You'll find a seemingly ideal prospect who wants your product, but they just don't seem willing to commit. On the one hand, you're glad the prospect is interested in the product, but there is obviously something stopping them from buying.
These days, closing a sale is far more challenging than it used to be. To counter this, many salespeople focus on filling their sales pipeline as much as possible, and are less concerned about whether their prospects will even convert. This is quite common among new sales people who make the mistake of assuming every prospect will actually become a customer. They soon find that this is, in fact, not the case – people generally don't like to be sold to, even if they have been contacted at an earlier time.
In addition, new salespeople (whether new to sales in general, or new to a particular company) often feel that if they can put things into their pipeline, even if nothing has been closed yet, they're likely to get less pressure from their new manager. It buys them some time, if nothing else.
The truth is that many businesses already have as many prospects as they need, but ineffective prospecting tactics cause them to lose a large portion of these opportunities.
In your quest to close more sales, you’ll encounter many different types of prospects. Some will waste your time and resources, but there will be others that will be worth the effort. To help you improve your conversions and convert more prospects into buyers, here are five strategies you can use:
1) Develop a qualifying criteriaAlways start by thinking, “Is this lead really worth my time and effort?"
Your business must develop a criteria for what your ideal prospect looks like. This qualifying criteria will help you focus your efforts and reduce the amount of long-shot prospects you encounter.
Are you looking for buyers with a specific number of employees? Do you want to work with businesses in specific geographical regions? Work out what your ideal client looks like, then qualify your leads by mastering the art of asking open-ended questions. Some of our favourites are:
- What are their business goals for the quarter?
- What business opportunities would they like to explore?
- Are there any challenges in the way of taking those opportunities?
- What fears are holding them back from committing to your product?
- Assuming you work together, what would be their top three preferred outcomes?
By asking these high-value questions, you'll better understand their needs, and find those customers who would benefit the most from your products. These are the people you have a good chance of closing.
Chasing unqualified prospects is a huge waste of time and must be avoided at all cost.
2) Establish yourself as an expertThe sales industry is flooded with salespeople using me-too tactics, sometimes even the same script, and many customers are tired of hearing the same pitch over and over. To convert more prospects to buyers, it’s critical that your prospects see you as someone who can actually help them.
One way to do this is to become (or at least, look like one) a thought-leader in your industry. Do you have a LinkedIn profile that includes your credentials and displays any recommendations from past clients and other industry thought leaders? Using the LinkedIn Pulse platform, you can also create great content, establishing you as a go-to source in your field.
If you’re not in B2B, do you have a regularly updated blog where you share content relevant to their industry? By showing them that you know what it takes to make them more successful, you'll increase your odds of winning the client.
3) Focus on the decision makersSeasoned salespeople will tell you that a huge amount of sales calls end in a flat “no”, regardless of how much time you have invested in it. This is especially common when your prospecting is directed at the wrong stakeholders.
Many salespeople do their best to get past a gatekeeper and in contact with an executive. But is that executive the main decision maker, an influencer, or yet another gatekeeper? Have you identified the individuals responsible for making a buying decision?
You should always make the effort to understand the role each stakeholder plays in the decision making process. Although an executive's position in the firm may mean they use the product, it doesn’t guarantee that they will be involved in the final decision making as well.
Chasing people not able to make a decision, or that have very little influence, is just as much of a waste of time as chasing unqualified prospects.
4) Always agree on the next stepAfter you've finally gotten a call with the right prospect, what's next?
In order not to come across as pushy, salespeople generally wait for the prospect to reach out to them. Your prospects are busy people too, and if you wait for them to get back to you, you may find yourself waiting for a long time, or in a worst case scenario, never hearing back.
To avoid this, make sure to agree on a next step with the prospect at the end of every contact. Tell them what you think should happen next; maybe another meeting, call, or a presentation. Try to agree on the next step of the process, then schedule a time and date for it to take place.
Getting this agreement pencilled into their calendar creates a sense of urgency, without you coming across as pushy.
It is also something to refer back to in the next contact. Should you have agreed to a second call, it is a lot harder for them to brush you off if you can open by saying "We agreed in the last time that I was to call today." It then looks like they are going back on their word, which they're unlikely to do.
5) Nurture all your relationshipsSadly, even with these tips, you will still hear people say “no”. However, don't take it personally – maybe your prospect already has a supplier or maybe they don’t think your product will benefit them.
In sales, today's rejection may lead to tomorrow's sales; but only if you nurture the business relationship. While the prospect may not need your service right now, building a relationship can still lead to long-term success. Or, while they personally may simply never need what you have to offer, they may know someone else who does, and can refer them to you, or you to them.
Keep in touch with them at intervals, but make sure your touch-points always have some value relevant to their industry. By doing this (and by offering value), you're showing your professionalism and genuine interest in working with them.
The journey from prospect to buyer involves much more than calling as many leads as humanly possible. Trying to work harder by making more calls just to make up your quota isn't a smart use of your resources. In sales, you can go further by bringing value to the prospect and building the right relationships.