Prospecting is like being at the beach and relaxing in the warm sun as you work on psyching yourself up to go into the icy cold water.
You finally get up off your cozy blanket and begin walking toward the water having second thoughts with each step you take.
You put your toe in the water and jump back as you shout: “Man, that water is freezing!”
Usually, at a friend’s insistence, you begin to wade into the water feeling discomfort as the cold water shocks your legs, chest, and most painfully, your back.
Finally, you go for it and dive all in!
As you wiggle around in the cold water in an attempt to warm yourself you finally realize your body has adjusted and you no longer feel the pain.
I find prospecting to be very much the same.
In the beginning, I dread it, but once I jump in and get going I feel a thousand times better about myself and my business. I get appointments, close deals, make money and wonder why I procrastinated.
I feel at peace as a result of taking action. Taking the action that I know will get results. And I feel at peace knowing that I’m doing all I can. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The thing I’ve learned about prospecting is the fact that you will feel discomfort.
You will either feel some pain as you push to get the ball rolling or you will feel pain later when you have a dry pipeline and you realize you’re not going to hit your number.
Obviously the latter hurts much more and is the type of discomfort that lingers and makes it significantly more difficult to swing back into action.
Here are 5 suggestions for you which will enable you to take your prospecting effectiveness up to the next level:
Be a Specialist - Focus on vertical markets:
As a result of buyers having easy access to lots of information today, and perceiving themselves as being informed, the expectations they have for you are much higher than in years past.
Specifically, they expect you to have knowledge of their industry, their company and of them as it relates to the role they play.
In addition, they expect you to ask intelligent questions, listen extremely well, know your products and services inside and out and make the experience all about them and their world.
They want to deal with “specialists”.
When it comes to being knowledgeable about their industry the best way to meet that expectation is to focus your prospecting efforts by specializing in several vertical markets.
If you’re going to get on LinkedIn, email and the phone to prospect for 2 hours and you’re calling into medical on one call, insurance on the next call, then a distribution company on your third call it will be very difficult for you to get in the “zone” and present yourself as knowledgeable while switching from vertical to vertical.
Select 3 or 4 vertical markets that your company is known to excel in and do enough research on each vertical to prepare yourself to have an intelligent business conversation.
Then, when you set aside 2 hours to prospect, focus on one or two verticals in that particular session. Exhaust your calls into one vertical then focus on the second vertical.
With this approach to prospecting each contact you make will get better and better as you get in the groove, present yourself as a “specialist” and build momentum.
Make Contact at the Right Level:
When you focus on several hot vertical markets and do the appropriate amount of research on each, your level of preparation will strengthen your confidence to call higher in the prospect organization.
The number one reason Salespeople do not call on executives is that they are not confident in their ability to engage an executive in a relevant and meaningful business conversation. Focusing on verticals will help you in this area as well.
Calling higher in the prospect organization enables you to better qualify the opportunity, identify the decision-making process and ask a few questions to uncover the company’s main objectives.
The Magic is in the Mix:
Having a process in place where you leverage several prospecting methods is the way to go.
Use a variety of touches to capture attention and build interest. And make sure that the messaging from one touch to the other links in a logical fashion. Tell a story; build a business case. This approach pulls the prospect in and increases the likelihood they will want to meet with you.
This is another area where your focus on several verticals will help you gain credibility and engage your prospect. Focusing on verticals also enables you to be very efficient as you use the same process with all prospects within the same vertical.
Make Multiple Touches - Persistence Wears Down Resistance
Some people paint a picture of doom and gloom and will tell you that if you don’t have a referral you can leverage you might as well give up because you’re not going to get in.
That is simply not true.
I work with companies across the US in multiple industries and I consistently see top producers being very successful in getting appointments with net-new prospects without having the benefit of a referral.
As I pointed out above they present themselves as a specialist in the industry, use multiple methods to touch the prospect and they are extremely persistent.
Today it takes more touches than most Salespeople realize to first get on a prospect’s radar and then schedule either a phone appointment or face to face appointment. You need to build familiarity and credibility with your prospect and today that takes some time.
You must be prepared to follow up with a prospect 6 – 10 times.
The key to not being viewed as a pest is to deliver value in each touch. Provide information that is relevant and meaningful to the person you are trying to see. Focus on their industry issues and their role within the company. Only send them information that you believe will be viewed as relevant and insightful. This is how you build credibility and stand out.
Schedule Blocks of Time to Prospect:
You will fill your pipeline with qualified sales opportunity when you prospect consistently.
They key word here is “consistently”, and the best time to prospect is first thing in the morning. Get it done and out of the way!
Top producers block out the time to prospect. They put it in their calendars well in advance and then schedule around that sacred time.
Rarely will you hear them say: “I had to schedule a meeting with a prospect or customer in the time I slotted for prospecting. There was no other time they could meet”.
On the other hand, you will hear Salespeople that are struggling say this quite often. Clearly, it is a sub-conscious defense mechanism to avoid prospecting and the rejection that comes along with it.
I have realized that intelligence, talent, and skill do play a role in reaching Peak Sales Performance.
But, there is one thing that is more important than all of those 3 things put together, discipline.
Discipline is not sexy. We blow it off because ever since we were children our parents and teachers wagged their finger at us saying: “You need be more disciplined”, but it’s true.
If you will consistently prospect, and consistently tweak your messaging so it resonates with your prospects you can and you will reach a new level of sales performance.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.