If you are responsible for bringing business to your company, you are in sales. And if you are in sales, you have almost certainly experienced the sales roller coaster: sales are up for a while (and business is good); and then sales dip (and business dips along with it). Most businesses experience revenue peaks and valleys. But no matter how high the highs might reach, it is always good to keep the dips from dipping too low. To achieve that goal, I suggest you go fishing (that is, prospecting) even in – especially in – the good times. Here’s why:
Prospecting is Dead; Long Live Prospecting!
In a perfect world, your company would have no competitors or be the clear provider of choice. The reality, however, is that nearly all industries today are hyper-competitive. Your company might be on top one minute and lagging the field the next. Yes, at the amusement park and in business, drops follow peaks. But to make these drops less severe and gut-churning, you need to be constantly on the lookout for new business. You need to be prospecting while business is at its peak!
Indeed, success breeds success. When things are really rocking and rolling and revenues are at all-time highs, new business seems to come more easily. Everyone loves a winner, as they say, so business might, literally, come to you. In that environment, it is easy to see prospecting as a waste of time. After all, cold calling and following less-than-warm leads can take lots of time and energy. Who has the time to bring new prospects into the outer edge of the sales funnel when you are busy with current opportunities, right? Well, if you expect the boom times to be sustainable or the drops in revenue to be more manageable, you’ll need to make the time.
Finding time. Finding Balance. Finding Fish.
Finding time to go prospecting is really about using your available time wisely and being balanced in your approach to nurturing current accounts while also seeking new customers. I’ve already noted that you can’t merely ignore prospecting during the best of times; so how can you work more efficiently to land more fish when time itself is limited?
First, have a plan. That starts with knowing where the fish are and which ones are most likely to take the bait of your company’s solutions to their needs. This, of course, takes research to gain industry insights. And yes, that, too, takes time. But doing your homework does pay off and will actually help you minimize time spent in already depleted ponds.
Other aspects of your prospecting plan should address knowing how many prospects to contact each week (that is, how many times to cast your line). And knowing when you can reach them (what time of day you must go fishing). And which communication channels (types of fishing lines) to use. With quotas and a plan, you are off to a great start.
Next, if you feel your market is saturated or you have already snagged the entire market share you are likely to capture, ask yourself if there are additional solutions you can provide for current clients. You might also consider if there are similar (but underserved) markets that might use your solutions. If so, that’s a new pond with new and hungry fish. Of course, if your current market is larger than you and your competition can handle, you simply need to find the fish most likely to bite. Again, research to the rescue…
Today’s highly connected world puts prospecting tools at your fingertips. You can use email or social media channels, for example, to ask for referrals. People love to help their friends; if they can help, more often than not, they will help. Just ask. And cold calling is always less frosty if you can drop the name of a mutual friend or colleague.
Even if you are cold calling (ice fishing?), still take the time to know enough about your prospect to personalize your pitch. “Social intelligence” can help here. Find your prospects online and refer to things that they have publicly stressed as being important to them. Don’t fake your own interest; be personal but sincere. Connect your experience, your expertise or your company’s solution to what matters to them. If you can do that, the fish will bite.
As I say in my book, Beyond the Mountaintop: Observations on Selling, Living and Achieving, “Finding the time to prospect while you are selling or managing projects can be tough, but waiting to prospect until you are not busy is too late. While you are working on projects, you must set aside time to find, develop and cultivate existing or new relationships that will produce future work.” In other words, if you want to get off the sales roller coaster and have a “smooth, upward path of increasing sales,” you should take time to fish. You might just land the one-that-got-away from a competitor.
At Sales Xceleration, we can help you become a better fisherman. Reach out to an Advisor today to learn more.