Effective prospecting is a crucial element of any business development. However prospecting is not selling, it is creating and sowing opportunities that generate leads. All businesses need sales leads in order to survive and flourish.
Do you know who to prospect and how? Without stretching budgets and neglecting existing clients?
The Prospecting Stages
Effective prospecting should not be just about big marketing drives to meet immediate revenue targets, it should be about short term and long term goals that can be measured consistently and incorporated as part of your wider sales strategy. Quite simply many fledging businesses struggle to get the balance right, either getting so caught up in delivering work that the marketing falls by the wayside or focusing so much on the sowing stage of the prospecting hence implementing new initiatives that there is then insufficient time left for follow through and ultimately closing deals.
Prospecting (Sowing) Activities
This is the first stage of getting your name and message out there Email marketing, exhibiting, telemarketing, text marketing, direct mail and networking are all proven approaches to generate leads. It depends on what is right for your business, which well come to shortly.
Cultivation (Follow up)
A quick word of caution, it is staggering how many businesses invest considerable time and resources in getting their prospecting right. I have seen the most alluring and successful exhibitors eagerly working a crowd and gaining leads , only to not follow up on the leads. What a waste of money! And what a lost sense of purpose!
A timely follow up -whether you arrange a meeting, send an email, or make a telephone call is crucial to cultivate your new relationships and bring the prospect a step closer towards buying.
Reaping (Winning the business
This is the reward for all your efforts -You win business, you get paid! If you endeavour to make things happen in all stages of your prospecting cycle then you will always be reaping (getting paid) as well as sowing the seeds for sales that will come. You must of course allocate sufficient time still to existing clients as well as they are the foundation of your business.
Essential Prospecting Planning
"You must regularly sow the right prospecting activities to reap
the rewards" So think of your prospecting as three harvesting
stages: sowing, cultivating and reaping.
So now we have looked at the different prospecting stages and why you should split your time equally you need to also have a prospecting plan that works for you. Here are some essential prospecting tips to help you plan and execute your campaign.
1. Know your Target Audience Are you targeting more of the same type of client? Are you looking at trialling new vertical markets to ascertain potential level of interest? Or do you ultimately only want to target larger organisations? To leverage for e.g. 10% of your biggest client base? What are your defined geographical regions? Build a list of your desired customers, and decide how you will reach them? Have a concise compelling message for each different target group.
Buying and maintaining a good quality data is a crucial part of any direct mail, e-marketing or telemarketing campaign
The data you source or agree to use needs to be as accurate and targeted as possible. If the data has come from a variety of different sources other than a data company you can ask a data company to carry out data hygiene so that they can cross reference and delete and TPS (telephone preference service) registered and duplications.
On average 25% of people change jobs /roles every year so data will have some inaccuracies. It is advisable that you clean it every time you do any telemarketing or direct mail campaigns in order to keep it as up to date as possible.
If targeting vertical markets then it is crucial to have the correct organisation name so that it is easier to separate and measure the reaction of each vertical. If you decide to outsource any telemarketing a good telemarketing company will be able to utilise any data they are given and clean it as they make the calls.
3 Recognise what constitutes a quality lead to you? Prospecting should focus on quality over quantity; after all wouldnt you rather generate a lower volume of leads but of a higher quality with consistent conversions? A lead these days can come from so many sources you need to be clear on what constitutes a hot lead? A warm lead? A luke warm lead and a cold lead for your business? For e.g. A website enquiry looking to purchase from you in the next few days would be viewed as warmer than a postcard left in a box at your exhibition stand with no timescales for buying and half the phone number missing.
Only when your business agrees on what constitutes a quality lead can you then set up a process for recording level of interest and following the interest through to hopefully a sale.
Qualify, Qualify and Qualify level of interest
What gets measured gets done
Any telemarketing efforts should be logged onto an in house reporting system showing all call activity and level of conversions. Direct mail is 3 times more successful if followed up by a call afterwards. Contact names and addresses should be cleaned and updated prior to posting each direct mail batch. Direct mail campaigns and e marketing campaigns should be tracked from when they were sent to when they were followed up and concluded.
The success of any prospecting can only be determined if it is monitored and measured at every stage, with a full evaluation at the end of each campaign.
Prospecting Plan checklist
Where and how does your offering best fit? In which companies? Markets? And locations?
Have you supplied into the above areas before?
Do you know from past experience which prospecting approach works best? For e.g telemarketing? Exhibitions?
How many leads on average it takes to create one sale? How much market share do you have? And how much do you want? Set Prospecting targets for each campaign!
Measure Remember successful prospecting in the longer term should make you money not cost you money.
Next time you are reviewing your sales growth and lead generation strategies-whether you want to trial a couple of new verticals? Follow up on a recent mail shot or exhibition? Win back lapsed accounts? Or quite simply you want to understand your clients better or prospect for new business but are not sure where to begin we will always be happy to advise and assist where possible.