Contacting Prospects

Developing new sales prospects is an important priority, no matter what you are selling. However, it is not your first priority. Remember from Chapter 9 that finding prospective buyers is fifth on your priority list. Even so, your future sales depend on finding and developing prospective buyers. You must allocate some of your sales time to prospecting. Your time must include prospecting.

What's the best time from the prospect's view to reach them? Within their need cycle. A need is a condition that requires supply or relief. The prospects need replacement inventory or the solution to a business problem. That is their point of need. Many purchases aren't made until there is a perceived need and a requirement for action. It may even be a future need, recognized as requiring an action now. You may not need toothpaste right now, but you will soon, so you buy it now.

As a professional seller, you can contact prospective buyers before they identify the need, when it is recognized, or after it is acknowledged. Depending on what and how you sell, one point in the need cycle may be a better time to contact prospects than another.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink — unless you first make it thirsty! This sales truism suggests that you must first help prospects and customers identify and see the value for fulfilling a specific need. If you don't, you will continue struggling and any effort to offer a solution will probably be fruitless. In fact, the more you help intensify the need, the less work you will have to do in selling the solution.

Before the Need

All people and businesses have needs. A restaurant that doesn't want to run out of tomatoes will plan ahead and buy before they open the last crate. If you're selling tomatoes and other produce to restaurants, you can help them in estimating usage and supplying fresh produce before it becomes a need. Of course, you can't supply them too early or they won't be fresh when used.

Many products and services sold require that they be delivered before the need arises, when a future need is identified. If you primarily sell before the need, make sure that you can identify when the need occurs for various buyers. In addition, learn how to sell based on anticipated needs.

During the Need

A plumbing contractor often sells during the need. A pipe is busted and needs to be fixed right now. The plumbing contractor also offers other services, water heater installation, the plumbing system in a new home, and so on. In many cases, the selling is done either before or during the need. Selling products and services at the point of need actually can be easier. If it is an emergency, it is easier to convince the buyer of the needed products or services. In many cases, prospective buyers will approach you once they identify an immediate need — if you have previously identified yourself as a fulfiller of specific needs. Maybe you've contacted the buyer in the past and left your business card, or you advertise in the telephone book or other directory. Anticipating buyer needs, you can be prepared to be known by the buyer when a need point arises.

After the Need

An insurance agent often sells before the need arises, pointing out a predictable need. However, insurance agents also sell after the need. That is, an auto accident will either solidify a relationship with an insurance agent or damage it, depending on how the claim was handled. After an accident is reported, some insurance agents will call those involved to determine if the claim to a competitor was handled satisfactorily. If not, this gives the agent an opportunity to sell after the need is recognized and before the next need occurs.

Selling the Need

What you sell may be best offered before, during, or after the need is acknowledged. However, when prospecting, the best time to approach is before the need, then help the buyer understand that the consequences of the unfulfilled need are greater than the cost of fulfilling it now.

  • Ordering two cases now will ensure that you don't run out of fresh tomatoes over the busy weekend.

  • We can perform a plumbing system check tomorrow afternoon to make sure you don't have a plumbing emergency over the winter.

  • Signing up with Acme Insurance now can guarantee that you don't have frustrating claim problems again.

  • The best time to contact prospects is before they identify the need; in this way you can help them to recognize it. It's called proactive selling and it gives you a viable reason to help prospective buyers.

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