As the New Year begins, a common ritual takes place. Fitness centers are packed, and you have to wait to get on a piece of equipment. Come March and April, the gym is less busy, and you can get to your choice of equipment immediately. By June, you could fire off a cannon and not hit anyone.
Sales prospecting can be much like working out. It‘s something that salespeople know is good for them and if done well, will produce excellent and predictable results. When a salesperson joins a new company, they are prospecting animals. However, it doesn’t take much time until most salespeople seem to avoid prospecting. For some, they would rather crawl over broken glass than make cold prospecting calls.
We know prospecting is the most disliked task of being a sales professional, a root canal could be more tolerable to some. But if you do not feed the front end of your pipeline, good things will stop coming out of the back end. No matter how good you are, no matter how referral-driven you are, you still need to perform the discipline of prospecting in order to grow the company and your income.
Cold calling prospecting is a “no option behavior.” Our 10 commandments of prospecting are proven success disciplines for sales success.
The 10 Commandments of Prospecting
Commandment I: Schedule Time Each Day to Prospect
The first commandment of prospecting is to make sure you are actually doing it. Prospecting is a required discipline for sales success. It requires rigger and focus. It is very intense so only do it for 60 to 90 minutes a day or you will burn out. You can find many reasons to put off prospecting until later in the day and tell yourself, “I will do it when circumstances are better.” I can assure you that the time to make your prospecting calls will never be exactly right.
Make an appointment with yourself on your daily calendar and keep to it. Look at it as planning for the largest sale you have ever made. The next record sale of your career has yet to happen, and it will come from a brand new client. Where and how do you get to that brand new client? It truly is an appointment for the beginning of the largest commission check of your career.
Commandment II: See the End Before the Beginning
In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey tells us to see the end before we begin. Dr. Covey is, in effect, telling us to establish a goal and then develop a plan to work toward that goal. This sage advice works well in prospecting and business development.
Commandment III: Set Goals
Pipeline management is the best sales tool available. When you know how many face-to-face calls you need to make to get a prospect to move to a proposal and know how many proposals you have to present to close a sale, you are in total control of your success.
Apply the pipeline management theory to your cold call prospecting time. How many conversations do you have to have to get one appointment? Based on your pipeline number for required face-to-face meetings, you know exactly how many conversations you need to have to set the right amount of appointments that will produce the net end results you want. Once you figure out how many dials it takes to have a conversation, you have total pipeline management control because “x” dials = “y” conversations = “z” face-to-face meetings = “w” proposals = “v” closes = $$$.
Once you have established the number of dials and conversations you must make, you can easily set goals. If a number of dials or conversations did not achieve the needed results, do not beat yourself up. Adjust your plan based on the data and never give up. Over the long term, everything will balance out and you will achieve all your pipeline goals.
Commandment IV: Make Your Calls Brief
The objective of the prospecting call is simply to determine if a lead is qualified or not qualified. If they are not qualified, you have two choices: a) trash the lead or b) check back at a later date. You are going to get 10, 20, 30, maybe even 40 non-qualified leads for every qualified lead. That is a lot of “no’s” so play to win and go for the “no.” Come from abundance! You have hundreds or thousands of leads to talk to and find the 10 to 50 who will buy. That is what Sales Focus salespeople truly believe.
Your prospecting call should last approximately two to five minutes at the most. Focus on 5 main points:
- Introduce yourself.
- Provide a quick explanation of your product or service.
- Explain the pain points your clients have had and why they chose your product or solution to solve them.
- Find out if the prospect has any of those problems.
- If yes, find out if the problems have been major enough for the prospect to invite you to a face-to-face meeting to present your solution.
Commandment V: Be Prepared With a List of Names Before You Call
Not being prepared with a list of names will force you to devote much, if not all, of your allocated prospecting time to finding the names you need. This is sure to slow down your calls and just isn’t a good use of your time.
If you have a list of leads, do not do research on the name or company. You are wasting time on a yet-to-be-qualified lead. Research at this point could allow you to assume what the lead’s needs are and your call will have a hidden agenda. You will close yourself to all the possibilities that could exist in that lead’s world. Not having a lead list or doing research is simply a way of kidding yourself.
Commandment VI: Work Without Interruptions
Don’t take calls or entertain meetings during your prospecting time. Take full advantage of the prospecting opportunities and the prospecting learning curve. As with any repetitive discipline, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Each call you make, the better you get.
Commandment VII: Vary Your Call Times
We are all creatures of habit, and so are your prospects. In all likelihood, they are attending the same meeting every Tuesday at 8:30 AM. If you cannot get through at this time, learn from your lack of success and call this particular prospect at other times during the day or on another day. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Also, consider calling during non-traditional work hours. Your competition traditionally does their cold calling between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM. The gatekeeper is in place and doing their job. Some of your best prospecting work will happen between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM, and between 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM.
Commandment VIII: Be Organized
If you got it, use it. I am speaking of your contact management software program. Your contact management program allows you to record a follow-up call for tomorrow, next month, next year, and even three years out. Log call efforts, results of the conversation, and next steps. You will find a dramatic positive change in your sales life and results.
Commandment IX: If You Feel It, Say It
When a prospect on the phone asks you to send them literature, 85 percent of the time they are getting rid of you in a polite way. We recommend simply asking them, “Many times when someone asks me to send them literature, it’s a nice way of saying no and getting me off the phone. That’s not happening now, is it?” If they say yes, they disqualified themselves, and you are off to the next call. Think of the time and money that was just saved, as well as, avoiding the frustration you experience when you leave voicemail after voicemail following up on their “review” of your literature.
Commandment X: Don’t Stop
Persistence is one of the key virtues in selling success. But also remember, never do anything for a prospect without knowing what will happen as a result. At the end of the day, prospecting should help you save time on your sales cycle. Once someone makes it clear that they are a disqualified lead, don’t continue to waste your time because as we all know, time is money.
Using These 10 Commandments of Prospecting to Close Deals
Now that you know our 10 commandments of prospecting, you’re ready to get out there are start qualifying potential customers. This vital part of any sales job can be difficult, but ultimately, pays off big in the long run.