Highlights of Prospecting

by Tom Hopkins

The profession of selling consists of two components: Finding the people to sell, and then, of course, selling the people you find.

A while back I came home from a tour and when I walked in my wife was working on a jigsaw puzzle. I live, breathe and sleep selling. It’s truly my hobby and I’m always seeking new ideas to present to my students. On that day, I found something related to selling when I saw the jigsaw puzzle.

For you who work puzzles, you know where you have to start to begin putting it together. You start on the outside and work your way towards the middle. The selling process is the same way. There are eight pieces in the selling process that you must put together to acquire the end result–the closing of the sale.

The first piece of that puzzle is prospecting. When it comes to prospecting, nothing will ever replace eyeball-to-eyeball or belly-to-belly contact. That will always be the best. However, I want to talk about prospecting activity in different areas. That is the first key to success in selling. Govern your entire life not by productivity, which is sales, but by your activity on a daily basis. Every day the number of quality activities you do, which are the contacts you make, will determine at the end of the month your success in the profession of selling.

Here are two of the prospecting methods I teach. The first one is called, “working the warm market.” A warm market consists of your friends, relatives, associates, and people you have worked with on a previous job before you got into this particular selling position. I would like to suggest you develop a letter that lets them know you have chosen a new profession and you’d like to be considered to serve their needs with your new product.

Here’s an excellent example of an introductory letter you might try sending to all the people you know in your warm market. It goes like this:

Good morning Bob:

It is with great excitement that I inform you about a career change I have recently made. I have just joined (name your company) as a sales representative. It would be my pleasure to introduce our company, its products and services to people in the community.

Because of our relationship, Bob, I look forward to serving you and anyone you know in the area with the benefits this outstanding company provides. I will be in touch in the next few weeks to set a time to drop by and visit to see how I may serve you in the future.

If you’ll send that letter to everyone you know, they will be ready when you call to arrange a time to come by and visit with them. This is a wonderful way to start the process of activity and begin talking to more people about your product or service.
Many of you are also assigned a territory where you are to go out into the community to meet businesses people in the area. You may not know many people in the area so you’re contact is more of a “cold calling” situation. You may want to establish a game plan for handling or sending an introductory letter to them. Here is an example of what you might write:

Good morning Mr. Jones,

My name is Tom Hopkins, a representative of (name of company). Upper management of my firm has given me an assignment. They have asked that I contact companies in this area to conduct a quick two-question survey to enhance our ability to give better service to clients we intend to serve.

Thank you in advance for your help. I’ll be calling you in the next few weeks to set a time when we can visit.

Now I want you to notice the words ‘upper management has given me an assignment,’ in the above letter. These words come across as though the company is making you do this. It’s an assignment you’ve been given. In most cases, it helps the person you’re contacting to develop a certain amount of empathy for you and be more open when you call to set the time to visit.

Be sure to emphasize the words ‘quick two-question survey.’ Most people don’t mind answering a couple of questions if they know it’ll be quick. You’ll be amazed by sending this letter how much warmer they are to you when you introduce yourself and let them know that you have to come by and ask these two quick questions. The key is to develop questions that cause them to think and elaborate–not yes/no questions. Then, ask questions about their answers to clarify what their thoughts or needs are and you may just find yourself face-to-face with someone who realizes they really need your services and the survey has turned into a sale.

Remember that prospecting is an activity. Activity generates productivity. Activity generates leads and leads become future clients. Set some goals for yourself to generate activity through letters, e-mail, phone calls and personal visits. And remember: Every day the number of quality activities you perform, which are the contacts you make, will determine your success in the profession of selling at the end of every month.

Tom Hopkins is a sales legend. Many believe that natural ability is enough to make you successful in a selling career. The truth of the matter is that natural skill, combined with “how to” training is the real secret to high level productivity. Having learned this lesson the hard way, Tom is quick to admit that his early sales career was not successful. After benefiting from professional training, he became a dedicated student, internalizing and refining sales techniques which enabled him to become the sales leader in his industry.

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