Most sales coaching delivered by the sales manager is deal coaching, which happens when the sales person has engaged with the prospect and is in the process of establishing the facts, dealing with the competition, putting together the sales plan, etc. While this is likely to improve the chances of winning, there is one area of selling that most salespeople detest, but which is the bedrock of most business — prospecting.
Prospecting is often the part of the sales process that salespeople detest or fear the most. Once they break into an account and start to sell they feel at home, but the initial ‘cold calling’ and sometimes even before that, the prospect list, can be the worst part of sales. Strangely, this is the part that is often neglected from the coaching point-of-view, but could pay dividends in making the initial contact much easier.
With relatively low value sales of say $500 to $1000, the whole world may be your oyster and the yellow pages approach may be valid and get results. We’ve all probably had a call at home or in the office from somebody looking to sell a completely inappropriate product, such as somebody asking to speak to the underwear buyer in a shoe store. It demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of the company they are trying to sell to and that you are just a name on a general list. None of which is likely to lead to a meeting, or even a telephone conversation.
However, in the high value complex sale, with multi-million dollar deals, you have to narrow down the world to a few good possibilities. This involves asking a number of pertinent questions about how you narrow down the possibilities. What industries are most likely to have a need? What industry information is available online or in print? What data will point you in the direction of a more likely prospect? Where should you start making contact? How do you find out about the people? Why would they want to speak with you?
Many salespeople do some of this, but don’t do all the necessary background research, which means they can waste valuable time following up inappropriate leads. The result all too often is less time to spend with the better prospects.
Coaching the salesperson through this prospecting process, making sure they ask pertinent questions and know where and how to find the relevant information should mean the salesperson can spend more time on deals where there is a better chance of getting the order.