Prospecting for Business is a Process of Elimination and Disqualification
Sales people do not prospect consistently because they follow a process that puts them at a severe disadvantage from the get go. Instead of creating interest and curiosity, they create resistance. What they work so hard to prevent—commoditization, they create. They lead with information, instead of leading with trust.
"Most initial prospecting calls fail because their approach is laden with implied obligation that creates an adversarial relationship," says Jacques Werth. Also, their approach is steeped heavily in self-interest.
No area has been more dramatically impacted in the selling process than prospecting on the phone to secure appointments and business. The average time of the conversation on the phone has been slashed by at least 90% due to the advent of the digital age. Whereas the average face-to–face sales call has not changed that much in respect to time. This is all assuming you can actually get a human being to answer their phone and agree to meet you.
Time is definitely condensed when you are making calls on the phone. One needs unique skills, strategies and beliefs to make up for the lack of time and the warp speed of time.
A deficiency in selling skills has created an obsession with untargeted persistence. It has also created an obsession with talking and giving out way too much information in an ineffective and untimely manner.
Usually when the conditions are right for an appointment, or for business, it will happen without great effort! But unfortunately, too often conventional sales people do not provide the right climate and environment to allow their customer to feel trust and confidence in them. When conditions are not right, even a Herculean effort will not succeed in bringing forth forward movement.
When making initial prospecting calls to reluctant and resistant customers, you gain credibility when you position your offering for the problems it solves, not the benefits it brings. So do not tell them how you can help them, what makes you better, or why your company is a leader in the industry, simply tell them the universal problems you address and alleviate. That is how you can gain trust and curiosity, because all the focus is on the triggers that motivate customers to change—problems.
So position yourself and your company with trust and confidence, instead of positioning your offering with information and claims of superiority to try to gain access or credibility. However, make sure you create with incremental curiosity. Do not give away the store.
Too often sales people have a self-defeating attitude of, I have never seen a prospect that I did not like (someone they can sell), and they end up chasing what a good customer of mine calls "garbage trucks."
Since sales people on average close 15 to 25% of new business that they pursue, then up to 75% to 85% of their time arguably is misspent. So a lot of initial prospecting is knowing when to cut your losses. This problem is compounded by the fact that on average, depending on your industry, only 1 to 3% of your potential customers are actively in the marketplace to buy.
When sales people no longer betray themselves by pursuing customers they should not, they will no longer attract so many customers who disrespect their time, their expertise and their resources. Nor will they feel betrayed by customers when they give them a yes that was not an authentic yes, but a no pretending to be a yes.
When you continue to attract prospective customers who waste your time, you might want to begin to wonder why you continue to punish yourself. Please do not blame your customers. This is predominately about you, not them and their behavior.
The reason why sales people are unwilling to unshackle themselves from a poorly qualified prospect is because they worked so hard to get the appointment, they will be damned if they will squander the opportunity so they double down. So sales people do not have a prospecting problem, often what they really have is an ego problem steeped in scarcity.
A major barrier to effective prospecting is an over evolved sense of ownership and control of our prospects. Because we like to think of our prospects or opportunities as my deal, we tend to over control the situation and hold onto too tightly. However, anything you try to control impedes objectivity and creativity. Prospects have a natural shelf life, if they are no longer interested, or not responding, you have got to be willing to release them.
Sales people need to assume a healthy posture of detachment with their prospects. Being detached means you are very present moment to moment with your prospect, without your ego being in charge and without trying to shape, interpret, or give meaning to everything you are seeing, hearing and feeling. Detachment happens in direct proportion to the degree we do not push our preprogrammed agenda.
A good attitude to have is to believe that prospects come and go and you will never fully understand all the whys and why nots and the wherefores. Let prospects come and go gracefully and on their own accord. Welcome them and bid them adieu with an equal amount of moderation. Remember, neediness is a foul smelling cologne. No deal can make you and no deal can break you.
If your prospect is not willing to seek a common ground of equality, or meet you halfway, then maybe you should look for another prospect. Good prospects are a function of a disciplined process of disqualification and elimination. Never be more enthusiastic to sell, than your customer is to change, buy, answer questions and provide information, or move forward.