Prospecting might seem outdated, but rest assured it still is an integral party of the sales process. Any salesperson worth his weight in the sales arena knows that they must prospect for new business to be successful. If you are not prospecting as part of your daily tasks, then you might as well be spinning your wheels in the mud.
So what exactly is prospecting? Prospecting is the art of looking for new business. It can be in the form of cold calling, internet search, database search, following up with lists/directories, driving/walking through competitive businesses, or phone calls. Prospecting is reviewing old files to generate new business.
Prospecting is also the art of asking for more business from current clients.
Cold calling is defined as a face-to-face meeting with a person without advance notice or appointment. This type of prospecting has become harder given the increased security of office buildings and the downsizing of companies making manager’s schedules busier. Cold Calling is an important skill, but should be done with TLC so as not to be considered a nuisance call. Effective cold calling should be done while you are out at a scheduled meeting or appointment. Make time before or after the appointment to stop by neighboring businesses.
The goal of Cold Calling is to get a contact name or number for the person who is responsible for booking travel or meetings at a company. Cold Calls should take moments – not minutes, should be casual – making friends with the “gatekeepers”, and simply asking for info – not interrogating staff for opportunities!
My favorite script: “Hi, my name is Linda from the ‘Hotel’ located just a few minutes from here. I was just meeting with your next door neighbor Mary Smith at ABC Company to discuss their annual conference. I noticed your office and am hopeful that you would give me the contact info for the person in your company that is responsible for business travel or meetings. Would you be able to share their card, name and email?” Make sure you are friendly, upbeat, and not putting on pressure on the messenger. If they say no, leave them a card and note that they can call anytime if something comes up.
Internet Search and Database Tools
Using database tools such as Hoovers, Knowland, or Manta, or researching companies found through Google Alerts is an effective means of Internet prospecting. Some of these tools are paid, and some are free. Create lists for e-blasts, direct mail, or phone solicitation from your research. Keep a digital file for all companies prospected so you don’t duplicate your effort. Use sales programs, digital calendars, card boxes, digital files, or alphabetical lists and note contact phone numbers, names and emails in your records. Organize lists by Hot, Warm or Cold leads.
Lists and Directories
Each week you should focus on a list or directory for a percentage of your prospecting. Directories are often broken down by categories: Real Estate, Insurance, Accounting, Venues, etc. Use your digital fact sheets and send e-blasts to 10-12 companies at a time in a focused area of business. Make sure your message is relative to their business. Use a custom flyer (I can help you with these). Here are two examples of a flyers I did for one hotels as they targeted different markets, promotions or events:
Driving/Walking Through Competitive Businesses
Making time to drive through your competitive hotel parking lots might also yield leads. Drive through at different times of the day and take pictures of logo vehicles in parking lots or marquee signs. A typical conversation with one of these companies might be, “I was visiting the ABC Hotel today and noticed several vehicles in the parking lot from your company. I’d love to introduce you to our hotel and see if we can provide competitive pricing and facilities for your travelers.” We call this share-shifting and it is a very effective way to prospect.
Phone calls made from lists are also classified as prospecting. Resources include business directories, newspapers, city/economic development meeting minutes or logs, and vendors with which the hotel does business. Ask other associates where their family and friends work and if they have names of individuals who might book travel. Open the phone book (yes, they still exist!) and pick a subject and start calling. These are all effective ways to prospect.
Review Old Files For New Business
Look at old group and LNR files. Run history reports from your database. Review old occupancy reports. You may find groups or companies for your hotel who have stayed in the past. It might take a bit of sleuth work, but trying to win back an old customer who left can be very rewarding. What if the only reason they moved on was that no one called them to ask if they were meeting again this year?
And, Perhaps The Most Important Form of Prospecting…..
Ask your current customers if they would introduce you to a friend or colleague who might have travel needs that you can solve! If your customers are happy with your performance and the facilities – why wouldn’t they refer you to a friend or colleague? Include this form of prospecting in all of your follow up letters and phone calls. “Ms. Jones, we are delighted that you chose to host your latest meeting at our hotel. Thank you so much for your business and your continued support. I will reach out to you in a few weeks to see if there might be another event to plan and would also love to meet any of your colleagues at ABC Company who might also have travelers needing accommodations. Your referral would mean a lot to me.”