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Op-Ed: The problem with prospecting
Admit it. It’s on the “To Do” list. You work on that list, add to it and then turn the page of your note pad and forget it. You will get to it…but then the week gets busy and you move it to next week…and so it goes.
In order to get new business, we need to identify prospects and contact them. Prospecting for work is a cornerstone of any successful sales approach. Whether you are a salesperson, business development representative, president of your firm or any member of the team responsible for bringing in new work to the company, prospecting is essential to the ongoing client development cycle.
Why does this critical practice seem to be pushed aside for all that piles up on your desk and fills your email box? Let me make some suggestions:
Create a Prospect Profile. We can be most efficient with our prospecting efforts if we are targeting the right people. First, identify the type of project you are looking for as well as the qualities of the client you would like to replicate. Perhaps it is a market sector or a service, but it also could be a client who possesses qualities that work best for your staff and/or company structure. Once the profile has been agreed upon, develop a list of prospects who fit these qualities.
Limit the List. If you provide a service such as property management, architectural design or contracting, the list of who needs that service can get very long. Approach the list with some strict parameters, such as prospects for a specific service type which can be repeated in multiple locations. The benefit of this is focus and strategy. With only 10 people on that list instead of 40, you are able to consider creative ways to best approach them and create a follow up plan.
Prospects are Prospects. A lead is already qualified and now an active pursuit to get the work. A Prospect is a step prior to that—they are a company or individual to consider working with, meaning that the prospecting process is designed to learn more about their culture, their need, whether they are a good fit, whether the timing will be appropriate, etc. If we treat prospecting as though it is our lead list, we are not allowing the vetting process to work. Additionally, prospecting is not selling, it is discovering; which means that anyone in your firm can prospect, even if they are not skilled at selling or closing. They are uncovering opportunities, building awareness of your firm and opening doors.
Create Prospecting Time. The act of prospecting will always fall into the “necessary but not urgent” quadrant if we don’t schedule dedicated time each week for this activity. This means researching companies, finding the appropriate contact, establishing mutual connections and reaching out to start the process. And often this is just the beginning of a long-term cycle; one which can result in unreturned calls, lack of response to emails and generally discouraging efforts. DO NOT give up; persistence is key to prospecting. Did you know that most people make two attempts and then give up…and yet, the average sale happens after over eight prospecting attempts?
Why put off an activity that is so essential and critical to continuing a pipeline of future business and building awareness of your firm? Creating a strategy, narrowing down the list, understanding the goal of prospecting and being tenacious in the process can reap tremendous rewards. Happy prospecting!
If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics I have covered in previous azbigmedia.com posts, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.