Most sales professionals cringe when they are told to prospect for new customers! Why? Too much work? Too much pressure to perform? Uncertainty on what to expect? Fear of rejections? Loss on what to say?
Yes to all. Prospecting creates anxiety. Either the salesperson is anxious or anxiety is created in the potential buyer. There is no established relationship.
Recently, we were fortunate to vacation in Marbella, Spain. On a side trip to Morocco, we walked down side streets that looked like Indiana Jones’s Cairo in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was beautiful and interesting; but we were bombarded with peddlers that were trying to sell gold chains and bracelets and other assorted merchandise. They approached and asked if I would buy? I said no thanks. They continued to walk with me and tried to convince me I should buy! As they walked the next 200 yards with me, their price dropped by 75%. They ignored my expressed lack of interest. They did not care that I had no need for their jewelry! They were peddling their merchandise and couldn’t care less who I was and what I needed. There was no relationship.
There are three approaches that address this quandary and lead to successful prospecting.
First reality: prospecting is NOT selling. We often mistake prospecting for selling, but its not. Customers do not buy when they are called by someone they don’t know. Prospecting is only the start of a longer process which may eventually result in a sale. Or it might gain you something else of value. Even if you establish at the outset that they do not need your products just now, building a relationship can lead to a referral down the road.
The main purpose of prospecting is to develop a relationship. Find out who the prospect is and what their business is about. There is a good chance they might not be a fit for your products or services, but they can become interested in you or appreciate your interest in them. The relationship is built over time and typically not on the first sales call. The call is the first step down a road to creating a relationship. When calling a prospect for the first time we need to establish “a reason” for us to meet. Customers will meet if there is a good reason to.
Second reality: intent counts more than technique. You might have a well established method for getting meetings with clients, but if you don’t have the right intentions the customer will reject you. Your intention should be to establish rapport and build trust. Let the customer know that you plan to learn about their business and their needs. Once you establish this, you can begin providing value. Value is only measured by the needs of the customer. If they don’t have a need for your products or services, you cannot provide value!
Third reality: customers reject sales people, not solutions. In your initial talks with a customer, you are “guilty until proven innocent.” Overcome this negative barrier by actually learning about their needs. The sales professional’s purpose is to see if they can “help” the customer and not “sell” the customer. Establish that you are a person that wants to, and eventually will, convey value to the customer. If you are perceived as a person that can provide value, they will meet with you all day long!
Prospecting is critical to every company’s sales force. It provides “new” customers to the company’s revenue stream. As a general rule of thumb, successful sales professionals prospect four to ten hours a week through networking events, luncheons and other events that get them out of the office and into the field. There they plant the seeds to establish new relationships.
Understanding the personality style of the prospect can dramatically increase your ability to “connect” with them. Identifying their personality style gives you a window into understanding what they value and how they like to communicate.
You can tune your approach to best meet their expectations. You start down the road to establishing a relationship with extra intelligence about who they are. Keep in mind that:
• The Blue personality values people and relationships. Provide them the small talk they enjoy.
• Golds value their organization and the financial impacts of products and services. Meet Gold’s expectations for timeliness and firm agendas.
• Greens value technology and innovation. Keep your conversations succinct and to the point.
• Oranges value immediate benefits and enjoy fast moving and exciting conversation. Tell them how to gain a competitive advantage from your solutions.