There’s no democracy in prospecting. All prospects are not created equal; some are more valuable than others. Why? Some are more likely to buy from you. Some salespeople kid themselves and waste a lot of time on some prospects while they should be focusing on others. Who should they focus on? The prospects with the most likelihood of buying from you. Here’s who these valuable prospects are.
The least valuable prospects are the ones you cold call. Sometimes you can find prospects like these from lists. But without any particular criteria that identify your best prospects, calling prospects from lists is a low-level adventure of smiling and dialing. Sure, you can find some valuable prospects this way, but expect that it’s going to be slow going and require a lot of energy. If you do use lists, be as specific as possible to identify the types of prospects you want. Get as close to a description of your best customers and find more like them. Who are these prospects? It could be a type of industry. If so, look at NAICS or SIC codes. These lists of companies by industry will be specific for the ones you are looking for.
Prospects you get from asking existing, satisfied customers for referrals are more valuable than cold-call prospects. Are you not asking your satisfied customers for prospects? You’re missing an opportunity to move up the prospecting value chain. Why? Existing prospects know you and your work. But these current prospects are not always thinking about mentioning customers for you to call, so remember that your customers are not in sales. You are! It’s your job to ask. The best time to ask for a referral is when a customer gives you a compliment. There’s a persuasion principle called reciprocity. When you give someone something, the person feels obligated to give something back. When a customer gives you a compliment, it’s because you have given him good service and value. He will unconsciously feel obligated to give you something back. When you ask for a referral, it’s the perfect way for your customer to give you something back. In this case, a referral!
Even better than asking for a referral is when a customer takes it upon himself to recommend you to other prospects. That’s really a testimonial to your good work. Your customer, by recommending you, is putting his reputation on the line. He trusts you enough to endorse your work. More importantly, when another prospect hears, “You need to buy from him” you have a much easier job of selling.
The highest value prospects are ones you might not think about. Most salespeople have their best prospects sitting right across the desk from them. Who are they? They are existing customers. Ask yourself, are all my customers buying all that they can from me? Do they even know everything you sell? These people should be your best prospects. Existing customers already know you, they like you and your products and are most likely to listen to your selling message. They’re the highest value prospects you have.