How do I prospect for clients?

The other day I had the opportunity to begin researching a large account for prospecting. It had been a while since I engaged in this sort of activity, but after years of practice old habits kicked in. My journey from sales rep to sales leader included my side streets, sales training, marketing manager, product director. I came up in sales before the sales enablement market even began. The most enablement I had early in my career was a list of names for prospecting.

While researching, I was grateful for the development of the internet and the fingertip availability of information. It struck me that perhaps outlining some of the old school prospecting and research techniques, might be useful for today’s generation of complex B2B sellers.

It would be trite and unfair to use some of the common blanket sayings of today:
“AI is going to replace everyone.”
“Cold calling is dead.”
“Nobody knows how to sell anymore.”
“Relationship selling is dead.

However, it does seem there is an over-reliance on the ever-expanding stack of “Sales Enablement, MarTec and some vague definition of “Social Selling” as the Holy Grail. I can say with certainty that there is no Holy Grail, Silver Bullet, or Magic Elixir for success in selling except client-focused, hard work to deliver more than you promised. Sometimes even that is not enough to win deals.

So if you are trying to find more customers and you have somewhat of a complex sales process, here is what I have used over the years to find an angle or edge to discuss how I can help the client create value. I think of it as finding an edge to create value.

It all begins with a question about the client.

Who is my client?
What problem can I solve for the client?
Who at the account might have this problem?
How might their job get better if I solve this problem?
What resources or actions might they need to take to create a project to solve this problem?

The first step in the process is to answer this question:

Who is my best client?
Our clients are people.  They are not MQL’s or SQL’s.  To engage with them, you must think about them as people. Develop an imaginary person with a name, characteristics, behaviors, and, issues that represents your ideal client. Everything your real potential clients will have. If your business already has a great customer, one who would gladly tell others about how well you have solved their issues, make that person your best fit or ideal client. Picture this person in your head and then answer the next question.

What problem can I solve for the client?
Forget all the marketing and engineering terminology, and, view the problem from the client’s perspective. What does the problem look like from the client’s perspective? What problem will you solve? Will you lower their budget expenses? Will you help them improve their operations? Will you improve safety in a specific area?
Think exclusively regarding the clients win. Also, think in term of how might the client go about understanding this issue or problem? What research will they have completed grasping this issue? How much knowledge do they have and how much research have they completed? Hopefully, you have some form of nurturing or ad campaign that has influenced their thinking. If not, you will have additional educational steps.

Where do I find this client?

What are the businesses in your territory where this person works?  Where is this person in your current accounts? Whom do you know in your network that can get you access to this person? You need to figure where this person hangs out and what interests them.  Then go there and be interesting.

Can you demonstrate how their job or business will change with your solution? Think past features and benefits and into outcomes.

Build this into a narrative or story so your client a place herself in the role of the hero.  How might their job get better if I solve this problem?  An even stronger motivator is fear.  What happens if they don’t solve this issue?

What resources or actions might they need to take to create a project to solve this problem?
Layout the steps and build your client a map. Then, ask how they look to your ideal client character or persona.
Imagining what they will have to accomplish to make this work builds empathy. It creates alignment with your client’s goals, and we win once our clients succeed.

These are the first five questions I begin to ask to create and execute a contact strategy. This list is not exclusive or exhaustive, but it has proven successful. Use this approach to start the process of identifying a set of potential clients and building a plan to contact them with a value proposition about their business.

Communicating in the voice of your client’s success will increase your effectiveness and win rates.

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