Potential buyers of your goods or services are all around you -- friends, co-workers, church members and so on.
This is one of the reasons sales prospecting is such a challenge – there are many more potential buyers than we can pursue at one time. So, how do you start?
There are two broad people who should interest you when you are looking to make sales: Those who can buy from you and those who can refer you to people who want to buy. You should keep both groups in mind as you look for sales leads.
The most effective way to build your sales leads list is to use a database or contact program on your computer (or have an outside service do it for you) to list names, addresses and other pertinent formation for anyone you can think who might give or refer business to you.
Use your personal phone books, Rolodex, company phone directories and so on to find people who are likely to want to know about your products. The computer software will allow you to print labels whenever you wish.
Next, you must learn how to qualify leads.
Qualifying means simply being able to find information or ask questions whose answers will tell you whether the person is likely to buy from you. There are some common reasons why someone might not be qualified. Perhaps they truly cannot afford what you sell. Perhaps they are someone who doesn't know how to compare you with competitors. Perhaps they are someone who doesn't need to make a decision soon, or, perhaps they are someone who doesn’t have the authority to make the buying decision.
The Sales Prospecting System
Once you start to develop a list of qualified sales prospects, you need some way to keep track of your progress with them. Since it typically takes from three to five sales contacts before a prospect buys, you may be following up with them for several stages of motivation: cold prospect –warm prospect—hot prospect! If you stop pursuing them too soon, someone else can come in at the last moment and scoop up the order.
A simple system for keeping track of leads that we have used for 25 years uses 3x5 file cards, some dividers and a file box.
For each qualified prospect, write out everything you can find out about them on the front of the card. Use the back to record every time you contact them, as well as what action you promised to take next. Use the months and days-of-the-month dividers to file the cards according to the date you promised to take action. At least once per week, review the file cards for the next two weeks and enter important dates in your calendar book. These cards can also be used to keep track of orders once you convert the prospect to a customer.
Discipline is probably more critical to sales success than any other part of marketing. Since successful selling is a numbers game, you must set a schedule to achieve certain sales numbers and stick with it. If you start to fall seriously behind, you can easily become very discouraged. A practical goal-setting plan is to lay out for each week the following goals:
- Number of new prospects contacted by phone or mail.
- Number of past contacts re-contacted.
- Number of new sales appointments.
Some weeks will go surprisingly well, and you will have achieved your week’s goals by Wednesday. Congratulate yourself. Progress will be slower in other weeks. Keep plugging away.
By the end of your first year in business, you should have a very good idea of which prospects are “talkers”, which are “delayers” and which are “doers”. This awareness will allow you to produce more sales from the same number or fewer prospect calls and visits.
You may even find that sales prospecting has become fun for you!