High-Profit Prospecting
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High-Profit Prospecting

Mark Hunter, CSP

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eBook - ePub

High-Profit Prospecting

Mark Hunter, CSP

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About This Book

Search engines and social media have changed how prospecting pipelines for salespeople are built today, but the vitality of the pipeline itself has not. The key to success for every salesperson is his pipeline of prospects.

In High-Profit Prospecting, sales expert Mark Hunter shatters costly prospecting myths and eliminates confusion about what works today.

Merging new strategies with proven practices that unfortunately many have given up (much to their demise), this must-have resource for salespeople in every industry will help you:

  • Find better leads and qualify them quickly
  • Trade cold calling for informed calling
  • Tailor your timing and message
  • Leave a great voicemail and craft a compelling email
  • Use social media effectively
  • Leverage referrals
  • Get past gatekeepers and open new doors

Top producers are still prospecting. However, buyers have evolved, therefore your prospecting needs to as well. For the salesperson, prospecting is still king. Take back control of your pipeline for success!

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What Does Prospecting Mean Today?

“Will you help me find more prospects?” I’ve been asked this question more than any other since 1998, when I began my sales consulting company after spending fifteen-plus years in sales and sales management roles for several major companies. Regardless of the company size or if the person making the request is a vice president of sales for a Fortune 500 company or a solo salesperson, the number one issue is always prospecting. Sure, I receive questions about closing and negotiating, but as I probe deeper, I discover these are problems only because of poor prospecting.
The only thing that has changed with regard to prospecting is how we go about it. The strategies I’m going to show you in this book are a culmination of years of working with thousands of salespeople across numerous industries in both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Ten years ago, people were asking me when I was going to write a book on prospecting. My response was, “It’s not time.” I’m pleased to say the time is now, and what you have here are not theories or ideas, but proven strategies. Thousands of salespeople in numerous industries and countries are now using the strategies I present in this book.
Ask yourself, “Would I be more successful if I had more prospects?” Your answer is “yes”—that’s why you’re reading this book. The reason salespeople ask me about prospecting is because for the vast majority of salespeople, prospecting doesn’t work the way they expect it should. The strategies they are using fail to deliver the results they want. Compounding the problem is the fact that salespeople tend to be open to trying any new idea that pops up, even if the idea doesn’t have much merit. I’ve seen this when solo salespeople and even entire sales teams suddenly embrace a hot idea, only to have it go cool in just a few weeks, leaving the pipeline empty.
It’s almost embarrassing to even be asking the question of whether you would be more successful if you had more prospects. When salespeople ask the question, my answer is always a giant “Yes!” Of course they will be more successful if they improve their prospecting strategies. Prospecting does work in today’s business world. I believe more than ever that prospecting is essential because of what the Internet is doing to the selling process.

