Prospecting in 5 Easy Steps —Farquharson/Tedesco
We've noticed a couple things about today's 20-somethings: First, they really love to communicate—by Facebook and texting. Second, they rarely use their phones to actually talk. To this generation, calling someone on the phone seems to be a forgotten concept, like the Palm Pilot.
Regardless of a person's age (for the record, Tedesco and Farquharson are both just a hair older than "20-something"), hectic schedules can hinder telephone calls, especially if the call recipient is known to be, err, long-winded. However, try not to fall into the electronic-only communication trap because it doesn't work, especially in sales!
These five easy steps should help make your phone prospecting process as painless as possible (nice alliteration, eh?).
Step 1: Clearly Define the Goals of Your Tele-Prospecting Program. "Get more leads" is not a clearly defined goal. Instead, tele-prospecting efforts should be squarely focused on lead generation. Maybe you have a hunch that a couple of industries are ripe for your printing services. Develop goals like:
• Investigate, identify and qualify X number of new leads in Y and Z industries;
• Develop qualified leads with X $ of sales potential every month;
• Add X $ in "pipeline" opportunities every month; and
• Make your lead generation objectives so crystal clear that the head honcho, office cleaner and you (sometimes the same person) all understand exactly what you're trying to do.
Step 2: Acquire and Manage Prospecting Lists. Before prospecting activities commence, set your sights on choosing the right targets. Consider similar companies to current customers in your company's "sweet spot." What characteristics do they share? If you have access to an online database tool with SIC Code information, look up their classifications and search for prospects with similar demographic attributes. If you do this, we guarantee you'll uncover a significant number of businesses ripe for the pickin'.
Here are some other list sources to consider:
• Business lists in your area (e.g., local Business Journals, newspapers and other media);
• Purchased lists (e.g., InfoUSA, D&B, North American Publishing Co., etc.);
• Your company's old prospect lists (usually stored on a computer that is off!);
• Intelligent online searches (Google is your friend); and
• Even hopping in your car, driving around and writing down company names (during non-selling hours, of course) has been known to work.
Step 3: Know Your "Talking Points" Cold. Each and every day in the tele-prospecting trenches, act as your company's ambassador and engage business influencers in continuous relationship-building conversations. This can be nerve-wracking at first, so go ahead and write a script if necessary. We urge you, however, not to use the script during live calls. Why? Because doing so reduces your ability to listen and think…and it sounds like a script!
Instead, focus on developing talking points that clearly communicate your brand's core values in easily understandable bites. These should contain your company's unique selling proposition, which by now you should be able to recite in your sleep.
In case you've forgotten, your unique selling proposition is a 30- to 60-second "elevator speech" that tells customers and prospects exactly why you deserve their business. While it's important to effectively explain what you do, the main purpose of your tele-prospecting effort is to learn pertinent information about potential print buyers. Map a series of questions designed to uncover relevant information about each company's value as a sales prospect. Focus on the basics, including:
• Frequency of printing jobs—number of jobs per week/month/year.
• Volume of printing bought—show me the dinero!
• Forms of printing bought—bound, oversized, miniature, signage, etc.
• Print processes bought—offset, digital, web, stochastic, 6+ colors, etc.
• Reasons for purchase—promotional, informational, mandated by corporate/government, etc.
• Cause of sleepless nights—late deliveries, poor quality, reporting compliance, personal job security, price (cough cough).
• Print providers—current printers and length/strength of relationships.
• Decision maker and key business influencer info—names spelled right (please!) and job function, not always title.
Step 4: Establish Minimum Quantity Standards for Dialings and Conversations. In tele- prospecting, only consistent efforts are rewarded with good results. Therefore, embrace the work ethic of the patient tortoise, not the easily distracted hare. Establish a minimum number of dialings and intended conversations. Don't stop until you've met your daily activity quota.
If necessary, call early in the day. If you aren't sure how your prospecting voice sounds after a full day of business conversations, record yourself at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The next morning, listen to both and pay attention to any audible differences. If they don't sound different, congratulations! You're a tortoise and can make calls any time. However, if they do sound different, figure out how to keep your voice fresh-as-a-daisy or your results will be variable.
Step 5: Reporting and Follow-Up Activities. Accurate records of every dialing are necessary to ensure you conclude each sales call with more "collective" information on that account. If you make a promise to a key business influencer (no matter how small), record it in your tracking system. Then KEEP it! If you say you'll call back on Tuesday during a voicemail message, do it. Sure, your prospect probably has more on her mind than you or any other potential print vendor, but kept promises are a sales differentiator. Trust us, we're in sales.
During your calls, you will uncover a lot of information about possible print buyers—some of it useful, some of it not. Make sure the useful information doesn't disappear into the ether. Develop a data entry record-keeping system (i.e., Act!, Goldmine, Salesforce or even an index card box) and be as faithful to it as a lapdog.
When you are, give yourself a treat. When you aren't, pee on your leg. (We're only half-kidding; accurate record keeping is a core component of long-term, tele-prospecting and selling success.)
Need a helping hand for your tele-prospecting efforts? Here's an opinion you might not expect from two veteran print sales reps: In some situations, salespeople are just too darn expensive! Successful salespeople aren't necessarily cost-effective at every point in the sales cycle. Before filling our in-boxes with hate mail, read on.
Consider the market research and prospect qualification activities described earlier. This work is necessary for kick-starting the sales process—you can't sell to a company if you can't identify their key business influencers and what they need.
Tele-prospecting is tedious, time-consuming and perhaps not the most efficient use of well-compensated sales resources. A company's sales leaders should concentrate their attention on what they do best: converting qualified prospects into high-margin customers. The opportunity cost of using your expensive salespeople for "high-in-the-sales-funnel" suspect-to-prospect research activities may not make financial sense.
Market research, prospect qualification and lead identification are crucial, and often neglected, steps in the sales process. If only there was a more efficient way to help bridge the gap between sales and marketing…wait a second!
Perhaps we've been looking at prospecting all wrong! Integrating prospecting activities into your marketing program may be the best way for printing businesses to identify and qualify leads before handing them off to the sales team. Maybe a tele-prospecting individual training or a complete outsourced solution is available…hmmm. PI
—Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco
About the Authors
Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For (www.AspireFor.com). His Sales Challenge can help drive your sales momentum. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a 15-year-old marketing and PR services company. He is author of "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry" and five other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail email@example.com.