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Location-Based Prospecting? Are Ad-Hoc Sales Calls Valuable?

by David Brock on June 2nd, 2010

I’ve been intrigued about much of the publicity around Hoover’s Near Here offering.  Apparently it’s an Iphone based application for a sales person to find new prospects close to them–wherever they might be.  I’m certain this is the first of many new services that will be offered by organizations like Hoovers  (In fact, LinkedIn and Tripit have been offering similar, but much lower capability for some time).

I’m intrigued about the offerings, but really wonder if this is the type of prospecting behavior we want to encourage?  The approach reminds me of those sales people who start out on the first floor of a building, knocking on every door in the building, trying to find prospects.  In fact the practice goes back to the door to door sales person.  Don’t get me wrong, in some cases these approaches may be effective.  Additionally, I think Hoovers is a great service, though I question the real value of this service.

All you have to do is read Chapter 1 of Jill Konrath’s SNAP Selling to understand the reality of customer’s lives today.  Customers are too busy, too time-poor to be bothered by sales people “dropping by.”   Sales effectiveness is driven by purposeful, value creating meetings, focused on the customer’s priorities and fitting their time.  It’s critical that sales people are prepared and focused in meeting with customers.  Shooting from the lip just doesn’t cut it any more.

So how useful are the location based prospecting tools?  Do we really want our sales people to “squeeze” in meetings with customers, just because they “happened to be in the area?”  Shouldn’t sales people, in fact, be doing a better job of planning their time further in advance, setting up purposeful meetings with customers “in the area.”  I can see these tools as offering great value if used as part of the weekly planning process.  For example, I’m going to be in Manhattan in 2 weeks, I could get great value out of a tool that might help me identify prospects I might see while I am in Manhattan—and I won’t drop in on them.  But I’ll call them up in advance, set a meeting, and make sure I have prepared for the meeting, making sure both they and I are using the time together as effectively as possible.

I don’t believe in the ad hoc, just in time sales call.  I don’t appreciate sales people dropping in on me, my experience is that customers feel the same as well.  I think these location based tools offer great potential, but more as a planning tool than as a tool to squeeze in the ad hoc meeting.  If a sales person finds they have spare time, rather than ad hoc meetings, they are probably better served by planning and preparing high impact meetings.

Am I missing something or off base?

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