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The secrets to successful prospecting

Building material salespeople who wish to be in control of their futures have little choice but to become adept at prospecting for new business. When it comes to effective prospecting, shooting from the hip is almost a guarantee that you will never set any records; you need an effective strategy to convince target customers that your company is the right choice for them.

Before attempting to identify candidates to target, I believe you should first identify the characteristics you most want your prospects to possess. Your prospects are your choice, so think through the personalities and behaviors you are most compatible with and target those prospects first.

Next is to identify your targets by name. Use every source available to you to develop a compelling value proposition that clearly communicates how your products and services can address your prospects’ specific needs. This involves understanding the needs, preferences, and problems your potential customers are attempting to solve.

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This next step is crucial: Once you have identified your prospects, it is important to be able to communicate to them how your products and services address their specific needs. Be sure to do your homework and make sure your company’s service capabilities mesh with the needs of your prospects. Don’t assume all of your prospects suffer from the same issues.

Make sure you clearly understand each prospects’ individual needs and concerns. Being almost anal about doing your “homework” will buy you and your company a lot of credibility with your prospects. When you ask your prospects questions, be specific. For example: “Mr. Prospect, if we are successful in earning a piece of your business, I want the reason to be because we have identified something we can do to enable your company to be more successful, make more money, or solve a pressing problem. If you could change just one aspect of your current supplier’s service level, what would it be?”

Earning credibility is fundamental to establishing a trusting relationship with your prospects. Keep good records on what you talk with your prospects about on each sales call to keep from repeating yourself. If, as an example, you notice the same material sitting around a jobsite for a week or two before being picked up by the prospect’s supplier, make a note of it and, at an appropriate time, mention the cost builders incur when material is not picked up in a timely manner.

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Invite your prospects to have lunch with you and stop by your store so the prospect can see how efficient and organized the operations manager keeps his end of the business, how the dispatcher organizes deliveries, how backorders are scheduled so they don’t fall through the cracks, etc. If you have a sales coordinator assigned to you, make sure he or she knows your prospect’s name on the their next visit to your store.

I believe it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with human nature when you’re trying to take a customer away from a supplier they have perhaps been buying from exclusively for a number of years. Be sensitive to their emotions and help them to begin feeling at home when they visit your store.

Here’s an example with specifics: Alert the store manager, the dispatcher, the yard foreman, etc. that you are bringing a prospect, Dave Beerdall, by the store tomorrow. Remind them that his son is a wide receiver for the Northside High School football team and Dave builds homes on the east side of your community. Before his arrival, get prepped. Get a credit application filled out well in advance of him placing his first order. Get with the yard foreman and prepare a questionnaire so you can ask him all of the typical logistical questions well in advance of receiving his initial delivery.

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Each step in the process is important. Show your prospects that you are a real pro and that this isn’t your first rodeo.

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