Editor’s note: I met Ken Thoreson several years ago while hosting a webinar, and his down-to-earth, practical suggestions and approachable way of phrasing discussions were a real breath of fresh air. He’s not one to get caught up in the jargon of sales – not that he lacks the opportunity to indulge. The author of five books, including SLAMMED! for First Time Sales Managers, and a widely-read blog YourSalesManagementGuru, Ken’s approach is to “operationalize” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the “fresh zone” – something that every sales organization needs every once in a while.
Sales-marketing-prospecting

We talk a lot about sales and marketing alignment and the idea of the two sides working together as a team. That means that sales will invariably contribute to the discovery of leads – through prospecting. And while better data collection from marketing will mean better leads (and less prospecting), that’s no reason for salespeople to ignore the potential they encounter while doing their jobs. Here’s Ken’s take on what prospecting should look like in the future:

Last week during a client’s sales meeting we got into a discussion regarding pipeline values. Needless to say, the number of prospects and dollar values were insufficient to achieve the overall corporate revenue objectives. Several of the salespeople blamed marketing for not generating enough quality leads (ever hear that before?) and as the discussion of “territory development” evolved several of the salespeople simply didn’t feel it was their responsibility to prospect because of the futility of cold calling/phone calling and event marketing.

In many organizations, marketing is expected to develop leads via a well-messaged nurturing campaign with a quality data base with an objective to set-up the salesperson with a highly qualified opportunity. In this format, there may be a series of marketing campaigns, tele-sales people and a well-designed CRM reporting system. In other organizations, there is limited marketing of this nature with an expectation that sales will build relationships that lead to additional business opportunities. The question is, as a sales manager, how should you structure your sales team’s expectations around prospecting?

First, it depends. What is your sales process? Are you selling large accounts with a complex sales cycle or are you more transactional with short sales cycles selling to small business? Are you territory based or have open territories? Your business type will alter what works.

Second, it is my belief that salespeople need to prospect continually. The real question is how.

I have listed below a few ideas with a brief description simply because of space, if you have questions on the specifics, just ask!

  • Networking: every salesperson should attend one event a month. This is not negotiable.
  • Circles of Influence: develop a list of individuals who can influence your sales opportunities or who can refer business to you. Depending upon your business these could be CPAs, commercial real estate brokers, contractors, architects, etc. Each of these individuals need to be contacted at least once a quarter.
  • LinkedIn: read my blog on Acumen Power Networking or ask me for it: Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.
  • 20/20 plan: each salesperson sends two distinct direct mail pieces referring to your products/services to 20 suspects; 20 pieces one week, 20 the next week. The third week the salesperson calls the 20 suspects. This process is repeated each week.
  • Thought leadership events: schedule one breakfast event a month with a topic based upon thought leadership marketing. This event is driven by marketing, but the salesperson is responsible to call/invite individuals to the meeting. This gives the salesperson a reason and message to communicate to their prospects/suspects.
  • Referral: the salesperson should ask their customers for referrals twice a year.
  • Bus-ecosystem: each salesperson should develop relationships with 3-5 other salespeople who sell non-competitive, but related products/services into a common marketplace.
  • Who you know list: each salesperson should create a list of everyone they know – friends, business associates, professionals. This is a good sales meeting idea to come up with “titles” of individuals your sales team might know. Then make sure they know what you do and what problems you solve using a personal letter.
  • Review calendars: It’s a good thing for this time of year, too: review your calendars for the past 12 months. You might find someone you had forgotten to follow up on.

That’s a good starter list, what prospecting ideas are you using that are working? Care to share? Let’s build up a comprehensive list so that everyone can finish the year strong and be in position to make 2015 your best year ever.

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