10 Steps to a Killer Prospecting System
Getting a steady flow of new clients is vital if you have set high sales goals for your business. Despite the challenging times we are in right now, this can still be achieved if you have a systematic prospecting method. It not only gives you a repeatable process, but also allows you to train others when you're ready to delegate. If you don’t, you will likely be trying random tactics here and there, and not building enough momentum from your efforts.
Sales is the most important activity a business owner needs to focus on. If you’ve been in business for a while, you've probably noticed that it’s getting harder to reach the right prospects. If you are just getting started, you’re probably realizing it’s not as easy as you initially thought.
Buyers have changed. Many are focused on price, have small budgets and/or prefer to do it themselves without someone like you helping them out in the process. But there are plenty who do have the budget and want to work with someone to assist them at a personal level.
These buyers prefer someone who will understand their brand guidelines, their market, their company’s goals and their target audience demographics. Someone who will be more like an assistant.
These were the type of clients we were looking for in my distributor days, and I developed the process described below to reach them. If you are after the same type of clients, this system will ensure a full prospecting pipeline at all times.
I will be referencing a program we used for several years, very successfully. These are the 10 steps.
1. Select a Vertical
It can be hard to decide what niche or specialty to work with, but this is a key step. For us, after some evaluation, I decided on the marine industry. We are located in Fort Lauderdale, and boating is big in this area. There is a major boat show every year that attracts people from Europe, as well as other parts of the world. This means a high impact for the local economy at many levels, and many possibilities and opportunities.
I must clarify that I don't know anything about boats, beyond the fact that I love to go out in one. I can distinguish a sailboat from a motorboat and a yacht, and that’s about it as far as technical knowledge.
2. Research Companies on Your Vertical
You can find companies exhibiting at any trade show by going to the convention center where the show is taking place. You will find all the information about the event, including the website of the organizer, with listings of the participating companies.
This is how I found all the companies participating in the Boat Show. I also found out that there are another two boat shows in neighboring counties, which expanded the number of companies to target.
With trade shows off the table at the moment, a good source of companies to target is your local business journal publication. They have everything you need to know about your local business community, the top companies in every industry and their top contacts, top executives and more.
3. Qualify Your Prospects
Back to our experiment with the boat show exhibitors. Not all them are good candidates. I found this out after I sent my first set of 10 dimensional mail packages. It turned out only two were qualified. For example, one was a small family upholstery business with zero budget. Another one was a nonprofit that exhibited for free. And yet another was just a one-person sales office for a big European company.
So after that, I implemented the following procedure: The first step was to enter the information into a spreadsheet—a basic copy-paste of the whole thing into one of the cells. The next step was to check the exhibitor’s website and find out the following:
- Where are they based? (I wanted those based locally)
- What do they do?
- Do they have employees?
- Do their websites look professional? This means they care about their brand
- Contacts, besides the one on the show website
This information was entered into the spreadsheet if the lead qualified. If you are thinking this is a lot of work, well, you are right! It is very tedious. That’s why I hired a part-timer to do this.
4. Enter Your Leads on Your CRM
You want to keep track of your leads in an organized manner. You want to be able to take notes about any relevant points about your lead. You want to know when was the last time you made a touch, and at what stage of the pipeline each of them is.
Preferably, you want your prospecting leads to be separate from your active clients and your other type of contacts. This can be easily set up on most CRMs.
If you don’t use a CRM yet, this is a good time to start. Just make sure the one you choose allows you to work the way you want. Most industry order management systems offer their own CRM, but at the time of this writing, they lack the functionality and automation features to manage prospecting with maximum efficiency. There are a ton on the market and it can get confusing, but here are a few tips on how to select one.
5. Research Your Leads on Linkedin and Connect With Them
The next step is to further research your leads on LinkedIn. Ask them for a connection, and once they accept, send a non-sales-y "thank you" email. You don’t want to ask them to marry you just yet. But you can ask for a date. You can mention the boat show and if they’ll be there, for example. And take it from there.
Bear in mind that, once you connect, they will see the updates you share, so you have a great opportunity to show your expertise. You also want to learn about their interests, what groups they are part of, etc.
Kind of like stalking them, but in a non-creepy way!
