Prospecting is the life-blood of sales. But usually salespeople prospect when they have nothing else to do. Sometimes that's because they've been doing the same prospecting activities for years!
We like to remind salespeople and sales managers of Sandler Rule #42: A Winner Has Alternatives, A Loser Puts All His Eggs In One Basket. If your prospecting activities aren't working, it's time to change things!
Prospecting works best when you're measuring it on an ongoing basis and adjusting based on the results you're seeing. Prospecting is like playing the rubber duck game you may have seen at the fair. You don’t know which ducks are winners until you turn them over. But tracking which ducks are more likely to be winners over time makes the game easier. Similarly, tracking which prospecting activities work best for you helps you get far better results.
Let's take a look at a framework for prospecting, how to decide which prospecting activities you need to be using, then we'll look at some different activities you may need to add to your current prospecting.
A framework for prospecting
Often when we first meet with sales managers and salespeople, they're not doing any kind of tracking. They may have some sort of goal each week or each month, but it's not documented and there's no accountability.
We encourage our clients to use something we at Sandler refer to as a prospecting cookbook. The cookbook provides a framework that can even help in your personal life, but for now we'll focus on using it in sales.
A cookbook is a mechanism that allows us to track both activities and quantities with a specified outcome in mind. For those of us in sales, those activities would be prospecting activities.
That could include things like asking for five referrals a week, going to two networking events a week, or even making ten cold calls a week. What the cookbook provides is a recipe and roadmap to get to the outcome we want to reach.
Often when people start keeping a cookbook they realize that some of the prospecting activities they're doing are beneficial but others aren't. It allows them to answer questions like:
- Where should I make adjustments?
- What should I do more of?
- What should I do differently?
- What should I do better?
- What activities should I abandon?
A cookbook allows you to quantify those things then determine exactly what to change.
A prospecting strategy
Without a specific strategy for prospecting, it's easy to waste a lot of time regardless of the prospecting activities you're using. At Sandler, we recommend your strategy include the KARE model.
KARE is an acronym that can help you categorize your prospects:
- K = Keep
- A = Attain
- R = Recapture
- E = Expand
Once you've categorized each prospect, you can build specific prospecting activities based on whether you want to keep them as a client, attain them as a new client, recapture a past client, or expand the business you're doing with a current client.
Utilizing technology during no-pay time
Before we dive into the potential prospecting activities you could be doing, let's talk about the importance of utilizing technology.
In Sandler we have the concept of pay time versus no-pay time. Put simply, pay time is activities that have to be done during normal working hours and no-pay time are activities that can be done whenever you want.
Historically, prospecting activities included things like cold calls—both in person and over the phone—and networking events. Those had to be done during certain time windows.
Technology allows us to do things like connect with people on LinkedIn, email prospects follow-up material, message people online, and more. Those activities can—and should—be done outside normal working hours.
This is a list that could literally have hundreds of activities in it. Most people first think of activities like these:
- Asking for referrals
- Cold calls
While there's nothing wrong with those, we usually find that some of the best prospecting activities go a bit deeper.
Meeting with existing clients
If you're looking to keep or expand business with existing clients, having some type of review meeting on an ongoing basis is a good idea. You can also use those to introduce new products or services to your existing clients.
Using the media
We are huge fans of using the media. Keep an eye on publications both locally and nationally to see when your clients and prospects are mentioned. Cut out the article and send it to them with a note saying something like, "I saw this article about you in the newspaper. Congratulations!"
Following up on email newsletters
While actually sending out an email newsletter is marketing and not prospecting, keep an eye on who opens it and reads it. Find ways to follow up that are helpful.
Connecting on LinkedIn
Connecting with people on LinkedIn, staying in contact with them, and sharing things with them is a great prospecting activity that can nurture opportunities.
Here are some other prospecting activities to consider:
- Thank you cards
- Follow-up notes
- Speaking engagements
- Reach out to potential referral partners
- Meet with existing referral partners
- Invite people to industry and association events
- Email or call a client about a specific service or product
Remember, any touch point that builds relationships or moves an opportunity forward can be considered prospecting.