We need to talk about prospecting. This concept and skill is possibly the most crucial way for anyone in any sales role to hit their goals. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, its the only way you can guarantee you will smash your goals and get that bonus you’ve been striving for quarter after quarter.
Ask any director, manager or executive and they will all agree. It’s like music to their ears any time you bring up just the thought of finding new clients. Prospecting is key. New business is how we can drive results. We need new business to survive. Yet despite this, the vast majority of salespeople neglect to do any or nearly enough prospecting in their daily sales activity.
The Modern salesperson makes prospecting a cornerstone of their workday and tops their team roster, exceeding their goals on a consistent basis, time and time again. Let’s find out how.
Have you ever started into a fresh quarter and gulped in fear when you saw nothing promising on the horizon? Ever finished a big deal you had been working on for weeks and weeks, only to discover your pipeline completely empty now that you’ve landed that client you were totally focused on? You glance at other salespeople and they seem to always have a piece of business on the go. How? Why? “They must be getting better leads. More leads.” You’ll say, or “that’s just the nature of their market/customer base.”
These things may be a little bit true – as customers and markets can have different buying patterns. But the fact of the matter still remains – Where are all of your leads? Where will your next sale come from? How will you eat this month?!
Prospecting is not buying leads, internet marketing, or advertising. Prospecting is not posting on social media, at certain times of day, hoping to get noticed. It’s not bus benches. It most certainly isn’t blanket mass-emails in some flimsy attempt to get a response. Prospecting is not calling everyone in the phonebook in hopes they will be interested in what you have to say.
Prospecting gets its name from mining, particularly bringing to mind the Yukon gold rush days. Men would come from far and wide, sifting rivers and testing for deposits, all in the hope that their hard work would pay off in a huge strike and they would get filthy rich (which sounds good to me).
Prospecting today is a concerted effort by salespeople to directly identify and establish contact with real potential buyers of their product or service, get them into the sales process, with hope to convert them from a possible client into a current client.
You need prospecting because the clients you want are not going to just walk in the door. The numbers your director needs are not going to just materialize because it’s “prime buying season.” Your business will drown if you do not get an injection of new sales. The work you do now will be what feeds you for the next 90 days.
Your “pipeline” is the customers you currently have in your buying funnel or sales cycle.
Ask Yourself: How many true deals do you have in the pipeline for next quarter? What about the one after that? You must focus on the future of your pipeline or you will sink.
There is a saying in sales – “it’s not what you’ve sold, its what you’ve sold today.” You might ask yourself – how can I have a sale everyday if my sales process is weeks long? The answer is in your pipeline.
A lack of clear and reliable strategy is a surefire way to not make any of your personal or professional goals. Most salespeople only prospect “when they have time” or “after focusing on closing current deals happening today.” This will feel good at the time and you will feel true progress and watch your numbers climb, but come next quarter or the one after, you will be in hot water because new business has dried up. Where did it go?
Closing deals and meeting with current clients is all fun and games, and likely why you got into sales in the first place. I know it’s why I did – it barely feels like work! In fact, it is the fun part of the job. The heavy lifting of the job is prospecting, however, and must not be neglected at all costs.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time, is now. Don’t wait until Monday, don’t wait until next Monday or next quarter or after Christmas or Halloween. START NOW. Analysis paralysis and never-ending preparation are the death of all good sales professionals. By all means, do your homework and do not be unprepared, but for your own sake, just start now. Time is the most valuable resource in sales. Your competition will not be waiting around.
In addition to starting literally now, it’s also important to not just start prospecting when business dries up. If you wait until all of your current work completes, you will be left empty handed and at the beginning of a long process. And if you’re only starting once your deals have been done, its likely other people already have their hooks into the clients you will now be seeking hat in hand. START NOW.
Do not do all of your prospecting on one day. Do not try to make a hundred calls in one week and be done for the year. This is a major blunder so many sales people fall into. “I do all of my prospecting on Mondays.” they say. What happens when Monday is a holiday? How about if your best prospects never work on Mondays? What happens if you have a meeting come up on Monday that you cannot miss?
Let’s say your aim is to make ten calls on your “prospecting day.” Making ten calls in one day might seem overwhelming. You’ll likely spend an hour working up the courage, only to have 8 calls go to voicemail or not answer. You will revel in the two calls that answered, perhaps getting a referral and a solid lead. Well done. But now you will wait another full week (at least) to make ten calls again. This will get you nowhere.
Average Your Efforts for Actual Results
The best thing to do is to be steady and consistent. I will be breaking down a specific prospecting strategy in a future article soon, but the key is to average your efforts over multiple days and times to make the work light. Instead of making ten calls in one day, only to have two answered, make ten calls every day, only stopping once you’ve gotten two leads/referrals out of that day’s call block. Make your goal not to make ten calls in one day, but to have ten “answers” over the course of fifty calls in five days.
It’s not enough to just make call after call after email. Do you have a strategy? Are you tracking what you do? Are you actually closing to next steps and producing results from you prospecting? If prospecting is all about creating opportunities, then why would you turn around and waste those opportunities by being unprepared or inefficient?
You must be ready before you even reach out. Correctly identify your prospect as a true potential buyer. Know who they are and be ready to answer their questions with confidence. Be prepared to get a lead. If not a lead, information on when they will become a true lead. Still not interested? How about a referral? If you’re going to do the hard work of prospecting and putting yourself out there, ensure that you are ready and that you will make it worth your while.
If prospecting is all about creating opportunities, then why would you turn around and waste those opportunities by being unprepared or inefficient?
Your sales come from your pipeline of customers in your sales cycle. The moves from lead to proposal, negotiations to contracting to signing are all a key part of the sales process and it’s your job to manage that process. If you just sit around and wait for people to enter your sales funnel, you will only have a trickle of business and your bonus will die of thirst. Leverage just a small effort every single day you work, and you will see the results.
What you do in the next 30 days will feed you for the next 90 days after that
Let’s say you make twenty prospecting touches a day (a mix of calls, emails and social media) or have a goal to get four “results” (lead, referral, contact) from twenty efforts each day. Thats 400 touches each month, or 4,800 touches per year. Even if you have a 5% success rate for your key metric (ie. Leads), that would be 48 more solid leads brought on directly by you each year. At the very least, you will be expanding your contact list and market knowledge immensely.
Above all else – treat prospecting as the work (read: labour) you do in a given day. Everything else is fun, everything else can wait. Most clients currently in your sales cycle could probably use a bit more of a delayed response from you so they don’t think you’re starving for their business.
Make prospecting easy to do regularly, and treat it as an unbreakable engagement with yourself.
Never let anyone infringe on your daily prospecting time, and keep it sacrosanct above all other meetings in your calendar. When you set aside your time prospecting, you give up your goals to work for someone else’s goals. Always keep that in mind.