If you are a SaaS company and are looking at growing your customer base, this will be helpful to you. Go ahead and get a jumpstart!
When I started my career, I used to cold call, collect business cards, build a database in MS Access, send mass mails [through post & not email], meet customers without any appointment [most of the time], keep all the information about the customer & his organization in my head [partly the reason for my hair fall, trust me.] [I have now started regrowing my hair, thanks to CRM]. My MS Access db those days had just the name, designation, company, address & phone numbers. Email was added much later, maybe after 1996.
Whomever we networked with or found from the market, we called them #leads [without the #]. We didn’t care whether they had any #opportunity or not.
Any company in our market was called the “Known Universe”.
Cut to 2020.
We have LinkedIn. We can do all the research here.
I received an interesting email day before. It read like this:
I got to know about you while researching on LinkedIn today.
I want to connect with you regarding your IT Infrastructure, Migration services, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning,……
Let me know your availability for this week or next week. I want to have a detailed discussion with you.
The next morning, another email from the same sender:
Good Morning! Have you given any thought to my last email?
I appreciate your quick response.
And yet another email, from the same sender, today. You get it. Right?
With or without LinkedIn this cannot happen. I mean you cannot bombard & force anyone to buy.
Whatever we did before #LinkedIn applies now as well.
a. We need to build trust.
b. We need to prospect.
c. We need to identify problems/painpoints/needs.
Those things have not changed.
You can’t email someone & ask for an order. No, it doesn’t happen that way. Unless you are selling personal protective equipments in a pandemic. Unless you are running a school – offine or online.
Everyone else should build trust first.
Once trust is built, you can ask for permission to send some literature & if the customer grants you that then it means that you have made the first sale.
Next step is to tell them about your work in their industry.
And then allow them time to collect their thoughts.
If they have any need, they will definitely consider you.
- Build trust first.
- Generate leads.
- Qualify them. Convert them to Prospects.
- Don’t pitch. Use stories instead to generate interest.
- Match the buyer’s journey. Don’t ever use kids gloves. Your buyers are mature & aware.
- They buy.
“Sales” per se does not happen in the above process. Yet you sell. You focus on the relationship. Rest will fall in place.
I am working out of a fish market these days. Let me explain.
This online schooling is taking a toll on me. We converted one of our bedrooms in our apartment into a studio & I work out of it. That’s where my son, who is in 7th grade, also attends his classes online using Microsoft Teams. The teachers tell them to mute their mic and also shut their video. But children wouldn’t listen. They keep hustling the whole day. From 10 am to 3 pm non-stop. No Ma’m, Yes Ma’m, We can’t see the slide Ma’m. Not to mention the answers for the questions.
Teachers ask the children to mute it. Then ask them some questions. How to answer when you are muted. Some teachers call them by name and ask them to unmute and answer. That’s better.
What I learnt from this is: Even if your prospects tell you that they aren’t looking for any product/service that you are offering, this year or this qtr, you simply ignore that and keep hustling.
Who knows when it would become a critical issue for your client. Whenever it does, they should remember you. If you are out of sight, then you will be out of mind.
Prospecting is not researching about Prospects. It is nothing but validating if the Prospects are going to buy from you or not. Whether there is a product fit or not. It is about finding if it is worth spending that time with them. You can fight competition. But you cannot fight “no fit” or “no need” or “no funds” or all of them put together.
Some questions for you to ask them:
- What is your problem statement?
- How soon do you need to do this?
- Where is the money going to come from?
- What benefits will you derive if you do this?
- What bottlenecks do you foresee for this project?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- Who are the people who are going to benefit from this?
- How will it affect your business?
- What will happen if you don’t do this?
- What are the attributes or qualities that is essential on the part of the vendor?
Lead Generation and Prospecting are two very important activities for any Organization. These can make or break an Enterprise. In some Organizations, it is the Marketing team that does the lead generation and passes the Marketing Qualified Leads [MQL] over to the Sales team. And sales qualifies these leads before taking it further.
And Sales also does Prospecting. From making cold calls, running a survey, conducting a customer satisfaction audit, asking for customer references, engaging existing clients to warming up prospects who had expressed interest in the past, targeting named accounts, Sales does everything to generate prospects.
Let us take a look at some ways to generate leads:
- LinkedIn Premium or Sales Navigator: You should use it extensively to research, target and find prospects.
- Use your website to generate leads – by implementing SEO, Website optimization, Call to Action forms, giving free Ebooks, useful and educational blogs [like this one]. Just do everything under Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing.
- Webinar Attendees.
- Roadshow – visitors to your stall.
- Power Breakfast meeting attendees.
