Sales prospecting may not be the most glamorous part of the sales profession, but don't let that fool you. Absolutely nothing in your process matters as much to your long-term success as your sales prospecting methodology-leads determine everything that follows, shaping the entire process. Bad leads lead to no sales, or bad sales. Good leads lead to good sales. It's that simple. That means it's crucially important that every sales person and team lead take the time to review their sales prospecting methods, and make sure they're doing all the right things and none of the wrong ones. In this article, we'll cover three complementary Do's and three Don'ts of sales prospecting, and hopefully give you the insight you need to optimize your process.
Don't: Make Ice-Cold Contact.
Even when you're just sales prospecting, building your pool of qualified leads, you don't want to make the 'everyone in the phone book' approach. No contact between a sales person and a prospect should EVER be cold on both sides. If they're a stranger to you, don't contact them until you figure out a way to learn about them.
Do: Research Prospects.
Research every prospect as thoroughly as time and circumstance permits. Even the coldest contact can be a bit warm on one side. If nothing else, make sure you know your demographics as well as possible-you'll still be flying blind on an individual level, but you'll have something to work with. Without research, it's very easy to either ruin a great lead before you realize it, or never realize the lead is great in the first place. Research, research, research.
Don't: Make Yourself Obnoxious.
Sales prospecting shouldn't feel like harassment to the prospects that aren't interested. You don't want to burn bridges with lame tactics that only open a few doors. A prospect that's not interested today may be interested tomorrow-but if you've managed to offend them or annoy them, it's the competition they'll be calling.
Do: Focus on Connection First, Sale Second.
Those same prospects that are burnt bridges under more obnoxious sales prospecting methodologies can be planted seeds with a more relationship-based approach. With this mindset, you treat every contact and attempt to generate a lead as a networking opportunity. Even if the prospect has zero interest in your product, you want them thinking of you in a positive light if they need your services-or if they know someone who might. This approach is slower on the front end but generates far better leads more consistently than sales prospecting focused on immediate closers.
Don't: Target the Wrong Person.
Make sure that you're building a list of leads that aren't far removed from the people who make the decisions. That means that you don't target C-level executives when middle management makes the call, and you don't target middle management when C-level executives make the call. Know whom you're after and make sure they're the target of your sales prospecting. Just another reason to research, research, research.
Do: Look at 'Tangential' Prospects.
Aiming at the wrong person is a big don't, but aiming at people other than the decision-maker as part of a longer game is a great idea. If you can't make immediate contact with a decision-maker, or you don't think you can close with a direct approach, planting the seeds of interest in their advisors and peers can be a great strategy. It's just important to make sure that you're doing this on purpose when sales prospecting and not because you didn't know who made the decisions in the first place.
The most important thing to keep in mind with all sales prospecting tactics is this: Knowledge is power. You'll know good leads because you'll know the prospect. You'll approach the prospect with the right moves because you know the prospect. You'll close the sale because you know the prospect. Anything else is secondary to knowledge--so learn what you can early.