Before beginning the prospection:
Know your market: Your competitors and their prices, products/services, the going market terms and conditions…
Know your offer and make sure your positioning is clear: Level of quality offered, pricing policies, value proposition (What “need” is your offer fulfilling?), what makes you different…
Prepare how you will reply to the objections or difficult questions raised by your prospects: No time, no budget, you’re too expensive, we get by well on our own, we already have a partner, why would I work with you, how are you different from others…
Define your ideal client:
Rather than going head first towards the entire market, think about the ideal client your product/service would correspond to: size, industry, type of organisation, sales revenue, current events, issues they are faced with… Once this is done, prioritize the companies in or resembling this established profile.
Choose your communication lines:
For contacting your prospects, social media can be a good way of establishing an initial contact, by sending a message directly to the person targeted or by contacting someone from the target company who could become your “ally” or advisor in the best way to approach the company.
A classic which still works, you can call the companies you have previously identified as potentially interesting. A search on social media often gives you a name to ask for when calling.
Networking events and trade fairs
Trade fairs, IT job fairs, networking breakfasts, animations organised by professional networks… There are many occasions for which to approach your prospects.
Very useful for some businesses, much less for others, marketing campaigns can be a could way of contacting your prospects and generate new business leads.
One example of a marketing campaign: buy a qualified database, send out a targeted emailing campaign, analyse the open rate and finally make a targeted telephone follow-up.
Find the right pretext
When first approaching a prospect, always have a valid reason for contacting them so they always feel that talking to you is normal and could even be beneficial to them. The right pretext is one based on current events or on a strategy specific to your prospect, but a general one can also work.
The most important thing is that your prospect believes your approach is legitimate.
For example: I saw you were specialised in web design and I am contacting you because I believe we could save you a lot of money on security for your client’s websites.
Personalise your approach
Find as much information as possible about your prospect to show them you are not contacting them randomly. During your first contact, you will be able to reference what you have found out. This is the best way to give credibility to your approach.
Two ears but one mouth
As you have two ears but only one mouth, listen twice more than what you speak. Approach your prospects by trying to discover more about them. You have a pretext to call, sufficient information to personalise your speech and be credibly, you now need to ask your prospects to tell you more about them so as to evaluate the suitability of a future collaboration. During the first meeting, try to understand how your prospect works and to identify potential “sore spots” to which you could bring a solution.
If you get your contact speaking about their “sore spots”, you’ve virtually done it.
Talk about benefits rather than products or services
When talking about your products or services, think in terms of benefits for your prospects/clients.
If a prospect has issues with their ageing computer equipment which keeps on crashing, they won’t necessarily be convinced by a sales pitch based on your product’s technical performance. They could be more convinced by a demonstration of how easy to use and how reliable your products are, but you can do better than that. If you insist on the fact that their teams will be able to focus on their work and be more productive or more creative, that is already a lot better.
If you’re really ambitious, you could even put forth the argument that your products enable your clients to change the world, like Apple did in 1997 with their slogan “Think different”.
Do not make too many concessions
A frequent mistake, especially when launching your business, is to concede too quickly on the price when negotiating with your first clients.
Even if it is tough, be firm and sure of yourself when you present your pricing. Even if many companies will respect the work you do and will want to build a win-win relationship, many others will try to negotiate as soon as they feel they have the possibility to do so, even if they were happy with the initial price.
You must learn to say no. You will then see that your firmness and confidence will reassure your prospects about your professionalism and the quality of your work.
If you must negotiate, respect the following rules
First of all, before negotiating anything, try and understand what your prospect’s objectives or business imperatives are. Once you have understood their true goal, you will be able to help them reach it whilst also reaching your own.
For example, if you are selling web development services, a negotiation on your price will enable you to negotiate on working remotely, or to negotiate on buying material or licences.
Do not negotiate on your price without compensation, even symbolical. A lower price could mean at a lower level of service, on condition of prepayment, on condition of a bulk buy, with exclusivity or even with a long-term commitment.
If a lower price isn’t linked to a concession for your prospect or client, this subconsciously communicates to them that your price wasn’t justified in the first place, and weakens your credibility.
Unless common practice in your industry, do not work without a contract. This will help you avoid setbacks and, once again, will reassure your prospects about your professionalism. A contract commits yourself just as much as your client to respecting your agreed-upon terms.