Prospecting, Process, and Nyquil

Yup. It’s another one. A heartfelt guide on how to prospect new clients and manage those whose primary role it is to bring in new business for your company. I mean, how many more articles can you read about this same topic? You probably have a better chance of discovering a groundbreaking prospecting strategy by gulping down a shot of nyquil and dreaming for a few hours than you would reading an article in a familiar magazine you pick up at the airport.

That being said, there is a reason why this topic continues to be so top of mind. A successful growing business needs to excel in two key areas in order to achieve revenue objectives: new business and client retention. Tough to say if either is more important than the other, but if you are a start-up in heavy growth mode there is nothing to retain without adding new clients to your portfolio. And with so many tasks fighting for your time, you better make sure you and your team are going about prospecting the proper way.

Like most important things in life, success is in the process. You don’t go from elementary school to grad school, you don’t get promoted to the C-Level after six months on the job, and you can’t go on one date and get married the next weekend (full transparency: I am on my way to Las Vegas for a conference as I write this and realize maybe the date to marriage time ratio is different in the great state of Nevada). What I am getting at is there are steps to success. Can you speed it up sometimes? Sure. But more often than not you need to take the trip one leg at a time to reach your final destination.

So what is a solid process and what is the secret to success?

First, you must define the metrics behind the process. While each industry is different, the process is going to remain the same for most. It’s vital that you and your team know exactly what metrics are needed in order to achieve success. New business development is a numbers game. If you have a proven process in place (five calls to get one meeting, 3 meetings to get one close), you can put the necessary amount of prospects through your cycle, rinse and repeat, and you will close the necessary amount of business to hit your revenue targets.

Next, your process should be backed by research and data. No guessing, no dartboards. Hard information that allows you to back into success. You should know what makes you different than your competition, your strengths and weaknesses, seasonality and planning periods of your targets, and if you have an audience you have access to that no one else can claim.

Now that you know how to position yourself, you can identify your target clientele. The name of the game is quality over quantity. I would rather spend time researching ten prospects at a deep level and creating a custom communication strategy for each than randomly hitting 250 cold prospects. These clients should need what you are offering, you should backup that claim with hard information (i.e. recent article or press release), and you should use that information to gain a meeting. This strategy works particularly well when working top-down. Call the CMO or VP of Marketing first, pique their interest, and go from there. And remember, it takes an average of six reach-outs to the same person to get a response.

Once you are in the door, it’s time to dazzle. This particular meeting is all about them. Turns out, businesses really (I mean, really) like to talk about themselves. Think of this as an interrogation of their company. Learn as much as you possibly can. Do your research on their company and come prepared with intelligent questions to get them talking quickly. The goal is to find a legitimate problem you can help them solve, not to sell them anything. Let’s save that for the next meeting, which you should set before you end the initial meeting.

Finally, it’s time for the proposal. I’ll be discussing the proposal stage in much more depth next month. Since you made it this far with your prospect, this is your chance to close, so this topic deserves it’s own spotlight.

So back to the Nyquil. Still awake? Wait, did you just dream this?

Happy selling!