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It is very likely that a core portion of your job duties 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. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

The thing is, prospecting does not have to be as painful as we often make it. It is the fundamental mistakes that sales people make that create most of the really painful stuff in prospecting.

I’m not a big fan of resolutions. I prefer to make strategic plans and commitments to proper tactical discipline for the upcoming year. In that spirit, here is my short list of the thought and action mistakes to avoid in your prospecting efforts in 2018.

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.

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. 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 distinct sign of sales amateurism.

4) You sell into gain, not pain. No one likes focusing on the bad, but science has unequivocally proven that over 70% of 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 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 result, 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 person 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.