Tips & Tactics

Identifying the “Better” Prospects

The timing couldn’t have been any better for some advice from author, consultant and speaker Brian Tracy. During a rep panel discussion devoted to working with prospects, one participant related something he had read from Tracy relative to picking and choosing the prospects you want to work with.

Some prospects are better than others. In fact, some prospects are wonderful to deal with while others are a complete waste of your time. Your starting point in spending more time with better prospects is for you to define clearly for yourself the attributes of an excellent prospect. Then your job is to find as many of them as possible.

There is one special quality possessed by an excellent prospect. One of the most valuable things you can do in your initial con-versations with the prospect is to ask the kind of questions that enable you to determine your prospect’s quality ranking on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being low and 10 being high.

A good prospect has a pressing need for exactly the product or service that you are selling. He has a problem for which your product or service is an excellent solution. Or he has an opportunity that your product or service enables him to take advantage of immediately. The more urgent the need or more pressing the demand, the lower will be the customer’s price sensitivity or concern about the smaller details of the purchase. The more prospects you can find that have an obvious need for what you are selling, the more and faster sales you will make.

For example, a company in the middle of its busiest season at which a critical machine breaks down and cannot be repaired is a prime prospect for the person and company who can sell and deliver this type of machine rapidly.

Not long ago, a young salesman selling construction materials lost a major order to a more aggressive supplier. But exactly when the supplies were required, in the middle of the construction job, the supplier’s workers went on strike. The customer was desperate and called the young man to see if his company could deliver quickly. They could, and even though their prices were slightly higher, the young salesman gained a first-rate customer who not only bought large quantities from him but who opened doors for him to other people who also became customers. Now, here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action:

First, ask lots of questions with a new prospect to find out how important your product or service can be to his or her life or business.

Second, keep in touch with prospects that can most benefit from what you sell and continue reminding them that you want to do business with them.

Never give up!

Brian Tracy, the author of The Way to Wealth, may be reached at

Picking Up the (Technology) Ball and Running With It

When one rep saw a presentation on some new video tools at this year’s AIM/R Conference, he did more than just file away the idea — instead he went home, implemented the tools immediately, and just as quickly realized a benefit for himself and his agency.

Here’s how he explained it: “When consultant Terry Brock showed us how easy it was to interview someone and then play it back instantly over the computer, he really got my attention. I’ve been having trouble on two fronts with some of my customers. First, I was having difficulty finding the time to communicate some of their questions/problems back to my principals. Second, when they went into detail on the actual application of a product, I wasn’t sure I was communicating their needs accurately. Using a simple and relatively inexpensive audio/video system that Brock described, I’ve been able to communicate faster and more accurately with my manufacturers. The end result is that my customers are being served better and faster. It’s been a win-win for all of us.”

Maximizing the Salesperson’s Time
Salespeople don’t spend enough time selling. To rectify that situation, some managers turn to financial incentives and technology. But others are going a step further and employing steps to provide their salespeople more time to sell.

Late last year, the Industrial Performance Group ( released the results of a study that confirmed what many salespeople already knew and some managers suspected. On average, salespeople spend just 8 percent of their time prospecting and qualifying new customers. Yet they spend 23 percent of their time dealing with problems and mistakes, searching for infor-mation and expediting orders. Overall, they spend 62 percent of their time on “non-revenue-generating” activities and just 38 per-cent of their time selling.

The study strongly suggests that companies can grow sales by providing salespeople with more time to sell. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to quickly get a higher return on investment from their salespeople. It’s also more cost-effective than hiring more salespeople — especially when qualified people are always hard to find. And the best part is that it’s easy to get started. Even small, inexpensive steps bring results. Several companies have already realized this and have taken action.

Faster, Simpler Quoting

For example, one company struggled with a time-consuming, inefficient quotation process. To get pricing as quickly as possible, salespeople were sending the same RFPs to three different people in the company. Then they had to follow up with multiple phone calls to keep the process moving. This cumbersome quotation process squandered time and kept salespeople from achieving their true sales potential.

The Industrial Performance Group reports that once they met with the company, they retooled their quotation process and put a central contact person in charge of getting pricing to the salespeople. This led to shorter turnaround times and a 20-percent reduction in departmental costs. As a result, the company estimates that this step freed up three hours per week for each salesperson. Three hours per week for 40 salespeople translates into about 6,000 more hours of selling time each year. How would a rep’s line react if they could increase selling time by that percentage?

With another company, salespeople were doing daily battle with a difficult database for pricing information. Every time they prepared a quote, they had to update the database on their laptops — a very time-consuming process, even with a high-speed Internet connection. To solve this problem, the company developed a web-based system that’s easier to use and no longer requires downloading data — once again, another step that translated into more available selling time.

Faster Customer Information Retrieval

In another instance, salespeople were having difficulty finding the time to compose and send in e-mails reporting on their sales calls. Those who were able to complete the task report that it took them an average of 2½ hours per week. One fairly minor ad-justment solved the problem and freed up sales time. Salespeople simply had to call the information into a voice-mail system. From there, clerical staff transcribed the information. Now the manufacturer maintains it gets the information they need, and the salespeople have more time to sell. The average time spent reporting this information fell to approximately 45 minutes a week.

Cutting Down on E-mails

Reps, just like the rest of the sales world, are bombarded with e-mails from their principals and their own offices. In one instance a company appointed a “gatekeeper” — a staff person who condensed e-mails into one easy-to-read weekly update. They now es-timate that this improvement freed up as much as two hours per week for each salesperson. They’ve also seen evidence that this extra time has translated into an uptick in sales.

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