If you are a sales professional, a core portion of your job duties likely involve prospecting. Prospecting is usually the least favorite part of the day of almost any sales professional I’ve ever talked to. It is often equated to exercise or brushing of teeth. Most people don’t enjoy it.
You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it, but prospecting does not have to be as painful as we often make it. It is usually the fundamental mistakes we make that create most of the really painful stuff in prospecting.
Here is my short list of the thought and action mistakes to avoid in your prospecting efforts.
1) You try to sell everyone. Not everyone is a fit for your product or service. Prospecting is NOT about getting everyone to love your service, it is about finding the clients who actually need it. Change your intent to one of qualification. Assume most of your cold calls will discover someone you should disqualify.
2) You don’t track your activity. ANYONE who has success at ANYTHING knows their metrics. Even if your company does not require it, you should be tracking how many calls, pitches, meetings, proposals, etc. you are making. Then you should look at the conversions between your metrics! Knowledge is power. There are so many benefits to tracking that I can’t possibly list them all here. Know your numbers!
3) You prospect for a sale, not a meeting. Prospecting is about opening the door to a conversation, not getting an immediate sale. An instant sale may occasionally happen, but the intent of calling on someone should be to qualify a business conversation. Walking in and dropping product info all over the place is the defining characteristic of sales amateurism.
4) You sell into gain, not into pain. No one likes focusing on the bad, but science has unequivocally proven that over 70% of human daily decisions are made on a basis of avoiding pain, and under 30% of decisions come from a motive of seeking gain. That means that if your prospecting script is focused on identifying and validating a problem to be solved, you have more than double the odds to get a conversation going.
5) You don’t focus on the work. Motivation without discipline is feckless. If your focus is on the result or outcome, then it isn’t on the work. Focus on doing the prospecting work as well as you can, and the results come from that. You don’t control the results, but you do control the things you do and say that create the result. Do your job and do your job well. No one ever succeeded by focusing on things they do not control.
6) You don’t adjust. Yes, a specific approach may have worked 10 years ago. Yes, you may have been the top sales rainmaker at your last job. People who succeed do not allow their minds to get stuck on what was true in the past. They constantly analyze and adjust to what is true right now. Pay attention (tracking helps, see #2) and change what needs changing. Change is not a bad thing. Random, non deliberate change is a bad thing. Analyze, reflect, adjust. The world is littered with the carcasses of companies and careers of those who did not adjust to the changes around them.
7) You don’t plan your day/week/month. Showing up to work and getting bounced around like a ping pong ball in a dryer isn’t productive. In fact, it’s exhausting. Plan ahead. Schedule call blocks (number of cold calls needed divided by number of calls per hour = number of hours of call blocking you need to schedule). Set up calendar reminders. No one plans to fail, but plenty fail to plan.