Developing new opportunities for business is the very essence of selling - and the biggest challenge. If the business simply called itself in, our job wouldn't exist. Prospecting is obvious and necessary, but it is also something many sales people don't make time for, feel uncomfortable with or only cover some aspects of, as this is a complicated and varied task.Many sales people know they have to contact a minimum number of new suspects to expand their sales or at least replace business that won't renew. How can we do that in a way that will guarantee more sales?Here are some of the things that can be done to prospect:· Cold calls· Ask for referrals· Networking· Trade shows· Mailings· AdvertisingNaturally there are more, but it's important we consider two things. First, is there a variety of prospecting in your plan or are you just doing one or two activities that you're comfortable with? If for example you can build your business with networking and referrals and maintain growth with these activities, good for you. But, if those are your activities and you're not hitting your numbers, you may want to consider more and different activities to keep your funnel full.The second thing to consider about your prospecting is whether they are active or passive. Most of the list above is passive. You have little control regarding who you contact, if they'll respond, or defining a next step. For example mailings and advertising are excellent but they are passive. You may intend for your message to reach a specific person or target audience but there is no guarantee they'll read it. To make it active you must call and follow up.Networking and referrals are also necessary in a well-rounded prospecting plan. If your networking means hanging around the shrimp bowl with industry cronies, that's passive. If it includes a plan to contact a specific number of people who invite you to call them because you have engaged them in meaningful conversation, it's active.
Referrals are the best way to start a business relationship. To make the process active you have to ask for referrals rather than hope someone volunteers them. You also have to contact the new prospect and be prepared to start the relationship and go through the selling process. A referral is nothing but an introduction. It guarantees nothing.And somewhere in that mix cold calling should have a place. I compare cold calling to networking. Driving down the road, scanning the business directory or surveying the room, I can never tell who the next buyer of my product might be. I can't tell by the store front, the name of their business doesn't make it any easier and I surely can't tell by the way they look. I'm guessing I'll have to talk to them, ask them some questions, and maybe, just maybe, we'll discover that they have some problems that I may be able to help them with. However, it's a long-shot.Salespeople typically put too much pressure on themselves when prospecting. If your goal in prospecting is to make a sale, it may be the reason you don't like the activity. If your goal is to contact suspects and find those qualified to be prospects, set up meeting to discuss your product and service as well as their problems, that's what it should be.Think of prospecting as if you were an old 1890's prospector looking for gold. You had to chip away at a lot of rocks that didn't yield much but finding the vein of gold was worth the looking.The final word on prospecting: don't procrastinate. Set a daily goal. It may be a number of calls or a time allocation for calls. Get in the habit of looking for the business.