Prospecting is an integral part of sales. Moreover, it is not a one-and-done thing. By attrition alone, your book of business will shrink without a concerted effort to grow it. As a broker, prospecting will always be part of your job.
Sales professionals often confuse prospecting and scouting new business as being one and the same. They really are not. Prospecting is the process of maintaining your book of business by continually bringing in new customers. Scouting is but one tool in the prospecting tool crib.
A Clear Understanding of Prospecting
Too many brokers struggle with prospecting because they just do not understand what it means. If this sounds like you, take comfort in the fact that your misunderstanding is probably not your fault. Companies define prospecting in many different ways. Look it up online and you will find inconsistent definitions across the board.
Lead Gibbon contributor Steven Garland addressed this very issue in a post published back in 2018. He put together a concise definition of prospecting, a definition that includes many elements most other definitions left out. In a nutshell, he defines prospecting as a multi-step process that includes the following:
- Analyzing your customer base
- Identifying market opportunities
- Determining how to approach leads
- Contacting leads in the most appropriate way.
Garland's definition focuses on building your book of business by first building relationships with prospective customers. To use a gold prospecting analogy, sales prospecting is more than just digging in the ground in hopes of finding a nugget. There is a lot of relational groundwork that needs to be done before you start digging.
Scouting New Business
Scouting new business is relevant to the second step in Garland's process. After you analyze your customer base to determine what types of customers you are actually looking for, the next task is to go find them. That is what scouting is. Scouting is looking around to find those customers that match your analysis.
Here are some innovative ways to go about scouting:
- Scan your local business journals for new startups
- Read the business section of your local newspaper
- Pay attention to business construction in your area
- Get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce
- Ask partners (like your accountant) for referrals
- Ask realtors about businesses being sold.
Your opportunities for scouting are limited only to your own imagination. A good scout is always looking for opportunities. He or she always has an ear to the ground, listening to what people are saying and paying attention to what is going on in the current environment.
The best scouts are very good at observation. They see and hear the world around them. They pay attention to details. They learn to recognize even the slightest opportunities to introduce themselves and their businesses.
Immediately Following Up
Your prospecting and scouting efforts could very well succeed or fail based on your follow-up practices. For example, perhaps you are reading the local business journal on your commute home at the end of the day. Your very first task the next day should be contacting the potential customers you identified in your reading. Failing to follow up immediately increases the chances that you will not follow-up at all. That's the biggest trap in scouting.
Prospecting and scouting are necessary to keep your book of business going. They may be the least appreciated aspects of being a benefits broker, but the fact that you don't enjoy prospecting and scouting doesn't make them any less important. If you want to be a broker for your entire career, prospecting and scouting have to be priorities.