As a busy sales manager, it’s important to understand what your salespeople are thinking about when it comes to sales prospecting. If you consider how much time your sales team spends beating themselves up about NOT prospecting—and imagine that they spent the same amount of time actually prospecting… well, you catch my drift, right?
When it comes down to it, sales prospecting takes a lot of planning—something busy salespeople and sales managers often dread.
On a personal level, I’ve discovered that by not making time to prospect for new business, my pipeline is dry and I found myself operating in “scarcity” mode. Over time, operating in scarcity mode becomes a vicious cycle, which then leads to sounding desperate. Once you’re desperate, prospects tune out… or worse, deals are lost.
Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to turn this around!
3 Steps to Sales Prospecting
Here are three steps to sales prospecting that I use that have been tried-and-tested by top producers in the field:
1. Create a Prospecting Action Plan
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” they say.
Begin with the end in mind by asking each member of your sales team to create a Prospecting Action Plan on a weekly basis—posted in your Sales PlayBook. For a PAP template and instructions, click here.
2. Time Block
To maximize time, use a time block!
I like to color code my calendar. For example, sales prospecting falls under green time. This means that I create a set amount of time to prospect and color code it green.
How much time should you allow for prospecting activities? Somewhere between 20-30% works.
3. Find Good Sources to Prospect
There are many of wells to dip into when prospecting. Here are some good sources for generation leads that will turn into opportunities.
Picking companies, people, and demographics are very important, so I spend time answering these fundamental questions:
- What size company do I want to engage with?
- What type of people/titles?
Then I create a list in Excel, so I can easily sort it by any criteria I want. (I.e. company name, person, notes: such as a common contact, etc.)
Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, I enter each company name from my target list, and then filter the people I want to contact.
Sales Navigator tells me who in my network is connected to the person I want to reach and then, from a series of templates stored in my Sales PlayBook, I send emails requesting an introduction.
I track the progress of all this activity in my CRM system: Salesforce.
Speaking of Salesforce, it’s a great source for leads.
I periodically run a “Lost Opportunities” report to revisit former prospects. Circumstances are constantly changing in sales—people change companies and positions—and our offerings also change and develop. Perhaps we lost this original opportunity to a competitor and the competitor did not deliver. It’s never too late to re-engage!
As much as I hate to admit it, emails do get lost in the shuffle.
By going back to Outlook and sorting my inbox by “sender,” I can quickly find prospects that I did not get back to or identify people who I simply forgot to contact.
It’s important to take time to develop long-term personal relationships with people in networks.
I’m a member of several groups that meet monthly. Staying in contact on professional or personal levels keeps me top of mind. The key here is to make this a two-way street by giving as many referrals as possible.
As a sales trainer and sales growth facilitator, it’s important for me to continuously improve my subject matter expertise. My goal is always to add value and to learn—whether as a keynote speaker, a workshop facilitator, or as a panelist.
Speaking is a great way to hear from larger groups of people at one time about what’s important in the industry.
Also, listening to other speakers at the same conference or event is an excellent way to maximize my time and understand what’s relevant to my current and future clients.
Sales Prospecting: Keep Moving
Lastly, I like to have others, including people in my office and people in my trusted advisor circle, hold me accountable to prospecting. It’s very useful to have someone I respect frequently remind me or even sit down with me to guide me through the prospecting process. Sometimes it’s nothing more than following the very process I developed for myself.
For many of you, much of this is obvious—but I believe that it’s important to continue practicing the fundamentals. This way you and your salespeople will maintain momentum and feed a healthy sales pipeline.