New way to prospect

Frustrated with prospect calls but want new business? If you don't have a process for these calls, perhaps now is the time to adopt one that works...

Does your typical prospecting phone calls sounds something like this?

"We've helped our clients (X, Y, and Z) to deliver (so-and-so benefit) with our (such-and-such brand product/service), which has (so-and so feature). I'd love to meet with you for just a few minutes next week to show you exactly what we've done for those clients. How's Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.? Are you free then?"

I'm not sure if you noticed or not, but the only question in the salesperson's verbal vomit is focused on what he or she wants... the meeting. Why do salespeople think the prospect cares about what the salesperson wants?

Bad cold calls are typically structured around a script with lists of features and benefits, which leads into a direct request from the salesperson for an appointment. There are also some cute, but commonly known turnaround techniques the salesperson is supposed to memorize.

This old approach to prospecting calls is ineffective for any number of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that it does not support a real conversation between business peers. It's basically a fire-hose that you turn on and point at the person who answers the phone. You keep up the pressure until the person either hangs up or submits by agreeing to a meeting they really don't want to attend. The ratios associated with these calls are generally abysmal, and that's not surprising.

Fortunately, there is a better way to prospect by phone... but it requires moving beyond the familiar feature-and-benefit-dump, and it challenges you to engage in a true conversation before you ask for a slot on the calendar.

To initially stimulate prospects' interest and engage them in conversation during a prospecting call or in any other setting, you must be able to make them aware of and focus their attention on a meaningful and relevant challenge they face - a goal they are attempting to achieve, a problem they are attempting to solve, or an important issue they have yet to recognize.

The problem or goal should be one that is efficiently, effectively, and uniquely addressed by your product or service.

This conversation typically begins with a statement and a question from the salesperson's side. The following is a statement and question for a company that sells turnkey, one-step solvent recycling equipment:

"Several manufacturers in your industry have told us that due to the new compliance regulations, not only have the costs associated with the storage and disposal of used solvents nearly doubled, but so has the paperwork. How does that compare to your experiences?"

Now you're not unloading a fire-hose at the other person. You're asking an intelligent business question - and waiting to hear what kind of answer you receive.

In order to ask meaningful, relevant, and timely questions, you must not only be thoroughly knowledgeable about your product or service, but also about your prospects' and customers' industry trends, market conditions, competitive positioning, and regulatory requirements - anything that may affect how, when, where, or with whom they can do business.

The more you understand the landscape on which your prospects and customers do business, the better able you will be to identify opportunities to serve them. Thus, the more successful your prospecting conversations will be.

Many salespeople fall into the feature-and-benefit-dump pattern during the prospecting call simply because it's what they're most familiar with. They don't feel like doing the research. Considering the ease with which you can do an Internet search to discover information about the companies you target, their executives, their industries, and their markets, there is really no excuse for not initiating a conversation between peers about a prospect's likely business problem.

The element you use to connect during an initial conversation with a prospect doesn't have to relate to a unique circumstance or event (such as new compliance regulations). It can relate to the means for increasing efficiencies, revenues, and profits, or decreasing inefficiencies and expenses.

Forget about features and benefits. Build your prospecting calls around relevant, appropriate questions that connect to some pain that you can remove from the prospect's world. Then listen.  

Your prospecting ratios will improve dramatically.

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About the Author

John Glennon is an authorized licensee of Sandler TrainingSM in the Interior of British Columbia.

John is an accomplished sales person and manager with over 17 years sales and sales management experience. Beginning in sales in 1990 as a sales representative, he progressed to territory manager, sales manager, division manager and national sales and marketing manager roles throughout his career.

In 1997, John became a student of the Sandler Selling System. This introduction changed his sales career and over time propelled John and his career to new heights.

Successful in accelerating growth through strategic leadership, John knows firsthand the value of a sales training approach that follows a learning philosophy of ongoing reinforcement. He is experienced in driving the behaviours, attitudes and techniques required of an effective sales team.

Sandler Training is offered on a regular basis from their Kelowna, BC training center and through innovative distance learning programs to the rest of the BC Interior.


[email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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