How To Prospect For Clients To Set Up Your Sales For Success
Sales prospecting is a critical part of any business if you want to make sure that you achieve the highest return on investment from your entire sales process.
The problem is that the majority of businesses don’t pay enough attention to the prospecting piece.
The result is that you or your sales team end up talking to a lot of people that are simply not suitable clients for your product or service.
This will lower your sales conversion rate and waste a lot of time that you could be spending with people that could actually bring in more revenue.
When you have created a formalised prospecting process and rigorously implement this in your business you will notice very measurable improvements.
But getting to that stage does involve some planning and you’ll have to invest some time as well.
To help you with the planning and execution process we have put together this guide that gives you all the details you need.
Once your plan is in place, you can then outsource the actual work to a Virtual Assistant.
This is the most cost-effective way to free up a lot of your time.
If you have never hired a VA before, then call our dedicated team at Outsource Workers.
We can provide you with free advice and take care of the entire hiring process so that you’re up and running in a matter of days.
What Is Sales Prospecting?
The simplest way to describe prospecting is to go back to the origin of the term.
It’s very commonly used in the mining industry, where it refers to the process of testing the area where you’re going to dig or drill, before you commit too much time and effort.
And this is the same for the sales process. Before you blindly contact people and try to sell to them, you need to make sure that they are actually going to need and want what you have to offer.
There are many questions that you want to answer before you contact them otherwise you’re just going to end up spending a lot of time with people that aren’t suitable.
Let’s take a closer look…
What Is The Goal?
The goal of your prospecting should always be to find suitable clients for something you’re selling.
This can be different from sale to sale, but the important thing is that you create a process that gives you a list of the most suitable people.
We cover the specifics of defining your ideal prospect a bit further down, but essentially this involves creating a set of characteristics that you want to target, which could be gender, marital and family status, age and economic background.
The more clearly you can define your ideal prospect the better.
In addition to that you want to find out things about your prospect.
One of the most important things of the early sales process is to build trust and common ground.
And if you know in advance something that you have in common that will make building rapport so much easier.
How Does It Work?
Unlike the actual sales calls, prospecting doesn’t involve directly talking to people.
Modern technology allows you to do the entire process on a computer using Internet searches and social media. Practically everything you need to know is publicly available.
It does take a bit of trial and error to get to a stage where you know exactly how and where to search.
But once this process has been formalised it’s very easy to hand over to a dedicated person on your team.
It’s a highly repeatable task, and the more you have someone focus on it, the higher your chances are of producing a list of people that will be interested in what you have to offer.
Who Should Be Prospecting?
The unfortunate reality is that prospecting is a hugely time-consuming process.
While it is a critical part of your sales process it isn’t really a Dollar productive task. That means it is something you should strongly consider to hire a dedicated person for.
The most cost-effective way to do that is to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines.
This will significantly reduce your operating costs, while at the same time freeing you up to focus on the higher-level sales tasks that ultimately lead to more revenue.
If you need help with the process of hiring a VA, or you just want a hands off, fast and effective solution, then talk to one of our advisers at Outsource Workers. We can provide you with all the info you need to get started in less than 2 weeks.
Why Is It Critical To A Successful Sales Process?
Sales is one of the toughest parts of any business. When your service processes are in place, it’s actually not that difficult to provide a client with exactly what they need and want.
The problem is that you know that, and potential clients have the benefit of choice, especially in the real estate industry.
With strong competition all around, you have to create a sales process that is highly effective and efficient.
Yes, you need to be good at building rapport and trust. But even the best sales people will struggle with their conversion rates if they don’t talk to the right target audience.
Let’s take a look at the three main reasons to do prospecting.
1 – Reduces Overall Rejection Rate
The more carefully you plan your sales process and tailor it to your target, the easier you’ll make it to create a connection with strangers.
When your research has revealed certain interests or information about past purchases, then you can focus in on those details.
For example, you might find out that a prospective buyer likes a particular sports team and you could just mention a recent match result to them.
This sets a common ground of interest where you can have a friendly conversation and overcome that initial awkwardness that often exists between strangers.
