Sales March 01, 2016

Why isn’t your prospect becoming a customer?

Turning prospecting mistakes into strategies for sales success

Follow Peter’s efforts in building a sales pipeline from scratch. Learn from his prospecting errors and how he recovers from them.

 

Peter recently switched industries to work in sales for a new company. Right from the start, Peter felt the pressure to build his sales pipeline. So, he plunged right in and put in the hours, but prospects were just not becoming customers. His sales goals seemed to drift further from reach every day. What was he doing wrong? Could he learn from his prospecting mistakes and turn them into strategies for success?

1. Targeting everybody, reaching nobody

The more prospects you contact, the more sales opportunities you create, right? Peter started out by enthusiastically – but randomly – cold calling and emailing the long list of prospects provided by his new company. But after weeks of calls and emails, his prospecting outreach didn’t deliver results. Decision makers and executives seldom have time for strangers pitching them, so Peter realized he needed to change his tactics.

He began to clearly define his market by asking himself: What companies were best suited to his company’s solutions? Who were their typical decision makers?  Where are they located and would his company be able to service them. By doing this kind of research, Peter narrowed down his list, and set about targeting prospects with good potential.

More importantly, Peter also altered his approach by assuming the role of a business partner rather than a salesperson. He added a personal touch to his prospecting that positioned him as a provider of co-created solutions rather than just a pushy seller of products. 

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2. More about them than you

With the assumption that he knew his prospective customers’ requirements, Peter’s communication was all about his company’s products and services. This one-sided focus left him ill-prepared for their questions and concerns. Peter realized that he had to gain more insight into what made their businesses tick.

He studied prospects’ websites, followed their press releases, as well as news from their industries etc. Peter also interviewed experts at his own company about market conditions and industry issues, and thought about all the possible questions his prospects may ask.

By replacing his assumptions with insights, Peter was able to focus on prospects’ concerns, challenges and strategies, demonstrating his understanding of their market sector and business. This in turn led to opportunities to discuss how his company’s products and services could support their objectives.

3. To wait or to give up?

Sometimes Peter just gave up after one call, often thinking that clients would call him when they needed assistance. Or he became pushy if his “star” prospects took too long to respond. Regardless to say, his calls and emails weren’t being returned.

Peter had to learn that being successful in sales takes time and consistent effort – and the foundation for success is good rapport and strong relationships. Also, a friendly, supportive tone will take you a long way. He began to keep in touch with his contacts, sharing interesting and relevant articles with them and inviting them to company events. By learning more about them (and sometimes about their families and hobbies), Peter started speaking their language, building his relationships with every interaction.

4. Using LinkedIn effectively

One of the ways Peter tried to expand his network was through LinkedIn. He knew that this online platform was a useful tool for building connections. However, Peter initially opted to pursue the bulldozing approach and while his list of connections grew, his sales pipeline didn’t.

In response, he began choosing his connections wisely. His first step was to ask for introductions via people who really mattered to those he wanted to connect with. He then followed up connections with tailor-made emails and eventually set up meetings. In avoiding all his other mistakes, he was able to develop positive and promising relationships.

5. Don’t miss out

Peter was disappointed when he saw his customers also partner with competitor suppliers. Looking closely at these partnerships, he realised that he had missed key business opportunities during conversations.

So, Peter worked on being more attentive and curious, especially when customers mentioned new projects and initiatives. This helped him to discover possibilities for their mutual benefit – whether it was through products or services, or connections with distributors, marketing experts and international affiliates.

*****

As Peter discovered, assessing what works and what doesn’t and then making necessary changes can turn mistakes into opportunities. Once you have clients on board, use them as active referrals that lead you to finding and accessing new clients more easily. Staying in touch with your “fan” client base will also help you to keep other doors opening  ̶  and the ball of successful sales should go on rolling for you.

 

Extra tips
• Make prospecting part of your schedule to ensure the sales pipeline doesn’t run dry.
• Set goals for all your customer interactions etc. how many calls/mails will you send out this week; what is
   the aim of each interaction?
• Write short, powerful emails and remember that long attachments are often easily ignored.
• Keep good notes every time you talk to a client. It will help you initiate follow-ups.
• Don’t forget about traditional networking platforms – referrals from existing customers, industry events,
   visitors to your company’s website who have left contact details, and purchased lists of key contacts in
   your industry.
• Never underestimate the support you may receive from your contact’s assistant. Be friendly and interested
   and get them on your side.

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