Last week, during a client’s sales meeting, we got into a discussion regarding pipeline values. Needless to say, the number of prospects and dollar values were insufficient to achieve the overall corporate revenue objectives.
Several of the salespeople blamed marketing for not generating enough quality leads (ever hear that before?). As the discussion of “territory development” evolved, several of the salespeople simply didn’t feel it was their responsibility to prospect because of the futility of cold calling and event marketing.
In many organizations, marketing is expected to develop leads via a well-messaged nurturing campaign with a quality database and an objective, in order to set up the salesperson with a highly qualified opportunity. In this format, there may be a series of marketing campaigns, tele-salespeople and a well-designed CRM reporting system. In other organizations, there is limited marketing of this nature, with an expectation that sales will build relationships that lead to additional business opportunities. The question is, as a sales manager, how should you structure your sales team’s expectations around prospecting?
First, it depends. What is your sales process? Are you selling large accounts with a complex sales cycle or are you more transactional with short sales cycles selling to small business? Are you territory-based or open territories? Your business type will alter what works.
Second, it is my belief that salespeople need to prospect continually: the real question is how.
I have listed below eight tips for how salespeople can keep prospecting.
Every salesperson should attend one networking event a month; this should not be negotiable.
2. Circles of influence
Develop a list of individuals who can influence your sales opportunities or refer business to you. Depending upon your industry, these could CPAs, commercial real estate brokers, contractors, architects, etc. Each of these individuals need to be contacted at least once a quarter.
3. 20/20 plan
Each salesperson sends two distinct direct mail pieces referring to your products/services to 20 suspects: 20 pieces one week, 20 the next week. The third week, the salesperson calls the 20 suspects. This process is repeated each week.
4. Thought leadership events
Schedule one breakfast event a month with a topic based upon thought leadership marketing. This event is driven by marketing, but the salesperson is responsible to call and invite individuals to the meeting. This gives the salesperson a reason and message to communicate to their prospects.
The salesperson should ask their customers for referrals twice a year.
Each salesperson should develop relationships with three to five other salespeople who sell non-competitive, but related products or services in a common marketplace.
7. "Who you know" list
Each salesperson should create a list of everyone they know: friends, business associates, professionals. Then hold a sales meeting idea to come up with “titles” of individuals your sales team might know. Make sure these contacts know what you do and what problems you can solve using a personal letter.
8. Review calendars
Set aside some time to review your calendar for the past 12 months, you might find someone you had forgotten to follow up with.