Proven Prospecting Techniques

John BoyensBy John Boyens, Sales Productivity Expert, Business Strategist, and Executive Coach

Most of the businesses in the United States earn the majority of their revenue by selling to existing clients. While that’s a component in the overall success and profitability of a business it is critically important for salespeople to prospect and develop business relationships with new clients on a consistent basis. 

Here are nine tried and true tips to help salespeople improve their prospecting skills: 

1. Profile your best customers and target more that look like them. The most successful salespeople profile their existing customer base to determine specific characteristics of their “best” customers (i.e., SIC code, annual revenue, number of employees, locations, etc.).

In addition, they identify what titles they had to convince to buy, what business problem/problems they were able to help solve and what their quantifiable value proposition was. Imagine if you knew that your best customers are VP’s of Marketing, for manufacturers of consumer packaged goods products, with revenues of $50 million dollars or more, employing a minimum of 100 people, with offices located throughout the southeastern part of the United States. Wouldn’t it be quite easy to find other manufacturers that “fit” that profile?  

B2B database companies such as InfoGroup, Dun and Bradstreet, Experian would be delighted to sell “names” that match your profile.

2. Employ a proactive cross-sell strategy. Once you’ve profiled your existing customer base you should be able to identify other departments, divisions or subsidiaries that could purchase your products or services. Ask for a “warm” introduction from your existing customer so you can connect with their counterpart in another department, division or subsidiary. 

Create a cross-sell pipeline in addition to your new business pipeline to increase your focus on cross-selling. A cross-sell pipeline should include the following:

  • Who are you targeting (meaning title/functional area and company)?
  • What product/products are you targeting?
  • Why will this person buy?
  • What will keep them from buying?
  • What sales stage are they in?
  • What is the potential revenue for this order? Over the course of a year?

3. Always ask for referrals. Now more than ever it is imperative to ask for referrals!  Every time someone closes a sale they should ask for a referral. Every time that they’re turned down for a sale they should ask for a referral. Every time that they satisfactorily resolve a customer problem or complaint they should ask for a referral. 

Another step in generating referrals is to join local or regional networking groups. The sole purpose of networking groups is to enable salespeople to share leads with member businesses that don't directly compete with theirs. Other networking opportunities include joining a local Chamber of Commerce, joining a trade association, volunteering to participate in a charity or local function, etc. 

Lastly, I suggest that salespeople leverage their connectors and influencers.  Research shows that the average person knows 250 people. That means that every time you meet someone new your sphere of influence can expand by a multiplier of 250!

4. Utilize social media. There are many options to take advantage of as it relates to prospecting though social media.  Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the most widely recognized for B2B sales.

LinkedIn is geared towards the working professional and allows their users to create a profile. LinkedIn users can recommend one another, join groups, make introductions as well as post and apply for jobs. 

In addition, it’s a great tool to identify and connect with prospects, dormant clients, former associates and potential partners. When someone accepts your invitation (or you accept someone’s invitation) immediately go to their connections and see if they are connected with anyone you want to know or do business with and then ask for a “warm” introduction.

5. Sell to the Decision Maker.  Identify what titles need to be involved in the buying process, what potential business problem/problems they may have and how your product or service could help them address those problems.

6. “Win Back” former customers. Create a database of customers that haven’t purchased from you in over a year and reconnect with them in an effort to “win back” their business.

7. Create a Target Opportunity “Hit List.” A Targeted Opportunity “Hit List” should include competitive “take-away” accounts in your territory, companies that fit in your vertical market specialties as well as other large businesses in your territory.

8. Schedule time for prospecting every day. Salespeople should schedule a minimum of one-hour per day dedicated to prospecting or new business development activities. That time can be spent generating referrals, attending a trade show, attending chamber events or business mixers, by joining a local networking group or by scouring the business section of their local newspaper or business journal. 

9. Track your results.  It’s also important to track your results on a weekly basis to ensure that you’re on target. At the end of each week answer the following questions:

  • How much time did I spend prospecting this week?
  • How many appointments did I have?
  • How many new opportunities did I uncover?
  • How much business did I sell?
  • Where am I month-to-date relative to goal?

By utilizing the tips in this article salespeople will be able to retain and up-sell their existing customers, improve the size and quality of their pipeline and generate more consistent sales results!

Interested in learning more? Contact John Boyens of Boyens Group, Inc. at 615-395-0200 or visit www.boyens.com. 

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