When it comes to marketing and selling their products, sales people and business entrepreneurs often have a hoarder mentality: A lead is a lead and a sale is a sale and before you can say "It's really crowded in here," your pipeline's clogged with prospects that you're unlikely ever to close.
You wouldn't leave for a trip without a destination in mind—that's a trip to nowhere fast. In today's environment, you need a well thought-out strategy if you want to prospect successfully.
Step 1: Put yourself in the customer's shoes and ask yourself what it is you have that they might want. Make a mental inventory of your offerings, and ask and answer the question of exactly why a prospect would be enticed to buy from you instead of signing on with your competitor. How are you different—and better—than the others? What perks and benefits can you bring to the bargaining table? What is your value proposition and who is most likely to value it?
Step 2: Write the story of your dream client and/or niche market. To do this, ferret out nuances in the marketplace; at the same time, go over your recent sales history and list the common denominators of your successes and deals you lost. Do the research—it's a good investment of time, and you've got the bountiful internet to help you: Pour through databases such as Data.com and Hoovers, hit the social networking sites, trade associations, and lists of trade show exhibitors and visitors. Other relevant places to data-mine will come to you once you're on your research quest.
Step 3: As they say in The Godfather, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." OK, we're not in the sales mafia—if there is such a thing—but softening that advice translates to knowing what your competitors are up to. Who are they targeting? Is there a niche market they've overlooked that you can sell cannolis to?
And, finally, Step 4 -- and this is crucial: Craft your value message. This should be based on the information you’ve amassed in your research. Part of being a good researcher is knowing what to use and what to toss. Don’t be a data hoarder or bore on the order of "I researched this, therefore I have to talk about it all." Keep the good and useful information you’ve mined about your prospect; with that approach, you’ll hit your target.
Call it your elevator pitch or your "the house of words is on fire and I can only take these phrases with me" pitch. The prospect is a runner and you're handing out water in the race. Whatever way you want to think about it, you have less than 60 seconds to deliver your message, so make it a high-impact one that clearly communicates why you're contacting them and what they'd have to gain by signing on the dotted line with you.
So close one eye and zero in on the target. You might not always hit the bull's eye, but you'll be aiming in the right direction.