Sales Prospecting – Finding Key Companies and Decision Makers
Prospecting for target companies is where the actual sale begins, while no actual contact with companies takes place. Prospecting is simply about finding those companies with which you want to do business. Here are some of the most important techniques and tips to help you with your own sales prospecting:
Begin by setting your objectives for targeting new companies. Prospecting can mean you are either beginning a new pipeline of potential customers, or it can mean you are attempting to grow your existing pipeline. Whichever is the case, make sure your objectives are clear so you have measurable, achievable goals to attain.
There are many ways to find new companies to target. The Internet has a number of great resources available, including hoovers. This site categorizes companies by SIC code, industry, revenue, geography, etc, and enables the researcher to obtain contact name information, phone numbers, URL’s, etc.
Targeting the “right” companies
When looking for new companies with which to do business, it is very important that you seek out only those companies that you believe you can help through your products/services. If you believe a company is out of your target range, then move on. Aspects to consider include company size, annual revenue and profit attainment, products carried, and whether or not your products/services can help the prospective customers you are targeting.
Make a list
As you research, ensure you keep a list (either electronically or on paper) of each company you intend to call and with which to do business. Make a few, short notes to help you remember why you chose them when you do call them.
Organize your list for your cold calls
Once you have a list, categorize the prospects into “A”, “B”, and “C” categories. “A” listed prospects are the ones you want to start with immediately, “B” listed ones are second, and so on. The way you choose to categorize will depend on what you are selling, and to whom you are selling. For example, you may organize your lists based on their geographic location. Another method is to organize by industry or product type. You may even organize based on the number of contacts you already have within a prospective organization.
Overall, your prospecting efforts should be designed to develop a target list of companies through which you believe you can do business. An organized, focused approach to creating that target list will help you establish the groundwork from which all your sales will generate.
It is important to remember that you should set aside 8 full hours each week for prospecting. Prospecting continually will ensure that you are continually filling your pipeline with new potential customers. If you don’t do this exercise regularly, you may find that you run out of prospects to call, which could be detrimental to attaining your revenue goals.
Effective, ongoing prospecting leads to a strong base of target companies, which is key to beginning and maintaining a successful sales career.
Cold Calling – Overcoming Your Fears and Making Successful Calls into Companies
The second stage of the sales process is to begin the actual sales cycle itself. This is done through cold calling into targeted companies. The best process for cold calling into companies is the following:
Put your list in order
Using your target list of customers, either electronically or on paper, organize them in such a way as to facilitate quick, preliminary, introductory calls to your target customers. This list should be very focused and should contain only companies with which you believe you can do business.
Determine how you will introduce yourself
Create a short script designed to garner instant rapport, yet ascertain quick information about the company. This information should enable you to determine whether or not your business can meet the needs of your prospect.
Set your objective
What is the purpose of your cold call? To schedule an in-person meeting, establish a specific need that customer has for which your product meets the need, or just to introduce yourself to the key decision maker? Establish your objective, and don’t sway from it. This will help you stay focused on your purpose for calling.
Pick up the phone and begin!
The people on the other end are just as skeptical of you as you may be of them. Your job is to sell, and the first step is to pick up the phone and start calling your target list.
Ensure you are speaking with the key decision maker
Speak with the decision maker — the one who will ultimately sign off on whatever you are trying to sell. Talking to anyone else will be an ultimate waste of time, because they will not be in a position to work with you.
Manage the responses
Each person you call is going to give you a different answer. Some will tell you “no” right away; some will have reserved interest; some will have more definite interest in what you have to discuss with them. Remember to stick to your objectives, and this will help you effectively manage the answers to your advantage.
Ending the call
A cold call takes the recipient off-guard when they answer the phone. You are interrupting their day, so ensure that you state your objective immediately, ask for their time, and then ask 3-5 questions about their business needs to determine if there is need to move forward with further conversations. This will show your prospect that you are respectful of their time, yet you have something to offer that they may not even realize they need.
Cold calling is the beginning of the sales cycle, and can be the most important one. Without the cold call, the selling can’t begin. However, remember that an effective cold call is focused, relatively short, and results in an immediate outcome.
It is also important to remember that you need to set aside time to schedule and complete your cold calls every week. The best bet is to schedule a certain time each day in which you make your cold calls. Even 5 cold calls a day will produce more results in the long run than if you sporadically make your cold calls. Cold calling is the key to maintaining a successful sales career.