The Sales Funnel
Seven Best Practices of Prospecting
by Mike Hilbert
Ask some sales professionals how they manage to meet their sales goals over and over again and the answer will inevitably come back to having a "process" in place. The process will usually reflect a way to keep your "pipeline" full so that sales can be closed continuously. The more pros you speak to, the more you will recognize that it doesn't really matter what they are selling?the same "best practices" keep coming up over and over again.
Success in sales revolves around having enough qualified prospects at all times. The Sales Funnel is the process for finding and qualifying prospects to insure success in sales.
As you know, a funnel is very wide at the top and very narrow at the bottom. The Sales Funnel is not intended to allow all who enter at the top to exit at the bottom. It's a "qualifying" process in which we are happy to eliminate prospects who don't qualify?in this way we don't waste time selling to people who are not likely to buy.
We also recognize that success in sales is based on approaching a larger number of prospects than we will actually close. You see at the top of the sales funnel there are many prospecting methods represented. The intention is to put as many prospects as possible through a process?but at the bottom of the sales funnel, only new customers will exit.
Prospecting is a very important first step. Even here, we always want to do "targeted prospecting." For example, if we are selling expensive cars, we want to prospect people who have the income and characteristics of expensive car buyers. Therefore, the lists we obtain and the activities we perform should all be aimed at the proper type of prospect.
If we stay with the car example, we also know everyone won't need a car today. What we have to do is manage our process so that we always have enough who are ready to buy that have been properly identified.
Before you work hard to get your foot in the door, you need to know what types of doors you want to knock on. You should define your target market to give you a road map to where you are going.
One favorite method of developing your target market is to clone your best customers. Take a look at your customer base and develop a profile of what they look like. This will help you define your targeted industries. Narrow down your industry/prospect list to one or two industries that are likely to have the money to spend and are likely to spend it on your product or service.
Then you should define your industry job titles. Narrow down those titles to one who have the ability to purchase or greatly influence the purchase of your product or service. The result should be one to three job titles.
Then create a suspect list of only those companies within your target industry and decision makers who have one of your target titles. The result should be a limited, finely targeted list of potential prospects who have a high percentage to become customers.
Seven Best Practices of Prospecting
Sales Pros 4 Hire utilizes as many of the Seven Best Practices of Prospecting and Increasing Sales as are applicable to our client's needs. We remain focused on obtaining new qualified prospects, increasing sales and retaining existing customers.
Direct Mail - Sales Pros 4 Hire effectively uses Direct Mail as a tool to find and qualify prospects and help retain existing customers.
- Letters of introduction are mailed to new prospects within the target market
- Each mailing is followed up with telephone calls for prospect qualification
- Newsletters containing information and tips important to customers and prospects are developed and mailed on a consistent basis.
- Thank you letters and cards are sent after each major project and at other appropriate times based on the relationship.
- New services brochures are created and mailed to existing and qualified prospects when appropriate.
Networking - Sales Pros 4 Hire can attend various industry and non-industry networking events on behalf of our client.
- For example: we may attend business card exchanges and networking events hosted by Chambers of Commerce, business publications, formal networking groups and charitable organizations for obtaining leads and referrals
- We present ourselves as client sales agents and work in the networking environment to advance the client's visibility and potential for sales.
Business Intelligence - Keeping abreast of personnel and industry changes are imperative for maintaining client relationships and acquiring new ones.
- Researching "People in the News" sections of the local business publications for promotions, executive changes and awards and recognition.
- Sending a complimentary letter of congratulations will be remembered and is a good ice breaker. When we follow up a week later, it is highly probable that the receiver will remember our letter and be more willing to talk and possibly arrange a meeting.
- Reading the industry journals of your customer base to keep abreast of industry trends, company and personnel changes and reports
- Hoovers, a business intelligence division of Dun & Bradstreet states that in just 12 months, 17% of business names will change, 20% of all addresses change and 21% of CEO's will change. And you know what happens whenever CEO changes?the new exec brings in his own people.
Trade Show Marketing - Sales Pros 4 Hire has developed a complete pre-show, show and post-show prospecting system to help our clients obtain maximum results from trade shows.
· We mail out pre-show invitations to prospects. We recommend that you include an incentive for the prospect to collect at your booth
· We teach you how to rate each prospect after your conversation and immediately jot down notes of your conversation. The prospect's business card is an ideal place.
· We encourage you to plan to use the day after the show for follow up with the goal of arranging appointments to learn about the prospects requirements and problems. If time does not permit; we can plan to do that for you.
Note: We can also attend the show on your behalf and perform the above services.
Association Marketing - joining the associations of your prospects to build relationships and establish trust. But don't just join?get involved in a way that shows you to be an expert in your field and a reliable person to do business with!
We recommend participation in the following types of activities:
· Volunteer for committee
· Write articles for newsletter
· Volunteer to organize the association's trade show
· Provide non-commercial seminars
Existing Customers - We help you to establish client retention programs immediately after the prospect becomes a customer. Retention activities include:
- Thank you notes and letters for completed projects
- Reminder cards of important dates of services and projects
- Expanding customer relationship through discovery of additional requirements
- Awareness of additional product and services
Remember: never take your customers for granted, your competition has them in their sights.
Referrals - We work with your clients to earn referrals from them
- Giving referrals to your customers is the best way to receive a referral from them
- Testimonials are one of the greatest sales tools you can use. The best way to have your customers give you one is to write the testimonial yourself and sent it to your customer for approval. When approved, ask them to copy the text onto their letterhead. We use those testimonials as an important source of third-party verification that you are the best company for the project. We also use them to earn referrals.