Or, you might find out that the person was involved in another real estate deal in the past, and you can mention a few similarities.
This shows that you’ve done your homework and are not just blindly approaching them.
And the quicker you can build some trust and rapport, the less likely you will be to encounter rejections.
2 – Reduces Time Wasting
Sales is all about probing with questions to understand what the prospective client needs and what their budget is.
When you have some background information about the prospect, you’ll be able to save yourself a load of time by focusing on things that you know are suitable.
More importantly you’ll also be able to avoid certain prospects that are simply not suitable for your service or offerings.
This is something that happens all too often when you’ve spent several hours dealing with someone, where it turns out what they are looking for is not something you have to offer.
3 – Focuses On The Sales Goals
When prospecting is done right, then it really helps your entire sales process to become more focused on your sales goals.
By setting clear and achievable goals you are able to work backwards in a way that ultimately leads you to an ideal client definition.
When you fully understand what type of client you need for each project or listing, then you can make sure that you only target such clients in your advertising or conversations with prospective buyers.
As a result, each step of your sales process is built on a solid foundation where getting to the best possible sale in the most efficient way is at the core of everything you do.
Defining Your Ideal Client
As already mentioned, before you can start prospecting, you need to have a good picture in mind as to what your ideal client will look like.
If you have a set of apartments for sale and you want to find a single buyer, then your focus should be on investors, not a young family looking for their first home.
This does mean that you will not be looking for just one single client definition.
Different listings and projects will quite likely have very different kinds of target clients, so make sure you come up with a few definitions to focus on.
Analyse Your Best Clients
This is by far the most effective way to come up with a great client definition. If you look over your past successful sales then you can learn a lot about what those clients had in common.
Success here would be defined as those sales where there was relatively little work involved to get to your target sale price.
There is no exact science to this, but your sales experience will tell you after each sale whether or not it was an easy sale or not. This goes for both the buyer and seller side in a real estate transaction, so make sure you pay close attention to both.
If you have a team of sales staff, then you want to make sure that they understand this information gathering process as well.
Basically, at the end of each successfully brokered deal you should check with your team how easy the process was.
Capture Measurable Data
When it comes to analysing your clients, you want to try and focus on things that are measurable.
This can be anything from gender to location, or income to family status. You really want to take gut feeling about this out of the analysis.
Ultimately, this information will be used to create a profile that can be used for prospecting purposes.
If you start focusing on things like your first impressions and whether you liked how and what they had to say, then it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to find more people like that.
You want to keep it simple and focus on 5 to 10 characteristics that can be clearly defined or measured. Then start gathering your data so that you can combine it in a way to identify trends and correlations.
Create A Profile
Once you have gathered information on all the clients that were great to deal with, then it’s time to start categorising them by different types of sales or projects.
For example, you can create an ideal profile for a small city centre apartment, and one for a mid-size family home in a middle class suburb.
The people that would be interested in buying or selling these types of properties will be very different. That’s why there is not just one ideal client profile.
This stage of the process is very important, and you should never rush this. Any mistakes you make here can end up costing you an awful lot of time and effort and ultimately affect your bottom line negatively.
Searching For Clients That Match Your Ideal Profile
Now that you have come up with your ideal client profile for different projects, it’s time to start one of the more time and effort consuming processes.
Finding the right prospects does take some detective like skills. But don’t worry, you won’t have to go spying on people through binoculars.
What you essentially need to use is publicly available information and resources.
Fortunately, there are a lot of digital footprints that people leave that you can use to your advantage during your prospecting efforts.
What’s also great about having an ideal client profile, is that when someone walks in your door making an inquiry.
You can gather some simple information about them to help you identify which of your listings will be ideally suitable for them.
If you and all your sales staff follow this process then you’ll quickly find a consistent approach in your sales process.
Google Is Your Best Friend
If you’re looking for public information about people or companies, then Google is your absolute best friend. If it’s publicly available then chances are that it exists in the Google index.
This will require some clever use of search terms to make sure you don’t end up with incorrect information about the wrong prospect.
