Many of the business owners we work with are amazed when we ask them:
“What information sources do your salespeople use to target their prospecting?”
“Information sources?” they usually ask in fear.
Some can say “Internet” or Yellow Pages, yet most stare at us suspiciously.
What we will discuss following may be considered essential and come in every sales book, but if you ask me where salespeople fail the most?
You may have guessed it. It is precisely in the preparation component of the prospection, that is, the selection of target customers and the preparation of the approach.
We still see salespeople approaching customers with the old maxim:
“Mr. Client, I don’t want to sell you anything. It’s just to set up a meeting to get to know You and see if we can work in partnership.”
Do you think this “catches on”?
On the flip side, the customer will probably be thinking:
“But why would I welcome you and invest 1 hour of my time on earth?”
This is the question that all customers ask when they are approached by a salesperson, whether by phone, email, letter, or other means of communication being used.
This is also the most pertinent question we have to ask within 2 to 3 seconds after the communication begins.
“2 to 3 seconds?”, you are probably thinking.
Yes, this is the maximum time a prospect devotes to us before deciding to end the communication with the usual:
“I’m not interested!”
Another essential thing the books say is that we should sell the benefits of our solution, be it product, service, or a mix of both:
We will increase sales by X%
The return on investment will happen within three months
Your customers will enjoy a higher level of satisfaction
This is correct, but if you notice, all the phrases are generic.
There is no adaptation of our benefit here to the business reality and the problem of our client.
Hence we asked at the beginning of this article:
“What are the sources of information used…”
It is not so much to see if it is source A, B, or C, but more to see if this is part of preparing the business approach and how.
Whether it’s the Internet, electronic Yellow Pages, industry yearbooks where the customer appears, or purchased databases, you need to analyze the Customer Universe and understand how your solutions can make a difference.
Just a quick example.
We have a customer who is a highly flexible transportation company and offers a “just in time” delivery service to their customers.
Technologically, they are connected to their customers’ system and operate as if they were in-house. Even the delivery vans are customized with their client’s image when the transport volume justifies it.
Before we started working with them, the approach to potential customers was the usual. First they bought a database of companies and then called or sent letters offering their services. Results of these actions: 1% to 2% return.
After training and coaching the sales and management teams, the process became more streamlined.
The contact lists were checked customer by customer, and all those with a very low probability of wanting transport services were discarded.
After that, the salesperson to whom the list was allocated had to analyze what the company did and what its needs were.
Often, when no information was available, calling the prospect and asking:
“Would it be possible to talk to the sales area? By the way, what exactly do you guys do?”
Because sales are trained to talk about the business to their customers, they would often get valuable information about the prospect’s business, and in their minds, it would become much clearer how they could help them.
In the following phone contact or email, the conversation was already distinct.
“Mr. Client, from what I could tell, your company does this so and so, correct? Interesting is that we have a transportation service that allows this and this and this, and in your specific case, it would allow you to obtain gains in X, Y and Z.
Do you think it would be interesting if we could talk a little bit, without obligation, about this?”
With this change in business work and approach, our client was able to go from a 1% to 2% conversion rate for meeting to about 35% to 40%.
Do you think the investment they made didn’t pay off quickly?
Also published on Medium.