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“I’m Too Busy To Prospect”

by David Brock on January 21st, 2015

I’m constantly amazed at the fear that strikes at the hearts of sales people with the mention of the word, “Prospecting.”  While it doesn’t strike fear into my heart, it’s still something a don’t like to do  (though there are ways to make it more enjoyable).

It’s also interesting to hear all the reasons and excuses sales people dream up to avoid prospecting, “I have a proposal that’s due, I have a meeting on this deal, I’m busy prepping the demo for that deal…….  The dog ate my prospecting script.”  There’s no end to the creativity to the reasons why we can’t find the time to prospect.

To some degree not wanting to prospect is a basic sanity test, “Do you want to spend your time interrupting people’s days?  Do you want the majority of people to tell you, ‘No, I’m not interested,’  ………. or would you prefer to work qualified deals?”  So it’s human nature to choose the more positive option.

But, we can’t afford not to prospect and we can’t afford not to devote time every week to find new opportunities.  The reasoning is obvious, without prospecting, our pipelines dry up and we have no business to go after.  Then we have to spend 100% of our time prospecting (of finding a new job.).

In our company we’ve made it a habit.  It is the only thing we measure on a weekly basis; “Did each of us hit our target in prospecting conversations?”  We don’t do it because we like doing it, we do it because with our sales cycle, if we don’t hit our prospecting numbers, it will impact our business in 15-18 months.

Some of you might be tempted to say, “That’s so far off, you can afford to blow it off for a while.”  It’s actually quite the opposite, the longer your sales cycle, the more important it is to strictly adhere to a regular prospecting cadence.  In long sales cycles, an empty/anemic pipeline has huge impacts over a longer time and is very difficult to recover from.

In spite of everything else that occupies our time each week–doing deals, delivering services, working with our clients, participating in conferences, writing blog posts, we have to prospect every week we have a specific number of completed prospecting conversations that we have to achieve.  (We measure completions, not attempts.)

It’s still an unnatural act to call someone you may have never spoken to before, interrupting their days, and discussing their business, goals, and challenges.

We’ve done things to make it less stressful–both for us and the prospect.

We’re obsessive about our research and preparation.  We know people won’t view the call as an interruption if we have something meaningful/impactful to discuss.  We also know that meaningful/impactful topic has nothing to do with what we do, but it’s all about the customer, their industry, markets and something that’s critical for them to know now.

We also make it very difficult for the prospect to say, “No, I’m not interested.”  We people don’t wake up in the morning saying, “I need to buy consulting services.”  We know that if we call and talk about our great experience in business transformation, virtually 100% of the prospects don’t care and are going to say “I’m not interested.”  But it’s virtually impossible for a person to say “No, I’m not interested in learning about something that could impact my success.”

So our prospecting calls are always focused on the prospect and what’s in it for them.  The final question each of us thinks about before we pick up the phone is, “What’s in it for the prospect, will this be a good use of their time?”  If we can’t answer that question in a compelling manner, we don’t make the call.

At least 70% of our calls are very warm calls.  That is, they are with people we have never spoken to before, but who we may have had some level of social engagement–whether some comments on a LinkedIn group, a blog post or other interaction.  Those calls are actually schedules, so each of us is expecting the call, and there is a pre-agreed agenda.  This makes the call much more enjoyable and productive for the prospect and us.

But it get’s back to basics, you can’t afford not to prospect, and you can’t afford not to have a regular weekly cadence of prospecting.

It still is an unnatural act, but there are things, through research and preparation that make it much more impactful and enjoyable.

What’s stopping you from hitting your weekly number?

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