Any sales person will say that to make a strong sales pipeline, you need a strong list of prospects. It is easy to say that you need prospects, but how do you get these prospects? If you have a list of 50 prospects, then those prospects will soon be worked on and you will need more people and more leads to work on. Thus, this article outlines 5 such sources of prospects which are evergreen and you can find the necessary leads at any given point of time from these 5 prospect sources.
5) Cold calling
This is the 5th best source of prospect for a sales person. Cold calling is a tough job and not for the faint hearted. If you cant handle too much rejection, then don’t try cold calling. This single tactic will cause you to leave the sales job altogether. But here is a fun fact to get you motivated. When i started my career, i was a sales executive. And do you know, 60% of my leads came from cold calls. This does not mean that the conversion was high. Out of 100 people i met, only 6-7 would convert. However, those 6-7 customers were important for business.
The basics of cold calling are very sound. You get to know the actual potential of the customer when you visit his office, and sometime’s, depending upon your company’s product and brand, the customer might even convert immediately. This is when you get your elevator pitch going and snag the customer. Sounds tough, but if you are out of ideas for sources of prospects, then you better polish your boots and start with cold calling. Trust me, you will find prospective customers which cannot be found in any excel file.
4) Trade directories
Trade directors are generally regional and if that’s the kind of information you need, then trade directories are always filled with fresh information and with recently active trade people. Thus, trade directories can be an excellent source of prospects for you. Through trade directories, you get the addresses, contact number as well as contact person (if the directory is a detailed one).
If your region is a large one, then i suggest you get hold of multiple trade directories and contact each one in turn. This will free you for months at times. However, one thing you have to ensure is that if you find a lead from the trade directory, then you have to immediately meet them and convert them to prospects. Because you will be contacting prospects of trade directories on phone, this method will have a short recall time for the customer. And the customer might not remember you when you come calling.
3) Online sources
Aren’t trade directories and online directories the same thing? No they are not. Trade directories will be restricted in their approach because they will be based on one trade and in one region only. Online searching and online directories are a better and more productive prospect source. Similarly, websites are very important too as a prospect source. You need to ensure that your website, your office, your customer care number, all have the process in place to take enquiries and cross selling opportunities from existing customers. Another thing you have to take into consideration here are advertisements.
The web nowadays has articles sponsored by companies. Or articles based on companies. Whenever you come across such articles, these companies can become excellent prospects for your business. Say you are reading an article on startups in the garment sectors, and if you provide raw material for this sector, then aren’t the startups a lead for your product? Thus, following such sites and getting to know about latest business activities and latest startup companies is an excellent source of getting future prospects. For this, you need to be proactive. The advantage here is that just by reading a few articles and following a few sites, you can get the best customers in the business.
What better sources for future prospects then leads who themselves want to buy your product? Enquiries are the second best sources of prospects. In fact, so many companies over the world, train their sales executives specially to handle enquiries in the right manner. If cold calling has a conversion rate of 5-10%, then enquiries will have a conversion rate of at least 30-50% and even 70% in the long run. This is because the customer is already in a mind to purchase, and if he is handled properly, and the right information is presented to him in the right manner, it is very likely that the customer will continue with the purchase of the product. He might not buy immediately, but he can very well be a prospect even 6 months down the line and might become a customer 1 year down the line.
A prospect is a prospect as long as he has a requirement. And people who make enquiries, are people who have a requirement. These enquiries might come to you from your own department, your website contact form, your customer care center, your enquiry panel or your friends and family. If you are in a small business, and if you do not have any of the above, then you are missing out on a big source of prospect for your business. But in general, in my past career in sales, i have focused the most on enquiries because of one fact – enquiries give good customers.
1) Existing customers
Who do you go to when you need advice? Your friend and family? And if your basics are right, then who is your friend when you are in a sales field? That’s right, its your existing customer. If you treat your existing customers right, give the proper after sales service, and stay in touch with them over time, then a single customer will in his lifetime at least hand over 5 enquiries to you. If you have a 100 happy customers, you can have 500 reference enquiries. If you have a 1000 customers…, well you do the math. Existing customers are the biggest source of prospects. Why? Existing customers generate word of mouth, the strongest kind of marketing which no other media vehicle can create. A single word from your friend to buy products from X company, can help you make your decision. So when you need prospects, a single hour with an existing customer can give you many prospect sources.
Take the field of insurance for example. Or network marketing. The complete field depends on word of mouth and reference generation. How would these references be possible if you don’t take care of your existing customers? Why do banks spend so much on customer retention and cross selling? Only because of one reason. An existing customer does not give business only once. He has a complete customer lifetime value which means the value a single customer can bring for the company over his lifetime. In sales, if you understand that a customer is not for a single enquiry, then you are surely to be a very very successful sales person.
In general, the above 5 sources of prospects will never desert you. Be it any field or any business, the above 5 prospects sources will always be present in your line and you can use all of them to generate excellent leads, follow up with them to make them prospects, and then finally close them to get customers.