There’s a macho attitude that revolves around prospecting. Sales reps tasked with new business development are called “Hunters,” while account managers are described as “Farmers.” Hunters are aggressive, driven and committed to the chase. Farmers … well, they’re not nearly as cool.
The weapon of choice assigned to Hunters is cold calling. It may not be the most practical or effective tactic, but it’s classic and it’s cheap.
The macho attitude towards prospecting is dated and limited. Cold calling is only one tactic to connect and engage potential customers. Sales people have many more options available to them.
Business development is a process. It requires connecting with new people and building relationships so they call you first when they’re ready to buy. Instead of focusing on prospecting tactics like cold calling, focus on relationships, referrals and results.
Relationships are the cornerstone of sales.
Selling is based on relationships. Your customers won’t buy from you unless they like you, trust you and find you credible. Without these ingredients, the deal won’t happen.
The makings of a relationship is much broader than it was a decade ago. Today a customer can have a relationship with a sales person, a brand or a product. For example, if the customer knows of the product and has seen it in action, they will have an understanding of what it’s capable of. That awareness and understanding is the seed of a relationship.
The first stage in prospecting is to focus on relationships. Build awareness of yourself and your business long before there’s a need for your services. Invest in the relationships so your market likes you, trusts you and finds you credible. That way your prospects will seek you out when they’re ready to buy.
New sales are driven by referrals.
It’s very hard to grow sales based on your personal network. Your network may be your starting point when you start your company or take over a new sales territory, but very soon you’ll need new relationships to find new opportunities.
Rather than connecting to one person at a time, as you would through cold calling, focus on connecting with groups. When you engage a group or a community you will naturally connect with several people in a very short timeframe. As you connect with these groups, focus on the relationships. The more you invest in helping others and being of value to them, even if they’re not your potential customers, the more referrals will come your way.
Referrals can take the form of an introduction to a potential customer, or they could be an introduction to a new group. Both are excellent.
Prospecting is not socializing. Prospect with purpose.
Not all groups and not all activities will deliver the same results. I make a point of trying new networking groups and marketing activities every year. I set a timeframe to invest in the activity, usually six months to a year, and then measure the results. If the activity is generating new leads and quality connections I will keep at it. If the activity isn’t delivering I will replace it with something else.
Stay on top of your metrics, and identify what activities are paying off and which are going flat. By constantly monitoring results you can prioritize your time and resources to generate the best relationships and the most referrals.
(Image credit: 401(K) 2012)
Jeremy: Good tips. I've just started a new business and I've been following a similar method as you recommend...but I haven't "busted out" yet, so to speak. Any more specific ideas on how to get the ball rolling initially?
@wgmccoll Thanks Bill. I recommend focusing on both online and offline networking activities. For online, identify new places you can contribute and share your content. For example, write guest posts for targeted websites to reach new audiences. For offline, join a BNI corporate chapter or other networking group.
I try to develop prospecting habits that will grow in value over time. I commit to process for 6 - 12 months, and focus on some tangible goals. This could be blogging, guest posts, a networking group or some other activity.
I find activities that grow relationships are ideal for developing referrals.
@StickyBranding Thanks, Jeremy. I'll do that. Can I write a guest post for you? (hahaha-- just following the advice!!!)
@wgmccoll It always pays to ask. At this time I'm not running guests posts on the blog. It's my soapbox, and I'm not sure how I feel about sharing right now :) If I change my approach, I will be sure to let you know.