Digging for gold: prospecting that works

by External11 Sep 2013

Sales and marketing strategist Clifton Warren shares time-tested strategies for successful prospecting

Your attitude towards prospecting plays an important role in your success. Prospecting is the most important part of the sales process. Depending on your attitude, prospecting can either be your biggest problem and headache...or your greatest sales-building opportunity. 
The Life Insurance and Market Research Association (LIMRA)  surveyed individuals who had failed as independent financial services professionals within the first 18 months of being in the  industry. They asked each person, “What did you find most difficult about selling?”
Prospecting was the most common answer.
Prospecting for new business is a job that you’ll have to do; as long as you are in business, it will be its lifeblood. And it’s the one activity you should never delegate.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, here are three time-tested prospecting systems that have stood the test of time and will keep you supplied with endless high quality prospects. 
1. Networking
Networking is one of the most talked about but seldom realised activities in selling. When done correctly networking can provide you with insights that can turn into qualified leads. 
However, when done poorly, it can become a huge waste of time. You need to establish the right networks.
There are two types of networks: personal and membership (ie, built around structures such as associations or membership clubs). 
You should include both types. For example, build your personal networks around people that you already know such as past clients, friends, family, previous employers etc.
Build structured networks by joining membership organisations that make sense to you and/or your personal development and enjoyment.  Ideas include Rotary, Toastmasters and golf clubs. The right networks will provide a sustainable source of new leads.
2. Endless chain prospecting
Endless chain prospecting is a reminder to always ask for names; it simply involves getting the names of prospects from the people whom you try to sell to. In turn, these new prospects can refer you to others, so this process is actually comparable to an “endless chain”. The goal is to never break the chain by forgetting to obtain new names. There are several top producers who use this method exclusively and trace the source of every piece of new business. View it as an ongoing game; the longer you play it, the more likely you’ll never forget to ask for prospect names. 
When you meet with a prospect, one of three things happen: 
  • You make the sale. 
  • You don’t make the sale, but you establish a relationship with the buyer. 
  • You don’t make the sale and you don’t connect with the buyer. 
Each of these situations is an opportunity to ask for names and introductions.
If you persist, you will quickly develop the habit of continually  asking for new names and will build a solid client list that will serve you well during your career.
3. Direct mail 
Even in the internet and social media age, targeted direct mail is an effective means of reaching out directly to prospects – and when followed by a phone call, is even more powerful. It’s one of the quickest ways to generate high quality leads. 
The more clearly you have identified your target market, the more you can tailor your approach. With direct mail your goal is to simply obtain an interview with the prospect.
Expanding your network:
Set a goal of the number of new people you want to meet and add to your network and set aside time each week to do it; this can be done by phone, in-person or email. The actual communication can be brief; the secret is doing it on a regular basis.
Top producers are excellent prospectors. The sources and methods that you develop for acquiring new clients will become your most valuable asset and with the help of the law of averages, prospecting will eliminate the peaks and valleys by delivering predicable revenue streams to your business.
Cliff Warren, CMC, principal of Corporate Eye Consulting, is a marketing and sales strategist, coach and speaker who works with banking, insurance and financial services professionals. Contact him on (03) 9808 1136 or Clifton@corporateye.com.au