Prospecting is the lifeblood of sales. Without it, you’re going to be severely limited in the number of sales opportunities you have, and you’ll be leaving that number almost entirely to chance.
The number one thing most sales professionals need at any given time is more “turns at bat”, and prospecting is what makes that possible. One reason salespeople often struggle with prospecting is that they don’t think carefully about how to do it best. That leaves many sales professionals either hoping and praying for good leads to just ‘float in’ through the front door…or stuck opening the phone book, picking a page, and starting to make calls.
Here are four essential questions you can (and should) use to truly supercharge your sales prospecting efforts:
1. How can I best identify those most likely to benefit from my product or service?
If I’m selling home siding, then clearly I want to speak with homeowners. But some homeowners might benefit much more than others. For example, a neighborhood with homes made mostly of brick is not a good fit, nor is a subdivision that was recently built. The people who really need your services are those who own homes built from the 1940s through the 1970s with wood siding.
2. What factors can I use to target these people?
So we’ve decided to really focus and target a more specific range of people than just “residents” or even “homeowners”. What else can we do to focus even further? Well, we can look at average income in a given zip code, for one. That’s important because we want to make sure people can afford what we’re offering. We can also look at the percentage of owner-occupied homes vs. renter-occupied, either by zip code or, sometimes, by census tract. Again, why would we want to knock on doors and talk primarily with renters? We wouldn’t.
Then again, another factor worth considering might be the level of sales activity in a given neighborhood, and the average home sale prices. If the neighborhood has a lot of sales activity — and if we can cross-reference that against, for example, the average number of years a home had the same owner prior to sale, we might be able to determine that older residents in a given area are moving to assisted living communities and nursing homes, and that their adult children might be looking for quick ways to increase property value significantly in a short period time prior to a sale.
3. How can I change my pitch to meet this target’s needs?
Now that we’re targeting a really focused population, we can tailor our pitch to meet their needs and goals. Instead of just offering a general opener such as “We can improve your home’s value”, how about something much more precise such as “Gain some additional cash you need to finance your retirement when you sell your home.” By starting with the customer’s desired outcome in mind (their ability to afford retirement costs as they prepare for this life-changing transition), you start the dialogue from a completely different place — you’re helping them address their need, rather than starting by pushing your product.
4. With whom can I partner to more effectively prospect successfully?
Since we’ve identified, defined and crafted a prospecting model around a very precise population and their unique needs and goals, it’s time to ask another valuable question: Who else would benefit from targeting the same population, and can partnering with them improve our mutual success?
For example, if I sell siding to a homeowner with no impending event (i.e. they don’t intend to sell the home anytime in the immediate future), then the sale itself becomes more focused on aesthetics, easier home maintenance and long-term home value. Consequently, it probably doesn’t make sense for that person to also invest in replacing their windows or roof at the same time — rather, they might choose one of these activities to engage in every few years over time.
However, our target population is looking to do the most they can, as quickly as they (reasonably) can, to deliver a house to market that will compete effectively for buyers at the best possible price. Under those circumstances, it might make sense to make one up-front investment in siding, roofing and window upgrades (especially if the home’s original construction was left unchanged). In that case, partnering with one or more other complementary providers might dramatically improve your chances of a successful sale (and allow you to gain access to someone else’s warm leads to boot).
By asking these four questions, you’ll finally be able to leave random “phone book” prospecting behind, and get down to deal-making with the people who are most likely to buy from you, and for the most compelling reasons. Remember: Identify, target, pitch and partner to turn your prospecting into a powerful lead generation process for yourself, and your team.