Express Pharma

The art and science of prospecting in the new age

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Mohan G Joshi, International Business Coach and Former President, SCHOTT Glass India, expounds on how prospecting has changed and its importance in the current times

While the sweet-and-sour exchanges and debates on the topic of ‘prospecting’ continue with a flourish, between old-schoolers and the new age sales persons, it helps to do prospecting the right way. The right way of prospecting is a cocktail of the conventional and the new way. Prospecting is a mix of the left and the right brain; a science as well as an art.

Prospecting done the right way. How?

Like the game of Chinese Whispers, the real meaning of prospecting has diluted over time. Most sales persons would count every single target as a prospect. That’s exactly what needs to be set right.

A prospect is not just someone who ‘looks’ at your product or ‘likes’ (on social media) your product. He is not someone who simply ‘enquires’ about your product; such a person becomes a ‘lead’. But you need to evaluate this ‘lead’ and check if you can put him in the ‘prospects’ bucket.

What a prospect is not.

  1. Anyone and everyone who likes your social media post – People have a habit of hitting the ‘like’ button without thinking
  2. A person who is browsing your website and dropping off – he is probably just a window shopper
  3. A person who writes to you but does not ask specific questions or who is not specific in the discussion – in such cases, he is not looking for anything specific
  4. A person who does not fit your target audience description
  5. A person who is talking too much into the future and it will be many more buying cycles or years before he actively considers buying
  6. A sales lead or target is not a prospect. He may be a potential prospect but only when he is qualified, can he be called a ‘prospect’.

Prospecting techniques that can give you a reason to party!  

Target correctly

The key to building a super prospect list is to define your target audience correctly. Your ‘target’ is not a generalised statement that defines a population segment with certain demographics and psychographics. It is not a generic profiling; your list has to be more specific to real people. You need to go beyond the popular ‘target audience’ and find real people. Define what kind these people should be. Gun after them with the fanaticism of a killer. The classic mistake in prospecting happens when sellers go for targets on the wrong rung of the proverbial organisational ladder. Look for the decision maker, the boss and go after him/her. Starting from the bottom rung may set you back by many months or years. Prospecting demands you have a list you can be proud of and not be satisfied with a wishy-washy laundry list.

Are you delivering value at every touch point and every interaction?

Right from the first sentence you speak on the phone or right from the subject line of the email you send to your target, you are delivering value. Your sales spiel through any medium needs to be about the ‘Whys’ (Why your target should listen to you, why he should spend time talking to you on the phone or why he should read your email or why he should spend his valuable time in meeting you) and not about the ‘Whats’ (what your product is, what features it has, what your story or background is, etc.) or the ‘Whos’ (you may be the who’s who of your world, but your target is interested in knowing the whys and not who you are or who your company is). Remember, you can offer value at every interaction with the target; it is not only ‘the value your customer will get from you after he buys from you’. As your target sees value at every point you interact with him, your prospecting becomes sharper and gets you better results.

Play clean – a peaceful night’s sleep is the key to success

Practice honesty, transparency and be known for your integrity. Playing dirty to close the deal or achieve your targets is a no-go. In the short run or the long run, there is no greater ground to own than ‘trust’ and trust is the first and the last word for winning good customers. Using gimmicks, tricks or false promises to win a sale is the first thing that will kill the sale and put you on the top of that ‘target’s blacklist.

Keep trying – till you reach them

Reaching your target will not be easy; whoever promises you that is fooling you. You have to be the person who chases, the person woos and wins them over. But winning is miles away, so, you must keep trying. It will take you 7, 8, 10 or more tries to get a breakthrough; but you will get it. The higher you target, the longer it takes – it’s a straight equation you need to master. It takes more attempts than most people think, to get through to top prospects. Sales is not a sprint, it is like running a Marathon. Endurance is key.

Different ways work together to deliver

Don’t lose your mind trying to choose the precise ways by which you will reach your prospect. Use multiple ways and means to reach him.

Go for cold calling and email, telephone and social media (different channels in this), traditional advertising or direct marketing and digital marketing. Any media works best when used in an integrated manner. Standalone mediums do not work as effectively or as efficiently. With an integrated approach, you are going to have more hits than misses.

Data, digital and prospecting

In a world that is going under the digital knife; where data is collected and dissected to reveal stunning facts, where analysis and over-analysis seems to have become the lifestyle; where does prospecting stand? Prospecting still stands on the intersection of digital and human (traditional). Sales is about real people, so the sooner you realize that a H2H (Human 2 Human) connect is as important now as it was back then in the ‘Pre-Digital’ era, the better prospects you will have for your business. CRMs and sales software apart, it is best that you keep the human angle alive. ‘Calling’ is still a good practice – genuinely interested prospects will plan a time for the call and invest that time in knowing more about your offering. Face to face meetings will still happen despite virtual meetings and hangouts; real vibes will still work and cafes and business lounges won’t be going out of fashion anytime soon. You can take the ominous readings of ‘Traditional selling is dead’ with a pinch of salt and quietly go about your business. The old and the new make for a great pair of hands in prospecting; I am dead serious.

It’s a deal!

Prospecting, if done the right way, takes you closer to cracking the deal. But, sales is a game of patience, dedication, intelligence, determination and never-give-up attitude. It is a journey of creating interest, building desire, forging relationships, building trust and winning the customer.

If your customer wins, you win!

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