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Sales prospecting: The 7 mistakes to avoid

picture of the author Yannick | 23 november 2017

Sales prospecting: The 7 mistakes to avoid
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The sales prospecting phase is imperative for the majority of startups, and generally for all companies needing to continuously acquire new clients to grow their business. However, easily prevented errors can emerge within the prospecting methods of even the most dedicated salespeople. By reading this article, you’ll become more familiar with the biggest of these to avoid.

1. INVESTING EFFORT IN A POORLY QUALIFIED LEAD


Everything starts with the quality of your raw data. Whatever the discipline or sector, it’s the quality of your foundations that you’ll need to determine first and foremost. Starting off in a bad direction will mean that your metrics and process in general will be flawed. The first mistake is therefore trusting the initial prospection file, which is very often built on expectations of the final target “client.” Often poorly qualified and having been dealt with in a hurry, these will make you lose time and reduce your efficiency, most of all undermining the value of your products.

Consequently, the first few weeks of your sales activity are crucial for correcting your aim. To prevent discouragement, it is important to gradually ensure that you’re on the right track, changing course as much as necessary and as quickly as possible to maximize your commercial impact.
Your goal is not to reproduce your original lead file, however difficult the process may be. Your goal is to replace every unproductive prospect file with a new one composed of well-qualified leads that will bring success.

2. FAILING TO CHALLENGE THE LEAD GENERATION CHANNELS


Your first objective is to ensure that you’re speaking to the right people, because the rest of your performance hinges on communication. To establish these foreground contacts, you’ll need to widen your lead generation techniques and avoid limiting yourself to predetermined terrain. The best surprises are often found in unexplored niches and under the radar, especially within the competition. This why it’s so important to be flexible and create original lead generation channels. Don’t limit yourself to your initial path, because this will in turn limit your performance from the start. Getting yourself recommended is the holy grail, but you won’t be there right at the beginning.

Create a circle of influence for yourself via social media and optimise your blog to attract target clients, qualified by keywords. Inbound Marketing has clearly taken the lead, requiring you to switch from a cold-calling process to one of gathering potentially interested targets, already qualified through your “acquisition funnel.” Your blog is your best asset. Optimise SEO and create your flagship article, which will bring hundreds of readers...every day!

3. REACTING POORLY AFTER A FIRST REFUSAL


Did a prospect just hang up the phone on you? Or formalise their refusal by email? Did they tell you they don’t have a reason for turning down your offer? Have you dug deeper into the reason behind this initial refusal? They may simply have doubts to express, and find the simplest way to hit the brakes, so to speak, is to turn you down so that you’ll revisit your approach. A first refusal is by no means a worst-case scenario, in terms of sales prospecting. Indifference and non-response are the harsh reality, but you’ll never get anywhere without making contact first.

Getting turned down is already proof that your contact is willing to spend time on you, so take advantage of the opportunity. It will only be counterproductive to become irritated upon reception of an email declining your offer. Instead, rejoice! Use the chance to learn what pitch your competitors are using to lock in clients. As long as you’re extracting information from your target, you’ll always come out winning in the long term.

4. BEING SHORTSIGHTED


Sales prospecting takes time. The conversion rate for an identified prospect contacted fewer than 5 times is less than 10%. Know that making contact more than 14 times, though, sends your conversion rate soaring upward. You’ll quickly realise that if this metric regularly exceeds this threshold with a sufficiently large base of prospects, you’ll convert more than 75% of them into clients.

The rule to remember is that you must hold a prospect’s attention in the long term. If you do this, they’ll think of you immediately when their need turns to absolute necessity and take action. This makes it essential to scratch the "all-or-nothing" framework that forces you to push your contacts to the sidelines. Any target under pressure will eventually say no. This is a perfectly logical response. The objective is to maintain over time a file of prospects that will eventually mature and produce tangible commercial results.

5. TRYING ABOVE ALL TO SELL WHILE FORGETTING TO LISTEN


Ask open questions, and don’t make lengthy arguments without first getting to know your target. Otherwise, you’ll use up all of your artillery before the battle has even started. Be attentive to naturally expressed needs, and open to your client’s desires. You’ll learn much more about them this way than by reciting the same scenario in a loop, in the hopes that you’ll find a receptive person on the other end.

Whether it’s a premature attempt to close a sale before you even well understand the needs of your prospects, or the usual inattention due to the repetition of your sales pitch, you’re making the same mistake of trying to make the sale at all costs. It doesn’t work. Instead, take advantage of the discovery phase to improve your proposal. Prepare your plan of attack several steps ahead by letting your contact open up to you.

6. NOT TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPENINGS


Most of the time it’s your client themselves who opens negotiations, which leads to a sale. Not taking advantage of openings that present themselves spontaneously is to impose your own rhythm and method on the prospect. They might not want the sale to happen in the same manner, as there are those who prefer to take their time. However, most prospects will decide to move forward quickly, and will express this to you. There’s no need to repeat your sales pitch once the situation becomes clear. Once it’s time to pass to the contractualisation step, streamline the process as much as possible and make a simple and agreeable moment of it. Don’t forget to congratulate your client on the sale, either. After all, they’ve just given themselves the best the market has to offer!

7. NOT KNOWING THE REQUIRED CONVERSION STEPS


Salespersons who take a “hit-or-miss” approach often end up getting lost in their own haphazard methodology. At the end of the day, they don’t know the best plan for canvassing. A concrete example is neglecting to provide a free test period of service. What appears obvious at the physical point of sale must also be made so at a distance, with the sales target having the option of demonstrations or test accounts.

After all, you wouldn’t buy a car you haven’t even sat inside of. The same thing principle applies to selling software or presenting a service. It’s essential to provide a clear and honest overview of the product. Additional steps may be necessary, and should be listed for your “funnel.” Your CRM must exactly reflect each of these key steps, so that you’ll be able to see in a glance where your prospects stand. A client file sorted only by company name is a poor way to organise your prospects. You need to know exactly where you are with each prospect. The same goes for tracking your call log.


Now you have some concrete steps to follow for improving your sales prospecting! If you’ve found this article helpful, feel free to read the last one on the same topic: Sales prospecting: how to succeed at cold calling.

7 mistakes to avoid in sales prospecting

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