Developing New Business: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Prospecting

With competition becoming fiercer, many com­panies are rely­ing more and more on developing new busi­ness to make their bottom line. For many sales­people who pros­pered in the past, this shift in strat­egy is a real dilem­ma. Why? Because for many of these salespeople, prospecting has become something of a lost art.

As one sales manager said, “Many of my sales­peo­ple have never had to make a cold call. The thought of hav­ing to do so have made some of them break into a cold sweat. The reality is they are facing the task of actual­ly selling some­thing, instead of just taking orders.”For these salespeople it has become “prospect or parish”.

For those who need to jump on the prospecting band wagon fast I’ll outline four simple principles and four proven strategies to ignite your new business development initiatives.

There is nothing magical about effec­tive pros­pect­ing. In fact, it requires four principles:

  1. Focus- talk to the right people.
  2. Discipline- make it a habit, not an ex­cep­tion.
  3. Persistence- stay with it.
  4. Resilience- don’t take it personal­ly.

Based on the research done in sever­al sales organi­za­tions, I’ve found four sales strategies that were common among top new busi­ness devel­op­ers. This research covered many in­dus­tries including automo­tive, broad­casting, soft­ware, security, healthcare, and others. In field re­search, evaluations by man­agement and self-assessment exercis­es, the top new business producer scored signifi­cantly higher in these four strategies than their less produc­tive associates. Top new busi­ness devel­opment people: use these prospecting strategies:

1. Know who their best prospects are. They recognize that not all prospects are equal and that different prospects respond to different app­roach­es. If you prospect for “C” ac­counts, you’ll build a business of “C” accounts. If you want “A” accounts, you have to know what they look like and what they’re looking for. This is ac­complished by profiling your existing clients and really understanding thing such as:

  • What they bought.
  • Why they bought.
  • How much and how often they buy.
  • Why they continue to buy.
  • What would stop them from buying?

Asking these questions of your “A, B, and C” accounts should give you several critical differences that will allow you to recognize potential “A, B and C” accounts early in the sales process. Doing so lets you decide on the acquisi­tion strategy that is best suited for each type of account. Remember, in prospect­ing you usually get what you look for. So, be sure you look for the type of account you really want.

2. Develop multiple sources of prospecting. For many salespeople, prospecting either means picking up the phone with a list of names or walking up and down the street knocking on doors. Although these are staples of the prospecting arsenal, they are best used with other approaches. Top perform­ing salespeople develop a multi-faceted system that expands their prospecting net and leverages their time and resources. Some of the more common prospecting activities include:

  • Telemarketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Cold Calling (face-to-face/by phone)
  • Advertising
  • Speeches
  • Public Relations
  • Lead Clubs
  • Seminars
  • Personal Networking
  • Contacting Inactive Clients
  • Newsletters
  • Community Involvement
  • Referral Programs
  • Webinars
  • Tele-seminars
  • Lunch and learn
  • Dinner seminars

The key is determining which activities are best suited for the type of prospect you want. For example, a mortgage broker found tremendous success targeting selected neighborhoods and hang­ing doorknob flyers followed up with a phone call. Be creative and always be on the lookout for a new way to gain access to your best prospects.

3. Develop a prospecting strategy that utiliz­es your unique competitive advantage. Pros­pecting is essentially a salesperson’s personal marketing plan and the key to marketing is differentiation. Most sales­people don’t understand the power differ­entiating themselves can have on their success. Their approach to prospecting is to offer buyers a non-descriptive and unfocused plea for business that offers no specific value, benefit or service. Their approach is often little more than, “Buy from me because I’m here.” In today’s competitive marketplace, that simply isn’t good enough.

To be successful, salespeople like a busi­ness must differentiate or “position” themselves to take best advantage of available marketing niches. To do this, they must develop their own Strategic Selling Advantage (SSA). A SSA is based on a variety of unique strengths or advantages, but it must meet the following test:

  • Clearly differentiate you from the com­petition
  • Addresses a real need
  • Describes a feature or benefit you can deliver. Successful companies, such as Federal Express, understand the power of having and delivering on a SSA. After all, who do you think of “When it absolutely has to get there overnight?”
  • Develop a prospecting mindset.Prospecting is a little like being on the high wire act without the net. Contact­ing prospects who are unknown puts you at risk of rejection and surprises. Once you contact them, anything can happen. To prevent getting shell-shocked, take the following actions:
  • Concentrate on making a number of prospecting calls during one set time. This allows them to get “in the grove.”
  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind before they start making pros­pecting calls.
  • Always devote a specified amount of time each week to developing new busi­ness.
  • Play the numbers. Remember pros­pecting is equal parts of skill, effort, timing, and luck.
  • Do most of their prospecting at times when prospects are available (prospecting Prime Time).
  • Have a plan for each prospecting call.
  • Use a friendly and personalized ap­proach for each call.

Developing new business is a skill that you must develop in a competitive marketplace. To increase your prospect­ing effec­tive­ness, you must make it a habit and incorpo­rate each of the four strategies into your daily routine. What you’ll discover is, that the more you do it, the better you’ll get. And, as your effectiveness increases, so will your sales results.

For more information on how to increase your new business development effectiveness go to: