Is prospecting dead? Hardly. prospecting is actually one of the most targeted, efficient and effective ways to reach potential customers. Nothing beats having a real conversation with a prospect. The problem is that so many people do it poorly-that’s why it doesn’t work for them.
Read on to discover the rest of the New Rules for prospecting in the 21st Century:
4. Craft your approach
While many, many people resist the idea of creating a script this is simply following through on Rules 2 and 3 above. Bottom line, prospecting is a communication skill. You want your prospect to understand the value that you represent and how it will positively impact them. You want the prospect to be interested and excited by what you have to offer. In order to achieve that result you must craft your language.
One thing that has not changed over the years is that you don’t have a lot of time to grab and hold your prospects’ attention. Because it is so difficult to get prospects on the telephone it is imperative to be prepared. When you get that prospect on the telephone you must have something compelling to say. If it is not interesting or relevant to your prospect they will not want to speak with you. This is not the moment to be winging it. If that prospect says, “I’m not interested” and then hangs up, you will not get another chance.
Lead with the value that you provide and use some concrete examples to illustrate that value. Make sure to ask for what you want, a meeting, an extended telephone conversation, or perhaps scheduling a time for the prospect to see a web-based demo. Over time you will memorize your approach. If you are just starting out, write it down so that you won’t have to think about it or worry that you’ll forget. You can simply concentrate on your prospect.
Create Telephone Theater. It’s not only what you say; it’s how you say it. Your voice conveys as much if not more than the words you say, so take the time to practice out loud. Call your voice mail and record yourself, listen to how you sound. You want to sound warm, friendly and confident, happy to be speaking with your prospect and with the sense that you have something important to say.
5. Use all of the tools that are available
While it is more difficult to get prospects on the telephone today, the good news is that there are more tools available to you to reach your prospects directly. While at one time the only way you could contact a prospect was via their office phone (or perhaps a letter) today you can also call the prospect’s cell phone and/or send an email.
Always try to reach your prospect directly first. It is always better if you can have a conversation. If after several attempts and if this is a prospect that you truly want to reach you can leave a voice mail message or send an email.
Remember: As with your script, the rule for a voice mail and/or an email is to lead with the value that you provide. That is what will gain your prospect’s attention.
6. Look for the prospects who are looking for you
Rule 1 was to create your “Qualifying Parameters” so that you could create a targeted list. Keep your “Qualifying Parameters” in mind as you speak with prospects. Remember: You are looking for the best prospects, the ones who are most likely to buy, buy again and keep coming back to buy more. The myth is that prospecting is manipulating prospects into buying things they neither want, nor need. The reality is that you are looking for the prospects that are looking for you. So look to qualify your prospects out. If during your conversation with a prospect, you realize that prospect no longer fits your “Qualifying Parameters” then they are no longer a prospect for you. Let them go.
7. Have a system
This is probably the hardest rule for most people to follow. I am always surprised by the number of sales professionals and business owners who do not have a good system to track their prospects–or even their customers. In 2009 there is no excuse for not using some type of contact tracking software.
In addition set up your “Best Practices” for prospecting. What are your systems for contacting prospects? How often do you try a prospect before letting them go? What scripts are you using? What scripts are you using for voice mails? What email templates are you using? What is your system to follow up with prospects? What other tools are you using to support your prospecting efforts? While the answers to these questions are outside the scope of this article, they are important and will have a great impact on any prospecting campaign.
While prospecting has changed in certain ways, the bottom line is that prospecting still works. It must be targeted and you must have a compelling, market-focused, value-centered message that will resonate with prospects. Rather than manipulation, prospecting is sorting–you are looking for those prospects who are looking for you. And for prospecting to work best, it is about sorting your prospects with a system. prospecting is about conversations that lead to conversions, it’s not about closing on the telephone on the first call.
The “numbers game” and “open the phone book and call” days are history. prospecting is not dead. Long live prospecting.
© 2009, Wendy Weiss