106: How to organize and focus prospecting
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How to organize and focus prospecting
Read the episode transcript:
For many solopreneurs, the topic of sales and selling is not their happy place. Many solos went into business to have more freedom, flexibility, work-life balance as well as an opportunity to make a sizable income for themselves and their family. What comes with the latter, however, is the responsibility of pitching their product or service to the marketplace they’ve chosen to serve. And no one knows this better than I do.
Sales has been an area of struggle for me my entire business lifespan. But it isn’t any more. Since I started my business in 2006, I have put a concerted effort toward making sales my friend. Throughout the entire Simplify & Multiply show series I will be helping you figure out the sales and marketing formula so selling can become your friend as well.
Back in 2015, I published Guide to Selling: Sell with More Confidence and Achieve Better Results, part of my Confident Entrepreneur series. In it, I share my struggles as well as what I did to creatively overcome my sales resistance and the “ick” factor I had around selling.
There is some pretty powerful insights in Guide to Selling, many which may surprise you. Now, I’m not just going to pimp my book, I’m going to do something even better. I’m going to gift it to you. That’s right. I will gift you this book with NO strings attached as a thank you for listening to the Simplify & Multiply show. All you have to do is send an email to me at Terry at Better3.com and tell me what is the hardest thing for you around selling and sales in your business and what you’re doing to improve your selling capability. That’s it. I will gift you my Guide to Selling and you’ll get a front seat to the things I did to overcome my sales challenges and the secrets to selling with more confidence so you can increase the profitability of your business.
I chose to tell you about this book in this specific episode about prospecting, which is different from selling, because in the next episode of the Simplify & Multiply show, I’ll be helping you figure out how to organize and focus your sales conversations. So I guess you could say this is a two-part multi-pack of big value around driving revenue into your business through prospecting and selling.
Before I dive into practical tips on organizing and focusing your prospecting, let’s get a few sales terms defined here so we’re all on the same page. There are three distinct aspects to the larger effort of sales in any business: the first is marketing, the second is prospecting, and the third is selling. Of course there are many nuances, but for the sake of clarity in this episode, I’ll just cover these three broad areas. Marketing is a consistent effort of generating awareness about your brand directed specifically at your target audience. Prospecting is when you specifically seek out target audience businesses or individuals that fit your criteria to prequalify them as prospective clients. Selling is the act of engaging with a prospect and converting them to a client.
Marketing, prospecting and selling should all be happening concurrently. Marketing runs in the background and is the initial outreach to stir attention and generate leads. Prospecting is more specific and targeted, and typically a “push” type of selling where you are reaching out to prospective clients as opposed to inbound efforts where people come to you either through your marketing sales funnels or through referrals. Prospecting can also be a driver of targeted marketing, where you can prospect for new opportunities to market your brand, and when they are found, you can create marketing campaigns specific to that target audience. Sales is when that prospect has been pre-qualified (as much as possible), and is ready to engage with you and become a client.
As you can see, the three all work together linearly as well as stacked on top of each other. Understanding that selling is a gradual building process makes it much easier to understand that sales takes time and a consistent effort. I can’t stress that enough. The one thing that I had to learn, especially as a solopreneur, is that marketing, prospecting and selling must be a consistent effort if you want to have a steady pipeline of valuable clients to serve. The reason I struggled with it is because my selling process was not a process: it was a sporadic frenzy that occurred when my work slowed down. Because I was the sole source of the service and creative, meaning I was creating all of the work myself with my hands and mind, I was often “too busy” to take time to prospect and sell when I was serving my clients. That was a big mistake that I learned the hard way.
Now, every week is filled with a percentage of marketing and selling where I am picking up the phone and having conversations with people who need my help. Since I made selling an integral part of every week, my business has blossomed and yours will too.
Alright. You have the definitions, so let’s talk about prospecting to drive more sales in your business. Prospecting will vary depending on your business. For example, I have clients who offer professional training packages, and the form of prospecting they do is calling directly into target companies to “prospect” and pre-qualify their training needs. They know who to ask for, they know what to say, and they keep track of the relationship using a Customer Relationship Management tool, which is software that helps you track prospect details, conversations, emails and tasks related to building your pipeline. They also know that it is an activity they need to be doing every day.
Other clients do their prospecting a little differently. Some gather cards and have face-to-face introductions at networking events and then follow up to pre-qualify the prospect. Some prospect with past clients to try to stir up new opportunities. Others prospect through their network. Depending on your business, how do you prospect? Take a look at your marketing and sales process. Segment marketing, prospecting and selling activities. Assess the actions you are doing, no matter how minor, to see where you are spending the most (or the least) amount of time building your business. It can be quite revealing!
This episode is about organizing and focusing your prospecting, and now that you’re taking a closer look at that aspect of your business, here are six things you can do to get your own house in order when it comes to prospecting.
These steps may actually surprise you, but they have proven to be incredibly effective at improving a business’s profitability because these behaviors drive business!
