Want to grow your sales? Let’s face it — the road to prospecting success is paved with roadblocks. When I ask sales pros what they consider to be their biggest barriers most point to issues outside of their control: e-RFPs, voice mail, gatekeepers, the competitor’s strangle-hold relationship with your most desirable prospect.
The reality is these external roadblocks pale by comparison to the internal roadblocks within your control such as your prospecting strategy (do you have one?), your prioritization system (not all leads and prospects are equal), your sales messages (do you focus on what’s important to you or to your prospect?) and the efficient leverage of social media, technology, people and resources (do you still rely on traditional e-mail and phone?).
And then there’s the # 1 roadblock to your prospecting success … your mindset.
The way you “think” about prospecting shapes your actions, which in turn dictates whether you hit frustration or paydirt. So let’s work on your mindset.
First piece of advice: Stop focusing on the sale! Yes, you heard me. This overwhelming focus on making an immediate sale causes even the smartest seller to create e-mails and phone messages that send buyers scurrying for cover.
Just think about a typical vendor call from the busy prospect’s perspective. Based on a 30-second voice mail or e-mail you’re expecting me to voluntarily pick up the phone to talk to a stranger who wants 30 minutes of my precious time to talk, meet, or do coffee with me… during which time this stranger will talk interminably about all of their “awesome” benefits. And then endeavor to sell me something I don’t want or try to convince me that they are better than my current spectacular supplier to whom I would gladly donate my left kidney.
Seriously, why would I agree to do this? I barely have time to talk to the people I need!
Today’s reality … I don’t want to hear from you unless you have evidence — yes I said evidence – that you’ve got something of value that will contribute to my success in areas important to me now and by my definition. Developing messages that demonstrate this evidence takes effort. If you’re not prepared to invest energy into continuously learning about me, my company, my market so that your prospecting messages address my current priorities, guess what? You’re heading to the prospecting black hole along with every other seller who decided it’s easier to talk about their product than to talk about the customer.
Sadly, although delivering a compelling and relevant message dramatically improves your odds of getting on my radar, it doesn’t guarantee a response.
So here’s another mindset shift: Stop thinking of prospecting as an event and start looking at it as a strategic process to build a high-value high-trust relationship over time. The intent is to stand out from the ridiculous number of stale “cold calls” so that you are top of mind when the time is right from the buyer’s perspective and, more importantly, to increase their sense of urgency to connect with you.
This requires you to execute a carefully planned access campaign, i.e. a series of communications that may be delivered via a variety of media – social, audio, video, written, tactile — that focuses on what’s of interest to this specific customer now. It is not a bunch of disjointed messages where you “check in” to see if the time is right or “wonder” if this buyer is considering your product or service as part of their balance-of-year plan.
If you want to be in the 3% of sellers that do this well, position “you” in context of “me.” Connect relevant short updates about your offering to what matters to me now. And intersperse these with valuable objective educational sound bites that will contribute to my success; perhaps a fresh perspective on the state of my market, a critical trend or statistic that I may not have seen or a best practice in generating funding / sponsorship dollars. If your content is relevant your message will get noticed … and so will you.
My final word…
When it comes to prospecting for new business it feels like even the smartest sellers have had the common sense trained or managed out of them. Which brings me to the #2 roadblock. your leadership team. If your sales leader is barking at you to make more calls and churn out more proposals without working with you to develop an intelligent prospecting strategy, encouraging you to craft high-value relevant messages delivered through a creatively orchestrated access campaign, here’s my advice… position this article front and centre on their desk or deliver to their inbox now.