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Prospecting Is The New “Prospecting”

by David Brock on February 9th, 2015

I’ve been involved in a number of discussions on prospecting recently.  One sales exec complaining to me when I suggested he and his people needed to be prospecting. His response was, “Marketing has the responsibility for generating and giving us high quality leads.”  When I asked, “Are you getting enough to make your numbers,” from the look on his face, I knew he wasn’t, but I also knew he wouldn’t listen to me–he was firmly entrenched in his position.  (Needless to say, I didn’t get that project, but suspect I will in a few months with his successor, the CEO was on the phone as well).

In another, I saw a tweet, “When are people going to realize that publishing content is the new prospecting….”  My thought was “Well, yes…. but…. what happens when that doesn’t generate enough?”  I tried to engage in a twitter discussion, it seemed it was headed down a social selling path.

I constantly run into people who want to find the miracle cure for prospecting (or actually to avoid prospecting), again the current fads seem to be social is all we need, everything can be solve with content, or others that say “not my job.”

Somehow, my comprehension level may not be what it should be, but I struggle to understand a lot of what’s going on.  I tend to think it needs to be no more difficult than “Prospecting is the new prospecting.”  Fundamentally, things haven’t changed in a long time.

We know marketing is supposed to be generating leads, but what if they don’t develop enough?  We still have to find enough opportunity to fill our funnels.

We know marketing is supposed to be generating quality leads, even if they are generating enough, we still have a certain amount of prospecting and qualifying to do with the lead.  Depending on how they define MQL/SQL, the phone call a sales person makes may be the first verbal communication we have with the customer and it is a prospecting call.

We know social is very powerful, but what if our customers aren’t social?  A not so surprising number of senior executives may have a nominal social presence(e.g. a LinkedIn profile and a Facebook account), but their social activity is virtually non existent.  But social can be very powerful if that’s where our customers hang out.

Or even if your customers are hanging out on social, what if you aren’t getting enough qualifies prospects through your social prospecting?

We know, at least research shows us, multichannel prospecting strategies are the most effective.  So social, combined with email, combined with phones, and so forth is very more effective.  But we’ve know this since before “social” existed.  The literature from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s all spoke to multichannel, multi impression as being key to driving awareness, interest, leads, and prospects.

We know that we have a lot of tools available to us, and we probably should be leveraging as many as we can–social, email, voice, trade shows, webinar, “smoke stack hunting,” conferences, networking events, referrals, direct mail, advertising, websites, mobile, SEO, and others.  This is not new, we know effective prospecting can seldom be limited to just one channel.

We know we have to have something meaningful and relevant in each communication, regardless of the channel.  I guess that’s what we call content.  Sometimes the most impactful content is the highly customized and personalized discussion we have face to face, over the phone with a prospect.

We know the balance between the tools and channels we leverage is always dynamic, at a particular time,  a few channels may have heavier investments than others.  At another time, other channels take higher priorities.

We know that new channels and technologies arise, they may displace others.

We know we can use tools to refine and better target our prospecting efforts.  Or leveraging certain events better target our prospecting efforts.

Finally, we know that sales people don’t like prospecting.  Prospecting does not come naturally or easily to us.  We struggle with who do we see, what do we say, how to we get them to respond.  We struggle with the fact we probably get far more “No’s,”  a few, “Hell No’s,” than “Tell me more’s.”  So prospecting is not easy.  But if we don’t do it, eventually our pipelines go dry.

All this was true last year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 100 years ago…….

But, somehow the fundamentals never change.  We have to find and qualify enough prospects to fill our funnels.  We are most effective in leveraging multiple channels and tools simultaneously.  And we can never stop.

So it seems to me, once you strip away all the fancy words, Prospecting Is The New Prospecting.

Am I missing something?

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5 Comments
  1. Interesting article Dave. The answer to how a salesperson should prospect is simple: Do what works for you.

    If making cold calls and sending emails helps you make quota, do that.

    If content marketing is driving all of your qualified leads for closing business, do that.

    Social connections? Do that.

    The reason there are so many different opinions of how to prospect the right way is VENDORS are driving the conversation and playing on your emotions.

    Cold calling is dead says the vendor selling social media software. And by the way, don’t you just hate cold calling?

    Amen says the salespeople who hate to cold call. Give me that software so that I don’t have to make cold calls.

    I’ve been in a pure prospecting role for over ten years and have written books about sales prospecting success. I’m of the belief that just because you use one solution it doesn’t mean you can’t use the other.

    SEO, SEM, and inbound marketing is great but it also provides a whole lot of tire-kickers and time wasters who will never buy.

    LinkedIn is awesome but prospects tend to respond to old-fashioned email faster. When I email I can ask for a read receipt too.

    Cold calling is a pain at times. But it beats waiting on your content marketing and inbound leads to kick in.

    Prospecting is cold phone calling, emailing, showing up unannounced, direct mailing, social media connecting, social following, asking for referrals, meeting people at events, inbound marketing, giving webinars, content marketing, video chatting, and more. Your company needs to be doing everything they have the time and money to do that works to fill the pipeline with qualified leads so that you can close more business and surpass revenue projections.

    Having prospected on behalf of some of the top, Fortune 500 companies, I’ll tell you this; they do it all.

    How the duties are divided is another topic.

    • Thanks for the outstanding observations Emanuel. Bottom line, do anything and everything that works. Generally, only one thing is insufficient, so we have to do several.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. David

    What is “smoke stack hunting”?

    Is it like a fishing trip or going after the low hanging fish?

    • Rod, I suppose I’m showing my age. “Once upon a time, before Al Gore created the internet 😉 …….” Sales people use to drive around in cars, looking for customers. It might have been walking into a building, starting at the top floor, knocking on every door, working your way to the bottom. Or if you sold to manufacturers (and way before EPA controls) you would drive along the road, looking for smoke stacks, thinking “Aha–there’s a prospect.” That’s smoke stack hunting.

  3. Great read. Two observations.

    First, sales is looking for marketing to provide great leads with the definition being “prospects ready to buy” even if I (sales) have no idea why. Tongue a little in cheek, but not too far.

    Second, tons of $$$ are being poured into marketing and sales enablement, yet performance against quota, close rates, ASPs and virtually every other metric of sales performance continue to spiral downward.

    I think that it is all connected. Prospecting infers having an idea of what you are looking for, what your benefits and values are, and being able to communicate that to the prospect. Whatever the source of that prospect is…marketing campaigns, cold calling, you name it.

    There is muscle memory there that gets built by doing hard work. Sure, there are tools to help. But real prospecting is part of the hard work…in my opinion anyway.

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