Many people have no idea how long it takes to turn a prospect into a profitable customer. Creating a “prospecting timeline” can help benchmark past experiences and streamline future ones. Begin this process by examining a few recent sales, and then break down the key activities you went through. Your goal should be to determine the specific activities that were the most time-consuming, and then figure out a way to shorten the time spent on that particular step. Most people are amazed to find that a couple of activities take the majority of time. By knowing this, you can work to alter your selling process accordingly.

The most successful businesses always take time to analyze their processes to make them as efficient as possible. When doing this with your current prospecting process, is there anything you can automate? Consolidate? Change? Spending some time determining these things now will free up more of your time in the future so you can dedicate it towards better profit-making activities. Study the prospect. Ask others in the company and other vendors if possible what they know about how the prospect makes decisions. A large number of companies tend to make the majority of the key vendor decisions at set times during their fiscal year. These decisions usually follow a routine they’ve created over the years of using RFPs or other tools. Knowing this type of information can help you dramatically improve the use of your own selling time. An alternate strategy I’ve used with clients is to stay away from a customer’s typical buying period and then approach them as a “crisis vendor” – one that can fill a critical need that just arose. Using this strategy will often help you achieve a higher margin for your services as well as position you as their strategic partner.

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