Many salespeople feel at their best when they’re having productive meetings and closing deals, so it’s no surprise that they often look at prospecting as the tedious side of the job. However, the importance of this task cannot be overstated, businesses always need a constant stream of new customers and clients. Just because you’re currently enjoying sales success doesn’t mean it will last forever – or that it can’t be improved upon.
It’s really all about having the right attitude. Some people will get frustrated by all the phone calls, emails and meetings that go nowhere. Especially in our current virtual climate, Zoom meetings feel less personal and can feel harder to build up that rapport. This means they do just enough to get by, but the most successful salespeople approach prospecting with enthusiasm. But it’s important to always consider these meetings (in whatever form it takes) as an exciting opportunity to find your next big sale.
To help you out, we’ve put together a checklist of places to look for new business and customers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and where you look should obviously be influenced by your organisation, its markets and the nature of the product or service, but it should act as a good starting point when thinking about where to search for new customers.
Existing customers, by their very nature, already know you and like you (at least enough to have bought from you). This makes them a great starting point to find other contacts. As you develop the relationship, your customers may be able to give you helpful suggestions and possible leads towards new prospects. These could come from other parts of their organisation or their networks in other companies.
People’s circumstances change. Previous prospects that had objections and stopped the sales process may now be in a better position to buy from you. Always keep a list of people you’ve approached in the past, or who have approached you for information. After some time has passed, try reconnecting with them to see whether anything has changed and if they’re more interested in buying from you.
There are many different social media platforms these days, which can serve as wonderful tools for salespeople. A person’s social media usage is a good way to judge if they’ll be interested in your products or services. When prospecting potential new clients, LinkedIn is usually your best choice, as it’s geared towards professionals and business use. However, depending on your sector and your customer base you might also want to think about ways of utilising Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any others that you feel are relevant.
Many people find cold calling a long, tough and disheartening process, but it can yield results. Calling other businesses in the same sector as existing customers means building on proven results, which is a good starting point, but you should be prepared to cast the net wider as well. When cold calling, make sure you’re prepared to ask and answer questions and that you set realistic goals for yourself. You don’t have to complete the sale on the first call, just try to establish a relationship you can build on over time and aim to set a time for another meeting.
Effective networking is one of the most essential skills for salespeople to develop. By taking every available opportunity to meet people, you can make contacts and potential new customers. When you’re able, attending trade association events, breakfast meetings, business clubs and everything else on offer to you is a great way to find people interested in your products or services, or people who know people that might be interested. During these increasingly virtual times, there are still many online conventions and events you can attend. Chatting after the talk is harder, but it’s still a place to find people’s names and to look them up later on LinkedIn.
As good as it is to approach new people and get them interested in what you’re selling, it’s much easier if you can get them to come to you. Don’t neglect your company website, practically everyone that’s interested in buying from you will search you and your organisation online, so make sure what they find is impressive. This is especially true while more people are working at home than ever, and we expect companies’ virtual offerings to keep up with the times.
Company websites are often described as an organisation’s ‘shop window’, and if you’re in e-commerce it literally is your shop, so make sure the user experience is positive. Also, help potential customers find you by using search engine optimisation to keep you at the top of the search engine rankings.
Keep an eye out for opportunities to build and develop partnerships with other organisations. These will give you the chance to create joint business ventures and to open doors which you couldn’t have done alone. You can also engage with their network to find potential new customers and make yourself known to them.
Exhibitions and trade shows
Once they’re back up and running, having your own stand at an exhibition or trade show, or simply going as an attendee will give you the chance to meet new people working in, or that are interested in, the same marketplace as you. Go prepared to promote yourself and to find new prospects, talking not just to those attending the exhibition, but also to the other exhibitors.
However, the need for social distancing has turned many of these events digital. Explore new online opportunities and understand how to present yourself virtually, so you can continue selling even during these trying times.
Conferences and seminars
By running a workshop or getting a spot as a guest speaker, you can position yourself as an expert in your field. This will give you the chance to gain more exposure with an interested audience, increasing your legitimacy and position in the field. It’s also a great place to promote your products or services to your audience, hopefully generating some leads.
Despite virtual conferences feeling more limited, by requiring less time commitments and being easier to attend without any travelling time, they may lead you to a larger audience than speaking at an in-person event.
For more tips on Sales & Business Development, make sure you look at our range of virtual or face-to-face learning solutions.