When trying to develop new business, prospecting and cold calling can certainly be the most challenging part of the sales process. After all, you are interrupting somebody’s day. It’s almost like being on a first date, testing the waters, making sure that there is alignment. But that’s exactly what’s missing in many situations when salespeople are calling on prospects — making sure that there is a potential fit.
If you were a prospect, what would you want to hear when you pick up the phone where somebody is interrupting your day? Would you want to hear a sales pitch, or would you want to listen to somebody who is potentially adding value to your life?
To make your prospecting more effective, engaging the best prospects and minimizing the time you spend with the least qualified ones, consider avoiding these five common prospecting pitfalls.
Not getting the right fit
Picture yourself trying on a new suit. If it doesn’t fit well, you wouldn’t buy it, right? The same holds true in sales; if there is no fit, there is no motivating reason to have a sales conversation.
For you, the salesperson, to determine if this prospect could be a client, you need to do your homework first. Most sales representatives who call me don’t know my business and have never visited my website or my LinkedIn profile. They are just rattling off a sales pitch, in the worst case scenario using a bad script. In some cases they even stutter around trying to get to a point, leaving me to wonder why they are using a script in the first place.
Don’t look for a fit if there is none. No matter how much research you do and how well you prepare for a call, sometimes it’s better to move on. Don’t push it; there is no sense in trying to find alignment if there is none. Reasons can be plentiful.
The FIRST COMMON PITFALL to avoid is: Calling a potential prospect NOT knowing anything about them, their potential needs, or even their name and looking for a fit when there is NONE.
Rigidly following your script instead of using it as a guideline
There is nothing wrong with using a script, as long as it is used a guideline. The script or guideline also needs to include potential answers to questions that the prospect could possibly ask. Envision a scenario, then prepare to respond.
A script should also be a living document rather than a static instrument. It needs to be changed on a regular basis, whenever the environment shifts, which happens quite frequently these days. Your competitors can change, so can regulation and mandates.
The SECOND COMMON PITFALL: Rattling off a pitch using a script that might not be suited for the prospect’s current needs.
Taking too long to get to why you are calling
People will appreciate it when you get to the point fast. And by that, I mean that you need to have a value statement.
Let me give you an example. When I call on organizations with a national or global presence to present our sales training, I always focus on the fact that we help companies increase revenue and profitability by helping them establish a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a large sales organization. We do that by offering the use of a blended e-Learning/customized coaching approach, but that’s not something that needs to be mentioned first. The online accessibility is a delivery vehicle, not the value. It’s not something that needs to be mentioned first, especially since there are many other providers who claim to have effective online training. It’s not a differentiator and e-Learning might not be something that is attractive to a company at first.
The THIRD COMMON PITFALL: Focusing on features and benefits, rather than focusing on the value that your solution provides to your prospect.
Not knowing who you are talking to
When calling on people, try to understand their role within the organization and their responsibilities. When I call on a CEO (which is always my first outreach, as I have found it is more effective to work your way down, rather than up, the ladder), I always focus on the overall business goals. Increased revenue and higher profitability are messages that resonate with CEOs.
Once I get to the sales or training manager, my message shifts. Then it’s more about the nitty-gritty, the details, ins and outs of the program. Of course, increased revenue and higher profitability are also important to the sales manager. But they want to make sure that their people don’t spend too much time away from their desks. So I talk about the fact that their salespeople never have to leave their desk and they will still become more successful.
The FOURTH COMMON PITFALL: Not knowing the purchasing motivations of each decision-maker.
Being too impersonal
People buy from people. Be personal. Don’t try to “sell them.” We all know that the goal of a salesperson is to sell, and that is perfectly acceptable. And in contrast to being “sold,” I prefer to buy from people who genuinely understand my business and approach me with a value proposition that will help me make my company more successful.
But first you need to connect with me, figure out how best to communicate with me. Then you need to know my business and understand my challenges. Once you have established rapport, it’s much easier to have a conversation and to build trust.
A Sixth Common Pitfall: Moving from one prospect to the next, without taking the time to really connect and listen.
And yes, you can learn how to be a top prospector. I wish you much success in your prospecting efforts!