I was on a call with Rick Murphy, Murphy Broadcasting, last week. The subject was how his group of stations managed to survive and thrive during the lockdowns last year from COVID. I appreciated his "I'm not going to let a little thing like a pandemic prevent my success" attitude. He responded to the challenge by finding new clients, clients that WOULD and SHOULD advertise in those trying times. His secret? Great prospecting. His sellers prospect from a list of 4000 businesses. He has a sophisticated phone system to fuel calling for appointments. Most of us do not have his setup, but we can still be successful in contacting potential new clients.
Which brings me to the subject of today's newsletter: keeping our pipelines full. Whether we have the added challenge of a pandemic or are functioning in more "normal" times, the secret to growing our business is prospecting. "If they don't go into our pipeline, they won't come out as sales!"
Many sales people dread and avoid prospecting. While there is no "secret formula" to make it easy, I've listed some rules that can help to make your prospecting successful.
- Make an appointment with yourself. Discipline is required for successful prospecting. Since it is so easy to put if off, set aside time to prospect for one hour each and every day. (Rick's sellers set aside 2 hours each Wednesday to phone for appointments)
- Make as many calls as possible. Research your target to be sure you reach the best prospects. This will insure that each call will be a high-quality call: and when you are dealing with quality, more is always better than less. (Because Rick's sellers work off a list of 4000 business names, they call the next name that pops up with no knowledge except the name and number. This has given them success with some unusual categories of business.)
- Make your calls brief. It is your objective to introduce yourself and to get an appointment. It should just take two or three minutes to do so.
- Be prepared with a list of names. Don't waste your prospecting hour attempting to find out the names you need. That might make you feel busy, but you won't be as productive. (See Number 2 above for Rick's solution to this.)
- Work without interruption. Prospecting, just as with any repetitive task, improves the more you do it. Take advantage of your momentum.
- Call during off-peak hours. Conventional wisdom says, "Call between 9AM and 5PM". That doesn't always work. Switch or supplement your calling hours and try calling between 7:30 AM and 9AM or between 5PM and 6PM. (Rick's time is 3PM-5PM. His numbers show this to be a peak time to call in his market.)
- Vary your call times. Everyone is a creature of habit, so prospects probably attend the same meetings every week. If you cannot reach a prospect, learn from your lack of success and call at some other time or on another day. (Rick's people simply move on.)
- Be organized. Keep a record of whom you have called and when, and the subject you discussed. It will help when you finally get an appointment, and it will also help keep track of whom you're supposed to call back and when.(Rick's system recycles names)
- Establish your goals, then develop a plan to get there. If your goal is to set the appointment, your cold-call scrip should be designed and redesigned to help you achieve your goal.
- Don't stop. Persistence is the key skill every successful salesperson shares. Remember that most sales are closed after the fifth call. Most salespeople quit after the first call!
I'm always amused when a salesperson tells me there are no more prospects out there to call. In previous times, I would pick up the phone book and reference how many businesses there are in a particular town. Thousands! We must not pre-judge who will and who won't. Yes, we can prospect strategically. but never forget that prospects are where we find them: everywhere!