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Bill Conner, Business Consultant


The Prospecting Hierarchy, Part Three: Referral Partners

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Developing a Referral Partner is the highest level to obtain in prospecting. This level is characterized by formalizing the prospecting relationship between referral partners. Referral partners work together to grow each others business.

A group of referral partners could be formed to hold a meeting at least monthly for members to discuss their prospecting efforts and to share referral prospects. There should be reciprocal agreements among members of the group.

A member contacts a potential client for another member to inform the prospect they will be contacted by their referral partner and request the prospect provide time for their colleague. The referred partner should provide feedback to the referring partner as to the result of his meeting with the prospect.

The success rate for this prospecting process is very high and is the most advantageous in the prospecting hierarchy.

The Prospecting Hierarchy, Part Two Relationship Sources

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I wrote in my last post about Direct Sources in prospecting where you approach the prospect directly, without a recommendation. In The Prospecting Hierarchy, Relationship Sources, defined as an approach to a prospect with a recommendation, will provide much better results.

A Target List is the first level in relationship sources. A Target List is a list of prospects or companies with whom you want to do business. You show your list to potential referral sources to obtain a referral.

The next step, Referrals, is more advantageous. A referral source recommends you to a prospect for a match. This is considered an informal referral and requires the prospect to create action. You must contact the prospect using your referral source’s name to create a bond with the prospect. You should be developing prospects from your present Customer Base.

The next level is where you are “mining” your client base to reach prospects within the company of your client. You may be working with the sales department in a firm and you prospect with the human resource department by using your past relationship with the sales department.

The next step in Relationship Sources is to create Centers of Influence. Centers of Influence have influence with possible prospects for you and they use it to refer effectively over time.

The highest level Relationship Sources is a Referral Partner. This will be discussed in my next post. Keep in mind, using Relationship Sources in prospecting is advantageous because you show a customer service orientation within your business, create a good impression before you meet, build trust quickly, and obtain more success in sales.

The Prospecting Hierarchy, Part One: Direct Sources

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Understanding the various sources that might produce prospects is essential to developing sales. We group the sources in two categories. Direct Sources is when we approach prospects without a recommendation. Cold Calling is at the bottom of the prospecting hierarchy because we use a list or make contact with prospects without any prior contact. This approach provides a large list, but creates a high rejection rate which causes stress and career burnout. Using marketing/advertising is the next step in the direct source process. Your prospect may have heard of your business or firm, but has little knowledge of you as an individual. Networking and lead sharing creates a better avenue of success as we become involved in meeting other people, but these groups usually have no formal recommendation process to enhance opportunities. An opportunity to give a speech to a group creates prospects within an audience, but does not provide a recommendation situation. Finally you have people you know that you can approach. This is the highest level of a direct source, but success depends solely on your relationship with the prospect. Prospects coming from direct sources are more skeptical of your approach, will more readily reject your overtures, will create a sales orientation versus a customer service atmosphere, and will provide less time to give quality service to your prospect.

The Life Blood of Sales: Prospecting

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In our pipeline of sales we can sell more to our existing clients and sell to new prospects to grow our sales numbers. This article discusses a process to obtain new clients through prospecting.

After you have created a list of prospects start by doing research on each of your prospects. The research stage consists of learning as much as possible about your prospects. Obtaining information about your prospects is essential to know their hot buttons, how they solve problems, who they know, and what they value. The use of viewing prospects websites, contacting your business partners to obtain information, talking to current clients who know your prospects, and using your referral networks.

Contacting your prospects begins after your research is done. The best way to arrange a meeting is through referral partners. The partners should be able to arrange an appointment for you with your prospects.

The next option for contact is a telephone call. The key is getting an appointment - not to make a sale. When you make the call to your prospects use a present client’s name as a bridge in communication. Try to provide a couple of options to your prospects for a meeting. You must be persistent, remembering your only purpose for the call is to get an appointment.

“Tis the Season to Increase Sales”

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The last two weeks of the year are an excellent time to reflect on the pass year sales effort and plan for 2010 sales. We make resolutions to improve our physical being which is great, but I want you to make resolutions to grow professionally in your sales. I would recommend the following for consideration.

Sales Goals

Using the old adage “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan” decide to write down 2 to 3 sales goals for 2010 that meet the acronym SMART.

S–Specific: Ask Who?, Where?, Why? What? When?
M–Measurable: How much?, How many? By when?
A–Attainable: What was done in the past? What conditions exist that will enable you the reach the goal by the target date?
R–Realistic: Have considered resources and time restraints? Do you believe the goal can be accomplished?
T–Tangible: What measurements have been set? How will things look and feel when the goal is met?
The idea “What is in it for ME” is very important. Write down what benefits YOU will obtain in achieving your goals.

