How to prospect with engaging conversationsJun 10, 2023
Within the huge variety of sales books, Richard Forrest focuses in his “Ultimate Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting” on the hidden market of those customers who are not in a buying mood yet and thus not captured by the vast majority of online marketing campaigns. He suggests a person to person (P2P) approach to build rapport with those potential clients early and to begin the buying journey early with them.
From a forensic scientist to a sales coach and creating a prospecting agency: Richard found his sweet spot when he was offered to work in a sales role. Developing his approach with his team over more than ten years and millions of phone calls, he summarised his experience in this book to showcase a way to achieve remarkable results when applying a consistent prospecting strategy.
In the first chapters, Richard analyses the typical markets using the analogy of an iceberg which also sports on the cover of the book. He believes that most companies focus only on 20% of their total potential market and this is also where every competitor is looking to get business from. However, lying unseen below the waterline are those prospects who don’t yet know that you have a solution for them and so haven’t started looking for you. One day these 80% will start to look for a suitable solution, but they won’t necessarily find you. To address this market segment, Richard suggests a different approach around prospecting. Instead of just using online and email marketing, companies should also be starting conversations earlier with their prospects. The book explains as well how to identify potential prospects, but the core of the nearly 190 pages represent his four-step method to achieve consistent sales through prospecting with plenty of examples and practical tips.
The book is full of useful quotes about sales in general, but also about P2P prospecting as a “conversational selling technique that has proven to be far more effective than pitching by rote can ever be.” The following sentence captures the holistic approach with consistency: “We need to focus on having quality sales conversations at the beginning, during and at the end of the sales cycle, because people buy from people they like, not from emails they like.” Enhancing this further, I would replace “sales cycle” with “buying journeys” as customers have their own way which doesn’t necessarily fit into the modelled sales cycles of vendors and providers; luckily the book covers this point as well.
Richard’s prospecting apparently gained proof after applying to various industries resulting in a six-digit number of appointments for his clients. These four sections – Define your prospecting value proposition, Refine your pitch, Streamline your process, Align your follow-up – are covered with three company examples to illustrate their value propositions and how to solve the problems of their clients instead of just their own products or services. This concrete section represents the highlight of the book due to its application possibility.
Being myself included in the machinery of lead generation and prospecting, I found a lot of gold nuggets in the book. Vendors and providers with marketing and sales teams have to collaborate instead of relying on marketing to bring leads and then relying on sales to close them. In my view, sellers are responsible for their own prospecting as well. Not everybody likes cold calling though and are often much better at other stages of the sales process than opening, therefore I’m happy to read Richard’s steps, what is needed to be successful and how this can be given into the hands of experts. There is an interesting catch about the name: while the book is called B2B for Business-to-Business as a well-known acronym, the strategies are about P2P – and here Richard is spot on as people like to do business with people who they know, like and trust – especially when it is about consultative rather than transactional products and solutions.
Richard’s book can be an inspiration for other professionals who want to write their own business book as he condensed the core essence of his specialty in a useful combination of market knowledge, practical ideas and then follows up with a detailed, self-developed and proven methodology. Despite running his own company, he doesn’t pitch to be hired, instead he provides to the reader the knowledge and background to run the needed activities by themselves as well.
Q&A with Richard Forrest
1. What was the deciding moment to write this book?
I realised that there is a lot of misconception around cold call sales prospecting. Many companies and many sales people have been lulled into thinking that cold calls are something from the 80’s and that the internet will provide all of the sales leads that their sales teams require. But that’s not the case: it’s becoming more and more competitive and expensive online and I could see every day how our teams in the UK and Australia, talking to senior business decision makers, are generating qualified sales leads that quite simply are not on our clients’ radar. I wanted to let people know that there is another way to generate fantastic sales leads for their sales teams. And done well, it enhances their brand and gives them a significant edge over their competitors. After all, one full time resource, prospecting effectively will reach and talk with around 10,000 potential prospects each year.
2. How long did it take from concept to launch?
It took a year in total, but the book was “written” in 30 days. After that, editing took another 2 months. Then everything stopped because I couldn’t come up with a title. I was trying to be too clever and once I stepped back from that and opted for a straightforward title that told people what the book was about, things came together quickly.
3. How did you perform the research to create the practical content?
That part was actually fairly simple, because we have been living the philosophy I explain in the book every day at Forrest Marketing Group in Australia and Air Marketing Group in the UK. We have teams of BDEs who spend their days generating qualified sales leads for our clients, working across almost every industry you can think of. So there was a wealth of experience and data to draw on from this.
4. What was the biggest challenge along the process (and how did you overcome it)?
The biggest challenge was getting the book written and having the discipline to write every day until it was completed. I overcame this by putting together what they call a Book Summary. This outlines the reason for the book and gives an overview of what other books are available on the subject and how your book will be different to those already published. It also outlines who the book is written for (it’s never for everyone) and details the contents of the book, the chapter names and provides an overview of their content. I don’t know if everyone does this, but I found it to be an invaluable process. By doing my research and planning out what I would write about, the actual writing was much easier because I was following a plan and I knew who my target reader was. It would be impossible (for me, at least) to sit down to write a book from scratch without a plan like this.
5. What was your own reflection along the journey?
That’s an interesting question. I realised just how powerful this approach is in sales, but I also understood that it is not a panacea, it is not the ultimate secret to sales success. Success in sales comes down to a lot of factors and sales prospecting, as outlined in my book, is just one of the strategies that a professional sales person or team should be using. It should always be an integral part of any sales team’s activities, but it needs to be used in conjunction with other sales and marketing strategies
6. What is the outcome in having this book available?
It is great to see the book sales figures coming in every month, but my goal was not actually to sell lots of books. I wanted to get my philosophy out to sales and marketing teams so that they can benefit from it. When people write to me and ask for a free copy of my book, I always give it to them – and they can have one for a colleague or family member too, if they want. There’s no point in a book that nobody reads, so my goal is simply to get it out to as many sales people as I possibly can and to have more people incorporate conversational sales prospecting into their process as possible.
7. What would you advise others about writing their book?
It’s a wonderful experience and the feeling of achievement when you see your book in its finished form is just amazing. But there are two pieces of advice I would give anyone who is thinking of writing a book. First, plan it properly. Get a copy of a Book Summary (if you write to me, I’ll send you the one I put together for this book). And second, don’t expect to become a millionaire from it. By that I mean, have a plan for how you are going to get it into the hands of the people that you want to read it. Assuming that it is going to fly off the shelves in the local bookstore is a fine dream, but if it doesn’t, you need to have a well thought out Plan B. Otherwise you will have a garage full of books sitting and gathering dust.
Richard Forrest: "The Ultimate Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting", Sydney: McPherson’s Printing 2017, ISBN 978-1-925648-35-5 (Paperback)
More about the author and the book: www.richardforrest.com.au