Reason or Random?

How are your team approaching prospecting?

I come across lots of sales leaders and sales people that regard prospecting as a numbers game. It’s just a random exercise that involves a lot of time – and typically not great results.

This idea is often accompanied by the 100-10-3 pattern or something similar. This suggests that you have to connect with 100 people to get 10 appointments, to make maybe 3 sales.

What this approach means is that for every 100 human beings you interact with, 97 won’t find you relevant. In simple terms, that’s a 97% rejection rate. So even with the ‘thickest skin’ or the ‘broadest back’, that’s hugely demoralising and demotivating.

Of course, with voicemail, out of office messaging and effective PAs or secretaries, it gets harder and often takes at least 10 attempts before you talk with someone. On this basis, you may need 1000 communication attempts just to talk with 100 people.

If you see sales as a numbers game, what do you do when you aren’t getting the results you want?

You increase the numbers.

You take what isn’t working and do more of it. If making 100 calls isn’t getting 3 sales, you make 120. If sending out 8 proposals per month isn’t working, you send out 12. You increase the quantity of activity rather than the quality.


When sales is a numbers game, people are numbers, and each number tends to get treated equally. After all, you don’t know which out of the 100 will even want to meet with you, so you can’t afford to do the research and preparation necessary to customise the phone call or e-mail. The prospective client can tell.

It’s usually apparent that you don’t really know them or their company and what’s important to them, and yet you nonetheless feel you have something they should want to buy. That is the reason why 97% of these calls ends in failure.

I prefer and recommend a different approach. If what you’re doing isn’t working, increase your focus and your execution skills. Focus firstly on the quality of your interactions and activities, then on the quantity.

Rather than approach 100 percent of potential buyers with the same message, prioritise the 5 percent of organisations and opportunities that will most likely benefit from what you offer, and personalise your message to them.

Take the energy that you would put into the 100 and invest it in the 5 – the 5% that will likely yield more, even though 5 may not be the right number of prospects for your situation. Perhaps it should be 2 or even 20. The point is to prioritize and focus your resources on a manageable number of prospects at one time that you can research well.

When a potential buyer comes off your ‘5%’ list, add the next in line. Continue working through your targets one at a time. This ‘5%’ might be just a few opportunities, or it might be a larger number that justifies grouping of similar companies together for your customisation and further prioritisation.

Your goal is to decide whether each prospect is even a good one to talk with. With this in mind, the first step is to prepare a list of reasons to talk to a prospect for your services, products or solutions. For example, some of the reasons could be:

  • It’s a large revenue opportunity – a bigger than average deal
  • The prospect is in a new target industry
  • We’ve done good work with them in the past
  • We have a referral in to the prospect
  • They would be a fantastic reference client
  • We know they have challenges that we can address
  • They are local and relatively easy to service

Some of these may make sense to you in your particular situation, and you may have other more relevant reasons for your business.

Once you have established why you want to talk to them, you need to think hard about why they would want to talk to you, and I’ll be writing about that specifically in the near future.

For now, challenge yourself to think and reflect on whether you use reason or random when prospecting for new business.

The Sales

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