“Overcome” Write down obstacles to you achieving each of your goals and the solutions you are going to use to overcome the obstacles.
Become an “Action Jackson” by setting specific action steps for achieving your goals with dates of accomplishments.
“Celebrate” Create tracking mechanisms to determine your progress and rewards for your success.
This process will take time but the benefits will be astounding.

Time Management

The second area to develop for progress in sales is in the area of time management. I would recommend two initial steps for success.

First: Monthly Planning

Set aside time at the end of each month (at least an hour) to plan the next month. Block time to work on your sales goals for the next month. Document your appointments and time blocking on your monthly calendar. Track your monthly progress.

Second: Daily Planning

Take 10 to 15 minutes to plan your day. This should be done the night before. Transfer all appointments, commitments, and blocked time to you daily list. Close out each day, record your accomplishments, track results, and celebrate success.

To quote Zig Zigler: “I believe you can get everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Developing Your Staff

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Many well known business authors stress that the people in an organization are critical to the success of the firm. Improving the skill levels of the people in the organization increases the potential for success of the firm. The front line supervisor is an important cog in completing the task of skill development. One of their supervisory duties is to develop the skill levels of each employee by learning his/her strengths and assigning tasks according to development need. A good supervisor delegates work that develops employees’ skills, provides training to staff members, and monitors their development with positive reinforcement and data to show their progress. The supervisor must have a plan to develop staff and continue to monitor the success of the plan.

I am working with one of my clients on developing a plan to increase sales for a product that the firm sells. Together, we have developed a six month plan with weekly installments which includes benchmarks to determine success. He has noticed improvement in sales as was planned, but is more pleased with the relationship that is being built thru the training with him and the staff.

How are your people performing? Do you have a plan to develop your staff? Contact me at for some suggestions.

Organizing the Work

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As a supervisor it is essential to manage your time wisely. As you plan your work group’s plans there is a constant need to assess priorities and assign work. This planning includes intergrating the organizations goals and objectives. It is necessary to set schedules, track progress, and involve all to enhance teamwork. Good supervisors understand their role in assigning people and allocating resources to accomplish work goals. One supervisor I have worked with embraces the trait of organizing the work fully. He meets with his staff daily in a meeting we call “the huddle” a short meeting to plan the days work. He understands the process of intergrating the daily work with the overall goals and objectives of the company. He teaches his staff to interact with the customer while they do their job. The result has been excellent reviews for the supervisor and excellent customer surveys for the firm.

What are you doing in your firm to teach your supervisors to manage their people and allocating the firms resources to meet your firms goals and objectives? Contact me at for a few ideas.

Guiding the Work

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Supervisors must know and understand the goals and objectives of their organization and direct the work of their staff to meet those demands.� Termed “Guiding the Work”� Supervisors must support the organizational goals acting decisively and develop plans to get their employees involved in the process.�� One method is for the Supervisor to hold periodic meetings with staff members to discuss organizational goals and how the employee could aid in the promotion of those goals which in turn will provide success for them.� One supervisor I work with uses team meetings to promote his firms goals.� These monthly meetings are used to review the goals and objectives� of the company and relate them to the staffs goals and objectives.� He has found the meetings have enhanced staff’s “buy in” for the goals and objectives of the company as they create action plans and make decisions for their own goals.� Through these efforts members of his staff have been very successful in their goals which has in turn created success for the company.

What are you doing in your company to promote the goals of the organization?� Challenge yourself this week to make an effort to create an action to promote your organizations goals and determine the success of your effort.� Your action may make others move forward.

Supervisory Skills

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Working with my clients over the last 11 years has demostrated a consistent need for coaching managers in supervisory skills. The first step in determining what areas need developing requires a personal interview with the manager and the manager completing a� written assessment. I have used several assessments, but started using HRDQ’s Supervisory Skills Questionnaire with excellent results. The assessment along with my interview enables me to develop an individual written prescription for the manager for training. Success with this process has been good.

One supervisor in my training had delayed meeting with two employees regarding progressive discipline because of their lack of confidence and skill level.� Understanding their deficiencies and applying techniques learned in training, they were able to meet with their employees and start working with the employees to correct their behavior.� Based on the event the supervisor has a new confidence in managing staff.

New Assessment

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Announcement!! Bill Conner Consultant has a new assessment tool from HRDQ. Selling Skills Inventory. Do you want to know if you are selling to your prospects in the “Relationship Mode”? This assessment will let you know your selling aptitude and enable you to learn your selling skills strengths and weaknesses and then learn how to promote your positives and correct your negative skills!!

To learn more, contact Bill Conner, Business Consultant.