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Nobody Likes to Prospect

In South Florida it’s that time of year when the incoming sales leads slow down, the number of weddings and events decrease, and as such… cash flow and profits also diminish. It’s also the time of year when my sales team renews and solidifies existing relationships and reaches out to new ones by prospecting.

When one hears the word prospecting in regard to sales, the first thing one might think about is cold calling. But it’s not that at all. It can actually be fun, especially if you think about it as relationship building. Prospecting is getting to know another person or firm, and discovering their needs, wants, and desires. It’s also learning who they might know in a way that could benefit your firm. Prospecting is not going out to immediately close a deal, although it does happen occasionally!

Ten or more years ago I started working on a keynote address entitled, “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and into Your Challenge Zone.” Prospecting does require you to reach out to others that you may not know well, and of course, there’s always the fear of rejection. But remember, you are in your challenge zone, not your comfort zone. There will be a handful of folks who will not welcome your visit, your phone call, or your email. But if you do your homework before reaching out, you’ll be thrilled with the overall impact of your efforts.

Prospecting builds the number of people that you will know and be acquainted with. And in sales, the more people that you know and who know you, the more sales you will have.

“OK Bill… you’ve convinced me. I need to do more prospecting, so what should I do now?” So glad you asked! Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Readers are leaders and leaders are readers. Buy a book on prospecting or find some material on the Internet. Currently at my desk is a copy of Prospect The Sandler Way by John Russo.
  2. Review all of your existing clients and prospects in whatever database you use (I love Salesforce, for example, but it’s not for everyone). Many of the catering software programs have contact features. Let the 80/20 rule kick in. Look for planners, corporations, and vendors that represent repeat business. You can also reach out to former bridal couples. Perhaps a small anniversary gift on their first anniversary. You will find that many of them work for firms that will need catering sometime in the future.
  3. Attend networking events… MPI is great, NACE, Catersource, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, bridal shows, BizBash trade shows. BNI is awesome. (I was a member of a BNI group for five years and I still do business with many of the members.)
  4. One of the most powerful resources, however is LinkedIn… if you don’t use it, you should if you’re in sales. One of my staffers was able to download my LinkedIn contacts into an Excel spreadsheet and for the last two weeks, I’ve been going through my contacts and assigning the most promising to one of my event producers.

Parting Shot: Remember the Nike slogan ”Just Do It” Get started, get out of your comfort zone and I guarantee that at this time next year your sales and commissions will be greater than this year. I know, since I’ve been doing this for 36 in my own firm and we’re growing at the rate of 25% per year for the last five years and are on the same pace in 2016. It works.

Get Fresh, June 2016

Bill Hansen

Bill Hansen

CEO, Bill Hansen Catering and Event Production, Miami, FL

From catering for four U.S. Presidents, to Pope John Paul II, to champion Super Bowl teams, Bill Hansen brings over 50 years of catering, entrepreneurial and food service management experience to his consulting practice. A published author, Bill’s extensive expertise has made him one of the country’s leading food experts and Founder and CEO of one of South Florida’s top catering firms.

Bill’s areas of expertise are in leadership, and management. In 1980, he founded Bills’ Catering with his best friend Bill Hendrich. In 1990, Bill began teaching Catering Management at Florida International University. After 403 years, Bill’s firm continues to prosper, while spawning scores of South Florida caterers...