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By Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson specialises in helping businesses of all sizes engage with their customer base and wider supply chains, helping them procure, support and develop leads. Here he shares his expertise in effective prospecting.

Every business needs customers and clients, so the method of creating interest in your product or service to persuade them to buy is incredibly important.

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Be crystal clear about who your perfect client is

You need to understand the pain points that your product/service is meeting. Find out exactly where your ideal client is so that you can interact in the same places.

Proactively ask them how you can take your product/service forward. Forget your personal beliefs about what you think they want and ask them directly. They will give you the answers you need rather than you drawing your own (and potentially wrong) conclusions.

Articulate the benefits of your product in a concise and meaningful way

Create a value-led statement that evokes curiosity rather than a slammed door in your face.  Tell them immediately why they should continue a conversation with you.  I think of it as a game of tennis.  Your answer should give the person an opportunity to serve the ball back to you, with a response like: “That’s interesting, tell me more” rather than serving an ace and taking you out of the game.  

Prepare your objections

There are any number of reasons a prospect will object to your pitch.  It could be price, they might be working with someone else, they don’t believe your facts or figures or they’re worried about the outcomes.  Consider walking in their shoes and work out how you can combat their objections with an authoritative response. 

Arm yourself with open and incisive questions

Spend more time listening than talking. Ask open questions using who, what, where, when, why and how as openers. You only start selling when you have the answers to these questions.

For example, when you last gave up with your exercise regime I heard it was because you were disilliusioned with the programme your coach gave you. If I said that people stay with us because of the rapport they have with their coach, would that be of interest to you?

Test and measure

You can prospect in various ways - networking, phone calls, emails, social media, paid ads, events - and each one has time and cost associated with them.

Ask your ideal clients how they’d prefer you to communicate with them. Then split test your top responses by carrying out an A/B marketing campaign.

Also, you may want to test and measure your questions because one person’s problems on Monday might be different on Tuesday depending how they’re feeling. 

For example, going back to the fitness example. 

“I’m curious what’s more important to you - a beach body in July or longevity of life?”  

Their answer will dictate what you say next.  If they say “neither,” that’s a clear message you need a better question or a better set of problems that will entice them to be more curious about your call.  You want them to future think where they want to go with your product/service. 

Don’t give up too quickly

There’s a famous story about a prospector looking for gold who gave up only to find out later that he had been just three feet away.  So keep going and adjust as necessary.

Be resilient

You will always have more people saying “no” than “yes”, but don’t take it personally.  It just means your message didn’t land with as much resonance as needed.  It’s like learning to walk.  When you fall, you get back up again. Learn from the “no”s, get up and do better.

Also, be brave enough to ask what you could have done to make them say “yes.” 

Set targets and hold yourself accountable to them

I call these “done by one” or “finish by five.”  Be specific about what you’re going to do, for example, spend half an hour on LinkedIn, make ten prospecting calls.  Do nothing else until you’ve finished. 

For instance, I have a jar of 50 paper clips.  By the end of the week, I need to move them all to the empty jar to prove that I’ve done my 50 calls (ten per day).  If I don’t, I don’t get my reward, a beer or a chocolate bar, to give me a pat on the back. 

The confidence/competency loop

The difference between success and failure is doing what you know you should do even if you don’t want to or because it’s difficult because it’s new to you. If you push through, it becomes easier and you will then have the confidence to do it again.

Always ask for guidance from a peer/mentor

Ideally, this should be from someone who is already ahead of you.  It could be as simple as recording your sales calls, sending them your emails or showing them a LinkedIn post you’ve created.  Ask them if it landed with them.  If not, how should you fix it?

About the author

Chris has owned and run several businesses during his career and worked in a range of industries, including sales and lead generation. He is the Commercial Manager at Saltare, the Early Payment FinTech and works with some of the UK's biggest companies.