Ah, prospecting. No, we’re not in the old west panning for gold in California… although, there is a case for sifting through rock and mud to find a few flakes of gold, right!? Instead, we’re talking about prospecting for potential clients.

For those of us in sales, the purpose of prospecting is to create a pipeline of qualified customers and potential customers. What does qualified mean? Well, your sales department probably has a fixed set of criteria that will help you determine what a qualified prospect is. For us, let’s think about it in terms of mining. We have three types of prospects, some of your potential clients will be sparkly flakes of gold, others will be small nuggets, and hopefully, some of them will be a big shiny nugget.

On the flip side, some prospects will be (how do we say this nicely) fools gold. In the beginning, they will seem like they are a real prospect, but as time goes on you’ll realize that it’s just not going to work out. And that is okay. Just remember that you’ll need to continuously prospect so that when one potential client drops off, you can replace it with another. In short, more prospects = more sales!

Sales Calls

There are many sources for prospecting, from networking to cold calling. Today we are going to focus on some of the easier and inexpensive sources including referrals, using your website, reaching out on social media, and finally networking.

Referrals

A prospect that has been recommended by a current customer or someone familiar with your product is a referral in most cases. Referrals lead to higher close rates, increased sales, and shorter sales cycles. Sources for referrals include satisfied customers, business acquaintances, prospects who may or may not buy often, friends and relatives, and co-workers. Don’t be afraid to ask for these referrals. The critical thing to remember about referrals is that they are almost always a pre-qualified prospect. You’re already familiar with the person making the referral, and they are familiar with you and know your company.

Website Leads

Next, let’s talk about how to use your website to gain prospect information. It’s not enough to get people to your page if you don’t know anything about them. A common tactic is to have a pop-up greet first time visitor message. Maybe you offer them a coupon or discount in exchange for signing up with their email to be added to a mailing list. Or your website could contain a survey where you gather contact information from participants. Either way the goal is to gain insight on this potential client. Then, once you have their contact information you can start communicating with this prospect to learn more about their needs. When making calls be sure to keep notes on your discussion. I would keep the first discussion to around 5 to 6 questions on the first call. You don’t want them feeling like you are wasting their time, but you also don’t want to come across needy. Finally, record all of this information into your CRM for future advertising and marketing needs.

Social Media

Next up, let’s cover how you can reach people that are not on a mailing list. The three key social platforms to start with include LinkedIn, InsideView, and Twitter. LinkedIn is a great site where you can gain access to people, jobs, news, and updates in your industry. InsideView organizes videos, blogs, and other business articles so that you can see what is going on in your industry and follow and connect with those who are like-minded. Finally, Twitter. Twitter provides you with instantaneous information about people and businesses that you are trying to target.

Networking

Networking is the skill of making and using contacts and then profiting from those connections. It is a very successful method for prospecting and can happen anywhere at any time (the grocery store, while traveling, at your kids’ soccer game, etc.). The key is to have a real discussion. Tell them what you do for a living and then listen to them… try to listen for the potential unmet need. The key thing while networking is NOT to do business. The goal is to meet people and gain connections. Business will come later once you follow up.

This may seem like a lot… but trust me, with time, practice, and effort, you will master these tools and more to build a great prospect list. If you need more help on prospecting, watch our series on Discovery Calls. Not a P1 Learning subscriber? Register for a 7-day demo.