Prospecting is a time-consuming and arduous task, but it’s also necessary to grow your business and increase revenues. We’ve written before about the importance of maintaining a healthy pipeline, but this delves deeper into the particulars of how to best utilize your business development time.
- Less is more.
As a sales rep, you only have so many hours in a day to devote to prospecting. Therefore, you’re best served by focusing on the most promising leads. Depending on your organizational structure, you may have marketing or openers who are already doing the initial qualifying for you. If not, you’ll need to do the work yourself with a considerable amount of research. This can be done through social media tracking, following the prospect in the news, and even the SEC for financial reports if the company is public. Regardless of how it’s done, the winnowing stage is perhaps the most important part of prospecting – it’s what will allow you to save the most time in the long run.
- Time management is king.
Ken Krogue discovered that 35.2% of sales reps' time is spent selling and while 61.3% of sales reps self-reported a time management system, only 23% actually followed it. While sales reps do have a considerable number of non-selling related duties, the fact that not even close to half of their time is spent selling points to a time management issue, further buttressed by the discovery that less than a third of sales reps plot out their time management.
One of the best ways you as a sales rep can manage your time is to plan your day as your first task in the morning. Account for each minute, even if you’re using larger blocks of time, such as hours. This will give you a road map, allowing you to accomplish more and reducing the amount of wasted time. But only if you stick to your map – all the minute plotting in the world does nothing if you then ignore it.
The results prove the importance of time management – Krogue observes that those who do follow time management systems experience a 19% increase in time spent selling, bringing them to a majority 54%.
- We'll say it yet again - learn and use your CRM.
An InsideSales study points out that only 18% of sales reps’ time is spent using a CRM, and 10% of their time is devoted to spreadsheets that could be done faster and more efficiently within the CRM. The CRM was also highlighted as the #1 most frustrating technology in the study. Taken together, this paints a picture where, despite the ubiquitous nature of CRMs, there’s a huge gap between the ideal (CRMs automate and streamline many processes) and the reality (how often CRMs are used, and sales reps’ attitudes about them). The disconnect stems from insufficient training on CRM usage. It isn’t enough to merely know the basics of using your CRM if you want it to do the most work for you – a deep dive into advanced features and all its possibilities is really what will allow you to unlock the program’s potential.
- Recognize that it’s a long game.
Even though some products and services have comparatively short sales cycles, it still takes an average of 6-12 sales interactions for a prospect to commit to a sale. That means you’re going to have to be patient and focus on building trust and the relationship rather than dive in to the sales mode. As we’ve said in our book, Critical Selling, today’s marketplace involves becoming a trusted advisor, not merely an order taker or information giver as in previous selling eras. That takes time to develop.
- Conduct your own research into best timing practices.
While research is vital for prospecting and preparing for calls, an area that you might not think of delving into is timing of calls and emails. Different verticals and prospect personalities will all have their own best days and times to call and/or email. To optimize your own calling and emailing patterns, record and monitor the results of your outreach to prospects. By analyzing the information you receive as a result of your research, you’ll be able to align your contact schedule with that of your prospects, allowing you to process more prospects in a shorter time frame.
As one of the most important parts of the sales process, prospecting deserves a sizable slice of a sale rep’s time. But it’s making prospecting productive that can be the difficult part. Taking on these guidelines will improve your process and help you convert leads into prospects more quickly and efficiently.