Developing sales prospects involves networking, referrals and lead generation. One of the most common ways to develop sales prospects is cold calling or canvassing. Sales representatives gather market data about prospective customers from public lists and target them for sales presentations. Prospects are also developed through advertising inquiries, including web-based forms that allow potential customers to submit their contact information.
Lead generation is one of the most commonly used tactics when developing sales prospects. It can take on a variety of forms, but essentially involves soliciting a certain number of individuals or businesses to see if they have interest in learning more about a company's products and services. Generating leads often involves verifying specific information that demonstrates the individual or business may have a need for the company's products.
For example, a distributor of health insurance for senior citizens may call a registered list of individuals in the area that have identified themselves as being 65 or older. The next step in the lead generation process might be to ask those individuals whether they currently have health insurance coverage and what types they may be interested in. Some of the qualifying questions may ask about insurance costs, what respondents expect from an insurance plan, and whether they would be interested in listening to a presentation about alternative carriers.
Due to the fact that many consumers find unsolicited phone calls to be an intrusion, online and traditional advertising can provide less invasive methods of lead generation. Sales prospects respond to advertisements by requesting additional information from a company's toll-free number or a local office. Contact information is obtained from these potential customers and stored in a database for further follow-up and solicitation. Some of these solicitation forms may include direct mail and e-mail.
Many companies that provide services in a specific local area may use flyers or door-to-door solicitation in order to gain potential sales. Canvassers will distribute flyers to homes that are not currently using the company's products or ask if they are currently using the service of a competitor. Distributing samples to non-customers is also a prospecting method that some companies use to gain additional customers. In addition, calling on former customers who have discontinued service or product use is another commonly used prospecting technique.
Professional networks can provide a customer base. Sales prospects are sometimes obtained by word-of-mouth referrals from others who have used the company's products or services. For example, a landscaping company who handles commercial accounts may get additional referrals by attending trade shows or advertising in trade magazines sponsored by professional affiliate organizations.