6. Send Them a Dimensional Mail Piece
This step requires preparation ahead of time. Create a package to send your prospects that includes self-promos to add bulk to the mailing piece. What it consists of is entirely up to you.
Think about your package telling a story about your brand, your point of view and creativity. Don’t be cheap about it. Pay attention to the details, from the letter enclosed to the way it’s wrapped and presented. Use quality items that your lead will want to keep on his/her desk. Provide a superb first impression.
A few days after you sent the package, call to ask if it was received, and start your sales conversation. Send a LinkedIn message to your contact to keep an eye out for it. The point is that you touch your lead as many times as reasonably possible to peak interest and create momentum.
7. Create Content About Your Target Vertical
Consider the fact that as soon as you appear on your lead's radar, if you have sparked the slightest bit of interest, they will go check your website. For me, I wanted them to find that we were experts in the boat show topic.
Once again, this requires preparation. I did a lot of research about the boat show. I also conducted a brain-picking session with a good client in the industry (over lunch, on me). He had been exhibiting at the show since he started his business so his insights were invaluable.
We created a page on our website about boat show marketing services and wrote several articles about different aspects of this topic—tips to get qualified visitors at their exhibit, mini event ideas for those who had tours of their boats, and of course, product ideas posts.
Once you have content, share it on LinkedIn regularly. Your connections will see it. You can also share it on the rest of your active social media platforms.
These types of prospects don’t want to work with average providers—they want to work with specialists. That’s why the online component is critical. It positions you as an expert and differentiates you from the average-looking distributors.
As an added bonus, since content is one of the key components of SEO, you will start to get found on the internet. It will pay off to make sure you have your conversion elements in place, because the leads coming from the internet are the best in the world. They are looking because they are ready to buy. So they convert quickly!
8. Create Marketing Pieces
Create product idea presentations to send to your leads. You have the tools to find great items. Present them in a creative way that represents your brand. It can be tempting to use the generic-looking presentations generated by your favorite search tool, but these will not have your personal touch.
Invest in your own, awesome branded ones. Then share them everywhere. If you are not good with graphic design, hire a designer. You might have to create five to 10 pieces, but then you use them over and over.
I cannot tell you how well this simple tactic works.
9. Follow-Up Until They Buy
I will not get into details about how to follow up, because you have heard them all by now. Implement your own system and follow it. Whether it is LinkedIn, calls or emails, use all the tools at your disposal.
10. Create a Documented Prospecting Workflow
This is really the first step, but I put it at the bottom of the list because I thought it would make more sense once the actual steps were outlined.
We used the boat show industry as our target, but you need to determine yours. Then determine your own steps you'll put a lead through, from the time they get your attention all the way through the time they become your client. This is your system workflow. Use a whiteboard and sticky notes (my favorite way) or a pen and paper. Whatever works for you. The point is to do it and put an end to the randomness.
As you can see, creating a system requires planning, preparation and maintenance. You can assign certain parts to an assistant or an intern, while other parts you will want to take care of yourself.
Once you have created a system for the vertical of your choice, you can add another vertical or niche market. The point is to have all the pieces of the puzzle for one, before you start to focus on another. This way you will gain more traction from your efforts and close sales faster.
Having a system is the only way to delegate efficiently, scale, and grow. It creates consistency and with it comes effectiveness and predictability. You'll have the ability to manage your prospecting funnel, and see what comes next for any lead, at any given time.
Your system will require maintenance, and you might have to outsource some of the work, but you will have full control over your sales pipeline.
We used the boat show as an example, that might not be what works for you at all. But I hope it inspires you to work on creating your own.
For more marketing ideas that work in this digital age, specific for the promo business, visit the Resources section of ActionMarketingCo.com.
This article was originally published on Action Marketing and has been updated for publication here.
Gloria Lafont is a mother, grandmother and business owner. Throughout her business career she has started, bought and sold a dozen businesses in the branding and marketing field, including a distributor company. She’s currently president of Action Marketing Co., founded in 2007. Her company focuses on helping distributors increase visibility, generate awareness and drive traffic so they can connect with more of their ideal clients and generate more leads and sales.
Gloria is a big fan and supporter of education and the cultural arts, volunteering her time and donating marketing support over the years to help various organizations grow in membership and revenue. She also enjoys the South Florida lifestyle mix of business, beaches and arts.