Too often, I hear frustrated leaders in sales management say things like this:“Why won’t salespeople prospect? All they ever do is complain that they don’t have enough leads.”
Which brings up the bigger question: Whose job is it to generate leads? Some people believe generating qualified leads falls on the shoulders of the marketing department. But I believe salespeople have to be part of the process, too.
Sara Moccand-Sayegh, a digital marketing specialist at SalesWings, caught me in between trips to talk more about prospecting. SalesWings is a website tracking and lead scoring add-on. The software identifies your most sales-ready leads based on their website activity, in addition to analyzing past and future visits of your leads and scoring their level of engagement.
Here’s some of the key points about prospecting that Sara and I talked about:
Sales management advice to encourage more prospecting
Sara: Do you think that salespeople can become good at prospecting?
Alice: Absolutely! With proper process and training, salespeople can become excellent at prospecting. Running a prospecting campaign should be a joint effort between marketing and sales, but the truth is that most salespeople are left to do this on their own.
Sara: I think some people equate prospecting with cold calling. What’s the difference?
Alice: My feeling is that cold calling is inefficient, ineffective and mostly a waste of everyone’s time. Effective prospecting campaigns are different. They have to be more than picking up the phone and trying to reach the person on the list. If they are not well-planned, it becomes a pure numbers game. The more numbers dialed, the more likely you are to find someone who will buy. Personally, I don’t want to make 100 calls to get 10 live answers to find one person. I want to make 10 high-quality contacts, have great conversations with them and get five or more sales.
Sara: That’s what all of us want! So, how do you begin this kind of campaign?
Alice: The first step is definitely to research. Find 10-15 target companies. These should be companies you feel would be ideal customers. Then, research the companies. Use Google. Check out their website, social media, annual report, recent articles and trade journals. Call a salesperson and ask for their marketing materials. Ask a few questions. You are looking for information to confirm that the company or division is a solid target.
Sara: How do you figure out who you should call at these companies?
Alice: I recommend finding three to five people in the organization who are most likely to be interested in your solution and can make a buying decision. See if they are on the team page of the website. Then, use Google (again). Find them on social media. Get their addresses and phone numbers. Call the main number at the corporate office and ask for them. LinkedIn is a great place to find names and emails as well as learn about your prospects.
Sara: OK, now that we’ve got all the information of the people we plan to contact, what should we do next?
Alice: Now your team really needs to plan a multi-touch campaign. Figure out where you are in the sales process before starting so that you can plan your campaign appropriately. Are you prospecting a current client? Were they a past customer? Are they on a list from a trade show, where they showed some interest?
Sara: What ways should people reach out to prospects?
Alice: Any combination of direct mail, email, social media, fax (yes, some industries still respond to fax), voicemail, phone, face-to-face visit, advertising or public relations can be used.
Sara: Is there a specific timeframe in which you recommend this take place?
Alice: Be sure all of the touches are received by the prospect within a four- to six-week period. Make sure all touches include a call to action and are sent out to all contacts simultaneously.
Sara: How do you recommend a sales leader keep this effort organized?
Alice: [Sales management should] make a timeline and calendar of all the action items to complete the multi-touch campaign. Write out a call plan before each call, email, social message or visit. Be sure you have an engaging message. Also, create a list of four to six well thought-out questions that will qualify the prospect by determining their needs — questions that will get them talking. If you’re making calls, write down exactly what you will say if you get voicemail instead of the person you are calling. Focus on the key pieces of information you want to deliver. Don’t do a data dump on the prospect!
Sara: OK, what comes next?
Alice: Decide what you are willing to commit to as a next step, and what commitment you would like from the prospect as a result of the call. Then, plan the follow up. Be sure that whatever you promise to deliver as a result of the campaign, you execute with excellence. The face-to-face visit, phone appointment, demo and even fulfillment package should all be done in a professional and timely manner.
I have been very successful using the method above for my company, as have my clients. To be successful, sales management needs to teach their salespeople to execute this process, as well as monitor, encourage and reward the behaviors necessary for the process to work.
Remember, a prospecting campaign should result in an appointment with the person or people who are most likely to purchase what you are selling. Your prospecting efforts should pique their interest enough that they schedule a meeting with you face-to-face, via Skype or video conference or over the phone.
As the founder & Chief Sales Officer of Alice Heiman, LLC, Alice brings world class sales strategy and tactics to owner-led companies and startups. To take your sales team to the next level, call her at 775-852-5020 or schedule an appointment.