Prospecting is the bread and butter of sales. At times neglected and even dreaded, it’s something we need to apply ourselves to regularly in order to maintain a steady flow of new prospects into the sales pipeline and ensure the continued healthy growth of our businesses.
So what are the rules of the game?
Regardless of your sales process, at some point you will need to engage your prospect in a live conversation. Here are some dos and don’ts for survival in this sudden-death arena.
As a matter of sheer fortune, we can categorize these in terms of the three Ps: Preparation, Persuasion, and Persistence.
Do do your homework.
The more informed you are, the greater your chances of converting the call into a meeting appointment. Your research might involve:
Scouring the company website for tidbits relevant to your pitch
Analyzing the social media presence of the individual you want to speak to
Doing this will enable you to come up with a more customized opening as well as better and more targeted questions. And this level of care can seem really impressive. On the subtler side, your familiarity with the prospect will induce them to feel a greater sense of familiarity and comfort about you.
Pro tip: Even if you don’t have time to do any research about a prospect, you might be able to glean all you need from the people you speak to on the way to the target. If you just ask, you can often get all the details you need from a friendly receptionist!
Once you’ve made it past the gatekeeper, crib notes in hand, your one job is to close on the next step -- agreeing to meet. The best way to do this is to inform while conveying enthusiasm and honesty.
Don’t launch right into a dreary monologue.
Do try to generate interest with an upbeat, enthusiastic attitude of mutual discovery.
Don’t use tacky techniques to try to trap the prospect into agreeing to meet.
Do strive to demonstrate the value of your product convincingly before arranging further contact. This should involve asking probing questions -- there’s no need to wait until you’re face-to-face.
Don’t commit a social faux pas; e.g., phone etiquette no-nos like chewing, eating, mumbling, simultaneously listening to music or television, or bringing up controversial, political, or overly personal conversation topics.
They say prospecting is a numbers game, but it’s not like the lottery.
For this reason, don’t just power through your call list in the vain hope that if you simply speak to enough people one of them will eventually say "yes."
Rather, do strive to maximize your chances with each prospect with top-notch preparation and persuasion.
Do confirm the face-to-face meetings you arrange before setting out. Yes, your prospect could use the confirmation call to back out at the last minute, but that’s better than showing up and wasting precious time figuring out (and fuming about) the fact that you’ve been stood up.
Do keep going! Yes, you are very likely to get quite a few rejections in between those happy wins. But you mustn’t let yourself be discouraged just because you’re in the midst of a string of setbacks.
When you know you’re covering all your bases, your confidence will assuage most of the apprehension that arises when making that all-important prospecting call. Good luck!
Originally published Apr 24, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019