Another year has come to a close and many sales professionals will be glad to say goodbye to 2010. With the economy still recovering and many businesses still holding off on spending, prospecting for new business was especially challenging this past year. So what can you do differently in 2011? What will help you to increase your success rate when prospecting for new clients?
Prospecting today is very different than 20 years ago. Today more than ever, prospects are resistant and sometimes almost hostile when they get an unsolicited call from a sales person they don’t know. Why is that? The age of the internet has made your customers more knowledgeable than ever before about potential options and solutions to their problems. They are more astute as to what their needs are and can easily research to find what’s available, which gives them a don’t call us, we’ll call you attitude! That doesn’t exactly bode well for a sales person that needs to fill their pipeline with new business. We’re also living in economic times when the supply is often greater than the demand. To win new clients you must unseat an incumbent. This means you need to be deeply familiar with your competitors: what are their struggles with their products and services and in satisfying their customer needs. With more options available, customer loyalty is more fragile than in the past.
Let’s explore 3 action steps you can take for more effective prospecting this New Year.
1. Define and target your ideal customer. Ask yourself, what does my ideal customer look like? Describe them in detail. Which of my existing customers clearly reap the benefits and success of my solutions? Describe them in detail. The combination of these answers is where you’ll find your best prospects. Target those accounts that have similar profiles. Market to where you have strong advocates that are willing to give testimonials and spread the word on what you have done for them. This rifle approach will deliver much greater results than a shot gun approach which can be a huge waste of time.
2. Engage on LinkedIn – the key word being engage! Many of you already have a LinkedIn account, but how often do you take advantage of their tools? They provide many ways that can get your message out to the market and build recognition as the expert in your field. For example,
a. Put some of your PowerPoint presentations on LinkedIn’s “Google Presentation”,
b. Post customer recommendations – very powerful when they are specific and results oriented
c. Write articles that demonstrate your expertise and that provide value to potential prospects.
d. Research and then join relevant LinkedIn groups that might have a need for your products and services or that serve markets similar to yours.
e. Post videos of valuable content – a great way to go viral.
It’s much easier to get visibility when you utilize a “pull” marketing strategy versus a “push”. Prospects prefer to be drawn to find out what’s available rather than being bombarded by random messages that rarely meet their needs. You might be surprised that prospects are often not afraid to post their comments about issues that affect their business environment.
3. Create free webinars and teleconferences. Be strategic, relevant and give high-value content that showcases your expertise. Prospects will take the time to join a call that doesn’t cost them anything but their time, especially if it helps them gain insight or build skills for their business. What a great way to begin building a relationship and helps to improve the chances that they will take your call. It turns a cold call into a topic of discussion that you both have in common. When prospects join in on your events, you can give more value through articles, newsletters and some consultative advice. They will appreciate your expert point of view on industry trends, competitive pressures or best practices.
Kick off 2011 by taking any one of these action steps:
1. Define and target your ideal customer
2. Engage with LinkedIn
3. Create free webinars and teleconferences
You will see your business grow. Then take action on the 2nd and 3rd steps, and watch your growth continue.
The bottom line for this coming year is to be deliberate and focused with your prospecting strategy. Providing value to prospects will give you both credibility and visibility that can reap the benefit of new customers for the coming year.