Al Uszynski

Article Summary:

Some of your best sales prospects are your old, "dead" leads.

Sales Prospects: Prospecting from your Trash Can

Before you throw out those old leads, consider that today's trash could be tomorrow's sale.

Don Freda of Articulate Global in New York City flew to Ann Arbor, MI to present his software solution to the University of Michigan. During the meeting he discovered that although his solution could help the university, it lacked some major features that the customer wanted. Because his company didn't offer the needed components, Don flew back to New York without the sale.

Just like all good technology-driven companies, Articulate Global was continuously growing and enhancing its product offering to reflect the advancing needs of the marketplace. Months later when Don learned that his company offered new features - the very same features that U of M was looking for - he pulled the old file from his sales graveyard and immediately called his contact with the good news. Don's next trip to Michigan was successful and he brought home the order.

All sales professionals have a long list of prospects that did not turn into sales. While it doesn't make sense to contact all of your old leads, you may want to refrain from throwing out some of them and put them in your tickler file instead. By touching base with them periodically you may turn trash into treasure. Here are the types of old leads that are most valuable.

Availability
Like in Don's situation, you may have encountered prospects who need a product or service that you don't offer now, but may offer in the future. Keep these prospects on file and follow up with them if the features they needed become available.

Timing
If what you sell requires time-based contracts, be sure to find out when your prospect's contract expires with your competitor. Contact the prospect before your competition inks a renewal. Explain to your prospect that you will help them assess their options before they blindly assume that their current provider is still the best value.

Service
Have you ever met prospects who indicate that they don't get great service from their current provider but stay with them anyway? Keep these contacts in your periodic follow-up folder. Contact them every four to six months. When they take your phone call, you might find that their frustration with the current provider has moved them closer to a breaking point. If they're ready to change providers, your company will be top-of-mind.

Elephants
Big companies often take a long time to make important buying decisions. They also frequently reevaluate their costs and periodically explore other vendors for potential savings. Crumbs off the table at a large account could make your year. If you can't get all of their business, at least try to get some of their business. Stay in touch with decision makers at potentially large accounts. You might find that an uninterested prospect in October is much more interested in February.

Competitor uncertainty
Did your competitor just get some bad PR? Is their reputation deteriorating in the marketplace? If an old prospect does business with that competitor, a call from you might be in order. Never spread negative competitive rumors, but consider mentioning something like, "Many of XYZ's customers have come to us because they've been dissatisfied with XYZ's (business challenge). I'm calling to let you know that our company still offers (product or service), and I'm here as a resource if you decide to explore other alternatives to your current provider."

The one that got away
Those clients who almost bought from you, but didn't, might have some second thoughts about their chosen provider. Several weeks after your competitor delivers the goods to your prospect, make a phone call to the decision maker and ask questions about the customer's condition: "How do the levels of service meet your expectations? How did the quality of the work (or the product) meet your expectations?" Don't ask questions that sound like you're trying to get some dirt on your competitor. Focus the conversation on your customer and his needs.

Stop classifying certain prospects as dead. Instead, consider them dormant and stay in contact with them. Once you fill your pipeline with some dormant prospects, you'll enjoy incremental business as you begin converting them from prospects to customers.

Al Uszynski helps companies and individuals sell more, earn more and profit more. As a sales trainer and professional speaker, he helps his clients achieve outstanding business results. Al is the founder of Selling Resource. Get the free sales tips newsletter and free report "12 Mistakes Salespeople Make" at www.SellingResource.com or read more at www.uszynski.com.

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