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The prospecting process starts with turning suspects into prospects, then continues with preparation. Let’s say you’ve identified Ms. Johnson as the person you want to contact because she works for X Company, which is in your targeted industry, and there are disruptive technologies having a negative impact on X’s go-to-market strategy. Ms. Johnson is new to her role as senior vice president, and you have a great story to tell about how you can help get X back on track. Before you pick up the phone and call Ms. Johnson (and all those other prospects you’ve been researching), you need a prospecting plan.
3 Elements of a Good Prospecting Plan
1) Make it SMART.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Just as with setting SMART goals, a SMART plan brings structure and accountability to prospecting.
For example, you might develop a monthly prospecting plan in which certain outcomes are identified: “I want to schedule meetings every month with ten qualified prospects.” The exact number could be five meetings or 100 meetings, depending on your organization. The point is to be SMART in defining your plan, and over time, refine the plan so it reflects what works and continues to challenge you. If you establish a target of ten prospect meetings each month and continue to get 15, then your target is too low. If you only average three prospect meetings per month, your target is not » Continue Reading.
Your success in prospecting is closely linked to your level of preparation. It’s not that prospects will always know when you are not prepared, but they will always know — and appreciate — when you are. Preparation can make all the difference between “No, thanks,” and “Let’s talk next Tuesday.” Not only do you differentiate yourself when you prepare for prospecting, but preparation can increase your confidence level, hone your message, and provide a roadmap for the conversation.
At Richardson, we consider preparation so important that we’ve created a Preparation Model that can be applied from prospecting through sales calls and customer meetings. The model is based on three components of preparation: strategic, customer, and technical.
Strategic Prospecting Preparation
Consider the prospect’s sales cycle and where it currently stands. Identify your strategic objective for the call or meeting, and visualize how the call will proceed. Think about how you will open and what questions you will ask. Anticipate responses and objections. Have what I like to call a concrete hypothesis — an idea or solution — to engage the prospect and continue the conversation.
Customer Prospecting Preparation
What is the prospect organization trying to achieve? Has it communicated details of its strategic plan in its annual reports or on its website? What is the decision-making process within the company? The goal in answering these questions is to get a better understanding of the prospect and its plans for the future so you can » Continue Reading.
Years ago, I was talking with someone about useful sales prospecting tips, and he made a point to learn how to differentiate between suspects and prospects.
A suspect is anyone you’re not currently doing business with that you (A) believe has a need for what you offer, or (B) believe you should be doing business with. Hypothetically, every company in the industries you sell to is a suspect. A prospect, on the other hand, is someone who has been qualified to an initial degree. Further, there are small “p” prospects — those that meet your criteria but you haven’t yet talked with — and capital “P” Prospects, which are those that you’ve started the conversation with and are moving closer to an opportunity. Turning Suspects into Sales Prospects
Moving a suspect to the prospect category depends on your qualifying criteria. The approach I use has three “buckets” and questions that need to be answered within each one.
Consider the industries that are most likely to buy from your organization. It could be that there are three or five target industries that are prime candidates, or you could have a broad industry portfolio. The next step is to ask yourself:
“What industry changes are going on that might be disruptive and create problems for organizations within these target industries?”
This disruptive force — whether it is technology, economy, globalization, etc. — might cause your suspects to revamp how they do » Continue Reading.
The definition of insanity, as attributed to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When talking with sales leaders, I’ll often modify this definition and apply it to their circumstances. I’ll ask, “This year, if your sales professionals do exactly what they did last year, will they get the same sales performance as last year?”
If their company grew exponentially last year, they might say yes. More often than not, sales leaders reply, “If they do the same things as last year, we might grow a bit, but not as much as we need to.” If, however, sales were down the previous year, the reply will be, “If our sales professionals do what they did last year, we’ll be in bad shape.”
For most sales leaders, no matter whether they did well or not, the objective each year is to improve sales performance and grow revenues. To me, the sane conclusion is that sales teams need to do something different if they aim to achieve different results.
During these conversations, once we get to the point of agreeing that something has to change, I share four areas where change can make a difference in results:
Sales skills: Does the sales team use the Six Critical Skills—Presence, Relating, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking—for client dialogues to develop and expand relationships. Sales talent: Are the right people in the right roles. Sometimes it » Continue Reading.
I have been in sales for many years, well before joining Richardson last August. I have heard my share of objections from prospects and clients, and I thought it worthwhile to share some of the most common objections to sales training.
I don’t have the budget. There is an investment component to training, and if prospects don’t have money in the budget, that’s a valid objection. If I’m talking with the right person, they certainly have a budget to run their business, but they may not have set aside money for training in that fiscal year. If they agree in the importance of getting people to do things differently to get better results, then the objection really isn’t about budget, but about timing. Even so, it is worth having a conversation around what the investment might look like, and whether there might be more value in exploring a sales development initiative versus another effort they currently have allocated money for. The framework for this conversation is to develop a mutual understanding of what it takes to get sales professionals to do something different to achieve better results. I don’t have the time. Sales leaders are extremely busy, trying to juggle competing priorities in managing their teams while achieving their financial targets. I understand their time constraints, while knowing they could achieve more if they invested the time to get their middle performers to act like top performers. If they » Continue Reading.