Prospecting is a necessary skill for sales persons. One can find any excuse to not prospect – your customer needs you, you need to do this or that, you need another cup of coffee before you start, yada, yada, yada. I get it – it just isn’t easy to pick up the phone and blindly call someone you don’t know, knowing that you might reach a brick wall, again and again and again.
However, there are positives to prospecting! I think many of you will agree, that when you stumble on a customer who actually agrees to talk to you and has viable business, all those fears go out the window and you are motivated to keep on keepin’ on! Congratulations.
In order to make the most of your prospecting time, and to fine-tune your prospecting skills, here are a few key ideas to help make this arduous task worth your while:
- BE PREPARED TO PROSPECT
- When planning your weekly schedule, include set times for prospecting. Put PROSPECTING on your calendar as an appointment and set an alert so you know that it is time to start dialing. Once it is on your schedule, adhere to the appointment and don’t ignore this activity.
- Vary the times of the day that you prospect. For example, prospecting on Monday mornings from 9-11 am might not be the best time as customers are just catching up from the weekend. Similarily, Fridays from 3-5 won’t be as effective as people traditionally are winding down before the weekend. Schedule some time both in the morning and afternoon to prospect so that you reach customers on every shift.
- Be sure you schedule enough time to prospect. Everyone needs to warm up and that probably takes even seasoned sales persons at least 5 calls. Keep in mind that you probably won’t reach your target person each time you dial, so to be effective, schedule enough time in each block of time (1 hour at a minimum, 2 hours is better) to get on a roll and keep paced.
- Have your resources at your fingertips. Start a folder or digital file for prospecting leads. During your work week, every time you come across a potential client, a new contact, a referral, a new list, a news article, or maybe something I have sent you, drop it in your file or take a screenshot for your digital file. This way you won’t struggle and waste time trying to decide where to start prospecting.
- Don’t allow distractions to interfere. Turn off or close your email. Turn off your radio, tv, cell phone and text. Close the door to your office.
- Let your co-workers know that you have “gone fishin” and not to disturb you unless it is extremely important. It takes true and dedicated focus to catch a fish and no fish will take your bait if you are constantly being interrupted or there is loud noise in the background. Make a sign for your door saying “Gone Fishin'” and hang it up on the door knob.
- BE DRIVEN TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
- Do you have written prospecting goals? If you are unsure what your goals are or what they should be, track what you do naturally for one month and determine the average number of calls you made per hour. It should be in the neighborhood of 6-10 calls per hour. Translate this number to your Weekly Sales Report prospecting call goals.
- Prospecting calls should primarily focus on new business. These are potential customers you have never spoken to before.
- Calling past customers will also be part of prospecting. Dig out old files for groups that have met at your hotel in the past. Consult your last year’s production and anticipate this year’s production for groups that might host the same meeting year-to-year. Wouldn’t you be impressed if you got a call saying, “Hi Linda, hope all is well. Will your Sales seminar be held again this year in January? We’d love to host it at our hotel again this year.” Be proactive and anticipate repeat business.
- Don’t forget “account saturation” types of prospecting. Call on current customers and ask them if they can recommend someone else you can work with/introduce you to within their organization, company or association.
- Monitor your progress on achieving your goals. If Thursday comes and you are behind, you know you will have to step it up. If you are at your goal, you now have Friday to exceed your goal.
- BE SURE YOU ARE TRACKING YOUR CALLS
- Use some type of form or program to track your calls. If you don’t have a form, your weekly sales report has a tab for prospecting calls.
- Try not to make double work for yourself. If you have a program such as Delphi or Sales Pro – use it. Don’t handwrite your notes and then have to spend time re-entering them into your program.
- A skilled angler only keeps certain fish. Quality prospecting is important.
- While you need to meet productivity goals, make sure you are not just dialing and leaving messages and that you are finding viable prospects.
- Reaching and uncovering prospects is the true goal. If you are meeting your quota for number of calls, but not booking any business, you need to reevaluate your processes.
Bait your hook and happy fishin’,