A couple of times each week, I am asked the same questions by entrepreneurs and business owners. How do I get my prospecting to work? How do I find clients? What are the best ways to prospect? How do I get referrals? What’s the magical formula? I felt it was time to tackle this very popular subject so I collected my thoughts and prior advice provided. I now put it out there for people to read, take out of it what they will, and draw their own conclusions.
First of all, there is no magical formula. What there is is intelligent, progressive and persistent individual effort. The answer to these questions also varies between individuals and the type of business or profession they are in.
To succeed in business, you need to be creative when it comes to acquiring new clients. No one approach is likely to be your magical formula when it comes to prospecting. Instead, you will need to adopt a number of progressive prospecting approaches and learn, through trial and error, which works best for you. Once you’ve found a method you’re good at, you’re enjoy finding clients that way, boosting your business satisfaction as well as your ability to attract new clients.
Consider cold calling
The first go to for most is cold calling. While the concept of cold calling may fill you with dread you need to consider all kinds of methods if you want to build a client base. Cold calling has a low success ratio and its hard work. You will have to dial a lot of numbers every day to make just one appointment. You also have to abide by the do not call legislation.
While not necessarily my first choice, cold calling can be a valuable prospecting method to start with. It can put you on the radar of people who are subconsciously unhappy with some of the services they use or a professional they work with. A call from a professional and enthusiastic small business owner might be just the trigger they need to make a move especially if you can impress them with good reasons for switching to you.
Now that I have the cold calling bug out of the way, we’ll progress to better and more progressive prospecting methods. There are a couple of housekeeping points first.
Define your client
I have already mentioned it about being warm in your prospecting. Don’t prospect in the dark. Most people just shoot blindly. I call it the shotgun approach. They shoot at everything that moves to see if something strikes and waste a lot of time. These types of prospects usually carry low potential and are a waste of time.
“Choose your customers, choose your future.”
Start by creating a target market and an ideal client profile. Who are you trying to sell to? Where are your efforts best directed that will provide the best opportunity? Identify all the characteristics of your target market including their goals and demographics. It's also important to know who your clients aren’t. Don’t make exceptions to your ideal client type be. Stay focused on finding clients who fit your profile. Go further and share this information with everyone you feel would be good brand ambassadors for your business.
A common concern it that it can be hard getting referrals in the early days of your business. The first thing is to maintain an optimistic and positive attitude. Believe in your self and be referable. You can start by looking out for fellow professionals who may be open for a referral relationship. Over time, once your clients can see how you have added value to their lives, they will be happy to refer you to others – so that you can help their friends and colleagues too. Don’t miss out on gaining valuable new clients – make sure you ask for referrals once the time is right.
Need to network
Use social media as a prospecting tool. LinkedIn is a particularly good vehicle for building a professional network. Other popular social media sights that are effective are Twitter accounts and Facebook business pages. The later two are more practical as a way of engaging followers based on posting current and applicable content. The idea is to draw people to your sites when they are online searching for information on something they want a solution to, to purchase or services they require.
Professional networking face to face is becoming less-utilized, but it’s still a highly effective way to prospect. You could consider attending networking meetings, social events, or trade shows in order to rub shoulders with potential new clients. Networking events and organizations are not just a place to collect business cards.
The way to make professional networking effective though is to reach out to those with whom you had positive conversations afterwards. Thank them for the conversation. Ask them to grab a coffee or go out for a casual meal. Focus on the the initial points of conversation and keep the conversation natural. While the ulterior motive may be to engage this person as a future prospect or client, your initial focus is to determine whether there are mutual grounds to pursue a future professional relationship.
"Keep your sales pipeline full by prospecting continuously. Always have more people to see than you have time to see them.”
Commit to community
Getting involved in the local community can be a valuable and cost-effective way of getting to know potential clients. Consider joining a country club, charity or social organization to meet people and initiate introductions to their friends and neighbors. Get on committees to meet prospective clients perhaps those whose members are entrepreneurs and business owners.But only get involved in an organization you really feel is close to your heart. Don’t fake it, people will know.
When you’re prospecting in these types of scenarios reach out to people in a relaxed way either in person or via email with a specific and personal message. An important point though is to obtain permission to contact them first.
Learn the importance of relationships in your business and how to create momentum in a consistent and right direction. You could also aim to get speaking engagements or run seminars. These are other excellent ways of reminding people you’re open for business.
“Prospects equal options. Master prospecting and you will be the master of your sales destiny.”
If you’re a new in your own business, prospecting is probably one of the most seemingly unsurmountable skills to master. However, to make a great impact you have to meet new people. Clients won’t take the initiative; they won’t come looking for you, so you have to make yourself known to them if you want to be considered.
Because prospecting does not come naturally or where people are uncomfortable with it, they tend to put it off. It's a common deflection. Schedule prospecting time into your daily routine. Try out a variety of prospecting approaches, then design and implement a repeatable process for each. Eventually you will find the right balance and have several prospecting methods that work. You’ll develop a groove for it as it becomes second nature on the way to you #KeepingLifeCurrent.
Steve is the SBCN Community Mentor and can be reached at: steve@NorthernRiverFinancial.ca