How successful your company may be in soliciting new business relates directly to just how much attention your sales staff pays to those prospects. Nurturing prospects is not a process of random phone calls or contacts. Quite conversely, prospect management is one of the most essential aspects of nurturing new business opportunities. Those with sales experience in contract security sales realize that the sales curve can be very long, from three to six months or even longer for the more high-profile sales opportunities. So, how we pay attention and track those prospects is a key to growing our business.
Effective prospect management requires the use of a software system designed specifically for tracking prospects. There are several on the market and competitive pricing. ACT!, Goldmine, CRM, and even MSN Outlook are all great systems designed to effectively manage prospects and clients. Depending on the size of your company and the number of people you have selling your services, the prices will vary from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Most of these systems are also designed to operate in work groups or with multiple sales people. The advantage to the work group mode is that an entire staff from one company can track their prospects individually without the risk of overlapping prospects or conflicting with one another on contacts. Senior management also has the ability to download a myriad of reports which include “pipeline” reports, appointments, calls, and other sales-related activity reports. If a system is purchased, it needs to be utilized to its fullest extent. We often find that with prospect management software, as well as scheduling or financial software, they are rarely used to their fullest potential by those assigned to use the systems. We truly believe that “employees respect what management inspects” so the burden is on the management team to ensure that the system is being utilized to its fullest extent.
How should the system be used and what advantage does that offer to the salesperson? Every qualified lead must be entered into the system with all essential information, company name, contact, phone numbers, e-mail and Web site addresses as examples. Each time a contact is made with a prospect, that contact—whether a call, meeting, letter, etc.—is recorded. Along with the record entry a note can be entered as to the result of that individual contact. This provides the user with a reminder of what was discussed in the past during the next scheduled contact. From our perspective, the biggest advantage of faithfully using a prospect management system is the ability to schedule future calls, meetings, contacts, tracking bid renewal dates and even prospect personal information such as birthdays and anniversaries. It virtually eliminates the risk of missing a follow-up call or meeting by simply forgetting. The systems are designed to pop up reminders on your computer prompting you pay attention to the activity that is due. The information can even be synchronized to your Blackberry so your schedule of activities follows you on the road as well.
Those who track and manage their prospects are at a distinct advantage to those who “let their prospects manage them.” Controlling the sales process from initial contact to the final sale is what makes the market leaders standout. Instead of trying to remember off the top of their head when a prospect needs a contact, your staff will have that information at their fingertips, which provides them with a huge advantage over the competition in building relationships. Something we all need, everyday, to grow our business.