Is prospecting a numbers game for your team?

Identifying & generating new business requires a laser focus on the critical skills required to open and develop sales with new and existing customers or clients, and it’s far easier to say than do.

If prospecting is a ‘walk in the park’ for all of your sales team, then you don’t need to read any further…

Are you still with me? I thought so!

In over 35 years of sales, sales management, sales training and sales coaching, I have never met a team that considers themselves experts or masters of their craft in this area. As I continue to coach seasoned and new sales professionals, these are the three most common challenges I see when working on prospecting with clients:

Challenge 1: It’s a numbers game

No, it isn’t! I really matured my thinking, when I realised that it’s not just a numbers game. I once had a direct sales job in financial planning and investment where the business model was to show up in the office from 9:30 to 10:15am each morning and ‘phone-out’ relentlessly to make 4 appointments a day with prospects. If I made 4 a day, 1 a day would cancel, and I’d see 3 prospects – and if I closed deals at a rate of 1 in 3, then I would write business every day and that would be lucrative.

But here’s the problem, there is nothing so demoralizing and demotivating as being faced with a large list of calls to make and no real insight or relationship. Typically, this is cold-calling, and evidence exists to show that only around 3% of recipients will engage in a conversation. This equated to 97% rejection – hardly motivational!

Success in prospecting is about focus and execution, and not ‘smile while you dial’ or ‘dialling for dollars’ as I have heard it referred to.

Challenge 2: It’s all about us

No – it’s all about them! Even the biggest organisations fall into this trap. They produce wonderful marketing documents extolling the virtues of their latest product or service offering, this month it’s ‘Analytics’, last month it was ‘Cloud Computing’. Typically, the material is all about the ‘selling organisation’ and the features or functionality of their products or services.

I have encountered a number of marketing departments where they have refined their marketing materials to reflect the ‘job to be done’ or ‘business outcomes’. This is a start, but does not necessarily result in a customer or client centric approach when these materials are put in the hands of average sales performers.

The challenge is how to make your prospecting relevant to your customer or prospect – and I mean totally relevant.

Challenge 3: Being Relevant

Let’s assume we can overcome the first two challenges. We need to be prepared and plan differently to the competition. Let’s be honest, we all know why we are targeting ‘Prospect X’. We know why we want to talk to them and what we want to talk to them about.

So what?

What really matters is to ask yourself: “What would have to be going on for that particular prospect to want to talk to me?”  This important step is research, and it is avoided at your own risk. Find out more about the challenges they are likely to be facing or the results they would like to achieve.

When you make contact, don’t try to sell – instead, seek to test whether they are facing the challenges you identified from your research. If your research has been thorough and they have challenges you can help solve – you’re halfway there.

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