What is a prospect?
A prospect is a potential customer or client, someone who is in the market for your product and has the resources needed to buy it, but has not bought the product yet. Once the prospect buys the product, which is always the end goal, they become a customer. So how do you find and court prospects in order to turn them into a customer?
You have to know what kind of prospect you want to find in order to find them. Creating a buyer persona (B2C) or an ideal customer profile (B2B) is the first step, as it helps identify the person/company you want to sell to. For example, if you’re trying to sell cat toys, your buyer persona will be based on a cat lover, as you’re not going to put your efforts into researching what dog lovers like.
Knowing your intended audience helps target, find and reach prospective customers. You want your focus to be on people or companies who actually need or want your product and can afford it. Searching for people outside of that qualification is a waste of time and resources that are best spent on converting qualified prospects.
Prospect profiles can be very specific and are best determined by the characteristics and actions of existing customers. All of your customers were at one time prospects and obviously, the way you interacted with them worked and you have successfully sold to them, so use the treasure trove of information that the existing customers are to create the prospect profile.
Start by asking simple questions (edit them to fit your niche):
- Who are your customers?
- What business are they in?
- What is the size of their business?
- Who are the customers who have stayed with you the longest and what do they have in common?
Answering these questions will help you see who you are selling to and aim your attention to qualified prospects, which greatly increases your chances of turning them into long-term customers or clients.
Now you know who you’re looking for, but how do you find them? Is lead generation going to be like panning for gold during the Gold Rush or is it going to be like finding a needle in a haystack? Well, that depends on how much effort you put into it, and yes, lead generation takes effort. Use all the lead generation tools you can and you’ll end up with a handful of gold, only use one and you’ll be sifting through the hay forever.
There are many lead generation methods you can use, but the most common ones are sourcing from LinkedIn, email and social media marketing, networking, referrals, conferences, and conventions.
Not everyone who fits your prospect profile will become your prospect, but putting yourself out there and letting your potential customers know what makes you special and worth their time and money will lead to more interest.
Building a relationship
Even if your prospect is a company, companies are made of people, and people strive for relationships.
You can fill their needs or desires with your product, so listen to your prospect, be genuine, and promptly answer their questions to build trust and position yourself as helpful. Don’t forget to ask your own questions to make sure you understand exactly what the prospects want. These interactions will determine if your product is what they need and if your company is the one they want to work with.
In a lot of ways, building a relationship with a prospect is like any other interaction. Learning their interests, needs, wishes, and fears, and always finding time for conversations instead of simply sending hard sales pitches is the only way to achieve good conversions.
Building relationships with prospects is impossible without lead nurturing – share articles you think they’d be interested in, send them some company swag (everyone loves free stuff), and make your interactions easy. Most importantly, be patient. No one likes to feel pushed to make a decision – or pushed into a business relationship. Go with their flow.
Sometimes a prospect is not on the same page as you. Maybe they don’t have the budget at the moment, maybe they don’t have the time, maybe they already use a similar product by a different company.
You have to decide if that prospect is worth the effort and time, and if you think they are, you have to take a step back and determine if maybe they are saying no without saying it. If that is the case, it’s best to move on to your next prospect. Don’t chase a dead lead at the expense of other viable prospects who could be turning into paying clients.
From prospect to customer: what’s next
You created your prospect profile, did your research, put yourself out there, crafted a business relationship, sold the idea of your product, and sold your product. You have a customer! Pat yourself on the back because that’s a lot of work.
But you’re not done yet. To keep that customer, continue to follow-up. Your goal is not just to turn 1 prospect into 1 sale. So while you search for more prospects, make sure to work on minimizing your churn rate, as 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.
All in all
There are a lot of prospects for any business out there – it’s all about knowing what you’re looking for and reaching out. Understanding your current customers is the easiest way to find your prospects.
In order to turn prospects into paying customers, you have to reach out; you can’t just sit back and hope they find you. There are an infinite number of tools that can help you with prospect research and lead generation – it just takes research to find your most converting lead source.