Why is it that some sales reps consistently earn a six-figure annual income while other reps, putting in the same hours, selling the same products and trained by the same sales manager, struggle each month financially to make ends meet? The answer to this question is painfully simple: the six-figure sales reps understand the importance of business development and never forget to ask for referrals. Top-producing sales reps set high standards for themselves and spend the majority of their time either actively prospecting for new business or closing sales. Successful sales reps set productivity goals, establish priorities and don’t waste their precious time hanging out in the break room or taking two-hour lunch breaks.
Top producers don’t need to be reminded to ask for referrals on a daily basis or to follow up on hot leads because they understand that prospecting for new business is a necessity and not just an activity. The good news is that prospecting for new business, like any other learned skill set, can be trained and developed into a habit.
Tip One: Don’t Forget to Ask for Referrals
An advocate is a person who’s willing to go out of his or her way to recommend you to family members, friends or business associates. When it comes to asking for referrals, timing is everything. Research indicates that the most effective time to ask for referrals is right after you’ve made the sale or provided a valuable service to your customer. Only happy customers will be willing to give you quality referrals. To ask for referrals prior to closing the sale is ineffective and may even jeopardize the sale itself. Once the sale has been completed, your customer will be on an “emotional high” and as a result, they’ll be far more receptive to the idea of providing you with referrals. When you ask for referrals, your goal is to get as many names written down as you can. Just keep asking, “Who else? Who else? Who else?” Once your advocate has given you all of his or her referrals, go back over the list to get details on each person. Knowing the quality of the relationship between your advocate and his or her referrals is critically important information that will come in handy when you make your initial contact calls.
Tip Two: Train and Reward Your Advocates
Most customers are initially reluctant to provide referrals without some basic training and motivation. Once you’re given the name of a prospect, it’s a good idea to take a minute to role-play with your advocate the proper way for him or her to introduce you and your company. Advocates need this kind of training to build their confidence. During your one-minute role-playing session, be sure to prepare your advocate emotionally to expect some initial resistance or rejection when introducing you to their referral. Before you pick up the phone to call your referrals, I suggest that you first call your advocate to get feedback and verify that each referral has been talked to. If you jump the gun and call a prospect before your advocate has talked to him or her about you, the chances of you making an appointment diminish significantly. Always take the time to thank your advocates and give them feedback on the status of their referrals. I recommend that you call them and then follow up by sending a thank-you note.
Tip Three: Strike While the Iron Is HOT
Prospects, like food in your refrigerator, are perishable and therefore need to be contacted quickly. Each day you let slip by without making initial contact with your referrals dramatically reduces the probability of you making the sale. Have a system to keep track of your referrals so they don’t end up falling through the cracks. It’s critical to have a computerized client contact management system to record your remarks and track future contact dates. Relying on your memory alone is a very poor business decision that will cost you dearly.
Tip Four: Schedule a Minimum of Two Hours a Day for Phone Calling
Make your phone calls in the morning while you and your referrals are both fresh and alert. Treat your prospecting time with the same respect you would give to any other important appointment. This is not the time to check your e-mails, play solitaire on the computer, make personal phone calls or chat with business associates.
Avoid the temptation to try and sell your product or service over the phone. Your objective for every phone call is to create interest, gather information, and make a face-to-face sales presentation appointment. If your prospect asks you a question, get in the habit of going for an appointment rather than responding over the phone. “That’s a great question and when we get the opportunity to sit down together, I will be happy to answer your question in detail.”
Don’t shoot from the hip; use a phone script. It’s been said that the only thing worse than listening to a sales rep read a phone script is to listen to a sales rep without a phone script! It’s important to use a phone script when you call your prospect so you don’t wander and/or leave out any key information. It’s a good idea to role-play your script over the phone with your sales manager until he or she feels you sound confident, smooth and professional.
Tip Five: Qualify Your Prospect at Maximum Range
Unfortunately, not every prospect will be interested or qualified financially to purchase your products or services. Successful sales reps know when it’s time to stop chasing after low-interest referrals.
Tip Six: Don’t Take Rejection Personally
Rejection is never easy to take, but it’s a reality of the selling profession. A top producer learns to deal with rejection the same way a chuck wagon cook learns how to cope with trail dust. Selling, like baseball, is a numbers game—pure and simple. Rejection is to be anticipated as a natural aspect of the qualification process, so don’t take it personally. Learn from rejection by using it as a valuable feedback mechanism. Salespeople who take rejection personally lack perseverance and seldom make the sale.
For the majority of salespeople, prospecting for new business is without a doubt the most challenging and stressful aspect of the selling process. Selling is a contact sport and daily prospecting for new business is the key to every salesperson’s long-term financial success. By integrating these six powerful prospecting tips into your daily business routine, you’ll be able to keep your appointment calendar packed with qualified prospects!
“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman—not the attitude of the prospect.”
– W. Clement Stone