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Prospecting–Exhausting All The Alternatives

by David Brock on May 1st, 2012

Truth be told, most sales people would prefer to have a root canal than prospect.  Sales people do deals—we love the engagement with a customer that wants to buy and is willing to give us an audience.  We love the adrenaline rush of competing in the final stages of the customer buying process, convincing the customer that we have the superior solution and can create the greatest value for the customer.  Then, it’s capped off by the customer calling us to let us know we got the deal!

In an ideal world, we would be blessed with never-ending qualified opportunities in our pipelines.  Marketing working it’s magic somehow produces great leads, we qualify virtually all of them, then get into doing deals.  Life would be wonderful!

Unfortunately, the real world is seldom like that.  Too often, we don’t have healthy funnels.  As much as we try to increase our win rates, as much as we try to cross sell to increase our average transaction size, most of the time there’s a great gap–we don’t have enough opportunities to pursue to make our number.  We may be successful, we may be closing deals–but that empties our funnels.  Unless we have new opportunities coming into the funnel, we won’t continue to make our numbers.

Ideally, marketing is creating enough demand to provide the continued flow of new opportunities.  But if, for whatever reason marketing can’t provide that flow of great leads, we still have to figure out how to make out number—that’s our obligation to our companies and to ourselves.  It is unacceptable to go to our managers saying, “I’ve closed every deal in my pipeline, now I just have to wait and twiddle my thumbs until marketing gives me good leads.”

If marketing can’t create a sufficient number of leads, then we have to go out to find them.  We have to go out and prospect.  Hopefully, there’s a willing audience–a list of people that are willing to sign up for our seminars.  Ideally, we can go back to past customers, seeing if they have new opportunities.  If they don’t have opportunities, ideally they will introduce us to people who do–they’ll actively refer and sponsor us to new people in their organizations or other companies.  Getting a referral or introduction is very powerful in helping us identify new opportunities and we should leverage them as much as possible.

But what if that doesn’t produce a sufficient volume of great leads that we can qualify and fill our funnels?  We are still obligated to achieve our goals—anything less is just excuses.

So we leverage indirect relationships.  We ask people in our companies if they know people we should be talking to, we ask friends, neighbors, maybe the person sitting on the bar stool next to us (though I’d be a little careful with those).  We leverage our connections in LinkedIn or Facebook.  We do everything we can to leverage even the most distant connections or relationships—“Did you know you are the third cousin of my next door neighbor’s high school buddy’s roommate in college?”

Any time we have anything we can leverage–a close relationship, a past relationship, a powerful referral, a distant relationship, whatever—we leverage those because it’s out job to find a sufficient number of opportunities to achieve our goals.

But what if we’ve exhausted all of those and we still have a gap in our pipelines–maybe not for today, but what about tomorrow?  We still have an obligation, a commitment to reach our goals.  We have to continue to look for new opportunities. We have to……. I’m hesitant to say…….  I guess I’m scraping the bottom…..  God forbid…..  but we have to cold call!

There, I said it, the dreaded words—“the cold call.”  Well actually, it’s the well researched call to someone we may not know and to whom we have no possible introduction.  We have to do the research and find a meaningful way to pick up the phone or email or show up in their office or whatever.  We have to find a way to engage theses “total strangers” and reach out to them with a well researched and prepared “cold call.”  And we have to do one, and another, and another…..

Cold calls are tough, they’re tough, they take a lot of work.  Clearly, if we can leverage anything else that is more effective, we’d be foolish not to.

As sales professionals we have an obligation–it’s our commitment to make our goals.  Again, in an ideal world, we have perpetually healthy pipelines and never have to prospect.  In a real world we have to prospect, we have to go out and find new opportunities.  We have all sorts of ways to do it, and we should choose the simplest and most efficient possible.  but if that doesn’t produce the right volume of opportunities we can’t stop there–we have to keep exploring, we have to keep searching, we have to find new opportunities.

When we have a gap in our ability to achieve our goals–today’s and tomorrow’s, it is irresponsible not to exhaust every single alternative in our prospecting efforts–there is simply no excuse.

 

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