For example, you can search for news stories about larger real estate transactions or major property investors.
Big deals usually hit the news, even if it’s industry specific news. This will allow you to find investors that were both successful and unsuccessful in purchases.
With some experience in doing such searches you will quickly find exactly the right prospects that match your ideal profile.
Industry Publications And Advertising
These are by far the most effective resources to use in your search for business prospects.
First of all, there is a lot of advertising in these publications that allow you to check out the companies actively advertising.
There will be dozens of them in each issue and that will quickly help you build up a list of people and organisations to contact.
You can also use these for some clever advertising of your own business.
If you have a specific listing in mind and you’re looking for a very specific type of client then you can structure an advertisement to call out and appeal to that ideal client.
This is fast becoming one of the most powerful tools you have available and it can be used in two very different ways.
If you’re meeting a buyer or seller for the first time, then you can check out their social media profiles for interests, employment, family status and hobbies. If they are active on social media, then you’ll get a great idea where you might have overlapping interests.
This can be anything from sports teams, to holiday destinations or a recent addition to the family. This is very helpful information in creating rapport and ultimately trust.
The second way you can use social media is to create an advertisement with a target audience specifically geared towards your ideal client profile.
Platforms like Facebook allow you to set things like family status, location, age band and gender, among many other things.
Collecting Information About Prospects
Once you have identified prospects that match your ideal client profile, then it’s time to do some more careful analysis.
Before you make contact with or meet your prospect for the first time, you want to have some homework done.
The search resources in the previous section will work just as well for this step.
So, what is the difference?
Essentially, once you find a prospect that would suit your business or project, then you want to prepare yourself for a sales call or meeting.
With the first step of any sales process revolving around building a relationship and trust, you want to appeal to as much common ground as you can.
Start With A List Of What You Need
This will be slightly different between individuals and businesses, but the idea is basically the same.
For individuals you really want to try and see what you can find out about their background.
Are they married and do they have kids? Do they currently live somewhere that is no longer suitable? What kind of work do they do and where do they commute to?
This is all valuable information to know ahead of time, so that you can tailor your sales approach to it.
When you’re looking at dealing with a professional or business owner, then you need to make a different list of things you need to know. This will focus on things like past business deals and projects, size of the business, how long they’ve been operating, and what kind of budgets they work with.
In either case you should create a list of items and questions that you would ideally like to find out before meeting the prospects.
Identify Personal Details
We’ve mentioned this here before, and as a sales person you’ll know that building rapport and trust is one of the most important foundations to get right.
If you cannot build up a relationship with prospects fast, then you’re going to struggle and most likely fail in your sales pitch.
Whether you’re dealing with an individual or a business person, the best way to gain some trust is to find some common ground to talk about. Using social media is the best way to find out what someone’s interests are.
And for business owners you might be able to find out interests by checking if they do some local event and charity sponsorships.
The trickier part is to then try and steer the initial conversation in that direction without coming across as having spied on them.
Research Business Projects
When you’re prospecting for businesses to work with, one of the most important things to focus on is past projects.
The more you can learn about the nature of those transactions the more you can prepare yourself for a sales pitch.
When this information is all publicly available, then it can help you make a very good first impression to be able to talk about details of such deals.
What you want to know here is the size and structure of the deals as well as budgets, locations and anything that relates to why it was successful.
Business people like to make repeat success deals and when you can demonstrate that you understand why their past projects were successful, then it will help convince them to work with you.
Collecting data in this way is not that difficult, but it can be very time consuming. It’s also work that is ideally outsourced to a virtual assistant that can spend the hours searching the Internet and social media platforms.
If you need help with finding the right assistant for this kind of work, then talk to one of our team at Outsource Workers today.
Importance Of Finding The Decision Maker
This is probably one of the first rules to keep in mind when you’re doing a sales call. And it was probably a difficult lesson to learn for anyone that started in sales.
Before you start running through your sales process, you have to be sure that you are talking to someone that can actually make the decisions.
You could spend an hour creating great rapport, having a fun conversation and then running into an excellent sales pitch.
