Successful sales is successful prospecting. Lack of prospecting is the number one reason why people do not achieve success in sales. It could be from past experience, improper training, lack of confidence or any number of things that the salesperson uses as excuses. Prospect your sphere. Share your information. Create a network that encourages referrals from your past clients, professional referral sources and direct spheres of influence. For any sales professionals there are two categories of prospects: The client who will be committing to do business with you and the professional referral sources who will bring you the clients and expect you to do the same for them. In each case, there are three levels of attention. For each case, divide the prospects into A, B and C clients. “A” clients “A” clients are your best customers. They are buyers, looking to purchase within the next 30 days and are actively working to buy what you offer. Your attention should be focused on this group. They require frequent phone calls, e-mails, and face-to-face contact and follow up in order to stay visible. Keep everything on the level, with honesty and integrity. This means that you don’t undercut the competition to get the business. Your goal is to make money, not give it away. Your dedication to true customer service earns the business without gimmicks. “B” clients “B” clients are still in the looking stage and probably will not buy for another two to three months. They will require the phone calls, e-mails and personal contact, but less often. When these clients are ready to buy they will already know and trust you and are willing to do business with you. “C” clients “C” clients are more like suspects than prospects. They are sitting on the fence, haven’t made a commitment of any sort and may or may not ever really buy. They deserve your attention, but not a time commitment. Offer them information, phone calls and e-mail updates, but on a quarterly basis. As soon as they indicate they are serious, move them into the “B” category. The A, B and C process creates a net over your prospects. To close that net and create loyal clients, it is necessary to be creative, especially in today’s market. Ensure that they will have a great experience. Offer cards of congratulations when their sale is approved. Cultivate a series of creative touches that keeps your name and company in front of both the potential client and the existing client. Invest in yourself Critical to building your business into a top producer requires investing 10 percent to 20 percent of your income back into your business. Use the money to continually improve your knowledge, as well as the efficiency of your business. Imagination, information and knowledge will improve success percentages. Making the most of your time Systems that reduce interruptions are significant for success. Arriving at the office an hour or so before everyone else allows you to accomplish a tremendous amount of miscellaneous work before anyone shows up. By 8:30 a.m., when the office starts to fill up, you are free to be out the door prospecting. Look for ways to reduce interruptions. Check your e-mail twice a day instead of being reactive every time the e-mail bell goes off. Schedule specific times to return your phone calls. Use your voicemail to update callers when they can expect return calls and a brief outline of your schedule. Note in your voicemail if there is someone else who will be able to help them immediately. Terminate unprofitable relationships Get rid of the “time robbers” as wasted time equals lost revenue. Are the relationships, activities and time investments giving you the rate of return that you desire? If not, consider eliminating them. React to all situations in a responsible, positive and consistent manner. Face problems head on and keep customer service as a priority. Prioritizing Business is important but so are the “life priorities.” Carefully plan your time around your faith, family, physical and financial needs. These are more important than a commission. Envision your business plan (do you have a business plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?) three, five and 10 years out and how it will affect your family. Use that business plan to create a plan designed for success by including IT systems, marketing plans, budgets, prospecting and database management. Understand that prospecting, sales and marketing are keys to bringing in business and utilizing a system of responding to customer service as well. Enriching your leads Growing your prospect list also means developing a perpetual stream of leads. Create a list of 250 possible “suspects.” Anyone who has planned a wedding knows how easily the guest list grows. How many of these people could be possible referral sources? Not only think of people who may need your services, but consider professional referral sources such as certified public accountants, attorneys, human resources professionals, financial planners and architects. Any of these professionals could become invaluable resources for leads. Reciprocation is important, so they should be professionals you would be willing to give referrals to as well. The keys to following up Creating that net requires continuous follow-up. The best laid business plans and sales techniques will fall awry without a consistent and continual follow-up. Create an exit review with your clients, about five days after the closing the sale, to ensure everything went well, their expectations were met and give the client the opportunity to offer you suggestions for creating a better experience. At this time, you have the privilege of asking for future business, referrals from their family and friends, and insight into their sphere of influence. There is no quick fix to successful sales. Every action and reaction must be carefully considered, time must be planned and prospecting must be cultivated. Family is as important as business relationships. In essence, sales are hard work. Be conscious of the underachievers and look to the top producers. You will see great results by thinking your way to the top and putting those thoughts into action. Tom Ninness, CML, CMPS is vice president/regional production manager for Cherry Creek Mortgage in Denver. He is also president of Summit Champions Inc. and creator of the “The 90 Day Journey to Your Sales Success,” a 90-day action plan for the sales professional. He may be reached by phone at (720) 221-4396.