You may have a lot of inbound planner leads, but if you aren’t dedicating at least a small part of each week to sales prospecting, those leads could dry up quickly.
In order to ensure a healthy sales pipeline with high-quality leads, you’ll need to hunt down the contact information for your high-value prospects. But the sales prospecting game is constantly changing, and smart salespeople need to continuously learn about new developments to stay on top of their prospecting game.
What is sales prospecting?
There are dozens of definitions out there, but in this case, we're going with Hubspot's definition, which states: Prospecting is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers for your products or services. The goal of sales prospecting is to move these people, or prospects, through the sales funnel until they eventually convert into revenue-generating customers.
Explore 9 tips for better sales prospecting:
1. Get introduced by a mutual contact.
It’s amazing how the attitude of a prospect changes when you’re introduced by a mutual friend, acquaintance, or business contact. Just knowing you’ve been vetted by someone they trust will put prospects’ minds at ease and set you up for a better conversation. Thousands of years after the first “salesperson," this is still the gold standard for starting a relationship. You can get introduced by email, in person, by phone, or by social media -- it doesn’t really matter as long as someone is vouching for you and getting you over the initial hurdle of cold outreach.
Use LinkedIn to search for any connections you have in common and ask for a quick introduction. Writing a suggested short paragraph that your contact can cut and paste makes things quick and easy for them, as well as presenting you and your property in the way you would choose. Keep in mind that a person is spending their social capital by making that introduction, so choose who you ask wisely.
2. Interact first on social media.
Your chances of success from your first email or phone call with a prospect dramatically increase if they've already heard of you, your property, or your brand. That’s why it makes sense to make contact with them first on social media. Reach out via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to offer helpful information or just a friendly "hello." You’re not asking much of someone when you reach out via a social channel, and because it’s fairly passive they can choose whether or not to reply without seeming rude.
Even if you’re not reaching out to a prospect directly, consider offering relevant resources and information for your target audience regularly on social media. This establishes you as a thought leader and helpful resource in the field, and prospects may even come to you when they have questions or hotel needs.
3. Attend relevant events and networking opportunities.
The more you can help your target audience, the more they will think of you as a good fit when they have needs. Because of this, many sales reps and managers try to attend events and take advantage of networking opportunities. But be careful which events you choose. Events focusing on the hotel industry may help you meet peers, but they won’t necessarily help you meet prospects.
Focus your networking and event attendance on the industries and groups you’re targeting. For instance, if you’re targeting event planners in the wedding industry, then you’ll need to focus on wedding trade shows, photographer exhibitions, flower shows, and other events where the event planners will be going. Corporate event planners may go to event planning conferences, marketing conferences, and other events in their industry. Show up at events where your prospects are and introduce yourself at a time when they aren’t too busy, and you’ll be in a much better position to give them a call or send them an email when they’re making a decision about a hotel.
To find relevant events, try typing “[the industry]+[your location]+ events + year” into a search engine. This should give you a good list of future events related to your target audience.
4. Leverage LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has quickly become one of the most powerful sources for sales prospecting and selling in almost every industry. By connecting with all of your professional contacts and adding new ones over time, you can create a powerful online network that reflects your offline connections. Every meeting, networking event, happy customer, or referral is a chance to add to your connections and multiply the contacts you have the potential to contact in the future.
There is a lot that goes into using LinkedIn for hotel sales prospecting, including using narrow search terms, joining groups, replying to discussions, and sending InMails strategically. As with all social networks, it’s important to give more than you take and to form authentic relationships. A good rule of thumb is to only connect with someone if you’ve met them, done business with them, or would be comfortable asking for an introduction from them later. This may keep your network smaller, but the connections in it are of higher value and more likely to be useful to you later on.
5. Provide relevant gated content.
Many prospects are happy to part with their contact information in return for useful content that will help them better perform their jobs. You can promote this content on social media, your blog, and your website. Making the content available for download means that prospects will need to part with their email address in order to receive the content. The important thing with this tactic is to provide something truly valuable. What pain points have you identified within your target market? Can you provide information or a resource that will help with your prospect’s daily struggles?
As an example, consider a corporate event planner prospect who needs to fit her events into a limited annual budget. You could provide a downloadable resource on cost-cutting and money-saving tips for corporate events. Your prospect will be pleasantly surprised that you’re trying to help her save money, and you will secure her contact information so you can begin establishing a relationship. Make sure to keep your content relevant, narrowly focused, and timely so that prospects will immediately see the value in giving you their contact information.
6. Leverage email hunting software.
There are more tools and applications available now for hunting down contact information than ever before. Some tools are added as an extension to your email software, while others are standalone or browser-based applications. Technologies like Hunter, FindThatLead, Prospect.io and Voila Norbert help you use whatever information you have about a prospect or a company to find the right person and their appropriate contact information, especially email adresses. Try out a few of the tools and see which ones meet your needs -- you may find some that work better for you than others.
No matter which tool you use, don’t rely too heavily on it as the first step in your sales process. Warm introductions through networking, event attendance, mutual contacts, or referrals are going to get you much further and ensure a stronger relationship than a cold email ever will.
7. Use local event calendars, Eventbrite and Meetup.
These tools can be a helpful source of information about upcoming events. You can filter (i.e. sports events, art fairs, conferences, etc.) and set up alerts so that you know when new events are added. While the events themselves will usually have a venue by the time they're listed, there may be a significant group of people coming from out of town that will need somewhere to stay. Luckily, the contact information for event organizers will be included on the listing, so you can reach out and see whether your property could be a useful partner.
8. Comb through your CRM.
Your CRM is likely already your go-to tool for keeping track of sales interactions, boosting group sales, and gaining referrals. But it can also be a helpful tool for tracking down contact information for new prospects. Event planners and group organizers move between departments, companies, and industries all the time, and with a bit of time and attention, you can continue your relationships with them even when they move.
When you learn that your contact is leaving their position, make sure to ask for their new position and contact information so you can keep in touch. Even if they're no longer the person you would sell to, they can make valuable introductions to others in their industry or company. Also, ask for the name and contact information for their replacement, and point out that for continuity’s sake, you would love an introduction.
You can also use your CRM to research contact information for cold calls and cold emails. Email addresses stored in your CRM give you an idea of the pattern that an email address follows so that you can guess the address for a new contact. Your guesses may not always be right, but you can at least use your CRM as a part of your sleuthing process.
9. Get referrals from past customers.
A happy customer is often your best source for a warm introduction. If you can secure at least one referral from each customer you help, your sales pipeline will be filled with qualified leads well into the future. You can use your CRM to get referrals, as well as providing multiple opportunities for customers to leave feedback and make introductions during and after doing business with you. A happy customer is usually willing to refer other businesses, but many sales reps just don’t ask. By making the ask part of your follow-up routine, you’ll ensure a strong flow of referrals coming in.
Start using these sales prospecting tips today!
Already make the connection? Read on for tips on nurturing leads through email.