If you're a solopreneur, freelancer, or independent consultant, every minute of every day that you spend chasing business that doesn't convert is wasted. Regardless of how you actually bill for your services, at the end of the day, you sell your time. And those minutes you spent chasing business that didn't convert into a new client can never be reclaimed or resold.
And that's the single biggest issue to growing your business. That's why today, I'm going to give you a framework to make sure that every sales call counts. That you spend less time pitching new business and more time winning new business — painlessly.
Step 1: Build Your Painless Prospecting Machine
The core of any good Painless Prospecting program is your Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software.
The first thing you need to understand is that your address book is NOT a CRM. And for that matter, neither is a Google Sheet or Excel Spreadsheet, no matter how fancy you make it.
Because you can't keep a log of all of your touches in an address book. And you can't schedule to-dos in either your address book or a spreadsheet.
Successful sales prospecting requires a single place to store all of your prospects' data. Key pieces you'll want to have just a mouse click away are things like:
- First Name
- Last Name (you always want to keep first/last name as separate fields)
- Work Address
- Home Address (if you can get this it opens up all kinds of cool helping opportunities)
- Work Email
- Personal Email (great for tracking people over time since most folks will change jobs more than once in a career)
- Work Phone
- Cell Phone (for texting not calling -- well mostly that is)
- Social Media Profiles
If you're really serious about sales prospecting, there are a few more data points you might want to capture, but the above will give you a great start.
You'll also want the ability to schedule To-Do items, keep track of any current opportunities (deals), and create relationships between contacts that are in the same companies or organizations. Again, you just can't do this with spreadsheets and address books. That's why you need to invest in a real CRM product. There are lots of options out there, some are simply CRMs while others, like SharpSpring (the one we use here at Converse Digital) integrate marketing automation and sales automation too. If you can afford to spend a tad more to gain this important functionality, I'd highly encourage it.
Step 2: Define Your Outposts & Embassies
In the simplest terms, an Outpost is a place where your prospects congregate and you or your content have permission to show up from time to time in hopes of creating Propinquity. A good example is submitting a guest post on a popular blog or authoring an article for a magazine. You create and post the content there, but you’re not investing a lot of time after the fact because your goal is to generate awareness. You’re trying to leverage the platform owner’s audience to create awareness of you and your product or service, and give prospects a simple way to follow you back to your website. So while you'll hang around on the day the post goes live, in case anyone comments, outside of that, you're definitely not a permanent resident.
Embassies, on the other hand, are Propinquity Points where you elect to create a more continuous presence. Similar to Outposts, these are Propinquity Points where your prospective customers congregate. However, based on your research, you feel that a focused effort at these Propinquity Points will result in increased business opportunities. Embassies might include platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, where you’ll spend your time building and cultivating a community of prospects.
Embassies are the place for you to network with prospective buyers. Embassies are the places you’re going to meet people, introduce people to one another, and get introduced to people. When you create an Embassy, you’re telling the community and the world that it’s important to you. Where you choose to place your embassies makes a statement about you and your company. It makes a statement about your commitment, your expertise, and your long-term plans to participate in digitally-powered conversations between you and your prospects.
Have you read: How To Define Your Propinquity Points?
Step 3: Identify Your Social Agents
Prospects buy from you. Social Agents tell everyone to buy from you — even if they can't. And that's what makes them the most valuable customer that never hired you. This doesn't mean a current or past client can't also serve as a Social Agent. They can and hopefully will. It just means that far too often when we meet potential sales prospects we file them into one of two folders — legitimate lead or waste of time.
If you're currently limiting yourself to those two networking buckets stop immediately and learn how to identify your Social Agents.
Why You Need Social Agents:
Science tells us that humans have a constraining factor in their ability to network. It’s called Dunbar’s Number and an evolutionary psychologist named Robin Dunbar developed it. Dunbar theorized that “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size.... [T]he limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity determines the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.” Dunbar’s research pegged this number at 148 (often rounded up to 150, for convenience). So according to Dunbar, you can maintain meaningful relationships with only 150 people at a time.
You might be thinking that social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others give you the ability to blow past Dunbar’s Number. But a 2011 paper showed that although both Facebook and Twitter allow you to develop a network far in excess of Dunbar’s Number, the average Twitter user only interacts with between 100 and 200 people on a regular basis. And on Facebook, the average person maintains contact with 190. So it seems that our biology, not our technology, drives our ability to network in a meaningful manner.
Hence, unless you're a huge company with a huge salesforce... you need Social Agents to scale effectively.
Step 4: Become Known for Knowledge
If you want to be popular on the web and in social networks, be the one with all the answers. Every second of every day millions of folks are “Googling It.” We are being trained to expect that all of the world’s knowledge is accessible via Google or some other online resource. So create answers to prospects' questions.
Then share that information liberally and freely online. Invite others to do so too. Pay attention to SEO and keywords and do your best to make great content that answers real questions easily findable by your prospects. You’ll be astonished by the folks you’ll meet and often times be asked to do business with later.
BUT don't confuse fame with authority. Fame is derived from popularity or social notoriety or viral success and eventually falls out of favor with the masses. Fame is cyclical by nature and is based solely on the whim of society. In other words, today’s famous people can often become tomorrow’s one-hit wonders or worse, forgotten memories.
Authority, on the other hand, is tied to worthiness. Worthiness never goes out of style. Worthiness is always a quality desired by people, companies, and organizations.
Yes, those who chase the click often achieve fame, blog traffic, invitations to speak at big conferences, big paydays in exchange for social media posts, and the appearance of a bright and rosy future.
But I’d argue that only those who achieve true authority in their chosen field/category of knowledge will last the long haul. It is only through the authority that you develop a reputation that can translate into new sales prospects and customers year in and year out over the long haul.
Step 5: Sell Greatly
Marketing has its 4Ps, and now Sales has the 5Ps. A simple, repeatable framework under which you can create an effective sales prospecting, nurturing a,nd closing approach to consistently sell more successfully. Or as we here at Converse Digital refer to it: to Sell Greatly.
Specifically, the 5Ps are:
- Proximity — or as the social scientists who determined that this P is the most consistent predictor variable of future relationship formation call it – Propinquity.
- Preparation — which is often the most overlooked P. Salespeople are so focused on closing today’s potential transaction that they forget that by spending even a little bit of time conducting even basic social reconnaissance they will be so much better prepared to succeed.
- Presence — my personal favorite and the one most people, including salespeople, fall down on daily. We’re all so attached to those little computers in our pockets and the people they “connect” us to, that we forget to just be present in the conversation we’re having right now.
- Patience — not most sales managers’ favorite P — but the truth is, lack of patience costs companies and salespeople more money in lost profit and commission than most realize.
- Preference — the ultimate P — the one that every salesperson absolutely must achieve. It’s no longer enough to make sure your are top-of-mind with your prospects, you have to be top-of-preference because your competition (or better stated their content) is literally at your customer’s fingertips 24/7/365.
A successful Painless Prospecting program generates highly qualified, self-educated sales prospects that are already pretty sure they want to do business with you or at least feel you're worthy of the short-list. BUT, you must treat these self-educated buyers with the respect they demand and frankly, deserve. That's where the Sell Greatly approach comes into play.
Go Deeper: Everything you want to know about the Sell Greatly approach
If you're a solopreneur, freelancer, or independent consultant, your sales prospecting doesn't have to be painful. In fact, for those that want to truly master the art and science of Painless Prospecting, we've created an entire online course just for you. Pre-registration for the next class is now open.