Imagine yourself as a salesperson. You are making sales and forming relationships with individuals, but you need to find more potential costumers. What do you do? I have one word that can solve all of your troubles: prospecting! Now that I have given you the solution to your problem, you need to figure out what exactly prospecting means.
As described in the book ProSelling, “’Prospecting’ is the term used to describe the activities the salesperson undertakes to identify potential new accounts” (91). A prospect needs to be an individual who fits in you target segment. For example, if you sell skateboards, you do not want to pick a prospect that is only interested in rollerblades. If you continue to seek out this prospect, you will be rejected and lose potential prospects that fit your target segment.
The main goal in prospecting is converting a prospect into a customer. Prospecting isn’t a simple task that takes 5 minutes though; there is a certain process. You might think that you can just be lucky and get new prospects by not going through this process, and sometimes you can. You will get lucky sometimes, but the most successful approach is searching for new accounts in a systematic way. When you start off your career, prospecting will be time-consuming because establishing a customer base is critical. Is prospecting done once you have all of the customers you need? The answer is no. Prospecting is something an individual practices throughout his or her entire career.
Prospecting does sound simple. Working hard and being knowledgeable should get you all of the customers you need right? I can agree with the statement in some ways, but to be a successful salesperson, one should be a systematic or step-by-step approach.
The diagram, located on page 93 in ProSelling, above lays out the clear step-by-step approach in a visual perspective. Each step is critical for the success of the whole process. Analyzing territory is a critical component because research needs to take place so the salesperson can fully understand the market and identify groups in that market that have similar needs and wants. After researching, confirming goals with a manager is necessary. It is necessary because a salesperson needs to know how to direct time, effort and budget for the specific territory. The next step is choosing the methods for prospecting. There are two methods a salesperson can utilize, which are cold calls and leads. Cold calls are calls a salesperson makes to someone that he or she knows little information about. A cold call is an opportunity to build a relationship. I recommend cold calling occasionally once you further in your sales career because it is good practice that will keep you strong and confident. The second method is leads. Leads are references that are given to a salesperson to help identify accounts that are a good fit. This method is very important because they have a higher probability of success.
Once a salesperson has identified his or her prospects, prioritizing them is the next step. To do this, a salesperson must determine if the prospect is qualified. A prospect that is qualified has a need that can be satisfied with a product or service, and has the ability to make the purchase. The final step is developing profiles. Before a salesperson makes the first appointment with a prospect, he or she needs to gather as much information as possible. These profiles have important information in them that helps formulate a sales strategy. This step-by-step process helps an individual go from being an average salesperson to an above average salesperson.
Imagine yourself as a salesperson once again. You have been working with the step-by-step process of prospecting, but you are still having issues. You might think you are failing at your job, which is not the case. An article posted on Forbes states that a salesperson that is having difficulties might be missing three key sales strategies. The article written by TJ McCue states all three of these key strategies for being more successful in prospecting. He obtained these strategies from Jill Konrath, a keynote speaker, award-winning author and sales accelerator.
Konrath says, “You must focus, focus, focus.” A salesperson should focus on certain types of customers. If an individual is more focused on certain types of customers, he or she will have a better chance at the message resonating. Also, one should focus on certain types of decision makers. Make sure to become immersed in different challenges to stronger your message. Lastly, a salesperson should only focus on a certain product or service. Another tip of advice given by Konrath in the focus section is, “Focus on your customer instead.” She says to take out the “What’s in it for me?” and to listen to what the consumer wants.
The second piece of advice is to stop “touching base.” Avoid calling a prospect to “touch base” because a call should provide value. A sales person should show a prospect that he or she could help them solve a problem and figure out solutions. The last key point is to do better pre-call planning. She has a full article on the “4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning” that I found to be helpful, and I believe you, as a reader, will as well. The four tips in a summarized text are make assumptions, immerse yourself in certain industries you typically sell to, prepare questions ahead of time and don’t be afraid of not knowing everything. These four tips are all great for pre-call sales planning because they will help a salesperson become more aware of certain things that should be done before jumping into a sales call.
The sales industry might sound laid back at first, but it involves hard work that will evolve into skill. A salesperson is never a full expert in my opinion because there is always room for growth. My own personal advice from my experiences are for one, learn from individuals in higher positions. As a sales intern, I have the opportunity to be around many direct sales managers who all do their job differently. Paying attention to what works for him or her and asking questions as to how you can improve yourself is something I have done for myself. Another piece of advice I can give is to form bonds with as many people as possible. You want to show people that they can trust you and that you are there to help them in any way possible. The last personal tip I will give, that many find to be unnecessary, is to always let costumers see your eyes. I sell seed to growers and when going into a handshake with a dealer or grower, it is always critical to let hi or her see your eyes. This is a more personal connection that will allow the individual to trust you more. I recommend giving it a try if even if you think it won’t be any use to you. Take your sunglasses off and look the individual in the eyes.
Now that you know the step-by-step process, key points that will help you be a better salesperson and my own personal advice, get out into the sales world! Give every bit of information a try because it can’t hurt anything. In the end, it will help you grow as a salesperson when you find what works best for you. If you already have established a process, work on critiquing it even more. A salesperson can never be “too good.”
Downey, W. Scott, W. David Downey, Michael A. Jackson, and Laura A. Downey.ProSelling: A Professional Approach to Selling in Agriculture and Other Industries. 1st ed. Chesterfield: Agri Marketing Magazine, 2011. Print.
Konrath, Jill. “4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning.” 4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning. Web. 27 June 2015. <http://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-blog/bid/130501/4-Tips-for-Effective-Pre-Call-Sales-Planning>.
McCue, TJ. “Are You Missing These Three Key Sales Prospecting Strategies?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 15 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 June 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2012/08/15/are-you-missing-these-three-key-sales-prospecting-strategies/2/>.
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