Every business must reflect hard on its sales process and within that its prospecting practices. Effective prospecting is perhaps one of the foundations of any successful B2B sales organization. In the world of financial markets, whether you are a salesperson in institutional stock broking, a M&A or Corporate Finance banker, a Wealth Advisor, or a salesperson in Asset Management, your engagement model with potential clients/investors (i.e., prospects) to a very large extent defines your long-term success.
Prospecting is about building trust, confidence, and differentiation in the minds of your potential client; to get them to open-up to you and perhaps agree to transact business with you. Yet often, we get many basics wrong in building a great prospecting experience with our potential customers.
In this post, I wish to delve deeper into the prospecting challenge and how best to create a culture for effective prospecting, focussing on business needs; and how technology can go a long way to empower your organization to get its prospecting function right.
No. 1 – Abandon a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Far too often salespeople rely on large unintelligent lists to “hit” thousands of people with a standard email with a view to generate interest. In fact, quite often I have been at the receiving end of emails from bankers/brokers pitching me asset purchase opportunities in biopharma and recruitment agencies, when I have nothing to do with either.
This type of “carpet-bombing” exercise is indeed old school and delivers little impact and consequently results. When you are dealing with a sophisticated audience that perhaps has a very clear view on their priorities and needs, you must arm yourself with more than a mere list of names with email addresses!
Establish a clear purpose for each prospecting outreach and make sure your engagement never loses sight of that purpose. Remember each prospect is slightly different from the last one, even when you are trying to find the most appropriate buyer (or seller) for an asset.
No. 2 – Know Your Prospect (KYP) well
KYP leads to KYC (Know Your Client). KYP is a critical foundation before you get to a stage you can have them convert from a Prospect to a Client. An efficient pre-prospecting discipline is to know you prospect; to identify the ones that are most likely to “buy” or “transact” business with you.
Curating the right prospecting list, when it comes to targeting folks on an M&A deal, or institutional investors and managers for growing allocations when working in a Asset Manager; becomes critical to make the effort-to-rewards equation work in your favour!
It is important to form a view on a prospect very quickly to keep the process efficient. Having access to data and intelligence around past activities of the prospect, their stated goals and commercial objectives is critical to run a successful prospecting process.
- For an M&A Banker on a sell-side mandate, it is important to find prospects that perhaps will appreciate the asset on offer; an acquisition for the prospect that enhances the competitiveness of its product/service offering; expands its presence geographically; or allows a vertical expansion within the value chain.
- For an institutional sales professional, finding the right investor on a trade or capital markets transaction requires an appreciation of the investor’s country-sector alignment as well as interest in the underlying asset under-pinning the financial asset.
- For a Corporate Financier finding a private investor on a funding opportunity or a trade sale requires careful assessment of each investor or prospects aspirations and how the relevant asset either meets their investment considerations or their business competitiveness.
- For an institutional sales pro in an Asset Manager its important to understand a prospect from a standpoint of their potential interest in the investment style and characteristics of the Asset Manager, to create the best fit.
No. 3 – Reflect on Opportunity-Offering Alignment
Most often a prospecting outreach fails to generate the best outcome as the process itself is unscientific or just too generic in scope to identify a meaningful partner (or collaborator) on a transaction.
What is essential to drive prospecting success in a way that requires minimum outreach, and the quickest result is to take the learnings from the above points to curate better prospect lists. Such lists should focus on a tighter fit between what you are looking to do on a transaction and how best the prospect may be the right fit for your transaction. You must put yourself in the shoes of the prospect to see how best what you have on offer meets the business objectives of the Prospect. Such an alignment exercise allows for better curation of Prospect Lists and identifying prospects that will deliver you higher success rates on deals and sales opportunities.
We at InsightsCRM have looked at these issues closely to drive greater intelligence in the prospecting process and ensure it delivers increasingly better results over time.
No. 4 – Manage your Prospecting Intelligence “Intelligently”
Most salespeople or transaction bankers look at their prospecting lists in a static “deal specific” context and fail to use past engagement intelligence (with a prospect) to ascertain suitability for any future transaction(s). They tend to lose all the intelligence over time on a prospect or are unable to locate them across multiple emails, folders, and notebooks. What is required is an easy way to capture and manage such prospecting intelligence, in a way that allows you to revisit the Prospect and store the growing intelligence on the Prospect over time.
If your business relies on prospecting to generate revenues, you need to ensure your knowledge management capabilities within the firm cater to the following scenarios:
- Track all interactions with a Prospect. This includes, emails, call and meeting notes, other observations (interest and responsibility tags) etc.
- Capture feedback on opportunities. When you show a prospect a deal or transaction opportunity you get feedback on their level of interest (or the lack of it). It is important to capture such intelligence to drive a stronger iterative engagement with the prospect in future.
- Do not erase Prospect Lists on past deals. Number of times deal bankers and salespeople tell you that they work on deals and do a lot of hard work to curate lists on prospects and once the deal gets done, the list is lost forever. In the future when something similar comes along as a transaction, the work to create a Prospect goes back to the drawing board. Imagine if past Prospect lists could be leveraged to aid the prospecting effort on a new transaction?
- Prospects give you vital insights; it’s a shame to lose them. Your prospects are a source of enormous market intelligence and insights. Tapping into such an intelligence pool over time creates enormous efficiencies when it comes to running transactions; and significantly aids deal level success.
- A Prospect today could be a client tomorrow. In many businesses the prospecting journey is long and complex. Retaining the prospecting intelligence to aid future engagement allows you enormous advantage over time. In the world of M&A banking a prospective seller (or acquirer) of an asset today, could one day be a corporate client, awarding you a mandate.
No. 5 – Create and Leverage a Prospecting Network
As a banker you can rely entirely on our efforts to place or source a transaction, when it comes to the prospecting function; or you can look to intelligently leverage professional networks in a way that allows you greater leverage in the prospecting process. Remember, each of your competitor firms may be thinking the same and therefore it is important to differentiate yourself and drive a more effective prospecting process that will allow you to execute on a deal with minimal effort.
Sourcing new prospects (from within your network) while leveraging past deal prospects and their intelligence at your end, allows you to achieve greater success.
Role of Tech to Drive Greater Prospecting Success
Everything that we have highlighted above requires “smart tech” to play a vital role to allow you to run a prospecting process efficiently and profitably.
We believe the need for effective Knowledge Management within your business to drive a more effective prospecting process is critical to achieve transaction level success. The intelligence built on a Prospect over time should never be lost to information silos and/or the electronic trash bins (across user desktops) but be readily accessible to drive an engaging conversation at any time in the future. In fact, managing the actual prospecting process with its specific milestones and workflow allows for significant benefits of efficiencies across the transaction team.
We at InsightsCRM we reflect on your customer engagement journey and have designed workflows that best suit your needs in a way that allows you to drive a stronger customer connect and achieve greater commercial success.