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Perfect Prospecting

by David Brock on August 17th, 2015
phone activity

Recently, I published a rant on LinkedIn, “Patient 0 Of Stupid Prospecting.”  This rant targeted a self appointed Sales Guru and Sales Trainer who had helped “thousands of sales people” over 15 years.

A couple of people commented, “What does perfect prospecting look like?”

I can’t tell you what perfect prospecting looks like, but I can tell you how to do it.

Simply put perfect prospecting means “doing the work.” actually, “doing the right work.”

Let me explain.

Sloppy prospecting is too easy.  Get an email list of a few thousand people, spend 15 minutes writing an email, push send.

Do that day after day.  Even stupid approaches hit every once in a while, maybe you get a few people responding, you rejoice that your prospecting program has struck “gold.”

Based on that wild success, you do it again and again, papering the world with 1000’s of meaningless emails, most of which end up in a spam filter, hoping you might get a handful of responses.

Proudly, you tell your manager you are prospecting like crazy.

There’s another version of that, get a list and some phone numbers.  Get some autodialing technology, dial and pitch, dial and pitch, dial and pitch.

Like the email program, after a few hundred calls, someone may be interested.

Rinse, repeat, proclaim prospecting victory to your managers.

I suppose that’s “prospecting,” it’s hardly effective prospecting, at least to my mind.  Yields are far too low.

Effective prospecting is about doing the work (doing most anything effectively is really about doing the work).

It starts with focusing on your sweet spot, those companies and individuals that are most likely to have the problems you solve.  In my rant on LinkedIn, this prospecting “expert” had repeatedly included me in his email programs.  My company and I are about as far outside his sweet spot as possible.  Think about your own prospecting, do you consider your competitor a prospect?  Why would you waste a moment on prospecting them.

That’s an extreme example, but you’ll get the highest response rates by being viciously focused on prospecting within your sweet spot.  Again, it’s a combination of the right industries and markets, the right companies within those industries, and the right people in the companies.

Second, know what you want to talk to them about.  Here’s where people make their biggest prospecting mistakes.  They want to talk about their latest greatest products, the promotion they have going on.  They want to talk about themselves, their products and their companies.

Customers don’t care!

When I pick up the phone and it’s someone from that big CRM vendor saying, “I’d like to talk to you about your interest in our products,”  my response is simple and direct, “I’m not interested in your products, so why should we spend the time on the phone?”

What do you talk to them about then?  Clearly, an issue that’s important to them now!

This is where you need to do your homework.  Is there something happening in their markets that could impact a large number of your potential customers?  Perhaps a new regulation, new technologies their customers are leveraging, shifts in market dynamics and structure, a major new competitor?  What is happening that they are likely to be concerned about or interested in?  What is happening that they may not be aware of?  It doesn’t have to be big or earthshaking, but it has to be something they are likely to be interested in.

Perhaps you and your company have a certain point of view about things that are happening in the industry, perhaps some interesting trends or data that is relevant to their success—we call that Insight.

Naturally, these issues have to be something that you can do something about.  If you sell financial management systems, it’s useless to talk to your customers about shifts in manufacturing technologies that are impacting them.  You can’t do anything about these–and probably you’ll have no credibility talking to them about it.

Now you are focusing on prospects within your sweet spot, you have something that should be interesting and relevant to them–not your products and services, you are halfway to being able to send that email or pick up the phone.

You have to sift through the customers in your sweet spot one more time.  Which of these customers is likely to be the most concerned and most ready to want to do something with what you are talking about?

Perhaps some of them have been struggling.  Their share prices are declining, their revenues or profits are in freefall, their market share is declining.  Perhaps they’ve had shipping or quality problems.  Maybe some customer sat problems.  Maybe there’s been a lot of turnover in the company.  Maybe they’ve missed on new product releases or launches, maybe they aren’t launching new products.

Look for the companies that have something happening to them that is relevant to the issues(s) you want to talk about.  Search for those “triggers” that are likely to make them very interested.

Now you’ve prioritized your prospecting list, focusing on those organizations and people that are most interested in what you will be talking to them about.

We’re almost there.

Now prepare your campaign.  It may be an email campaign, a outbound phone campaign, or a combination (I’m always biased toward the latter).  Write your message or your script.  If is says, “me,” “our company,” “our products,” go back to the drawing board.  If it doesn’t talk about them, go back to the drawing board.  It needs to be about them.

Don’t compose just one email, compose a series that you can send over a period of weeks.  Make sure they are different, build a story through the series of emails.  If it’s a call script, do the same thing, don’t just talk about the same thing or leave the same tired voicemail, build a story.

In the emails, make sure there’s a call to action.  It may be as simple as downloading a relevant white paper.

Now you are ready to prospect.

Send out your email campaign.  Look at who clicks on the white paper, they are highest on your hit parade for prospecting, the second are those that have opened and read the email.

Pick up the phone and call—but before you do, look that person up in LinkedIn or Facebook, look at the company’s website.  Spend 3 minutes scanning before you dial the number.

When you reach the customer, they are likely to be interested in talking to you, you know them, you know their company, you are prepared to talk about what they care about.

These are the elements of a high impact prospecting approach.  There are all sorts of variations, there are some tweaks that you can make based on your target customers, the solutions you provide, and the things that are happening to your customers right now!

There’s no way around it, you’ve got to do the work if you want to produce results.

Sounds like a lot of work and time–it is and it isn’t.  If you don’t do the work, you won’t produce the results.  But once you start doing this consistently and it becomes ingrained, you become remarkably efficient.  It takes less and less time to prepare.  Additionally, there are tons of great tools that help you do the work much more efficiently.

As a postscript, our company is no different than others.  We have to prospect.  Each of us has to have a certain number of “conversations” with new customers in our target markets each week.  We’ve refine our prospecting to the point that 100% of those calls are scheduled and there is always a customer expecting the call, looking forward to the conversation.  But of course, we’ve done the work.

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  1. Great post David.
    You have captured the zeitgeist of the amatuer and laid out succinctly a path to achieving prospecting success.
    I too share your frustration in receiving an endless stream of junk from supposed sales and marketing professionals.

  2. Great post! You really have simply laid out the steps to sales and marketing professionals of how to prospect. I can’t wait to share this with my marketing team and sales partners.

    • Stacey, it’s great to see you visiting! Thanks for the comment, glad to see you liked the post!

  3. Use company and industry best practices to discover what works for your business. Use a combination of calls, emails, and social media touches to reach your prospects.

  4. Rick Larmer permalink

    Hi David;

    As usual you’ve provided words and ideas that belong in the heart of every Sales Training/Coaching program. Great to see this my friend!

  5. Very succinctly put – it is all about targeted effort, and in my local area (Aberdeen,Scotland) everyone knows everyone, so misdirected spam (verbal or email) gets noticed and before you know it the town closes shop.

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