You know you’ve convinced them and dive into the close. Only to hear the dreaded words: “I don’t have the authority to make that decision, you’ll have to talk to my boss”.
Countless hours can be wasted if you don’t spend the time first to make sure you’re talking to the right person. This is vital when dealing with businesses, but can also happen with individuals, e.g. a married couple will likely be making decisions together.
To avoid having to go through the sales pitch twice you should make sure that both decision makers are present.
What Defines A Decision Maker?
The simplest way to define a decision maker, is to say they are the people with the power and authority to hire your services and pay for them.
In many situations this can be quite difficult to figure out, especially if you’re dealing with a company that has a lot of employees and management layers.
Just because you’re talking to a manager, doesn’t mean they can make purchasing decisions above certain valuations. The higher up the food chain you can get, the better your chances are that you’ve found the decision maker.
When it comes to individuals, it can be a little tricky as well. For couples it can be straightforward. You want to speak to both partners at the same time, as they will in most cases both have to sign.
But there can be situations where people seem to be buying on their own, but have a friend on the deal as well. Or maybe a parent is financing part of the purchase and they can influence the decision as well.
Why You Need To Deal With Them
Essentially, it’s to avoid wasting your time explaining yourself and your service to someone that doesn’t have the power to make a decision. Or at least not have the power to make the decision on their own.
In some business situations this can also mean setting up a meeting with multiple partners, especially if larger transaction amounts are involved.
Identifying all the decision makers is the best way you can set yourself up for success.
You should never rely on one decision maker to absorb your entire sales pitch and then perfectly repeat it to other partners.
When you’re faced with a situation where only one decision maker is available, you should always make arrangements to talk to all of them at the same time.
Identifying Multiple People
This is usually simple enough to do when dealing with an individual. You can actually come right out and ask if they are making the purchase on their own. If the answer is no, just recommend meeting with the other interested party as well.
That way you don’t have to repeat the same thing twice.
For businesses this can be a lot more difficult. Ideally you will always be aiming to talk to the owner, or owners.
But they may also be reliant on some of their support staff and managers. Before you dive into your sales pitch you should always probe to make sure that you are indeed talking to the right and full audience.
Simple Tools To Help You Store All The Data
Now that you understand how the prospecting process works, and what kind of information you need to collect it’s time to look at some technical information. Don’t worry, this won’t require advanced IT skills.
We’re simply going to look at some tools that you can use to store and analyse your data in a more effective way.
This doesn’t require a huge budget, and for most organisations the software tools you already use are going to be more than suitable for collecting all the information.
For larger scale prospecting it might be a better idea to investigate some more powerful tools, and we’ll take a look at some commonly used options.
One of the easiest ways to keep track of all the data is in spreadsheets.
People love them and hate them, but at the end of the day, they are pretty simple to use and chances are that you already have Excel installed on your office computers.
The good thing about excel is that it has some very powerful tools built in that allow you to easily analyse and display all your data.
The most basic features include sorting and filtering, but with a bit of research you can find a lot of other things like data management and pivot tables.
When you start out with spreadsheets, make sure you identify all your data points at the start. It can be very frustrating and time consuming to go back over all your prospects to find some specific item because you identified it too late.
Customer Relationship Management
If spreadsheets are becoming unmanageable for all your clients and vendors, and you also want to add in new prospects, then Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are one of your best solutions.
These are purpose built to keep track of all your clients and vendors, including contact info and anything you have recorded about them.
Any time you make a call to a client or have a meeting you can enter information about those conversations.
When these tools first came out, they were very expensive, and completely out of range of small and medium size business owners. However, technology has caught up and many excellent tools are now specifically available for smaller organisations.
Along with an affordable price tag, these tools are quickly replacing spreadsheets.
This can be a very good solution if you have a lot of data points and a lot of prospects to track. However, this is also going to be the most expensive solution for storing all the information.
The benefit is that you can customise it exactly to your needs and define the way the information is presented to you.
As a result, you can create dashboards that tell you in an instant what information you need in order to filter and identify very specific clients and prospects.
