Understand the Importance of Prospecting
After completing this module, you’ll be able to:
- Explain the importance of prospecting.
- Understand where prospecting fits in the sales cycle.
Sales can be a challenging career, and it often comes with limited training. In college, most people never study sales, though many take a position in sales shortly after graduating. At a high level, selling may be about getting someone to buy products and services, but just knowing that isn't enough to structure your day, much less advance your sales career. The best place to start is by focusing on how to find and develop your potential customers, which is called prospecting. Prospecting is an important part of the sales process, as it helps develop the pipeline of potential customers available. Sales reps at Salesforce practice "strategic prospecting" based on a program developed by JBarrows Sales Training, which is more than the constant cold calling and emailing that you may have thought it would be.
Prospecting, done right, not only creates a pipeline of potential customers, it helps to position you as a trusted advisor. It also helps you focus on the right accounts. That’s why it’s important to understand how prospecting fits in the overall sales cycle, and how to:
- Create a strategy for targeting the right accounts.
- Develop messaging for specific prospect contacts.
- Find the right time to reach out to contacts.
- Use voicemail and email effectively.
- Make prospecting a habit.
In many ways, sales is all about the numbers. Practicing strategic prospecting helps avoid solely relying on the number of calls made or emails sent. Realistically, there are only a certain number of calls or a certain number of emails that you can send in a given day, limiting the options for increasing your prospect pool. Knowing who to target and taking a well-defined approach to reach them increases your chances of getting their attention and interest, helping you, in turn, better understand their needs. This is what can help move them along in the sales cycle, giving you a measurably better return for the time and energy you invest.
To best understand how prospecting fits into the overall sales process, let's talk about the steps identified back in the early 1900s as the four stages in the buying process.
- Attention: The customer is aware of the product.
- Interest: The customer demonstrates a desire to learn more about the product.
- Desire: The customer chooses to purchase the product.
- Action: The customer makes the purchase.
Prospecting is focused on getting the customer through the first two stages: Attention and Interest. The end goal is getting a potential customer to say, “Yes, I want to learn more.” That's important to remember, because as soon as you start talking to the prospect about products, you’ve jumped past the first two stages and are already working on the third stage, Desire. When you're positioned as just trying to push product, you miss out on the opportunity to become a trusted advisor, which can lead to greater sales. Focus on developing a relationship with prospects and understanding their needs.
It’s also important to target contacts at the right level in the companies you’re working with. When selling a relatively complex solution, many people will be involved in the process. Reaching out to not only the people who will be using or implementing your solution, but also people who control the budgets, is essential.
Now that you have an idea of what prospecting is and how it fits into the entire sales process, let’s look more closely at the specific approach you can take for your prospecting to be successful.