By Michael DeJesus
Sales prospecting should not be an afterthought, rather, it is the foundation sales is built upon. If we remove prospecting from the equation, our business will be affected very quickly. With social media’s increase in popularity, prospecting has actually become easier as we can now search for business opportunities online. However, most salespeople still find excuses to not incorporate this very valuable exercise into their daily routines.
To be successful, we cannot rely solely on repeat business or business that falls into our lap. As we saw in 2009, with the economic downturn, it was evident that salespeople were not on the hunt but were simply transactional. It is important that salespeople are always continuing to look for new business, as building new relationships is a key to success. While it is evident that the industry is still transactional in many ways, salespeople do not fulfill their prospecting quotas for one of two reasons: first, they feel it is beneath them to do it, like it’s a task that either marketing or a sales coordinator should be handling for them. The second reason people are relying on others in prospecting is because they are simply afraid of rejection. Studies consistently show that the number one reason why salespeople quit the profession is their inability to generate enough leads that they can close to be deemed successful.
As a sales person, prospecting is your job! Here are 20 prospecting truths centered around today’s sales associates and what can be done to be successful:
- Accept reality: It’s your responsibility to prospect. Do not rely on others for your leads.
- Prospecting is not something you do when you have time or don’t have enough business. Prospecting should be a daily activity, worked into your routine so that it becomes a habit.
- If you have an office, place a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. If you don’t, use a guest room or find a quiet place. DO NOT have your computer on and DO NOT type while speaking to a prospect. Prepare your prospecting list in advance.
- Thinking about prospecting is not prospecting. You might be thinking of your prospects, but they are probably not thinking about you.
- Networking is not prospecting. It is another part of the job. Both prospecting and networking serve the same purpose: building new relationships. However, the exercise of telephone prospecting not only helps generate new leads but it sharpens your sales skills over the phone versus face to face interaction. Both are equally important.
- There is no such thing as a bad piece of business! Whatever lead you may find, if placed over the right dates, can become a great piece of business for your hotel.
- Be thankful that sales is not easy. It’s the reason why there is so much money to be made in sales. Let’s face it, if sales was easy, it wouldn’t pay well.
- Always know that it will probably take you at least twice as many attempts as you think to engage a prospect.
- Don’t start what you can’t finish. Follow-up is the norm, not the exception.
- Prospecting is not about you. Prospecting is about the prospect. Listen more than you talk. Allow the prospect to clarify his/her needs before blindly attempting to sell your product.
- Divide your prospecting pipeline into three parts: top, middle and bottom. Place more value on the bottom than on the top. Start from the bottom with accounts that have potential, those are the accounts that actually might have business that nobody has ever asked about.
- Establish an accountability process. Hold yourself accountable for making your prospecting calls.
- Remember that tomorrow begins today. Never end a day without knowing exactly who you will prospect tomorrow and what your objectives are for each call.
- Break your day into eight, 60-minute segments. Dedicate at least one segment to prospecting. Keep in mind that new salespeople will probably need to dedicate up to three of those segments to prospecting each day to get comfortable with the process and make it a habit.
- At the start of each prospecting segment, know what your overall goal is and how you will measure it. The best person to hold you accountable for your activity is you.
- Spend 5 minutes after each prospecting segment to congratulate yourself and evaluate your performance and remember, persistence is the key to being successful. It may take 5-10 times before a client returns your call or you receive a reply.
- When prospecting, know what your tone will be when leaving a message. Have a compelling message and let them know that you will also follow up again with a call or email.
- Have a script prepared to manage the basics when it comes to questions that you can use daily.
- Prospect by an industry or segment that you enjoy working with to help build confidence.
- Focus and discipline in executing your prospecting plan is the key to successful prospecting.
In hopes that this will be used by owners, general managers and sales executives who want accountability in sales. GOOD LUCK!