April 24, 2009

Getting Ready To Start Prospecting

The need to start prospecting
Things start happening when people pick up the phone and start talking to prospects and customers. It is as simple as that.

Indeed, when the market is tough, that calling becomes more important than ever. That explains why it is the focus of so many articles we have written. Most organisations are not calling enough potential customers, or doing it in as systematic manner as is necessary.

The bottom line is they find it tough, with most salespeople creatively avoiding it in many ways. The lack of prospecting is the number one complaint area for many sales managers. When outside telemarketing agencies are used the results too are often disappointing. The solution to both these problems is more preparation.

Preparation falls into two categories
I started my career making approximately 50 telemarketing calls a day. In a way I was well trained and quickly learned the importance of preparation for any campaign. That generally meant physical preparation, such as:
  • Deciding who and how many will be called, what the objective of the campaign (metrics, etc.) is and how long it will last, number of days to allocate, setting review dates, etc.
  • Building the list
  • Writing out and re-writing what you are going to say, until you are happy with it
  • Writing out questions you are likely to be asked and your answers to them
  • Practicing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it
  • Formulating a list of questions you are likely to be asked, or barriers that arise and answers to them
  • Preparing your list of questions / information you want to gather on the call
  • Deciding what you will say to the PA and what voicemail message if any you will leave (if any)
  • Gathering product/industry knowledge
  • Deciding what you will send if somebody wants more information, or what web page to point them to
  • Preparing the list – agreeing the criteria, finding the names, numbers, ensuring that the company has not suscribed to any 'do not call' list (e.g. TPS in the UK), etc.
  • Doing your homework on the persons and the companies to be called
  • Using a database, or a spreadsheet to track your calls
  • Allocating time, including uninterrupted slots in your diary for calling
  • Determining what supporting marketing activity, such as direct mail, will be employed
  • Undertaking a pilot (a couple of days of calling in order to test the approach and its effectiveness) before ramping up activity
Psychological Preparation
Less obvious and equally important is the mental preparation required for calling prospects. All too often that gets forgotten about. Yet it is the single most important factor that determines long term success and failure. In particular it is key to the ability to sustain sales prospecting activity, beyond the initial burst of enthusiasm.

I believe 80% of the success in sales prospecting is psychological, here are some of the factors:
  • Focus on the goal. You can do anything if you believe it is important enough.
  • Practice and prepare, it will make you feel more comfortable and confident. Write out what you are going to say – it is comforting to have the information beside you.
  • Jump straight in – don’t put it off till tomorrow. Launch bravely – just get started. Allocate a slot of time each day or each week and when that is over you can feel good about it. Free yourself from interruptions (block incoming calls, close your email application, etc.). Reward yourself when you are done.
  • Start small and then grow from there – set realistic expectations (both about the results, the number of calls and the time you can allocate to it) – remember It is a marathon not a sprint
  • Remember it is an information call, not a sales call. So, have something useful to say, or some information to share (focus on what is in it for the buyer). Your objective is not to sell it is simply to call – to gather and share information. In that way every call is a result and every hour of calling is a success.
  • Remember you cannot mess it up and you cannot fail (unless you give up). After all what is the worst thing that can happen? That somebody says they are not interested?
  • If they are not interested then no worries, your job was just to provide them with information and tell them about your company (anyhow they may change their mind later you never know)
  • Let the averages work for you - remember you don’t have to talk to a manager in every company you contact, and you don’t have to get a positive reaction from every manager you talk to, it may work out to be 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 or some other rate of interest, no worries that is fine. Once you know the average you know exactly what you need to do. The focus becomes the 20 not the one.
  • Go home happy once you have done your calls, regardless of the outcome, then the next day ask if there is anything that you could have done any differently. But persist regardless.
  • List the calls you make each day and count them. Feel good about it. Each call is a result.
  • Eventually you will talk to somebody that is interested, you will gather useful information, you will build awareness of your company, you will add to your skills/resilience, so keep going. Make one more call, that could be the opportunity you have been waiting for. All the time remember that you are planting seeds today that will grow over time
  • You don’t have to talk the buyer into buying (very few high value B2B products are sold over the phone), your job is to provide him/her with useful information and to arrange a future conversation (or other appropriate follow-up)
  • Remember this is the beginning of a relationship; it is not just about one call. The next call will be easier as he/she will remember you.
  • Don’t rush to judgment; don’t make a hasty assessment of success or failure based on the first few calls, or the first few days of calls. Give it time and switch off the internal conversations fortelling failure in the meantime. Too many campaigns are afflicted by premature and ongoing postmortems. Remember you only fail when you give up. Success lies in keeping the activity going. In that way results are inevitable. If the results dont come in time, then be stoic - perhaps the outcome is telling y0u to change your strategy, or approach.
More psychological preparation
  • It sounds obvious but dont assume that the person you are calling will be interested. Don't be afraid to start of by saying 'i am not sure if this is something that might be of interest to you, but...'.
  • See yourself on the same level as the person you are talking to and dont see yourself as interruption.
  • Act confident and you will be confident. So before each call, sit up, take a deep breath, raise your shoulders and smile. The speak slowly, clearly and confidently. All this will make you feel more confident.
  • Have a genuine interest in the other person. That is you genuinely want to pass on some information that will be off value, or encourage him/her to explore a solution to a problem.
  • Speak more slowly than normal, in that way you won’t have to worry about your accent and being understood. It will also make you sound more confident and professional.
  • Smile, it will come across to the person you are talking too (strange I know, but it has been proven to work).
  • Don’t take any rejections personally. Remember occasionally you will talk to a grouch, or somebody who is just having a bad day.
  • Remember the last time you got a call, how did you feel?
  • Respect the persons time:
    - Don’t assume they will be interested – in fact tell that you are not sure if it is relevant to them
    - Don’t assume that they have time to talk to you, or that you have called at a good time
  • Don’t put down the phone – make the next call. Keep calling - the call you did not make is the call that might have got you that result you wanted
  • Set a time for call, preferably a slot earlier in the day, when you will make your calls, without interruption. When that time is up, you can move on to the next task feeling good about having completed what you had set to do. It is useful to set a pattern to your work, for example calling on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, thereby reinforcing the habit.

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