Prospecting is often referred to as the most difficult thing we do, yet it's the life blood to our success.
Regular prospecting should be a constant process integrated into your daily sales routine, which starts on your first day in the business and ends on your last day.
When you understand the sales process and have a clear vision of the sources for prospects that you encounter every single day, this should become the easiest of your activities.
Here are six ways you can acquire new clients:
1. Be prepared
Nothing develops your skills in overcoming objections and winning over the gatekeeper quite like cold calls.
Obviously, you need a prepared script that you’re familiar with (but not reading) so you hit the key conversation points. Start by identifying the top pressures, pains or concerns typical to the industry you’re soliciting. This can be done through various underwriting guides, company loss control and inspection departments or industry veterans.
Develop a series of questions to address those typical concerns, but do your homework before you call. Have a working knowledge of the industry and what the challenges are. Remember, if you can’t put the prospect in a better position, there is no motivating reason to change agents.
The No. 1 reason for failure in prospecting is the lack of proper preparation before you begin. There’s more to it than getting an ex-date and a promise to quote one day in the future.
2. Dialing for dollars
Old-fashioned prospecting on the phone remains effective.
While personal lines may be prohibitive with the no-call list, the ability to call commercial business is still a viable option.
Targeting specific classes of business where you’ve developed expertise and can add value creates a positive environment for productive dialogue toward building relationships.
Make 10 calls, take a quick break, then fulfill another burst of 10 calls. Serious telemarketers will do 100 to 120 connects per day. One day’s cold calling can actually fill weeks of face-to-face interviews.
3. Referral prospecting
Leverage current relationships to expand your prospect base.
Say to your clients, “Thank you so much for your business. Based on how we have performed so far, if you had this buying decision to do over, would you still buy from us?” If yes, the second question is: “May I ask you for a personal favor? Do you know John and Jane Doe?” John and Jane Doe could be vendors or suppliers that complement current accounts.
The next questions will depend on their willingness to help you. These questions could be:
Would you mind if I used your name and told them you are one of our valued clients?
Would you be willing to help me with an introduction?
If I paid for lunch, would you facilitate setting up a meeting for the three of us?
Here, you’re leveraging current relationships to expand your prospect base.
4. Centers of influence and referral prospecting
Make a short list of your top 10 relationships or customers.
Under each of those names, scour your prospect list for anyone that would complement that account, for example, a vendor or a supplier (not a competitor). You need at least 10 names for each of your top 10.
The process is the same as the previous one: “Thank you so much for your business. Based on how we have performed so far, if you had this buying decision to do over, would you still buy from us?” Provided that goes well, the second question is: “May I ask you for a personal favor? Do you know John and Jane Doe?”
When you’ve done this, you now have 100 pre-qualified prospects that you’ve been sitting on. Leverage the inventory of relationships you currently maintain.
5. Public-meeting prospecting
Active membership in your local Chamber of Commerce, a trade association, civic club, religious institution, your lunch crowd or your after-work crowd — all these activities and contacts create endless opportunities.
An after-hours chamber function would routinely reward me with 100 prospects to follow up with each time. Make a habit of a brief conversation, collection of a card, a quick request for permission to follow up in the next few days, a thank you —and then move on. What you do not do is cling to one spot or to one individual — that's counterproductive.
An old champion of our business taught me that in working the room you move around all four sides, then you go right down the middle followed by working corner to corner. You’ll make contact with everyone if you systematically move around because the typical person clings to one spot.
6. Social media prospecting
Without exception, each agency should have a website that is robust and interactive, a mobile application for its customers, a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, an active blog, 24/7/365 accessibility, a customer-centric operation, a deeper relationship with the buyer and a plan for multiple coverages per client.
Accessibility via social media outlets allows producers to remain visible. Create connections such as “likes,” “thumbs up,” and “smiles.” Many of your peers go here for advice and recommendations prior to purchase. The millennial buyer looks here first.
Technology allows social media to be today's cold call; it's where you create your presence, set the tone for your brand and initially connect with your audience. Establish the foundation for rapport and trust, and that will create the relationship you’re looking for to build long-term valued clients.
It would be a mistake if I didn't mention the most important part of prospecting that trumps all other efforts: If you don't prequalify the initial lists of prospects, then your entire results become a futile effort. Junk in, junk out. Quality in, quality out. Make sure you begin with the proper list.
Tom Barrett is president of the Midwest and Southeast regions at Hampton, N.H.-based SIAA Inc. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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