False Hopes/False Promises

I’m sitting near the back of a hotel ballroom full of nearly two hundred salespeople and business owners listening to “sales experts” share how they were able to build their businesses effortlessly using social media and email. These “experts” are saying nobody answers the phone, and if you want to be successful in sales, you have to live and breathe social media and the Internet. Each expert lays out a plan for the audience built around creating a massive presence using social media sites, and email. “Customers will be flocking to you,” the experts contend.
Every speaker seems to repeat at least ten times an hour the phrase “cold calling is dead,” and each time it’s said from the stage, the audience nods in approval.
The more these “sales experts” talk, the more I see how the audience is becoming mesmerized by what they are saying and even more so by the processes they use. It just seems so easy to do. If you simply buy the programs they’re selling and follow each step, you too will quickly have all the prospects you can handle. Not only will you have the prospects you need, but those prospects also will become customers who will buy from you time and time again. With each passing hour, the audience is becoming more and more fixated on the strategies they’re hearing from each speaker. The reason the audience is soaking this all in is because they are tired of being rejected, having phone calls ignored, and not being able to generate good prospects.
The final session of the day is a panel discussion with all of the presenters. I’m sitting watching the presenters answer each question, and I admit they’re handling each one quite well, until someone asks if what they’re doing is really nothing more than cold calling using email instead of the phone. I couldn’t help but laugh, because the “experts” who proclaimed cold calling as being dead were still doing it. In fact, they had taken cold calling and supercharged it with the number of email blasts they were sending out.
The biggest problem with meetings and discussions like the one above is they are far too common. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t receive a phone call or an email from a salesperson struggling to make a number, and they are frustrated because they’ve been spending hours on a wide number of social media sites. When I ask them how many calls or contacts they’ve made in the last several months, the answer commonly is, “I shouldn’t have to, because I’m doing so much on social media sites.”
Prospecting is as relevant and necessary today as it has ever been. Allowing yourself to believe you can build a huge business without having to prospect is simply crazy. The only thing that has changed is how we prospect, and that’s my intent with this book—to show you how to prospect. To understand what prospecting is, let me share with you how I define the activity of prospecting:
Prospecting is an activity performed by sales and/or marketing departments to identify and qualify potential buyers.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Prospecting is not a complex process. Think about that definition, and you will see it simply means finding people who can and will buy from you. The problem is too many salespeople believe that because the Internet has changed everything with regard to how people communicate, then to be effective they need to embrace the Internet. I’m all in favor of embracing the Internet, and many of the strategies shared in the book are built around leveraging its power. Even so, you cannot rely on the Internet alone. Despite how big and powerful we may believe the Internet is, it would be foolish to believe that customers will want to buy from us without any prospecting effort on our part. Prospecting is an activity every salesperson must embrace using a well-planned strategy. Sure, there are plenty of great advertising campaigns, new product releases, and raving fans who can create a lot of customers, but rarely is that sustainable long-term, especially for salespeople and companies working in the B2B sector.
Before you pass me off as somebody who is against anything the Internet and social media can do, hear me out. I’m a firm believer in leveraging every tool possible. Throughout this book, I’ll share examples of how social media sites can help you prospect more effectively. Yes, social media sites can help you, but they won’t do it all for you. What you will see is the impact the Internet can have regardless of whether you have a complex selling process or a short sales cycle.

When Management Is Wrong, But Thinks It’s Right

While walking through John Wayne Airport one morning on my way to catch a flight, I heard someone calling out my name. I turned to see the president of a Chicago-based services company. His company sells primarily to large corporations and typically with multi-year contracts. Our paths had crossed at past industry conferences where I had spoken. The president grabbed me, said we needed to talk, and asked when he could arrange a conference call or meeting to discuss his problem.
His problem was the same one I’ve heard from numerous other CEOs and VPs of sales. All the money they had been spending on marketing was simply not working as well as the board and the investment companies that owned the company expected. The company had grown dramatically, and along the way, it had developed a great reputation in its industry. The problem was the industry was now stagnant. As a result, so were sales, and the investment firms were restless. The company president knew it was only time before the board began challenging him.
He went on to say how he no longer had faith in his VP of sales. I challenged him as to why, and his comment was again something I’ve heard from numerous others—he said his VP of sales had for several years touted how good the sales force was and how they had nothing but superstars. Truth be told, what he had weren’t superstars, but merely salespeople who did a great job of responding to high-potential leads because their industry had been so hot.
During a period of solid growth, the sales team simply walked away from prospecting. They didn’t feel it was necessary, because the phone kept ringing. Making matters worse, the marketing department believed all of the success the sales team was having was due to the marketing department’s great marketing efforts. When business began to soften, the task was given to marketing to simply increase spending, which would lead to the return of business. After two years of increased spending by marketing, the business didn’t return, because it went instead to their competitor. You see, even when times were good their competitor remained aggressive with prospecting efforts. The competitor could have taken the easy way out and stopped prospecting when times were good. In fact, they probably could have reduced head count and saved money, but they knew prospecting works and is a critical process in both the good times and bad times.

