Sales is a tough gig. Lots of stress and anxiety. Wondering where the next deal is going to come from. I’ve even wondered if there WAS a “next deal!” And prospects can feel the pain. Skinny pipelines lead to pressure-packed closes from needy salespeople. Why do so many salespeople smell of lack and the ever-so-off-putting air of desperation? They don’t prospect for new business. Or at least, they don’t prospect very well. Going to a Chamber event is not prospecting. Desperately waiting for the phone to ring is not prospecting. Receiving a referral (OMG THANK YOU!) is not prospecting. And it’s not prospecting when we make a brilliant post on LInkedIn. It’s just not.
So what is it?
Prospecting for new business requires a plan…a Prospecting Plan. Do you have one? Is it written down with activities and metrics? Do you update it on a regular basis? How often do you change the mix of activities to reflect what’s working and what’s not? Keep these 6 concepts in mind to keep a clear head and a full pipeline.
Understand the difference between Active and Passive
How much of your prospecting activity is Active. That is, the activities that you can control. It’s things like the number of first meetings with prospects, the number of calls you’ll make, the number of walk-in calls executed, or referrals that you’ll ask for. I can control those things. Passive prospecting includes things like social media posts, email newsletters, referrals that I receive and advertising. You can’t have a thriving business by being a Passive Prospector. Check your mix and ensure that you have enough Active activities. The Passive leads will come...but we can't count on them. It's the "cherry on top."
Have a mix of prospecting activities
Have you ever met someone who says, “I get all of my business from referrals.” If so, you have met someone who is putting all of their eggs in one basket. It’s risky…and it leads to inconsistent results. Your plan should include a variety of activities. Asking for referrals, attending trade shows with a goal to meet 5 new contacts, free talks or seminars, email or InMail outreach. Think about how you have found your past clients. Make a plan and track your progress. You’ll find some things work better than others and that will allow you to devote more time to the most productive activities.
Is it Effectiveness or Fear?
Have you ever heard a sales colleague say, “Cold calling just doesn’t work for me.” Maybe. But I wonder…is it that cold calling doesn’t work or is it I’m not comfortable making cold calls? And if you aren’t comfortable, is it because you are acting on fear or that you just don’t know how to do it effectively? I’ve had clients who have learned our No Pressure Cold Call techniques and suddenly, cold calling is their most effective form of prospecting.
It’s all about you
When someone asks, “What do you do?”, is your answer all about you and your company. The features and benefits of working with you? If so, I have bad news for you. No one cares. They only care about their challenges, issues, and pains. Learn to do a professional 30-second commercial that you’ll use for cold calls, first appointments, and networking events. Talk about the problems you help people solve instead of the predictable, salesy “we are number one and have the best and the brightest and out service is amazing” pitch. Don’t sound like every other salesperson. Make it about the prospect.
Lack of Measurement
When we begin work with a client, it’s extremely rare (almost never) that I see salespeople with a written plan that they are tracking on a weekly and monthly basis. Without goals, plans, and actions, we are winging it. Create a Prospecting Cookbook that will help you identify the key behaviors, the frequency of those behaviors, and then measure your progress toward your goals.
We ignore the calendar
Your prospecting plans must be synched up and put in your calendar. Use Calendar Blocking to allot specific time for prospecting activities…and then honor that time. Put a few blocks of time throughout the week and stay true to your commitment. Often, I see sales teams doing a lot a little bit. I want you to do a little bit - a lot. Put in your networking events, your walk-in visits, your calling time. After setting the goal, making the plan, you can then forget the goal and focus on the plan.
Being great at prospecting is just a decision…followed by a plan. We don’t have to like prospecting, we just have to do it. And the only way to fail at prospecting is to fail to prospect.