Planning, design, set up and maintenance will all take quite some time, effort and money.
But if you’re serious about your data gathering then this is an ideal solution.
Hiring A VA To Manage Prospecting
Planning, executing and gathering all prospecting data is a time consuming process. But when you put in the effort up front, it will pay off hugely during the actual sales conversations.
While you do need to be involved in the planning process of defining an ideal prospect, you should not involve yourself in the actual prospecting work. It is non-Dollar productive and very time consuming.
The best choice you can make is to outsource the work to a virtual assistant who is dedicated to the prospecting tasks. It is very cost effective and as long as you find the right candidate you will be able to have a hands off process in no time.
On our homepage we cover in detail how the process of hiring a VA works, so we won’t go into details here. We’ll just list out the specific requirements you’ll have for a prospecting VA.
Alternatively, you can contact one of our advisors at Outsource Workers to find out how quickly we can get the entire process completed for you.
By far the most important skill to focus on when hiring someone to do prospecting is the analytical process of searching for information online. This might sound like a simple skill to have, but there are very specific ways in which you can refine online search results to focus the information.
Your job description should specifically highlight the need for research skills, ideally in your industry. But if you struggle to find someone with specific experience that matches your business, then research skills alone will be fine.
Keeping data entry organised is another key skill and if you plan on using a customer relationship management system, then you can list that as a required experience as well.
During the interview you can best identify their skills by doing a practical test.
Using screen sharing software you can explain a certain ideal prospect type in your industry. You can then ask them to perform a few tasks to identify a couple of suitable prospects.
All this should be done while you watch them on screen. Also have them talk you through the process they are taking, as this will highlight how methodical they are.
A suitable candidate will likely start with a high level Google search. This then gradually becomes more specific as certain details about possible businesses become clear.
The interviewee should also focus on social media platforms to learn some unique info about the prospect they have identified and all this info should be recorded in a document. The better they are able to do this without guidance the more suitable they will be.
Outsource The Hiring Process
If hiring your own VA is not something you have experience with, or if you’re not familiar with the prospecting requirements, then the best thing you can do is outsource the entire process.
At Outsource Workers we can provide you with either an assistant from our pool of VAs, or we will hire one for you. With a highly effective team we can have you up and running in less than 2 weeks.
Through years of experience we have created a hiring process that results in very high success rates to make sure you end up with just the right person. It takes the guess work out of it for you and you don’t have to worry about all the minor details like holidays, sick pay and bonuses.
Just pick up the phone today and talk to one of our advisors about how quickly we can fill a gap for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some very common questions that we get asked all the time. But if you have further questions or concerns, then feel free to call us today for a free consultation to help you get set up.
How Much Does A Prospecting VA Cost?
If you want to go the easy route and have Outsource Workers take care of the hiring, payroll, holidays, sick leave and bonus payments, then you can get started from as little as $7 per hour.
This takes a huge burden off you and you receive a very simple monthly invoice for the hours you need.
How Long Does It Take To Hire A VA?
If you go through the process yourself and have never done it before, then you should expect it to take about 4 to 6 weeks. It’s also possible that you don’t end up with the right person, only to have to go through it again.
You can greatly reduce that risk, and speed up the process by partnering with Outsource Workers. We can have you up and running with your own dedicated VA in less than 2 weeks.
Will They Understand My Market And Location?
Filipino VAs are very familiar with Australian culture and the people we hire are filtered specifically by their knowledge of things going on in Australia and your specific area.
However, it is more important to focus on language skills and their ability to perform detailed research tasks independently. Learning the industry and location you’re in will take less time than learning prospecting skills.
How Much Training Is Involved?
Basic training about tools and general processes will be taken care of by us. The VA you are assigned will already have prospecting skills, so you should not expect to need to do any training in that area.
However, if you have specific requirements, tools, spreadsheets and of course prospect profiles, then you will need to meet with them to make sure they understand what it is you’re looking for.
At this stage you should understand how prospecting is done right and what is involved in the entire process. All you need now is a VA to take care of the work, so just get on the phone with one of our advisers to get you up and running in no time.