The Evolution of Prospecting

Twenty-five years ago, when I was selling in the Minneapolis market, it never took me more than one or two calls or visits to move a person from being just a lead to being a new account. When I opened my consulting company eighteen years ago, it still didn’t take more than three or four telephone calls to find a prospect and ultimately land a client. Today, most salespeople would say they have zero success finding prospects using only the telephone, and it takes any number of different means to find a lead, turn them into a viable prospect, and ultimately get them to buy.
The decline of the telephone and the emergence of email and other communication tools did not cause the evolution of prospecting. Rather, what caused it to change is a shift in knowledge. When I was prospecting twenty-five years ago, I had all the knowledge about my product—if the customer wanted to know anything, they needed me. The number of options the customer could choose from was limited to what I had to offer. Today the customer has the knowledge, and along with the knowledge comes the ability to choose from any number of options and companies. The customer now has the ability to ignore you, the salesperson, because they feel you’re not needed and will only waste their time. The customer feels if and when they’re ready to buy, they often can make the purchase online without ever contacting a salesperson. The evolution of prospecting is not due to the number of communication methods available, but rather to the shift in who has the knowledge.
When we begin to look at how we prospect in this light, we begin to realize why prospecting is such a big problem. Salespeople and companies typically go down one of two paths when it comes to prospecting. One path is sticking with the traditional methods of prospecting centered around the telephone, email, and maybe in-person visits. The other path is by jumping into the deep end of the social media pool and putting all of their resources into generating an online presence to attract leads. Neither of those paths is truly successful on its own—you need to travel down both. The customer has access to more knowledge, so the only way to counterbalance that is by convincing the customer to have confidence in you. The greater the level of confidence the customer has in you, the greater the probability for you to make a sale. Confidence is not something that’s built after the customer has decided to buy; no, confidence is something that you must establish if the lead is going to become a prospect. A prospect who does not have confidence in you is not a prospect. I’ll argue they’re barely a contact!

Sales Is Not a Science, It’s an Art

I’ve laid out each chapter in this book to challenge what you’re currently doing and push you into new territory. In the early chapters, I will compel you to look at your existing process and, more importantly, to think about whom your perfect customer is. A mistake far too many salespeople make is failing to identify characteristics of their perfect customers and then work backward to determine their perfect prospects. I also don’t think you can copy each strategy shared and achieve superior results. Sales involves too many variables.
If sales were a science, then it would be much easier for salespeople to be successful. All they would need to do is follow the process perfectly. But I say sales is an art, and that’s why so many people struggle to be successful and is especially why so many salespeople struggle with prospecting. They have an attitude about prospecting that they will only do what is necessary to make their numbers and nothing more. An attitude like that will ensure only one thing—one day you will wake up and see no sales and no pipeline.


The Myths and Surprising Facts about Finding New Customers

Prospecting is not the mystery many people make it out to be. One time the owner of a company asked me to meet with Dennis, who ran the field sales office in Michigan. The owner shared with me that she was concerned all the business the Michigan sales office generated was from only three customers. I sat down with Dennis in his office to discuss the situation, and though he was aware of the problem, he admitted he was absolutely baffled as to how to correct it. The company operated in a dynamic industry where there were plenty of opportunities. His sales team consisted of four inside salespeople whose sole job was to take care of existing customers and prospect for more customers. Clearly, the job was not confusing at all. All four were knowledgeable about their business and their industry.
After some conversation with the four salespeople, I discovered none of them were trying to find new customers. When I asked why, each one had an excuse. One claimed they didn’t know who to call; another claimed they had never been trained; another claimed they didn’t have time; and the last one told me they were just plain scared. I’ll give the last one credit for being honest. The other three salespeople were simply making excuses.
The problem wasn’t limited to the salespeople, because Dennis, the manager, also made excuses as to why he couldn’t make prospecting calls. The office was locked into a belief that prospecting was beyond what they could do. Dennis and his team allowed their fear of prospecting and/or disinterest in prospecting to go unchecked, and as a result, they did as little prospecting as possible. You might think, “How could a sales team like this exist to begin with?” Good question. Yes, it is unusual to have an entire sales team apparently paralyzed and not doing any prospecting. Typically in most organizations, there are at least a few people who will prospect.
When salespeople or sales teams run from prospecting, they tend to embrace one or more of what I see are the six great myths of prospecting. A common, yet unrealistic, belief fueling all of the myths is that at some point, new customers will magically appear and there’s no reason to actually go pursue new customers. Read ...

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