As an agent, one of the most important decisions you will make is where to invest your limited resources. To receive an excellent return on your prospecting investment, it is important to spend time reviewing your available options, carefully defining your targets and deciding on the best strategy to hit your mark. Agents that choose the right places to prospect are often rewarded with greater returns on their investments, both in the short and the long term.
Define Your Prospector Type. Salespeople fit into three basic prospector categories. Which one are you?
The first and least successful type is the “Shotgunner.” If you are a Shotgunner, you call on a wide variety of prospects without any prior assessment of potential or regard to industry with the hope of hitting a random target. Using the Shotgun approach usually generates a lot of unproductive activity, wasting a lot of cycles and yielding few, if any good prospects. As a Shotgunner, your goal is strictly volume. You call on as many companies as possible in multiple disparate industries, without previously determining whether they may be qualified, with the hope that you will get an occasional hit.
A step above the Shotgunner is the “Rifleman.” If you are a Rifleman, you select a specific group of prospects before you begin investing any resources. This approach is more effective and typically yields better results than the Shotgun approach, but it requires more preparation work and advance planning. As a Rifleman, you usually do at least some advance preparation and broadly define an industry or group of potential prospects that would be a good match for your products and services. Your goal is to find any qualified prospects within your targeted group.
By far the best approach is to become a “Sharpshooter” and only spend time on high-probability, high-value targets. As a Sharpshooter, you are the most effective prospector and have the highest sales call-to-appointment ratio. You invest significant time looking for hittable targets, focusing on specific industry types and the best prospects within the target group. You look for specific targets within a variety of groups and do significant work in advance to determine the most qualified prospects with whom to invest your time. You are interested in quality prospects not quantity of prospects. As a Sharpshooter, your goal is to actually generate revenue.
Hitting the High-Value Targets. A high-value target is simply a prospect you have defined that meets the criteria to provide you the best opportunity for a sale. While the criteria may vary from agent to agent, the main criteria must always include: need, timeframe, application and budget. You should always take the time to do your homework and identify those specific prospects and industries that are the best targets.
In our consulting practice, we coach our clients to concentrate on the significant few and not waste time with the insignificant many. In other words, find the high-value targets. In these challenging economic times this advice has never been more important.
Choosing Targets. One of the best ways to choose a target is to look at your current customer base and find patterns. Do you have a particular category of customers that you have had success in adding to your base? Also, look at your products and services — do they have the ability to solve a problem for a certain type of customer or within a specific industry? For example, do you offer an MPLS solution that improves connectivity for banks with multiple branch offices?
One way to significantly increase your ROI is obvious: sell more to your existing customer base. Look for opportunities to sell existing customers additional products and services that greatly increase your prospecting ROI.
Targets to Avoid. While searching for high-value targets provides a good return on your investment, it is equally important to avoid low-value targets. Some examples of these are current clients that struggle to pay their bills, prospects in industries notoriously slow for making decisions or prospects with whom you have difficulty identifying a reason important enough to motivate a change. Also, stay away from tire kickers that ask for countless proposals and revisions and burn up your T&E expense dollars.
Sales opportunities abound in both good and not-so-good economic times. Productive prospecting is hard work, but if you take the time to identify high-value targets, you ultimately will receive a greater return on your prospecting investment and be rewarded with higher revenues and increased commissions.
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Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a management, sales and business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in technology, telecom, Internet, health care and financial services companies. He can be reached at +1 201 825 8296 or email@example.com.