In my role as an Outsourced VP of Sales, I work with clients and their sales teams on how to improve sales. Surprisingly, I find there seems to be a surplus of sales teams who struggle with “prospecting.” Three questions I am often asked are:
1. What is a good prospecting plan?
2. How do I know I need a prospecting plan for my team?
3. How do I keep my prospecting simple?
As a best practice, you should always keep your eye on pipeline development and prospecting. That being said, many sales teams do not give prospecting (and having a simple prospecting plan) a second thought.
True Sales Excellence comes from a full 360° vision of your business. You’ve heard me talk about this before. Getting your sales team to run their accounts/territories like it’s “their business” is the key! Having a simple, easy to implement prospecting plan with a process and clear definition is critical for your organization to achieve sales excellence, growth and scale!
What is a good prospecting plan?
Taking the step to True Sales Excellence requires that you have a prospecting plan process and format in place. As a sales tool, establishing a prospecting plan outline with your sales team allows for the team to speak a common language and use a common format tool every year. There are key tactical elements and actions you can leverage for a great prospecting plan. LinkedIn, emails, monthly/quarterly webinars, open houses, group speaking engagements, leveraging current CRM list of leads within the company, cold calling, warm calling and digital marketing campaigns focused on your target prospects and industry segments. Which elements to use and how effective they are is discussed below.
How do I know I need a prospecting plan for my sales team?
It’s as easy as “1X, 2X, 3X” … I’ll explain. A great litmus test for needing to prospect is your current pipeline vs. quota. Simple, right? It really is that easy. Depending on your sales team’s hit rate or close rate, you can compare your current annual or quarterly sales pipeline vs. your annual or quarterly quota. At a minimum, you should have “1X” in pipeline. If you don’t – you (and your sales team) need a prospecting plan ASAP. Ideally, your sales team should be at “1.5X” to “2X” of annual or quarterly pipeline vs. their annual or quarterly quota. If you’re above “2X,” then you can dial down prospecting as needed. Last note – each sales team member must know what their sales pipeline “X” factor is – and then devote time for prospecting accordingly.
How do I keep my prospecting simple?
Face it – you can’t do everything … great sales teams (and True Sales Excellence) come from team sharing and “best practices.” As noted above, there are 20-30 key actions and element strategies you can use for prospecting. But, what works? My suggestion is to talk to your sales team. See what they say and what they may be using today, what works in your particular product/service segment and what resonates with your customers/leads. One prospecting strategy I like is LinkedIn. It’s a fantastic tool for professionally reaching out, connecting with key contacts and setting up your target meetings. (More on LinkedIn – in another blog.) Simply put – give LinkedIn a serious look … you’ll be impressed. As for the other prospecting elements, my suggestion is to have each sales team member pick just 3 element strategies. Then, have them draft up a 1-2 page, simple outline of how much time they will commit to spend on prospecting each week, noting key actions and outlining the 3 prospecting strategies they will employ. Set a launch date for their plan – and then review it monthly to evaluate their individual success based on observing the month to month growth in pipeline for your sales contributor or your team in total.
Remember – keep it simple … Only 3 elements in the prospecting plan!