I have been prospecting for new business on a regular and consistent basis since 1985. Peter Finkelstein, Barrett’s head of sales strategy, says he has been prospecting for new business before Moses had his Bar Mitzvah.
For Peter and myself, prospecting is a way of life. We could never have developed our respective businesses and reputations without the vital business skill of prospecting. We both confess that in the early days we did not enjoy many of the aspects of prospecting, but we learned how to prospect successfully and we understand that prospecting is like oxygen – it fuels the fire of sales. Without prospects to speak to we cannot do business.
That is why I find it very interesting that certain industries are only now realising the vital importance of prospecting to their businesses; however, many of their kind are not prepared for this task at all, thus leaving their sales teams anaemic and weak.
The types of industries that are suffering from a weakness in prospecting capabilities fall into two categories:
- Route sales: these are salespeople who have been assigned a geographical territory whereby they are required to call on defined businesses in their specific field i.e. pharmaceutical/dental/pharmacy sales teams who call on GPs/specialists, dentists, pharmacists in a routine fashion; for example, they are required to attend 8-10 client meetings a day which are often drop-ins. Similar industries include FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), agricultural, industrial, mining, etc.
- Location sales: these are salespeople who are stationed at a specific location and wait for prospective customers to walk through the door i.e. car sales, new home sales, land sales, etc. If no one walks in then what? The retail sector in general can fall into this category as well, depending on the dollar value and type of sale involved.
These types of salespeople are at risk of missing so many prospecting opportunities because they do not take control of the prospecting pipeline; instead they leave their prospecting to chance.
The route salespeople are likely to get caught in the complacency trap where they end up becoming professional visitors calling in for a ‘chat’ not a viable new business conversation. While the location salespeople do not take advantage of quiet time when no one is in their location to make outbound prospecting phone calls and follow up on those leads being generated by their marketing teams via social media, etc.
To be fair, until recently, management in these industries had not highlighted the need to prospect as a priority and, as such, the vast majority of salespeople in these categories have not been taught how to prospect effectively. But the times have indeed changed… in location sales land if you do not follow up on a warm web lead within two hours the lead goes cold.
And in route sales land, if you stick with your product brochure spiel you will find yourself getting less air time with your clients, who will choose in favour of those salespeople who can have genuine business conversations exploring new opportunities and show how they can add real value to the their clients’ businesses.
There is no excuse for not prospecting these days. There are so many leads being generated by social media and so many new opportunities to speak about with new and existing clients.
Prospecting is relevant to everyone in sales. Why?
Because prospecting is the identification and pursuit of new business opportunities in both new and existing client accounts. It is not just about cold calling someone you don’t know.
Route salespeople who are usually in front of existing clients can prospect for new business opportunities by creating valid business reasons for the call.
Location salespeople who are often meeting new people can make prospecting calls to warm leads who want to hear from them off the back of web leads, etc.
Still think prospecting isn’t relevant to you?
Here are some brutal facts: Those people who do not hesitate to prospect on a consistent daily basis are, on average, five times more productive than their hesitant colleagues. Five times!!!
So stop deluding yourself. Get prospecting fit.
There is no excuse for not prospecting – not at all.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments.