Bow Tie Sales Guy

There Is No Substitute for Activity: Prospecting

Every salesperson, business development professional, and business owner essentially has one job – turn prospects into customers or clients. It’s just that simple. Salespeople need to move people through a process of awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and eventually purchase. Before you can have clients, you have to have prospects. Sales is first about prospecting.

Since prospects are such a basic and essential part of a salesperson’s life, this week we’ll be focusing on a number of topics related to effective prospecting.

prospectingProspects don’t magically appear. They have to be hunted, wooed, and won. If you are a salesperson who is responsible to uncover your own prospects, like I am, you’ve no doubt prayed long and hard for a spreadsheet of qualified leads to drop from heaven, complete with names, titles, phone numbers, and email addresses. That prayer has yet to be answered for me. 

And so, I thought I would share a few tips I’ve learned about prospecting:

1. Gain Focus by Segmenting

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a study done by a grocery store. They learned that when they displayed hundreds of different choices of jams and jellies, sales went down. People would look at the seemingly infinite selection and not be able to choose. We become paralyzed when we have too many options. When the store limited the selection of jams to just a few, people were much more likely to make the purchase.

The same principle applies to our prospecting. In one sense, everyone is a prospect. But if everyone is a prospect, it can also feel like no one is a prospect.

I’ve learned that my prospecting becomes more effective when I segment the total customer base. I’m currently in advertising sales. So, one day, I might call on a particular category of business – roofers for instance. I don’t have to feel bad about not stopping at every business I see because I know I’m going to all of the roofers in my area. At other times, I’ll go to a geographic area and call on all the businesses there. Sometimes, I use an idea I have or a promotional opportunity to make a specific list of prospects to connect with. 

Any time I segment the total field of prospects, I’m able to focus enough to be effective.

2. Meet Your Prospects Where They Are

Here is an earth-shattering revelation: not all prospects are alike. They have different personalities, schedules, and quirks. Some hate phone calls. Others hate email. Some are in the office at set times. Others are impossible to catch. 

This only becomes a problem if a salesperson is stubborn about how they are willing to connect with prospects. If you’re unwilling to make a phone call, there are some potential prospects you’re never going to get. If you can’t send a quality prospecting email, there are some sales you’re going to miss out on. If you refuse to use social media, there is a segment of your customer base that you’re sacrificing. If you can’t make yourself get out of the car when you pull up in front of a business, there are some people you’re never going to have a chance with.

Effective sales people are willing to get out of their own comfort zone and meet prospects where they want to be met. If someone didn’t return your voicemail, drop in to see them. If you haven’t gotten an email reply, wait a couple of days and follow-up by phone. Be willing to meet your prospects where they are.

3. Give Up on the Silver Bullet

This is the most important part of prospecting I’ve learned. There is no silver bullet. There is no technique or tip or technology that is going to make prospecting obsolete. I used to look for short-cuts. I tried to find some CRM program or database or template that would make prospecting happen all on its own. The reality is that the silver bullet for prospecting doesn’t exist.

The single most important thing I can tell other salespeople is that there is no substitute for activity. Hustle. Get out there and do it. Make 10 phone calls. Send 20 emails. Connect with 5 people on LinkedIn. Drop by 10 businesses.

You can’t make sales without prospects. And you can’t get prospects without activity.

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Come back tomorrow for Tech Tip Tuesday and learn a super easy tool I use for prospecting when I’m out driving around.

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