A Beginner’s Guide to Prospecting for New Business

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According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. Included in the “Top 10 reasons” is “lack of sales” or, as a recent Forbes article described it: having no clear marketing funnel.

You need to develop a way to cost efficiently attracts leads, then convert some of them. This seems so basic, but hundreds of thousands of businesses start with no clear marketing funnel and then have to rely on luck or referrals to get customers in through the door.

A marketing funnel is the process that brings prospective buyers into your sales cycle and enables you to close a deal within a specific time frame. Unfortunately, there is no one “silver bullet” that magically drops prospects into your sales funnel. Effective marketing is more like a team than a shotgun. And a key player on that team ought to be hunter-style prospecting. (That’s when you head into the jungle to eat what you kill.)

Prospecting for new business can seem like a terrifying proposition, so if landing new or better-paying clients is not mission-critical, feel free to avoid it. But unless you’ve built up an existing base of repeat clients, or you generate sufficient word-of-mouth recommendations, prospecting for new business is essential to your survival.

Prospecting involves creating conversations that lead to sales. Having a great blog and social media activity is all well and good. But unless they create conversations that lead to a steady stream of sales, you might be hiding behind marketing to avoid selling. If your conversation is not designed to bring the other person into your sales cycle and close a deal within a specific time frame, it’s not prospecting.

Using an “Interest-Creating Remark” to Set Sales Appointments

Here’s what those confronted with the need to “sell” their services don’t like to hear: that prospecting requires interrupting people. In order for that interruption to create a conversation, you need an interest-creating remark as an opener. Here are three approaches:

Quote a Trend or Statistic

You can use trends or statistics to grab a prospect’s attention:

Trend: “Mobile search is projected to surpass desktop searches in less than two years.”
Statistic: “61 percent of mobile consumers will leave a site that’s not mobile-ready.”

The problem with using facts and figures is that they don’t “grab” like we expect they should. In order for a statistic or trend, to be effective, you need to take it one step further and disturb their complacency.

Disturb their Complacency

While trends or statistics make perfect sense to you and me, the typical business owner fails to make the connection between how that fact or figure affects his bottom line. You must “connect the dot” to address the other person’s unspoken response of “So what? Why should I care?” Go ahead, shake him up a bit.

I noticed something about your website and I have a concern that you might be losing business to one of your closest competitors.

How so?

You don’t have a mobile website, but XYZ Company does. 61 percent of consumers will abandon a non-mobile site for a competitor’s whose is. You might be losing business to XYZ, without even knowing it.

Offer a Solution to an Assumed Need

Two recent surveys have revealed the following about the typical small business owner:

  • 76 percent of SMBs said “how to attract new customers” was their “top concern,” and 69 percent said it was “the #1 challenge” they face
  • The average business owner works more than 50 hours a week and sleeps less than seven hours a night

From this, you can “assume” that many SMBs are highly-concerned about attracting new customers, but are too time-strapped to do it themselves. Marketing Pilgrim put it like this:

For the small business owner, it’s all about ROE – Return on Effort. They already have their hands full with the day to day running of their business, so there’s little time left over for anything else. If all a person has to do is say “run it again” when the newspaper calls about their ad, that beats the hours it will take to learn about Promoted Tweets on Twitter.

Based on the above, can you fill in the blanks for an effective interest-creating remark?

We help business owners who are concerned about _______________________, but don’t have _______________________. Is that something you need help with?

It’s not What You Say …

Over the years, I’ve become convinced that at least half (if not more) of your success lies in how you say it. A mediocre interest-creating remark delivered well will win out over an outstanding one delivered badly.

Now’s not the time to exude passion. So be charming, be likable, be casual—even nonchalant. Just don’t be intense. You’ll just freak the other person out. And freaked-out prospects usually don’t agree to an appointment.

At least in my experience.

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John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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