stop building and updating your prospect database. Why is this so important? It’s your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so never neglect it. Without this database, picture yourself in a darkened room with no windows or doors.
2) Develop a prospect mindset. Less than 24% of prospects open sales emails, according to TOPCO Associates. If you want to engage them, it’s essential to let them know you understand their issues. They don’t care about what you sell; frankly, they tune it out. Always stay focused on what your prospects want or need.
3) Share your competence. To do this, you must answer the one critical question that’s on every prospect’s mind: “Why should I believe you?” In other words: “Why should I give you my money?” Selling is all about sharing what you know. To become customers, prospects must believe that your knowledge and experience will benefit them.
4) Cultivate prospects constantly. No salesperson is wise enough to know when a prospect is ready to buy. But if you’re not top of mind, chances are, a competitor will get the sale. Prospects need reminding why they should do business with you.
Stay in touch with helpful information—not sales pitches—via email, social media, blogs and presentations. Regular outreach sends the message that you care and are there when they have questions or are ready to buy.
Salespeople spend considerable time talking about getting the fish in the boat and closing the sale. But before that can occur, something important needs to happen, and that’s getting the fish on the hook.
John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.