on, you will have other opportunities that will be ready to close. This is important as another key to being successful in sales is motivation — nothing is more motivating than having multiple opportunities, via a full pipeline, to make new sales.
   When prospecting to fill your pipeline, there are good sources of public information that provide qualified leads. These sources include: City Hall registrations for new businesses, new business license listings, the yellow pages, the local Chamber of Commerce, leads and tips clubs, commercial printers (printing business cards, letterhead and signs for new companies), business service providers such as phone companies, furniture stores and office supply firms, and most importantly, referrals from other people who have bought from you in the past.
   As referrals are the most valuable source of solid leads, successfully gaining referrals is critical to successful prospecting. Simply asking if a merchant has any referrals often doesn’t get you anywhere. Approaching a merchant with a plan to get referrals is much more successful. By asking a merchant if he knows his merchant neighbors and if you can use his name to get your foot in the door, helps you create a favorable “warm call” environment with his referrals. By creating a list of his nearby merchant neighbors and asking him if he knows any of them by name, is an even better approach. This gives you more information with which to approach these merchants as an “insider” as opposed to just another person selling a service.
   If merchants who have bought from you in the past are happy with your service, you can often gain referrals from them indefinitely. Find out if your customers are members of associations. Oftentimes, other association members may have similar needs to those of your customer. Ask your customers if they know of new businesses nearby or if they have friends or family members who have similar needs to their own. Make a lasting impression and ensure future referrals by always thanking your customers, in writing, for doing business with you. These types of leads are invaluable and are an excellent way of creating an endless chain of referrals.
   Organization is key to tracking your leads and maintaining a full pipeline throughout the prospecting process. Many companies encourage their sales representatives to create a database of prospects which not only facilitates the initial sales process, but makes continued communication after the sale easier and more efficient.
   Another key to prospecting is that it never ends. It’s important to remember, that you should always be prospecting to fill your pipeline, even when business is good. The best time to prospect is right after you make a sale. When you are fueled by confidence after closing a sale, the prospecting process is easier and merchants respond more favorably to you. It is very easy to become too comfortable when things are going well and to make fewer and fewer contacts. Becoming complacent is the biggest mistake a successful salesperson can make. When your pipeline is empty, you then have to begin at ground zero and spend time rebuilding it with new leads instead of closing the mature leads that should have already been there. In fact, the most critical time for a salesperson isn’t when sales are bad, but when they are great, because the natural tendency is to stop doing the things that achieved the success — resulting in a loss of confidence and an empty pipeline.
   Take heed and begin every day with a well thought out prospecting plan.

Wayne Damron is Senior Vice President of Sales for Lynk Systems, Inc. Visit the Lynk website at www.lynksystems.com.

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