The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Prospecting

Dictionary.com defines a prospect as “a
potential or likely customer.” By extension, prospecting is the act of
searching for potential or likely customers in hopes of setting up an initial
meeting.

How salespeople go about prospecting varies by
industry, product or service, and personality. Here are just a few ways in
which salespeople tackle prospecting:
  1. Cold calls – Getting on the phone and asking
    to speak to a decision maker.
  2. Mailings – We all get marketing fliers and brochures in
    the mail where businesses hope we’ll respond.
  3. Email blasts – It’s easy to find email
    addresses to build a database. This approach is more effective than mailings
    because you can send the same message to hundreds or thousands at a time with
    little effort or cost.
  4. Door hangers – Bypass the mailbox and go
    door-to-door leaving marketing material.
  5. Door-to-Door – It used to be the case that
    salespeople simply knocked on doors to meet people and sell their wares. This
    is a very time consuming and expensive approach!
  6. Internet – You can search by various criteria
    to see who or what businesses in a geographic area fit your customer profile
    with a goal of target marketing.
  7. Conventions – Going to some event where you
    set up a booth and interact with customers.

 

The list could go on and on and I’m sure
you’re thinking of a way or two to prospect that I’ve not touched on. Creative
prospecting means doing something to stand out from the crowd, something that
makes people take note and listen to you when they’re not paying attention to others.
The focus of this article is not to cover the
different ways of looking for customers. The purpose is to talk about the
principles of influence that will give you the best chance to stand out using
whatever approach is best for you. You have one overriding goal when you’re
prospecting – to get an initial meeting with a potential decision maker.
When you’re requesting time with someone, did
you know they’re listening to their favorite radio station? That’s right, they’re
tuned on to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? In other words, with all the other
salespeople who would like their business why should they meet with you?
First and foremost, and this can’t be
emphasized enough, you have to believe in your company and product. Will doing
business with you make the prospect better off in the long run? If you don’t
believe it will, if you doubt your company or product, prospects will sniff you
out like an animal smells fear. It’s a survival instinct. For the sake of this
series I’m going to assume you have that belief in your company, product and
your potential to help the customer.
Knowing the prospect is uncertain about
whether or not to give you consideration, the three principles that come into
play most prominently when prospecting are consensusauthority and scarcity.It’s natural for the vast majority of people
to feel comfortable going along with the crowd. That’s the principle of
consensus at work. It’s natural because we look to others when we’re not 100%
certain of the course of action we should take. Just remember the old adage,
“There’s safety in numbers.”

In your marketing material, emails, phone calls,
etc., can you tap into this principle by talking about all customers you
already serve? The more you have, the more that consensus comes into play. Allstate Insurance did this effectively many years ago when its spokesman Dennis Haysbert stood in the Rose Bowl
and said 100,000 people would watch a game there on Saturday. He went on to say
Allstate filled the stadium ten times with the number of people who made the
switch last year. When more than one million customers switch insurance
companies you can bet many viewers called an Allstate agent or went online to
compare!
If you don’t have a huge number, or even of
you do, it’s always more effective when you can point out customers or clients
who are just like the prospect you’re talking to. After all, dealing with a
restaurant owner can be very different than dealing with a grocery store owner,
or hotel manager for example. When talking to one of those business owners, if
you can refer to other restaurants, grocery stores or hotels you do business
with, the prospect will feel more comfortable and you’ll gain much more
credibility.
Speaking of credibility, the other principle
of influence that comes into play is authority. When people are unsure what to
do, quite often they want to defer to an expert, someone they view as having
superior knowledge or wisdom. This can be conveyed through your title, years in
business or years of experience, awards you’ve won, degrees you’ve earned,
credentials and designations. Any opportunity to get this information in front
of a prospect conveys you have expertise. It’s a strong reason for them to
consider meeting with you as opposed to someone who lacks expertise or has not
conveyed their expertise.

 

The last principle that could come into play
is scarcity. It’s a natural response to want things more when we
believe we can’t get them anywhere else. Does your company, product or service
have something unique or a combination of features that make it unique? This is
important because you want the prospect to see he/she can’t get something
exactly like what you’re offering anywhere else. If so, and you point it out so
they understand what they might lose by not considering you, that might be
enough for them to give you that initial meeting.

So the three principles to thoughtfully
consider as you approach potential clients during the prospecting phase of the
sales cycle are: consensus, authority and scarcity. Engage any or all of these
ethically and correctly and you should land more initial meetings with
prospects.

Next time we’ll look at the initial meeting
with a prospect and how to leverage that opportunity using the principles of
influence.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

 

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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC. A dynamic keynote speaker, trainer, coach, and consultant, he specializes in applying the science of influence and persuasion in business and personal situations. He is one of only 20 individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer® (CMCT®) designation. This specialization in the psychology of persuasion was earned directly from Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. – the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of ethical persuasion. Brian’s passion is helping people achieve greater professional success and enjoy more personal happiness. He does this by teaching people how to ethically move others to action through the science of persuasion.
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