The Sales Process:
The sales process outlines the steps to find potential customers, close the sale, and retain clients for repeat business and referrals in the future. The sales process includes the stages of prospecting, preparation, approach, presentation, handling objections, closing and follow up.
Prospecting is the first step in this typical seven-step sales process widely followed by BD/sales professionals. It is the process of searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers in order to develop new business. The idea is to identify prospects and move them through the sales process/funnel until they eventually become revenue-generating customers. Organizations must locate potential customers on an on-going basis in order to replace lost customers and to add new ones.
Prospecting – Leads vs. Prospects:
A person or business that might be a prospect is called a lead. Leads become prospects if they are qualified as potential customers. Salespeople must work on developing a process for qualifying leads, often called a lead qualification system.
What are the Characteristics of a Good Prospect?
The prospect must have a need that they are aware of. They may not know what the answer/solution to their need is but they know they have a problem. Look for such individuals/organizations. It is then important to quickly determine if the person you are dealing with is a decision-maker with the authority to purchase. Also, find out if the prospect has the ability to purchase what you are trying to sell – including the budget and ability to move forward from a contractual standpoint. Lastly, BD/Sales professionals must use open-ended questions to identify if a prospective client has an established timeline so you engage with those who are looking to make a decision. If prospects are unsure of their timing, set a meeting for some time in the future to reconnect, or direct the lead back to marketing to continue to nurture until the time is right.
Who Should be doing the Prospecting?
Prospecting is essential to building a business – it must preferably be undertaken by certain roles in the organization. Also, the size, scale, and tenure of the organization is crucial in determining who handles the process. Some of the people are Founders – in case of start-ups, Sales representatives – for small and growing firms and Business development representatives – in an ideal sales team, with SDPs for inbound prospecting and BDRs for outbound prospecting.
A good prospector must have extensive product knowledge, an understanding/knowledge of the ideal user and strong Research Skills.
Prospecting Essentials – Methods to Prospect:
Outbound prospecting and Inbound prospecting are two of the most common prospecting approaches that prove effective across industries/businesses. Outbound prospecting involves your sales team identifying and reaching out to prospects, making initial contact through one of the traditional channels such as telephone prospecting, email, etc. Inbound prospecting entails reaching out to leads that have come to the organization through one channel or another. Central to inbound prospecting is your marketing and CRM.
Prospecting – Sources to Use:
Internal sources consisting of Company records, lists and directories, advertising inquiries, telephone inquiries, mail inquiries, External sources containing referrals, introductions, community contacts (centres of influence), non-competing salespeople, visible accounts and personal contact like observation, cold canvassing, trade shows, bird dogs (spotters) etc. are major source to be used.