Explore your current customer database
Some things in sales never change, like having a way to get your foot in the door. The one thing that has changed is that cold-calling may not be a viable option anymore, given that technology makes a lot easier for prospects to avoid the call. Prospecting without a connection is hard. Finding a connection is the key.
Now you might say that you’re using LinkedIn, which is the typical go-to for selling to 2nd and 3rd degree connections. But using LinkedIn can have its limitations. How may “connections” are really and truly business connections on LinkedIn? When you receive a LinkedIn request to connect, it could very well be that that person made a conscious choice to connect with you. But in many cases, they simply responded to a list of suggested contacts rather than a conscious choice. Therefore, that “connection” is not a real connection with intrinsic value. Your prospect may not have a LinkedIn presence at all, or may not want to disclose all of their business ventures. You're working with incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information.
LinkedIn is a great tool for sales prospecting, but it doesn't have to be your only tool.
Things that work better – Connections!
The key to sales is making the connection and building relationships.
You already have connections in your current customer database. Not only 1st degree connections with your current customer, but also connections to your customer’s associated people and businesses (2nd degree connections).
Referrals are the shining star of sales. If you have a happy customer and they refer other customers – you’re golden. But what if you could get referrals without having to even ask for them? If you understand the relationships and connections between your customer and their businesses associates, you have a referral. You already have a relationship with a company, and you can leverage that when prospecting for other similar businesses.
First you have to discover those connections, and then pursue them. Perhaps you don't want to create any friction with your customer by straight out asking for an introduction or referral to a business associate. Rather than asking for an introduction, you can re-frame the conversation. You might say something like, "Mr. Customer, I see that your partner is a director in XYZ company, would you mind if I drop your name in my initial call to them?". Because you've done your research, you did not have to ask your customer who they know (because you already know), and you have not put your customer in a position to have to take the time to make an introduction. When you make your calls, your calls are never cold because you have an "in".
Current Customer Base
You have a database of current and even past customers. What kind of connection do you have? If you are in the business of providing services to businesses (B2B), it might be helpful to know if your customer has other businesses. Or if your customer’s partners have other businesses. You can also look at the board of directors who often are involved with other business ventures. If you do business with Company A, researching the the other officers and agents for that business at the secretary of state will show you who else is involved with that business. Those other officers and entities represent new areas of opportunities.
These new prospects similar to your own customer because they came from your own database. 100% of the leads that you get from your own customer base is a warm qualified lead! Rather than working with a list of cold leads, 50% of which are probably unqualified, you’ve got a full list of qualified leads. You won’t be wasting time on unqualified leads, and close more customers.
Warm Leads from Existing Customer Base
Start with the low hanging fruit – your existing customer database. You’ll find more success with closing a customer that you have a connection with. You can use public data to determine who the officers and agents are in a company and use those contacts to expand on your connections. You already have business with the company, so you now have a referral that you didn’t have to ask for.