- Promotional campaign respondents.
- Customer referrals.
- Podcast Attendees.
- Customer Satisfaction Audits.
- Existing Clients.
What is Prospecting ?
The process of identifying prospective or potential new clients for your business is called as Prospecting. It is during this process you qualify prospects [or leads] and see whether there is a fit between what he/she needs and what you have got to offer.
Why should you undertake Prospecting ?
Prospecting is done to identify new customers. It is very important to do Prospecting on a continuous basis. New customers are very important for a business to grow. It is also worthwhile to remember that existing customers have to be retained at any cost since the cost of acquiring new customers is too high compared to the cost of retaining existing customers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing prospecting or stop acquiring new clients. The only way to Growth is to acquire new customers at whatever cost.
Sales people normally do cold calls to identify prospects. But traditional Cold-calling, as we know it, is dead. In today’s world, one does a lot of homework before picking up the phone. Whether one is calling a list from a database or calling on the leads that have come in through their website or Ad campaigns, one has to do plenty of homework before connecting with the Prospect.
Let us now take a look at how to do Prospecting.
Step by Step Guide to Prospecting:
- The first step is to define your target market. Or your target segment.
- Then undertake a study of your target market or target segment.
- Understand what is causing them headaches or what goals do they have for their organization this year.
- Find the right set of people in Organizations within the target market, those who are most likely to have a need for your products/services.
- You may use LinkedIn and/or any other service that gives you access to your target segment including the decision makers direct phone nos.
- Understand the Buyers’ Persona.
- Make a list.
- Run a campaign. Whether yours is a B2B or a B2C. It can be an Email campaign or an Ad campaign on the web or both.
- Now, get your Story ready. [Not the pitch.] People like stories. Let the Story be inspiring. Let it make the buyer sit upright and take note of it and let it induce the buyer to take action. The buyer will then help you sell to their organization. It will be his/her baby from then on.
- Attend Trade Shows, Road Shows, Industry Conferences, Workshops, Seminars where your target segment is likely to participate. Network. Exchange cards.
- Make a refined list. Include those who came through your Campaigns and those whom you networked with recently.
- Invite them over to Breakfast meetings on Saturdays. Make Powerful and Inspiring Stories and Tell them these stories. StoryTelling is an art.
- Story Telling & Other Ways to Engage a Prospect.
- Generate awareness. On your Products and/or Services.
- Qualify your Prospects.
- Questions to ask your Prospects: What Questions to ask your Prospects ?
- Prepare a Qualified List of Prospects, those who are a fit and those who are most likely to buy your products or services in the near future. With this, Prospecting is completed. But the Sales Process continues. Keep doing these steps on a regular basis to have a constant supply of Prospects for your Business.
Happy Selling !!
First of all, what is an open ended question?
An open ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no”. The person who is answering has to answer in his or her own words. These are questions that begin with a how, when, where, what, why. On the contrary, a closed ended question is one that expects a “Yes” or a “No” as an answer. Also, a set of options to choose from as a response is a closed ended question too.
They say, to start a conversation with a stranger in a railway station is to talk about the weather. “The weather is nice today, isn’t it ?” is a conversation starter. Tried and tested practice. Though it is a closed ended question, it is a conversation starter. So, you start with a closed ended question and gradually move on to open ended ones. That way, you don’t force the respondent to start thinking right at the beginning itself.
In Sales situations, you normally tend to ask: “Before I start, may I know who are the others who will be joining us for this presentation/demo?” That is a closed ended question. But starts the conversation. And eases the situation. It shows the client that you are human too. And then you follow-up with something like this: “Before the others join us, why don’t you tell me how are you currently solving this problem?”
Why open ended questions?
- Sales is largely dependent on your questioning capability.
- Unless you ask questions, you will never understand what is going on.
- Your right questions will lead you to the issues which will lead you to solving those issues which in turn will lead you to business.
- Closed ended questions do not reveal much. Some may be answered in the affirmative and some may not be. But the conversation ends with closed ended questions.
- To continue with the conversation.
- To uncover the mind of the customer.
- To qualify your prospect.
- To get more information.
Well, I am convinced that I should ask open ended questions early in the sales process. But, how and where do I start?
Good that you have started asking open ended questions already. Now let’s look at what to ask:
- Start with something like this: Can you tell me what are some of the key industry trends in your industry?
- How do you keep innovating?
- What are some of the key challenges that you are facing?
- How did you achieve that?
- What makes you unique?
- What makes your clients stay with you?
- What do you do for achieving total customer satisfaction?
- What is your process for collecting customer feedback?
- What in your view is the biggest client acquisition ever? And why?
- Where and how do you find your clients?
