Many sales reps and managers complain that they can’t create a consistent
flow of revenues or commissions month after month. Instead of a nice,
straight line increasing consistently over time like an upwards pointing
arrow, they find themselves staring repeatedly at sales results that
look more like a hockey stick: nothing for two months, a sharp increase
for a month or two, then back down again to nothing a month later.
So what can you do to keep your sales funnel full of leads, to ensure
a consistent, reliable flow of revenues all year round?
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a lack of consistent revenues
– the "hockey stick syndrome" – is caused by a lack of consistent
prospecting. A failure to prospect on a regular basis will inevitably
result in irregular revenues, and inconsistent commissions. It’s that
This is especially true when we’re doing well. It can be so easy
to forget about prospecting when we’re wrapped up with following a
dozen or so hot leads, who are demanding lengthy proposals and multiple
meetings, conference calls, demonstrations and references. But this
is precisely the time when we need to be prospecting, to ensure that
steady sales flow doesn’t suddenly dry up.
Yes, prospecting can be a difficult and, for many people, daunting
task. The simple fact is, not all sales reps like doing it. But I’ve
yet to meet a top sales professional for whom prospecting hasn’t played
a pivotal role in their success.
And let’s face it, prospects don’t fall from the sky. We have to
work at getting them consistently, so we can close sales consistently.
After all, even if you’ve mastered all the questioning, closing and
objection handling techniques in the world, you’ll still almost certainly
fail if you don’t have any prospects to use them with!
So if you find prospecting always somehow slips to the bottom of
your "To Do" list, here are 12 Tips to help you ensure your
sales funnel is consistently full of leads:
- Sell more products to existing customers. This can include selling
additional quantities of the same product, selling add-on services
or products from your existing portfolio, or introducing your existing
customers to a new product they might be interested in. To get started,
plan to stay in touch with your current customers through a combination
of direct (phone calls) and indirect (email, direct mail) methods
about once every six weeks, with the goal of selling them additional
products or repeat orders. Just don’t go overboard, or you may cross
that magical line between persistence, and stalking.
- Set a goal for the number of networking events you will attend
each month, and the number of new people you’d like to meet at each
event. Then don’t leave until you’ve collected that many business
- Reward yourself for closing new business. Treat yourself to a
trip to the spa, your favorite Bordeaux or dinner out at that great
little Italian restaurant. Remember: what gets rewarded, gets repeated.
- Take a look at opt-in email lists. Set up a targeted email marketing
campaign to acquaint potential new customers with your company or
products, then follow up by phone.
- Ask your current customers for referrals. The key is to be as
specific as possible. For example, don’t just adopt a generic, "do
you know anyone who" approach. Instead, make a list of all
the companies or people you’d like to meet, approach any existing
customers who might have a contact at those new prospects, and then
simply ask: "Mr. Customer, I’ve been trying to get hold of
the VP of Marketing at ABC Corporation – you don’t happen to know
them, do you?" If it’s one of their business partners or associates,
or even just a firm that’s in the same industry or building, chances
are your customer will know the person you want to meet, and will
probably be only too happy to make the introduction.
- Go for a walk or drive around your territory, and take a look
at who is in the neighborhood. Then, try making some face-to-face
cold calls. The change of perspective can be refreshing, and you
never know when you will find business in the least likely of places.
- Make a habit of having lunch, coffee or breakfast with at least
one new person each week. Share ideas, and give them any leads that
might help them first.
- Write articles for relevant on-line or print publications your
prospects might read. It’s not as hard to get published as you might
think, and once you’ve been published once, it only gets easier.
Just make sure to retain full rights to your articles by not being
paid to write them. Then, once they’ve been published, send an email
or mailing to your prospects and clients inviting them to read them.
Plus, try sending your articles to larger publications, too – trust
me, they don’t bite, and if your article is accepted, you can’t
beat the added credibility and visibility.
- Volunteer to speak at trade shows and conferences. As a rule of
thumb, you should speak at every trade show where you exhibit. This
will increase your credibility, and drive traffic to your booth.
Even if you aren’t exhibiting, you should still submit a proposal
for a workshop or showcase. If you secure a speaking spot, let your
customers know that you’ll be there, and when they can see you.
Then invite prospects to visit you at the show, and set specified
times for meeting people at your booth. That way, you will get a
steady flow of traffic, and others will be attracted to your booth
to see why so many people are gathered there.
- Be excellent at what you do. Word travels fast, so do everything
you can to make sure that all the talk about you is positive!
- If possible, join the trade associations or organizations your
clients and prospects belong to. Not only will these associations
keep you up to date on what’s happening in the industries you sell
to, they’ll also provide you with a great opportunity to meet key
people on a regular basis. To build a successful network, be sure
to attend the meetings as often as possible – not just once or twice
- Lastly, for a cost-effective way to keep your name in front of
potential clients, try sending mailings to prospects, complete with
relevant items of interest. Send these mailings about once every
6 weeks, and you’ll also benefit by learning when key people in
the organization leave their positions due to a promotion, reassignment
or departure for a new company.
Of course, this isn’t a complete list of all the possible ways to
build your network and find new prospects. But they are some time-honored
ideas that I’ve found work for almost every business or situation
And remember, you don’t need to pursue all of these ideas at once
to become a successful prospector. In fact, it might be unproductive
to do so! But at any one time, you should be involved in at least
four of these twelve techniques, and make sure that the four you choose
change as your company – and your clients – evolve.
The key is to make prospecting a regular habit. By committing a set
amount of time each day, every week towards meeting new people, in
the long run, your sales funnel will be more full than you can handle,
and your "hockey stick" revenues will be a thing of the