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Prospecting Strategies (part 2)

Prospecting: Using Personal Marketing to Generate Leads

Prospecting-that essential activity that generates leads and helps ensure a continued source of potential business-has two categories:

Outgoing Prospecting and Incoming Prospecting. Outgoing Prospecting concerns the ways in which you can initiate contact with prospects regardless of whether they have a current need for your product or service. Incoming Prospecting, on the other hand, concerns the methods used to gain visibility with your best potential customers through personal marketing techniques so that prospects will contact you when they're in the market for your product or service.

There are several reasons for making the distinction between the two categories.

First, you have a much higher degree of control over your outgoing efforts. You can run ads in a hundred publications, but if no one calls, you have no prospects. On the other hand, the quality of incoming leads that can be generated is usually much higher. Since they called you, they are selecting themselves as prospects for you, which usually means that they have an identified need and they want your help in determining whether or not your product or service will fill their need.

Outgoing Prospecting

Let's first take a look at the ways in which you can initiate contact with prospects regardless of whether they have a current need or not. There are numerous ways to uncover new markets and establish new business contacts. There is no best strategy. Find the ones that work best for you, your product or service, your company and your industry.

Satisfied Customers

These are people with whom you have business relationships. They should be systematically contacted to see if additional needs exist. Keep in mind different departments, divisions, parent companies and other spin-offs of your customers. In addition, when your company introduces new products or services, your entire customer list becomes a prospect list. At least once a year you should go through your customer list and a list of your products and services to see if new opportunities exist.

Company Leads

Often your company will provide leads from ads, direct mail responses, telephone campaigns and other valuable sources. These leads are generally high quality because the prospect has already expressed an interest in your company.

Centers of Influence

Centers of influence are prominent people in your community who can direct you toward new prospects. A center of influence may be a priest, rabbi, minister, congressperson, attorney, banker or influential person.

Focus on building a trusting relationship with them before asking for referrals. Be sure they know the benefits you have provided other customers. Let them know your goals so that they can be aware of the kind of prospects you are looking for. Give them a formal presentation describing your product or service. Provide them with an extensive list of testimonials, personal and business references, and a professional résumé.

Centers of influence are only interested in referring those salespeople who will not undermine their reputations. Be sure to report back to the cent of influence after you contact the person they referred to you. And finally, find a professional way to reciprocate or to say, "thank you."

Orphan Accounts

These are former customers who, for some reason, have stopped buying. Often it is because the salesperson who was handling their account has left the company or they may have stopped doing business with the company because of a product or service problem. If you can solve the problem, you have a good chance of winning back the account for yourself. These accounts represent a gold mine!

Directories

There are innumerable directories to the businesses in your industry and geographical location. The local library and chamber of commerce are invaluable resources.

Tip Clubs

This networking organization of local business professionals from different industries who meet regularly to exchange referrals or "tips."

Speeches and Seminars

This is a great way to reach a large number of prospective customers in a short period of time. Offer free or low cost seminars. But remember, as a speaker, your goal is to educate, not to sell. You want to make them enlightened buyers, and you want them to recognize and remember you as an expert in this field, so that when they are ready to buy, they come to you.

Trade Shows

Participate in trade shows, as either an attendee or an exhibitor. This is an excellent way to meet people and learn about the latest developments in your area. Which ones do your best customers attend?

Incoming Prospecting

Now let's take a look at ways in which you can gain visibility with your best potential customers. Developing such visibility will also give you name recognition with prospect during cold calls.

To gain high visibility so that prospects will contact you when they're in the market for your product or service and to establish an aura of expertise, there are a number of strategies you can use:

Public Relations


Join organizations to meet people who fit the profile of your best customers, so you can make them aware of your company and your product. You'll find almost all of the local non-profit organizations are run by the movers and shakers in your community. But don't volunteer for just the business contacts. Do it for the personal growth it will provide and the connection with your community that you will feel. The business contacts will take care of themselves. Involvement in your community by your company as well as yourself are the best ways to engage in public relations. Some ideas: sponsor a youth sports team, donate equipment to a local school, etc.

Publicity

This strategy is aimed at generating favorable news coverage for you, your company and your products. You do not pay for publicity, at least not directly. You can write press releases about yourself, (perhaps your recent promotion ) or your company (introducing a new product, for example) and send it in to the local newspaper, directed to the business section. You might even write a column in a target trade journal, magazine, newsletter or newspaper, or even letters-to-the-editor, to generate positive visibility.

Industry Participation

Join an association in your best target market industry. This helps you find out about trends and issues important to your best customers. Also, contact other related trade associations for their membership list. Participate on committees to "rub elbows" with the centers of influence in your key target industries.

Newsletters

Start a newsletter for your customers. The key is to make it 'newsy'-so it has some value to the reader. Keep it short and be sure to include some cartoons or pictures for variety and interest.

Advertising Specialties

Pens, mugs, caps, etc. - there are thousands of ad specialty items available, but the key to using ad specialties is to find a gift your customer will actually use or keep on his desk that will be a powerful reminder of you and what you do. You can also use these in your direct mail packages.

Articles

Publish an article in a trade journal that your best potential customers might read. It immediately establishes you as an expert. Many publications pay an honorarium for each article they publish. What we often do is exchange the honorarium for an ad in the same issue where our article appears. It's a double whammy that really increases visibility and sales.

Personal Advertising

You regularly see ads for products but rarely see ads by salespeople promoting themselves and their products or service. If you want to have a competitive advantage in your industry or in your market area, think like an independent business person. Depending on your target market and your company policy, you may want to run newspaper or magazine ads, or put your picture in the yellow pages.

Whatever sources you use, the key to good lead generation is planning. Remember, generating leads is a long term activity that must be continuous if you are to be a successful salesperson.

To make sure that your visibility strategies are all working together, you'll need a plan. The worksheet on the next page will help you plan a strategy for gaining visibility which will, in turn, help you generate a flow of leads in each of your 'best' target markets. When implementing this process, you should aim for a minimum of four different exposures to each target group. Evaluate the plan from time to time. You'll get great results with some activities, less with others. Build on what works and modify what doesn't.

When you effectively use these personal visibility ideas, you'll find that little by little, people will start to recognize your name, your company, your product and your face. Pretty soon the phone will start to ring for you, and your image as an established expert will take hold. That's the power of personal marketing and one more competitive advantage for you!

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