- Who do you think is your closest Competitor and why?
- Where do we go from here?
- What are your suggestions for us?
- What can we do to help you mitigate those risks?
- What is your evaluation criteria?
- What is your process in such a scenario?
- Why would you want to buy this?
- What made you talk to us?
- What would make us look even better?
- How can we help you?
This is just a sample. Write your own set of open ended questions in your own words. You may want to write one set for each prospect you are meeting since no two sales situations are similar. But remember not to over do it. You have to invest time and energy to do this exercise. It is neither necessary to do this in one sitting nor it is possible to do it in one sitting. You need to get involved, invest time and energy and do this exercise with love.
Happy Selling !! Err Happy Questioning !!
The idea is to spread the word, understand the market needs, identify the decision makers involved, get to know the competition, their pitch, what works for the competition and what doesn’t etc. Idea is definitely not to sell anything.
So, here are the steps to get you to make those first 100 sales calls without any plan whatsoever. Do not wait until you have perfected your sales strategy or understood your target segment completely. There is no time for all that. You can learn all those on the job. Hit the road and start meeting clients. Here you go.
- Get into an Action mode. Hit the gym if you want some energy or keep two dumbbells handy at your work place and play rock on your headphone and see the magic unfold.
- Keep the script ready – at a bare minimum it should have the details on – who you are, where you are from, what is it that you want to do for them [target segment] and why – let this not be a pitch but a generalized statement. For ex, say, “we are passionate about offering solutions to the travel industry segment and we understand the issues that the travel industry faces”. If the customer asks, then and only then explain the issues and your solutions.
- Identify the target customer segment that you want to focus.
- Login to your CRM and quickly search for the target segment – from your Leads, Accounts and Contacts.
- Check if there is a Trade Association for that target segment. If yes, is there a members database available for free or for a fee. Get that list.
- Use LinkedIn, start searching for the target segment from your first level contacts, to start with.
- Identify the people you want to meet – from Finance function or Marketing function and VP level or above or below.
- Export that list from LinkedIn and merge it with the list from the Trade Association list. Keep the source of leads column and import it into your CRM.
- Query your CRM on the Target Segment and create a filtered list [with Title/Designation, City etc].
- Create a Task “Call” or “Meet” with a short description and add the Script and do a mass update to this selected list.
- Hit the Visual Task Board and you will see all these items lined up in Stage 1.
- Start calling or meeting.
That’s it. You are off to a great start. Best Wishes !!
Happy Selling !!
Listening is an art. And Sales people should listen attentively to their prospects and customers, without which it is going to be difficult to make the sale or solve a problem. The prospect always tells us what he / she wants, what problems are they facing and where they need Professional help in solving problems. Unless, we listen to them carefully, it may not be possible to initiate a discussion forget getting the deal.
Future belongs to those who listen with an intent to understand truly !!
Listening helps you get information. And empathizing with your prospects will help you understand the situation / problem in its true sense. Forget your sales pitch. Just listen.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” – Bernard Baruch
There has been too much of a bad reputation that the Sales people have built over the years and it is time to change that perception. Firstly, the prospects think that Sales people are interested in only pushing their products or services down their throat whether they have a need for that or not, whether their product or service solves their problem or not. This is a bad reputation that the Sales people have built for themselves. I am not blaming the entire community. But many are the reasons for this reputation. So, you need to get this changed right at the first interaction with the customer. But, how will you do it ?
- Show respect to the prospect
- Don’t rush things
- Carry yourself well
- Think and Act like a true Professional
- Show seriousness
- Ask open ended questions and shut up – I mean shut your mouth but keep your mind, eyes and ears wide open
- Take notes
- Ask qualifying questions
- Align with them
- Summarize and ask if you have understood them correctly
This will go a long way in building a relationship with them. Customers don’t buy products / services just to meet their needs or solve their problems. It is much more than that. It is purely an emotional bonding with your products or services or with your company. And that emotional boding happens due to the way you treated them or due to the way you handled yourself during the call. You are your company to them. Good or Bad is in your hands. Deal with it responsibly.
Using Sales Techniques is one thing but Building relationship is entirely a different ball game altogether.
Being on the same page with the Prospect ensures that you have understood their problems correctly and have agreed to do certain activities towards helping them solve those problems. So, your deal has a good chance, a good probability. And your competitor who is not in Sync with your prospect is on a tail spin at the moment.
Continue to Listen to your Prospects and Customers and keep fine tuning your offering, products, services, sales processes, customer service so that you may achieve true customer satisfaction
Listening involves using all sensory organs and not just your ears. Get the full import. And implement these ideas in your next sales call and let me know what happened next.