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Searching Out the Sale

Five Guidelines for Prospecting

There are no hard and fast rules as to the processes different sales organizations use to prospect from new business.  In some companies, prospecting is done on the outside sales level.  Those tasked with the majority of sales activities are also responsible for mining their territory for new business. In other organizations, telesales teams actively pursue new business and funnel qualified prospects to account managers and other sales reps.  Other companies rely on the web, print advertising or other means to generate inbound leads that can be distributed based on a variety of different methods. 

For the time being, we will assume that those sales professionals reading this module are tasked with prospecting duties. Rather than relying on others in an organization to provide them with prospects, they must hunt in their own territory to generate new business. Listed below are five general guidelines that will make prospecting easier.

  • Make Prospecting Part of Your Routine – Some sales professionals set aside an hour each day to prospect for new business. Others set aside one day a week to focus on making calls and setting new appointments. Whatever works best for you, make sure that prospecting is something that is planned and done on a regular basis. You may choose to prospect every morning from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM or every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:00 PM. Find a schedule that works for you and stick with it. Just as a basketball player must continuously practice to maintain his edge, so must a sales professional continuously prospect to keep his or her sales edge. Without regular prospecting, sales numbers will inevitably shrink. 
  • Use Tools To Aid the Process – When prospecting, make sure you have a solid tool set to make your calls as effective as possible. Don’t ad lib your way through the opening moments of a call.  Have a “script” handy to help guide your initial remarks. Learn your script backwards and forwards so you can deliver it naturally. You’ll eventually be able to modify it on the fly based on your situation. 
  • Take Notes – The possibility exists that you’ll be talking to a lot of people. Keep track of what is being said via a contact manager. CRM tools like Siebel, web-based systems like or others like ACT! and Goldmine are all helpful. These systems allow you to stay organized, stay on top of your opportunities and track sales.
  • Stay Above the Fray – As you talk to new prospects, avoid “trash talking” the competition. Sell customers on your company. Use benefit statements to your advantage and sell them on your strengths.  Any assumptions about how the competition doesn’t stack up should be left to the prospect.
  • Roll With the Punches – Part of prospecting is rejection – lots of rejection. You’ll have to grow some thick skin and learn not to take things personally. When a prospects says they’re not interested and hangs up, deal with it and move on. There’s no point dwelling on rejection. It won’t do you any good.

Follow these guidelines and the prospecting process will become easier to manage.  Eventually, it will become a natural part of your day or week – something that needs to be done along with proposals, paperwork, conference calls and all the other activities that take up your sales day.

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