Prospecting is one of the most important of the 21 Core Sales Competencies, because salespeople must have new opportunities entering their pipeline at all times. Once you have that important prospect, how do you nurture it and potentially turn that lead into a long-term client? What skills are involved in building a relationship with prospects and how do we improve? Here are some best practices you can implement right away to help:
Best Practices for Prospect Development
Don’t think of them as just a prospect. When someone fills out a form on your website that indicates they have an interest and have gone to the trouble of downloading a resource, so yes, that is a prospect. More importantly, they are a person that has an interest, possibly a problem or an opportunity and is looking for information that you and your company may have. It is time to do some initial research and find out what company they are with, where they are located, what they might need help with and then, they become much more than just a prospect. Prospect development involves having a sincere curiosity about the your prospects, what they might be interested and looking for and a desire to help.
Respond Quickly. We have helped salespeople for 30 years now and if there is one best practice that has stayed consistent, it has been how swiftly your should respond. When a prospect fills out a form and assuming they are a person who looks like your type of best prospect is, reach out immediately. If you do not, they will continue their search, find other solutions and be sidetracked by other issues that come across their desk. Now is the best time to call a prospect, while they are looking and while it is top of mind. Contact within the first 24 hours is the best approach for prospect development.
Do your research. It does not take long in today’s tech world to find out some information and facts about your prospect so do that immediately. There is the website, LinkedIn, google, ZoomInfo – so many resources to help you prepare your call. But that should only take 15 minutes. Do not let that delay the callback!
Become skillful with your questions. if you have sold your service or product for a number of years, you know why a prospect is typically coming to your website and looking for resources. Be prepared with probing, insightful questions that you can ask them about their business and their concerns. This prospect development best practice will prevent you from going into a sales pitch. Your job in nurturing a prospect is to peel back the onion, ask all the great and difficult questions you need to ask in order to determine if your prospect is a qualified prospect.
Don’t sell on the call, set an appointment. This is a tough best practice for many salespeople. Of course, you must establish some credibility on the call by sharing a story or two about how you have helped other people or companies address a similar problem. But salespeople, beware, this is not usually the time to go deep into your solutions, unless the buyer has made it very clear they are ready to buy. In most businesses with longer sales cycles, it helps salespeople to uncover the problem or opportunity, identify that the prospect wants to address it and agree to schedule a time to talk more deeply and for you, the salesperson, to prepare.
Don’t send automated, non-personalized emails. Most companies have lists of prospects that have over time, inquired or encountered your resources and your company will likely send them periodical emails with information. But for a person that is new and inquiring about your services, do not default to an automated approach. A best practice for prospect development is to make certain that your communications with this prospect are personal, relevant and timely. Otherwise you risk the threat of “Unsubscribe”.
Don’t give up until… There is varying research on how many times you should contact a prospect but it is more then once and probably less than 20, if no response. Buyers are busy and while they do not need to be pestered, it will pay off if you reach out consistently with helpful information. Nurturing a prospect could involve sharing some of your website assets, stories and capability statements.
Stay in touch. Once you have determined that a prospect is not going any further, it pays off to stay in touch. We have had prospects turn into customers years after their inquiry. It is a fine line to walk but if you have marketing resources to help, stay in touch with an email here and there or connect on LinkedIn and follow their company. A best practice in prospect development is not being short sited in your approach. If you are a seasoned salesperson with a great service or product to offer, you are not going anywhere and can continue to develop a relationship.
Continue to Give. There is a book we recommend in our sales training called Go-Givers Sell More but Bob Burg and John David Mann. Order it and read it today. Selling is about Giving and our last lead relationship management best practice is to give. There is nothing that beats a sincere desire and effort to help your prospect solve their problem and grow their company.
COO & CMO, Anthony Cole Training Group