6 Ways Sales prospecting has evolved!

Not that long ago, when you heard the term prospecting it conjured up images of jacked up salesmen in suits, armed with sales scripts and caffeine pills, cold calling every man, woman, and child who expressed interest in losing weight or going to college online in a tri county area.

If your business makes sales, then prospecting is the lifeblood of your business, and you’re probably not paying enough attention to how and why you need to prospect!

Are you using old prospecting methods that don’t work?

Before the Internet made it easy to reach out to everyone from high-level CEOs and executives to rock stars and celebrities, prospecting was mostly done on the phone, through direct mail, email and using advertising.

However as technology and access has changed over the last few years thanks to the Internet and social media, there are now new and enhanced ways to find more better prospects for more.

Have you started to embrace technology and use it to help you prospect? Or are you still stuck in the stone-age doing most of your prospecting by cold calls, non-targeted advertising, and mass mailings?

Cold Calls

Cold calls are simply not efficient! You end up calling a lot of people who simply don’t have a real need for your product or service, and that wastes precious time. To some degree sales is a numbers game and you’re going to have to contact a lot of people no matter what method of prospecting you use, but cold calls are generally accepted as the least efficient way to prospect. They also involve a lot of rejection and can lead to a lot of burnout and turnover in your sales force.

In order to be efficient with your prospecting and get the most dollars out of your leads you need to zoom in with as much information as possible gathering data anywhere you can from social media to directories and professional databases. Most importantly you want to make sure your data is accurate! You don’t want to wind up calling a bunch of prospects who aren’t’ actually prospects or able to make a buying decision.

Non-targeted advertising

One of the biggest prospecting mistakes companies and salespeople make is wasting money on non-targeted advertising.

Oftentimes money is wasted to buy advertising on billboards, park benches, or recently social media posts without having any clue as to whom the ads are being displayed for.

If you learn nothing else from this article understand that targeting a specific niche audience is the most important part of prospecting, you want to prospect down to a specific group of people who have a specific problem that your product or service fixes.

When you don’t target your advertising you are basically flinging paint at a wall and seeing what sticks. It might work out every now and then but in the long run it’s going to cost you!

Mass mailings

The last bad prospecting technique I want to talk about is mass mailings. Mass mailings like cold calls and advertising can be effective if it is highly targeted and seeks out a specific group with a specific problem. But way too often companies and salesmen simply pick a geographic area and send out a bunch of marketing pieces hoping to solicit business to everyone over a certain age in that area.

If you’re going to use mailers you want to make sure you select a specific group like home owners who live out of state and have owned their home outright for more than 10 years and mail only to those prospects. The more specific you can get the better, as technology and surveying have enabled us to now know what prospects lives are like down to what they ate for breakfast.

I think by now you can see why these ways of prospecting are no longer effective. Next let’s move on to talk about some of the ways prospecting has evolved along with technology.

The 6 ways Prospecting has evolved along with technology:

1.New Technology makes it easier to find qualified prospects

One of the great benefits of technology is that it is now way easier to gather way, way more information on your prospects before you contact them. You can use this information to really make sure that you are only contacting qualified prospects, which are interested in and able to pay for your product or services. There are so many ways to gather this data from survey sites, to pay per click advertising statistics that I could write a whole post simply on gathering prospect data. The most important thing to understand is that more customer data doesn’t just help you sell better it helps you serve better. The more you know about the prospect the better you will be able to match them with the right product or service. Most importantly when you are in control of collecting your own data using some of these new tools, you will be sure the data you are using is accurate and current!

2.Social Media makes it easier to reach decision makers

One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it makes it easier to reach out to important influencers and decision makers. If you write an email to a high-powered executive, it may get deleted by his secretary or filtered straight into spam. However if you are able to get the attention of the same high powered executive on twitter, you will be able to make a quick pitch or get send him/her content in order to get them excited to meet with you. There are a ton of stories of companies using social media to reach people they never would have otherwise from bands getting their song on to episodes of the hit show “Entourage” to direct sales made after engaging on Twitter. If what you have to say is relevant to your prospect and you’ve done your homework, social media provides a direct line of access to almost everyone on Earth. Twitter is probably the best place to start if you want to reach out to someone who is difficult to get ahold of. Twitter users are different and if someone is active on twitter they will almost surely respond to you, as opposed to other social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn where your messages can get lost.

3.Technology makes prospecting a long-term focus.

Rather than just looking to reach out to a lot of people, make a few sales and move on, the internet forces you to adopt a long term focus to your prospecting. You can start to build relationships with prospects online through social media sites, or sharing content. This relationship can carry on throughout the sales process and can lead to follow up sales down the line. It’s much easier to buy a car from your friend on Facebook than it is to find a new car dealership right? That’s just one example of how technology has made prospecting more of a long-term focus. Technology also makes it easier to make sales using more of a “slow boil” approach to cultivating prospects over a long period of time. Rather than having to close the sale within 2-3 calls, each interaction on social media is a chance to work on a prospect.

4.You must prospect on and offline.

The Internet is obviously the biggest technological evolution when it comes to prospecting. Not only does the Internet allow you to prospect and reach millions of people without ever having to pick up a phone, it also lets you learn more about your prospects lives than ever before. However, this does not mean that you should switch to an entirely online approach to prospecting. Because of the rise of the Internet, prospecting offline has become undervalued and a combination of online and offline prospecting has been shown to generate the best results over time. Furthermore you can use the Internet to research and narrow down your offline prospecting even further until you are contacting only the best quality prospects!

5.From Sales to Service.

Another big evolution in prospecting has been the switch from a sales mindset of “closing the deal” or “not taking no for an answer” to a service mindset of “how can I help you” or “how can I be of service to your business?” Because of review sites like Yelp and Rip-off Report, it is easier than ever to see what products work and which do not. Furthermore because of social media it is easy to connect with or find your salesperson on Facebook or Twitter, making it easier to get a refund if what you’re sold doesn’t live up to the hype. The days of fly by night salesmanship are over. In the new digital marketplace, there is nowhere to run, so instead of focusing on how you can sell your product or service to the customer, you need to focus on how your product or service can serve the customer’s needs to make them an online cheerleader for you and your company.

6.Use Content to Bring Prospects to You.

Because the Internet allows you to show your work, you can use content such as blog posts, social media updates, pictures, memes, or videos to attract prospects to you. If you create a great piece of content, not only will people read or watch it, they will share it with their friends! In this way your content can be prospecting for you 24/7! Content also makes you or your company an authority. It’s much easier to convince prospects you know what you’re talking about if they’ve already read an article or watched a video by you or your company.

Now you know everything you need to know to get out there and prospect in 2016 and beyond!

Thanks for reading! Did I miss anything? Do you have more questions? Be sure to leave any questions you have in the comments section.

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