Build a healthy prospecting mindset. When I went into business, I relied primarily on referrals to stay busy and grow my income. It was lazy. Because referrals kept coming in naturally, I was spoiled. I never prospected or marketed my business. For YEARS. The real reason behind my lack of interest in marketing and prospecting to grow my business stemmed from one giant elephant in the room: I was terrified of rejection. Because I was the creator of all of the assets my clients were coming to me for, I took my work very personally. So when I would hear “No,” I took it personally, as if they were saying “No” to me as a person. It fed into my “I’m not good enough” story and was a perpetual cycle of dread, fear and inaction. I knew I had resistance to selling, and when my business referrals started to dry up, I panicked. But it was good because it forced me to learn to prospect and sell and my business is thriving because I changed what I was doing. Having a healthy mindset around prospecting and selling is critical to your ability to be in action and achieve success. Get a healthy prospecting mindset and it will be a super strong foundation for the following behaviors I’m recommending.
Dedicate time every day to prospecting. This is a simple yet powerful aspect of prospecting. Monday through Friday, have dedicated time slots every day to focus on prospecting—even if it’s only 15 minutes in the beginning! When you have time set aside to prospect, not only are you creating a mental expectation, you are giving yourself a gift of being able to focus 100% of your energy on seeking out opportunities for new business. This is a big statement to the universe that you want business, that you want to build relationships with people who need your help. A commitment like this will be the biggest shift you’ll ever experience in your business. And don’t fill that time slot with busy work and administrative things. Get on the phone and TALK TO PEOPLE! That is where the magic happens.
Understand it’s a long game. Another reason why daily prospecting is important is that it takes time. Every business has an average sales cycle, which is the time it takes from prospect to becoming a client. Some sales cycles are months and yes, even years long. Others are relatively short, such as a matter of weeks that take you to convert a prospect to a longstanding client. Look at your past sales and average out how long it took you to take them from prospect to a client. Was it about five months on average? How about eight months? Make a mental note of that and know that it will take time, which is all the more reason to do it every day. Note that you’ll have a cold lead sales cycle and a warm lead sales cycle, and each will be different. The latter will be shorter because most of your warm leads will be referrals and already have the trust factor because you were referred to them by a trusted friend or resource. So just keep that in mind.
Shift your perspective to one of serving. You have to be yourself when you’re prospecting and talking with people in the early stages of them getting to know you and what your business is about. Some people use scripts to give themselves guidance and comfort, but the more you do it, the more natural things will come. I find my biggest successes come from when I’m just being myself and not trying to close a sale. I come from a place of service, and even though a past sales trainer used to scold me, “Terry, stop doing free consulting on your sales calls,” I still feel it’s important to be a person who serves and provides value, especially in the early stages of any relationship. People have high sales defense walls and are naturally on alert when a stranger approaches them in a business context. That’s why marketing and generating awareness is such a critical component of the overall sales formula. But if you approach every prospecting opportunity as a way to serve and add value to the person you’re speaking with, even if it’s just to provide relief if they’re having a bad day, do it. You’ll feel better and so will they, and yes, they’ll remember you for the gift you gave them of your time and service.
Use a CRM tool. Any time you can increase efficiency around your sales and marketing efforts, do it. There are so many great resources available to us today, it’s incredible. We are so lucky to be solopreneurs in this age! The value of a CRM tool, which is a Customer Relationship Management tool, typically a form of subscription-based software like SalesForce (which is an enterprise solution and us solos use different CRMs in our businesses), is that it keeps you organized and your mind free of “to-do” lists. I first started using Highrise about ten years ago and really enjoyed it. However, the folks at Highrise decided not to continue developing the product, which is PR code for “we decided we don’t want to compete in this market anymore,” and I had to find a new CRM tool to use in my business. There are way too many to mention here. My search was exhausting! But in the end, I settled on Copper, formerly ProsperWorks, which was designed to integrate really well with Google. Copper is invested in Google’s infrastructure from using Google’s cloud hosting platform to participating in Google's SaaS Sales Alignment Program. So if you use G-Suite or Google apps, I highly recommend you take a look at Copper.
Just do it. Push through your resistance or mood or whatever is stopping you from reaching out and prospecting. Make it fun. Reward yourself. Just think of the people you’ll get to meet. It will also help you further refine your preferences of who you really want to work with. There are so many great things that come from this part of being a solopreneur—enjoy it!
When you make a commitment to your business to spend time every weekday prospecting, you will start seeing results. You’ll begin to feel better about reaching out to so-called “strangers” and realize that we’re all just people trying to figure stuff out. You will learn so much about your ideal client, where to find them, how to help them and what they truly struggle with.
As a solo, it’s hard to put yourself out there. There’s judgement, there is risk of embarrassment or not looking good, there’s criticism from naysayers, and there’s a lot of effort to consistently be in action cultivating new clients for your business. AND you have to do all of this while taking care of your existing client base! It is a lot, but look what can come out of it that’s good! You get to help more people. You get to have more variety in your business. You get to meet some really awesome people. You get to form relationships that potentially could last a lifetime. You get additional exposure to everyone you’re talking to, driving referral business, which is icing on the cake. You get to learn more, gain insight into your business, and find opportunities where you can be more efficient and effective.
Before long, I’ll hear you saying, “I love prospecting!” And your business will be the richer as a result.