There are so many theories about how to fill a sales pipeline. Everyone has an opinion. There are many definitive ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and when you see opinions this strong it’s probably because someone has found their groove and is working within their strongest skills. Which is exactly what everyone needs to do.

But, until you try out a few methods and stick with them long enough to gain traction, you’ll continue floundering and repeatedly ask the question, “How do I find prospects and get them to pay attention to me?”

If cold calling is your jam, then work it! There are markets where people are more likely to pick up the phone and be receptive to calls. If you’re in one of those, then by all means, take advantage of it.

But there are other ways to prospect. You’re not limited to cold calling.

I was talking with a client about filling his pipeline and he had been given outside advice to create cold introduction email campaigns. This was advice from someone who didn’t know him, so it was a generic recommendation. Neither of us felt good about this direction because we knew he had better, more predictable ways to fill his pipeline — and fill it quickly.

He has a very strong center of influence with connections to many executives in his market at companies he would love to see on his client list. He has received a number of quality introductions and referral meetings from this influencer, and together they are organizing roundtable discussions, inviting the executives.

As we talked about his progress on scheduling and filling the roundtable session, I asked how much he enjoyed those. He lit up and said, “Oh, I’m at my best when I’m running a group conversation like that!”

Well, duh! A critical answer is staring him right in the mirror!

If you have the ability to bring a group of targeted prospects together in a room, mix them with a few of your happy clients, and facilitate a discussion around a topic that you’re passionate about and they need to know about, then what are you waiting for? Get those sessions lined up every month. Find a facility to hold the event and then just repeat the event set-up month after month. The only prep work you need to do is getting the room filled with the right people.

We have another client who networks consistently in various local groups and he averages more than 15 referrals a month! He’s gotten so much business this way that he’s now honing his ideal client and message to get more targeted referrals so he can carefully continue building his business the way he wants to build it, rather than how it’s been randomly built up to this point. But the takeaway is that he’s built an amazing reputation and proven that when he shows up regularly he establishes trust with his audience and becomes top-of-mind.

Getting face-to-face with people is one of the greatest ways to shortcut the prospecting timeline. The more people see you, hear your ideas, and can ask questions in the moment, the quicker you’ll both find out if you’re a right fit for one another.

Also see: “Still selling products? Your days are numbered.”

Whether it’s a local chamber, a CFO/CEO group, a Rotary club, a SHRM group, local seminars or niche industry events, the options are only limited to your willingness to participate. And don’t underestimate the importance of social time at these events — it’s imperative. Networking breaks, cocktail hours, group dinners are all valid times to make and nurture connections. Each of these opportunities is as important a part of the event as the meetings and sessions themselves.

You’ll leave feeling more personally connected, you know people will accept your LinkedIn invitations, and then you can continue developing your relationship bit by bit, becoming more familiar with one another’s ideas as you each share on LinkedIn.

Marketing supports prospecting
For a business-to-business sales organization like a benefits advisory firm, a core function of marketing is to support the prospecting and sales efforts.

What’s the first thing a prospect is going to do when they learn about you? Yep, look you up online. They’ll look at your LinkedIn profile and your website. They may even Google you. What will they find?

Hopefully it’s information that supports what you’ve talked about during prospecting and what your referral sources have said about you.

Hopefully they see a website that reflects your brand message and talks to your ideal audience using words and ideas that resonate with them. And a complete LinkedIn profile with regular activity that entices an employer with your educational knowledge and sharing. And they see you’re an active member of your industry, learning, sharing and developing new ideas from which they may benefit.

When prospective clients see the proof, it reinforces the opinions they’re already forming about you. If they see you walk the talk, it will strengthen your position with them. If they see information that contradicts what they’ve heard from you or about you, it will push them away.

I talk to too many people who are sitting, hiding behind computers, thinking about how to construct a cold introduction email, trying to entice people to click. Or stressing about how to connect with new people on LinkedIn, and paralyzed by the fear, never quite get around to it.

If you pick up the phone and/or get face-to-face first and regularly, then when you send emails and invitations, the reader will recognize your name and be much more likely to click.

Prospecting without marketing is simply activity. Marketing without prospecting is hoping and praying for a miracle.

Prospecting warms things up; marketing supports and reinforces it. The combination moves you to sales conversations where the buyer is prepared for your message. ]

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Wendy Keneipp

Wendy Keneipp

Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation.