Category Archives: Sales Prospecting
In our annual selling challenges survey, we asked more than 350 sales professionals to tell us about their biggest challenges in prospecting in 2017:
17% of respondents reported that creating a targeted prospecting strategy would be their greatest challenge 14% said that the quality of leads from marketing would be their greatest challenge 12% said gaining appointments would be their greatest challenge
These results tell us time is a precious commodity, especially as demands for productivity increase in an increasingly difficult selling environment. Being able to create a targeted prospecting strategy is essential to avoid wasting time, making this the number one prospecting challenge in 2017.
Compared with 2016 responses, this year’s top challenges indicate a trend toward greater targeting and quality of leads. Sellers are homing in on ways to become more strategic in their prospecting efforts, while being less concerned with the “how” — which sales and marketing enablement tools to use — in identifying triggers for their accounts. The availability of data through lead generation and research tools has lifted some of this burden from sellers. The problem, however, is that without a plan for how best to use this data, sellers can easily get lost in the sheer volume available.
The top two prospecting challenges from 2016 dropped off this year’s list. With more sales enablement tools being used, sellers are easily able to research companies as possible targets and to set triggers for their accounts.
One tool often used in making a sales pitch, especially in finals presentations, is a PowerPoint slide deck.
Over the years, PowerPoint has risen to become the standard, but with overuse and misuse, it has the potential to sabotage the presentation.
Here are six tips and cautions when considering the use of PowerPoint in a sales pitch to reinforce your message, and your image, in a positive way.
Visibility is essential. If you use slides, make sure they can be seen by everybody in the meeting. Not only do audience members need clear sight lines to the screen, but the wording needs to be legible. This means care and attention must be paid to type size, font, and color. If your slide is too busy, or the writing too small, break the content into two or more sides.
Be better than the PowerPoint in a Sales Pitch. If the person using PowerPoint is not a good presenter, the slide deck adds nothing. Good slides don’t make up for lackluster performance. PowerPoint is intended to support and enhance, not carry the full weight of the presentation.
Don’t read to the audience. This builds on Tip #2. The presenter should add context and perspective to the few words on the slide. Reading the slides takes energy out of the presentation. Let the audience read on its own, and use your tone, inflection, and enthusiasm to add meaning and » 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 » Continue Reading.
If you win accounts only to lose them at contract renewal, you are not managing your accounts well, if at all. There are three components of an effective account management strategy:
The creation of a plan The tools to support the plan Execution
Let’s say you have written account management plans for accounts that warrant them and you have the tools to make those plans happen. What’s left? As Nike would say, “Just do it.”
But going out and doing it is where many sales professionals fall short. They’re too busy doing other important things: chasing after new business, prospecting, doing internal reports, or going to meetings.
Executing and Account Management Strategy
I tell sales professionals, “You are the CEO of your own territory.” It is your responsibility to hold your own feet to the fire to make sure you’re doing the right things to maintain and grow your accounts.
It’s more than relationship building; although, that’s a large piece of it. Stepping back, you have to diligently work your plan month by month and year by year. You also have to look at the competition as part of your overall plan. You want to find out how often competitors visit » Continue Reading.
When I first started out in sales, I didn’t expect sales prospecting to be so tough. I was a bit naïve and expected more instant success. I wasn’t prepared for strong objections and rejection.
I wish someone had said to me beforehand, “Look, this is going to be hard. You’re going to get knock-backs and rejections. The win rate is going to be low at first; you’ve got to expect that.” Now, I know how tough prospecting can be. If it’s not page one of the sales manual, it should be.
That’s why I’ve prepared several posts to help sales professionals improve their sales prospecting. In Four Tips for Better Sales Prospecting and Five More Tips for Even Better Sales Prospecting, I shared some thoughts on ways to make prospecting an easier and more integral part of the job. In this post, I present six final thoughts on how to sales prospect more effectively.
Set an objective. Know what you want to achieve with every call to a prospect. The goal of the first call might only be to set up a second call during which you can have a needs dialogue. Or, the goal might be to have a physical meeting. You have limited time to get your point across, so know what you want to accomplish beforehand. Develop a really sharp elevator pitch. Yes, you will need an elevator pitch for your first contact, so » Continue Reading.
Sales Prospecting is rarely anyone’s favorite activity
In my first post — Four Tips for Better Sales Prospecting — I shared some initial thoughts on how to make sales prospecting an integral part of the job as a sales professional. It’s not that sales prospecting is a new concept; it’s clearly at the heart of what everyone in sales should be doing continually. The issue is that it’s rarely anyone’s favorite activity and, as such, tends to fall off the to-do list when other priorities arise. That’s why I’m focusing this post on sharing more sales prospecting tips for even better demand generation.
Expect rejection. This is probably the number one reason to avoid prospecting. Rejection is a frequent outcome, as prospects decline your calls, don’t answer e-mails, or don’t give you a decisive no. Still, prospecting is a numbers game. The more you do it, the higher your chances of getting a hit. The trick is to develop a thick skin, expect attrition, and be prepared for rejection. If prospecting was easy, everyone would do it with no qualms. It’s not easy, as many prospects are resistant to changing their incumbent vendor or trying a new solution. But, if you’re prepared for rejection, it makes less of an impact when it does happen. Practice, practice, practice. Golfing legend Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Think of Tiger Woods in his » Continue Reading.
Sales Prospecting Requires the Will and Skill
Sales Prospecting is at the heart of what every sales professional should be doing continually. It doesn’t matter who you are, your level of experience, or your position within an organization. While it’s great to have leads provided to you by the Marketing organization and to work with existing clients, if you don’t engage in sales prospecting on a regular basis, you will struggle when the need to find new clients arises — as it always does.
Simply put, sales prospecting is a fundamental part of being in sales. Most sales professionals will admit that, yes, it has to be done, but they would probably also admit that prospecting is not their favorite activity. In recognizing its importance to selling success and the tendency to put it off or avoid it altogether, I’ve developed a list of sales prospecting tips and techniques to help make prospecting a more regular and successful part of the job.
Schedule time on your calendar. Put your commitment in writing by blocking out time on your Outlook calendar or whatever other scheduling system that you use. Set aside time each week just for prospecting, and tell yourself you’re not going to do anything else for that period. This will give you a target to aim for, with time set aside to focus on this activity. When you write something down in your calendar, you » Continue Reading.