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Sales Prospecting and a Targeted Selection Process
By Jeff Hardesty, President, JDH Group, Inc.

Who Are You Calling On and Why?

What's a Targeted Selection Process? As related to prospecting, it is a process or system of defining whom you want to call on and performing the due diligence of data procurement to understand who you are calling on and why you have chosen them.

It can be as simple as choosing an industry, picking a company name out of the yellow pages, understanding the appropriate level of contact to call on, and investigating a name that goes with the title.

Or it can be as complex as an expensive CRM (customer relationship management) system for existing customers, defining market share of your product portfolio and routinely touching the existing base to broaden the revenue pond.

But here's what's important to understand. Your Targeted Selection Process is a separate component of your sales strategy. It stands by itself.

But it is directly allied with your other Sales performance indicators. The degree of success you'll have in the business of sales is proportional to raising and maintaining these success indicators to a level more proficient than the industry norm.

And the direction you decide to travel is strategic to the outcome. I call it the 'Playing Field'. Because that's where it all starts?- it's where the game begins.

Here's what I mean. There are basically (2) strategies in picking your 'Playing Field'; a 'Bottom-up' approach or a 'Top-down' approach.

The following is an example of a Bottom-up approach. A Telecommunications rep initiates a telephone call into a company and asks the question "Who handles your telecommunications needs?" Guess where they are sent? If you said 'office manager' you guessed right. If you said 'Head Janitor' you weren't far off.

Is there anything 'wrong' with that? Not really; it's legal and a lot of folks out there do it.

But let's think through this option as a 'Business person' would. Let's study it as it relates to our sales process and individual Key Performance Indicators (KPI); Conversation-to-appointment ratio, 1st appointment to Proposal ratio, Closing ratio, sales cycle and average revenue per sale. Because these success indicators are gateways that directly affect the outcome of a sales process.

Do your KPI's go up or down with a bottom-up approach? Historically, a bottom-up approach promotes a:

1. 1st appointment to Proposal ratio to decrease
2. Closing ratio to decrease
3. Sales cycle to increase
4. Average revenue per sale to decrease

Bottom line, you'll be leaving time and money on the table if you choose this Target strategy.

We'll revisit the Conversation-to-appointment KPI in a minute.

At the other end of the Target spectrum is the 'Top-down' strategy for securing a new Targeted business appointment. Let's say that same telecommunications rep chose this approach in prospecting for new business. The first step in this process is 'Homework'; some due diligence prior to picking up the telephone.

Activities like:

  • Gathering a list of appropriate industries
  • Assigning the highest appropriate level of contact to each account; by company size and industry
  • Researching contact name for each appropriate title and account
  • Researching what each business does to exist and prosper
  • That sounds like a bit of work. But what historically happens with a 'Top-down' approach in line with sales performance KPI's?

    1. 1st appointment to Proposal ratio increases
    2. Closing ratio increases
    3. Sales cycle decreases
    4. Average revenue per sale increases

    OK. We agree that's a no-brainer. So it all comes down to the 1st and foremost sales performance indicator, your Conversation-to-appointment ratio.

    That's simply how many times you conduct a conversation with a target prospect versus how many times you achieve one. And the national average on that KPI is between 4% and 18%; Top-down or Bottom up approach. So it takes 10, 12 or 20 conversations to achieve 1 or 2 appointments. And that's a lot of work. In fact, JDH Group studies show sales individuals spend an average of 50% of their time on prospecting activities, or about 22 hours per week.

    That leads a sensible person to the conclusion that one needs to focus on efficiencies in Prospecting. And to secure those 'Competencies' one must develop a communication 'system' in line with your business solutions, your 'Top-down' Prospect perceptions and your competitive influences.

    Not from a product/service angle, that's 'selling' over the telephone. But a communications methodology that lends itself to 'Business acumen'; insight into what is strategic to your target prospect's business objectives, what pains they are facing due to recent events or what changes are on the horizon that may effect their current status quo.

    Next is figuring out how to communicate to your 'Top-down' target the prospective benefits of your product/service in terms relevant to their financial Key Performance Indicators; line items like ROI, IRR and Payback Period. Those are success indicators that organizations rely on to measure progress toward their organizational goals. It's their 'Scorecard'.

    So lesson number one. When you're addressing a target level that has Budget authority; a President/Owner of a small company or a CFO/Controller of a medium size one, you'd better be talking terms in line with what they need to accomplish, not in a 'sales language' creating a prospect perception that you're (1) don't understand their business and (2) are simply trying to make a living.

    From a 10,000 foot altitude, understand and communicate what's on your 'Top-down' target prospect's 'Front Burner' business objectives?-not clear over in the freezer!

    You can choose not to accept the standard 'sales 101 playing field'.

    Identify your individual performance components (KPI's) that are essential to your success and develop or seek systems to raise your competency ratios and performance efficiencies.

    And start your process by picking a 'Top-down Playing Field' and educating yourself to their world.



    Jeff Hardesty is president of JDH Group Inc.( www.convertmoresales.com ), a sales performance training company based in Powell, Ohio. He can be reached at jeff@convertmoresales.com

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