Whether you’re new to sales or an experienced sales leader, prospecting is integral to your current success and your future career growth trajectory.
A prospecting plan that’s strategic and worked consistently improves the quality and quantity of leads in your pipeline. When your pipeline has the right mix of quality and quantity, you’ll close more new business and expand your reach within your existing accounts.
Too frequently, sellers make the mistake of only seeking net-new prospects and not realizing the wealth of opportunities available to grow existing, loyal clients. After all, a loyal client feels an emotional connection to you and your firm, and that loyalty can pay off. The likelihood of selling to an existing loyal client is between 60-70%. The likelihood of selling to a new client is only 5-20%.
How can you uncover opportunities with your loyal clients, and also open the door with new prospects? Here are four strategies for accelerating your sales results over the next 90 days.
1. Leverage triggers
A trigger event is a potentially significant change to a client’s or prospect’s status quo that indicates a need for you to reach out. Below are some common triggers:
- Annual reports and investor briefs that outline strategic imperatives
- Board of Director changes
- Leadership changes
- Company-specific challenges
- Industry trends
One way to track triggers is with Google Alerts. You can build your search with company names, keywords, and individuals. The triggers will be delivered directly to your inbox. LinkedIn Navigator is another tool where you can build your account lists. You’ll see who is in your network, as well as various industry insights and individual posts that may provide trigger clues.
Once you know the trigger, the next important step is to strategize on how to address it. In a perfect world your product or solution may be the fit. But more importantly, you want to be seen as a business advisor, which will require you to think beyond your product or service. If you respond to triggers quickly and provide strategies and ideas that matter to your decision maker, you’ll increase your odds of earning that meeting.
2. Prioritize Key Prospects and Clients
A second strategy to build a quality pipeline is through prioritization. Modern sellers prioritize their key prospects and clients. One way to prioritize your focus is to organize them into three groups.
- Tier 1: This tier will have your top clients, warmest prospects, and your most strategic accounts.
- Tier 2: This tier contains clients and prospects where there may not be a currently opportunity, you may need to cultivate them further, or they have less strategic importance than the first tier.
- Tier 3: These are currently your lowest priority.
Beginning with Tier 1 prospects and clients build a relationship ecosystem, to help see the big picture of the necessary relationships. Think of a key prospect; these are some of the relationships needed in your ecosystem:
- Decision makers
- Internal centers of influence
- External centers of influence
- Strategic partners
- Staff members or end users
- Board of Directors
Once you’ve created this relationship ecosystem list, it’s time to create a strategy for connecting with them. A recommended cadence for reaching out to these contacts is as follows:
- Tier 1: monthly, or as triggers arise
- Tier 2: monthly to quarterly, or as triggers arise
- Tier 3: quarterly to every 6 months
Knowing it can take 8-12 touches to reach a prospect, it helps to have a balanced approach—phone, email and social media. With any interaction, the goal is to provide something of value to them, be it information, a resource, or an introduction. This begins to elevate you as someone trusted, credible, and focused on their business. A few ideas to help you succeed:
- Know your goal for the conversation.
- Provide value add in every interaction. Avoid “just touching base” or “checking in” – these phrases are low value and you’ll look like everyone else.
- Remember, this isn’t “closing a deal.” It’s advancing a relationship and helping them to solve a problem that’s memorable, meaningful, and consistent.
- Think about ways you can offer your network to assist the prospect.
3. Get Help from Centers of Influence
For any modern seller, centers of influence are critical to our strategic networks. Our networks are important to building a quality sales pipeline.
A center of influence is a person that’s well-connected and really understands the value of what it means to build networks. They get what you’re trying to accomplish, and they’re strategic thinkers. They’re willing to open doors for you, and to provide insights beyond what you might learn otherwise. It can also be an organization, one that provides an environment for you to build those strategic relationships.
Centers of influence can shorten the runway needed to reach an important decision maker or influencer or help you to better qualify an opportunity.
4. Build Accountability
The best sales pipeline plans are the ones you create and then consistently follow. Consistency and accountability will help you see better results not only in the next quarter, but over your sales year. Some ways you can increase your accountability include:
- Invest 2-4 hours per week cultivating your Tiers and Network Ecosystem. Even this small time block, when worked consistently, will help you see results. It’s most effective to block 1-2 hour increments to keep focus.
- Track your results every quarter, so you can adjust your Tiers, your Network Ecosystem, or your messaging.
- Find an accountability partner, someone with similar goals and create a cadence where you can check in with one another.
Strategic prospecting is as much a mindset as it is a set of activities. It’s about the prospect and what they’re working to solve (versus it being about you and what you sell). It positions you as a strategic, credible advisor to clients and prospects. This mindset will help you not only fill your sales pipeline; you’ll fill it with quality sales opportunities.
This is a guest contribution by Amy Franko.
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