Finding, qualifying and eventually converting someone into a paying customer is the life blood of any business. It is also how to prospect. Sounds simple enough on paper, but successfully executing a prospecting plan is the greatest challenge facing any business.
How should you prospect? Here are seven essential questions you must answer in order to develop an effective prospecting plan:
How To Develop a Prospecting Plan:
- Who is your ideal customer (also referred to as target market)? For instance, if you sold commercial cleaning services, it would probably be the building/office manager of a business. If you sold homemade baby goods, it would typically be women ages 20-45.
- Who is the decision maker of your ideal customer-base? This question is important because you need to have your conversation with the right person. For instance, if you are targeting businesses, don’t expect the receptionist to make buying decisions (more than anything he or she will be a roadblock. It is his or her job to keep telemarketers and spam out of the office). Finding appropriate contact information is critical. Doing a mailing under the title “resident” verses the actual given name of the resident can generate poor results. Additionally, sending email to a generic address, like email@example.com, will likely get filtered as spam (it is usually the receptionist checking generic email). Collecting the right contact information can take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.
- How do you want to contact your prospective customers? There are many ways to find and reach out to your ideal customer base. Often times, best results can be achieved when using a combination of contacting methods:
- Direct Mail Marketing: This can be done via email or typical mail.
- In-Person: This can involve door-to-door sales, appointments and trade-shows.
- What will you say to your prospect?
- In-Person: Writing out some talking points is never a bad idea -- but avoid sounding like you have an agenda. Make sure you rehearse what you want to communicate so it sounds natural. Remember the simple adage, "telling isn't selling". Make sure you have questions to ask the potential customer. The other party needs to be engaged throughout the process.
- Direct Mailer: Less is more when mailing for the first time to a potential customer. Be brief and concise in your selling proposition and reading material. Consider seeking out a marketing agency or professional copy writer to assist in the creation of content.
- Emailing: Similar to direct mailing, you want to be concise. Make sure you do a bit of research on what words or phrases in a subject line may trigger your message as spam. There are many great email providers who can assist you in this process.
- Cold-Calling: A natural flowing script is recommended, including responses to possible rebuttals. Once you feel comfortable with your script, throw it in the garbage and make the calls naturally using the scripted formatting.
- What is Your Call-To-Action? Within each prospecting approach, make sure you have a well-defined call-to-action or closing established. Essentially, you want to lay out as simply as possible what you want the customer to do at the end of your interaction. Would you like them to set-up an appointment? Would you like them to sign-up for a webnar? Would you like them to come in for a free consultation? Would you like them to go to your website? Make this very clear, and where appropriate, give them an opportunity to respond to your request.
- What are the results you want? Set reasonable and realistic goals for each prospecting method. What results might you expect? (Data is from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)’s 2010 Response Rate Trend Report). Please note that responses tend to be higher for B2B vs B2C:
- Email: Here are some industry averages: a 19.47% open rate; a 6.64% click-through rate; a 1.73% conversion rate. If you want detailed numbers by industry, check out this report from Mail Chimp.
- Direct Mail: Response rates for Direct Mail have held steady over the past four years. Letter-sized envelopes, for instance, had a response rate of 1.38%.
- Cold-Calling: Outbound telemarketing had the highest cost per lead, but it also had the highest response rate from prospects of 6.16%.
- In-Person: Each industry is so different, and this makes it difficult to offer up a concrete figure. In-person prospecting typically generates the highest response rate (it can also be the most expensive form of prospecting).
- How will you track results? Determining ROI on any campaign is important. In order help you do this, consider organizing your prospect information and respective responses into an inexpensive CRM tool. It will help you track your results in an organized and reportable fashion. Your customer or prospective customer database should be your business' greatest assets.