Developing a Prospecting Strategy
The gold prospectors of yore took the time to scout out the terrain and identify the most promising location to mine for gold. They took certain criteria into account before they made their final decision. Then they took the time to work their claims. The sales term “prospecting” derives its meaning from these early gold prospectors. The salesperson needs to develop a strategy and look over the terrain until they find the most promising area to pan for their “gold.”
IMPLICATIONS — WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
Many salespeople don’t understand what it takes to genuinely prospect their territories for new business. For many, driving around to physically identify a prospect, thumbing through the phone book or going on the Internet is the maximum extent to which they will prospect. However, successful prospecting entails salespeople identifying the type of prospect they are searching for, then using all available resources to identify where that specific prospect may be located. The old prospector knew what signs to look for. A successful salesperson also knows how to identify the signs or criteria that point the way to new business.
Just as it took the old prospector time to work their claim, it takes today’s salesperson time to work their territory to develop the best prospects for their business.
STRATEGIES, TIPS & TECHNIQUES TO APPLY
To achieve the desired results, salespeople must have a prospecting strategy they can follow. A well-defined strategy should be adaptable and based upon actual experience. The blueprint for a basic prospecting strategy includes the following steps:
Establish a Goal
A strategy or a plan without an established goal is as useful as a ship without a rudder. The salesperson will wander aimlessly looking for new business prospects in every nook and cranny with minimal results. It is better to have a well-defined goal that identifies a specific industry or niche and to work it until it is completely developed. Only then does the salesperson move on to the next prospecting area.
Prioritize Products and Markets
Some salespeople sell a well-defined product line to specific niche markets. However, many are selling a broader line of products. Salespeople need to identify their key products and prioritize them according to the highest sale and profit potential. The best prospecting strategy is to focus like a laser on one specific product area at a time. Once salespeople have identified and prioritized each of their products, they can focus on the product or product group deemed to have the highest priority.
Profile the Target Prospect
Once the product or product area has been defined, the salesperson will need to profile the target prospect. Normally this will be done by type of industry, company and application. Secondary criteria would include sales potential, profitability and usage. In some industries, salespeople might target companies that operate certain types of equipment as additional criteria for their products. The final profile will be used to identify and filter sources of information later in this process. The important thing is the salesperson now understands specifically who they are looking for, making prospecting much easier.
Determine Geographic Boundaries
Many salespeople have predetermined sales territories with established boundaries. Other salespeople might be covering larger geographic areas, in which case they should determine the geographic boundaries of their prospecting. They may want to create several prospecting sectors and then devote their efforts to one area at a time. The objective is to maximize results by conducting a search in manageable portions.
Identify Informational Sources
The best source of prospects is found in networking with other salespeople and business sources. The second best source of information is the Internet. By creating a target profile, it is relatively easy to search the Internet using the profile as the search criteria. Not only will an Internet search identify a prospect, but it is also a valuable source of information to be used to develop a sales approach and strategy.
In addition to these effective sources of information, there are other more conventional sources, including phone books and industry, association and trade directories. However, most of these sources of information are also readily accessible on the Internet.
Filter the Information
Once the source of information is identified, it is easy to apply the criteria developed in the target profile to filter through the information and identify the most likely prospects. This effectively serves to pre-qualify the prospect.
The final step of prospecting is to make the initial contact with the prospect. This is a hand off from prospecting to cold calling, which requires a completely different set of skills.
It should be noted that a salesperson can conduct several prospecting plans simultaneously. However, each search should have a well-defined strategy and profile to follow.
POINTS TO PONDER — SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
- What techniques have you employed to develop new business leads for your territory? How successful have you been? Explain.
- When you prospect, do you use a target profile or do you just look for any possible business you can find?
TRAINING ACTIVITY — APPLICATION & ACTION PLAN
- Utilizing the seven-step blueprint identified above, create a prospecting strategy for your territory.
- Identify and prioritize your major products or product groups and create a target prospecting profile.
- Once developed, implement this strategy.