The lifeblood of every sales style, including consultative selling, is having a steady flow of prospects in order to build a pipeline of potential closings. Without continuous prospecting, even leading companies will suffer from stagnation as customers are lost to competition, macroeconomic conditions, or other factors.
Here are five prospecting tips help develop leads using a consultative selling process:
1. Provide value to those you meet
The average person has a sphere of influence of around 250 people. Each time you build another relationship, you increase your own sphere by 250 potential new customers. This parallels what occurs with social media, as friends of friends become aware of you through simple association. These associations are extremely powerful and are built by providing value, such as providing useful information or providing a referral to someone in the network. By being generous with technical, professional or personally helpful data, a salesperson can also establish a thought leadership position in his local area or industry.
2. Identify and leverage customer clusters
Every salesperson will discover that the majority of his sales tend to be concentrated geographically, whether it be a certain neighborhood or region of the country. These “customer clusters” should be formally identified using CRM software or other analytics, and prospecting actions focused on those areas, including following up with existing customers in those areas with greater frequency.
Business customers in specific areas tend to know each other, making local testimonials and referrals much more powerful, as there might be several businesses making the same recommendation.
4. Take Three
Prospecting is an active process, and while doing other things like account management and paperwork are necessary, nothing trumps actually talking to people. The Take Three method is an easy way to remind salespeople to focus on high-revenue activity to grow their business instead of getting “stuck-in” doing busywork. The formula is:
- Call three new prospects every day after lunch. People are more relaxed and open to sales calls right after lunch.
- Call three current customers and/or vendors every week to check in and ask for referrals
If these actions are performed religiously, a pipeline of potential deals will be built in short order.
5. Link up with LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a popular online business networking platform that can bring in leads with an intelligent methodology, as it can also waste hours of time if a salesperson simply starts browsing without focus. To benefit from LinkedIn, a checklist is recommended to maintain discipline. It could be as simple as:
- Login and reply to Inbox messages.
- Update status using one or more of the 3 Es — entertaining, engaging or educational.
- Accept connections using a standard reply, or personalize if the person is known.
- Add 5 connections.
- Answer questions or make comments in groups or conversations.
It is important not to get distracted into using LinkedIn for hours, the reasons for which will be covered in the next point.
5. Get out of the office
Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media platforms are good ways to build a reputation and get leads if used properly, but nothing is as effective as a personal meeting. Too many salespeople are relying almost exclusively on these electronic means of prospecting. This laziness provides a golden opportunity for those that can apply some good old-fashioned belly-to-belly marketing, including networking events, chamber of commerce functions, lead swap breakfasts, and personal visits to local businesses.
Consultative selling is a very active process requiring constant prospecting, as sales are often closed only after several weeks or even months of building relationships. Use these tips to build up your pipeline today.