Like anything else in business, it’s always good to take stock of what’s working and what is not. Sales prospecting is one of those areas that always needs attention. Prospecting is an activity required by salespeople to generate new leads. That means moving the most likely candidates for printing products or services from unaware suspects to hot and likely to buy prospects. Prospecting is definitely a vital skill to develop to be successful in selling.
In the printing industry, with all the seminars and articles on prospecting, it is amazing how few printing salespeople consistently and systematically prospect for new clients. Many are often bogged down with fulfilling orders and getting requirements from existing customers. They make little time to prospect for new ones.
Though much new business in printing comes from existing accounts, it is very dangerous for salespeople not to generate a consistent stream of new accounts by prospecting.
Here are five prospecting strategies we see exhibited by top printing salespeople:
1. Know your objective
The immediate objective of prospecting is not to gain orders, appointments, or requests for quotes. It is to gain a conversation with targeted customers to determine if they are a good fit for what you are selling. We call these customers qualified suspects or leads. These are customers that are most likely to buy. They are authorized to make a decision, have the money or budget to make purchases, and generally are the best fit for the salesperson and print provider’s products and services.
Having a steady stream of qualified leads allows salespeople to use their time and resources effectively and, eventually, to close orders.
2. Pick your battles
Randomly calling a list of companies in a given geographical area is generally not a good use of precious time. All research points to targeting groups of potential customers by size, type of business, vertical market, and location to be the better approach. This allows the caller to better tailor the conversation to what will most likely interest the customer.
For instance, in the non-profit space, instead of a generic pitch in an email or on the phone, the message could be, “We are helping non-profits improve their marketing efforts. In one case, the approaches we use helped Glow Worm Institute overachieve their fundraising objective by over 10 percent. If raising more money is one of your challenges, I would like to discuss our direct mail programs.”
3. Use social media
Social media is a simple to use and free sales resource. Printing salespeople must learn how to use it to their advantage. For example, we were working with a commercial printer who was attempting to network into a large company. The owner had more than 500 names on his LinkedIn contact list. He simply typed the targeted company into the contact search feature and out popped a vice president from the targeted company who was a friend of the printing company owner’s brother. Once discovered, making an introduction was easy.
Like everything else in selling, practicing, experimenting, and developing powerful, targeted messages is the best way to generate prospects within social media.
4. Make time to prospect
We are regularly asked, “When is the best time to prospect?” The answer is that salespeople always need to be prospecting. That means a combination of targeting, qualifying, calling, networking, and following up.
Great salespeople start with a plan. Sometimes it is an informal plan where the salesperson has built it into their day-to-day sales process. For others, writing down specific prospecting activity objectives daily and blocking out specific time on the calendar is a good way to maintain a disciplined approach. Setting aside specific times to phone and email prospects is crucial to generating new prospects.