Creating a targeted prospecting strategy is the biggest prospecting problem facing sales people from the recent 2017 survey by the Richardson Co. The survey was broken into 6 categories; Prospecting, Negotiating, Closing, Buyer's Decisions, Productivity, and Team Selling and I commend them for their research and efforts.
Over the next several articles, I will share with you my suggestion of how you should handle these current and prominent selling issues/ challenges. I also encourage you to read their report and their insights.
The 2017 top prospecting issues in order according to the survey are:
1. Creating a targeted prospecting strategy
2. Quality of leads from marketing
3. Gaining appointments
The 2016 issues were:
1. Identifying triggers/sales signals that indicate issues you can resolve
2. Identifying target accounts
3. Gaining appointments
And, my ongoing articles will offer suggestion on how to deal with each one.
Creating a Targeted Prospecting Strategy
Since your existing customers are the best place to make more sales - via buying the same, cross-selling and up-selling - this is where your prospecting campaign should start. In these accounts you have or should have multiple contacts. You should also have worked your way to the C-Suite or General Manager's office where you've developed relationships that consist of more than just saying hello in the hallways. Therefore, with all these positive relationships which you have nurtured you can ask these people for more business and to buy the other products and services you sell. These people will also be pleased to introduce you and refer you to other parts of their company - departments, divisions, product-lines, subsidiaries, etc. However, if you don't ask and don't pursue selling all the relevant products and services you offer, they won't chase after you begging to buy them.
Now if you haven't met, interviewed and develop a relationship with these other contacts and top people, then my suggestion is to begin this process. Set-up meetings using your existing contacts to meet others. Your reason, if they ask for one and you are struggling to come up with one, is "You'd like to be sure you are meeting their expectations and interviewing them and learning from them will be the only way you'll know for sure how you are doing."
Competitors are trying to break into your accounts or increase their share in joint accounts. So you'd be stupid not to go after theirs. Competitors are selling the same products and services you offer. They may have the full share or a portion and those accounts should be ideal for you. The reason you haven't cracked that account or become the preferred and dominant supplier is because you lack the positive, professional relationships. That is, many of the decision-makers, those directly involved and their bosses don't see you as giving them what they want better than any other alternative.
The way to accomplish this is to set-up meetings and interview these decision makers to learn what each wants as it relates to your solutions and how they'd like to get these desires and/or solutions to their stated problems. This is the time to stop marketing i.e. telling them what you have and why they should have it and why they should buy from you, and start learning what each individual wants and how s/he wants to get it.
This is the time to pursue becoming their second source. So learn and ask, "What do I have to do to become your second source?"
The reason you'd like to be the second source is because customers are always having issues with their vendors - no matter what. They don't switch typically because it's takes too much effort and there may be a risk. However, if the customer has a second choice that has establish him or herself to their satisfaction, then they will call that source in a heartbeat.
So Listen to the answer and determine if you can do it. I would suggest you don't say on the spot you can do whatever they ask. Give it some thought so you show sincerity. Then develop how a presentation of how you will prove you can deliver what s/he asked for. Be sure you do this with multiple contacts in that account, because usually multiple people will make the decision, especially the bosses and especially if a change is involved.
I tell everyone I coach that if you do this, I guarantee within 6 weeks you will get an order that would have gone to the competitor.
I call them this because if they can use your types of products or services, it's hard to imagine you don't have a competitor. So these could be accounts where they do it themselves or do it in another way. Again the solution is interviewing and establishing yourself... if you can. But be careful, this account may not be ideal for you. This implies you should have developed an ideal profile so you can determine after a few interviews whether or not this account is worth pursuing.
Part of your interview (which you can use with competitors and your own accounts) is, "What do you like about what you use or do now?" Listen intently and get details. Then ask, "What do you dislike or would change?" Again listen aggressively. Caution: don't just focus on what they don't like, because they are buying the part that they like. The answers to these questions will give you the specification of what you will have to do or deliver to win-over this individual. Again, be sure you do this with multiple people because usually multiple people will make the decision, especially the bosses and especially since this is a change.
Prospecting Time Allocation
This is your prospecting strategy. Pursue existing account 50% of your selling time. This should be easy because you should have access and you should be there often. Pursue Competitor's accounts 30-40% of your time. This should be that difficult if you have the right attitude of learning rather than marketing. You should have contacts or know how to easily get them. Finally, go after the Greenfields the remaining 10-20%. Again, seek to learn rather than tell what they should be doing, even though you know it would be good for them.