What They Don’t Teach You About Prospecting

Author: 
Jeb Blount

There is no easy button in sales. Prospecting is hard, emotionally draining work, and it is the price you have to pay to earn a high income.

Fact: Most sales professionals are not too keen on prospecting. No surprise there. But great reps suck it up and prospect, prospect, prospect; crushing their numbers as a result. These top-earning sales stars are relentless, unstoppable and obsessive about keeping their pipeline full of qualified opportunities. So, using the smarts and skills you already have, do you have what it takes to imitate the best and become the best at your sales craft? Of course you do. But it will take work.

Here are some questions that many sales professionals have asked me:

Q: Salespeople love to hate prospecting. And in recent years, prospecting’s reputation hasn’t seen much improvement. Until now. Can you expand on why it’s time to think of prospecting differently?  

The number one reason salespeople fail is a weak or empty pipeline and the #1 reason that pipelines are empty is a failure to consistently prospect. This always has been and always will be the top reason salespeople struggle. Salespeople will never love prospecting and it will never be fun. It sucks. However, it is a requirement for success and there is no magic pill, no fairy dust, that will remove the burden of filling the pipe with high-quality prospects. It’s not about thinking about prospecting differently. It’s about developing a systematic focus for daily prospecting and leveraging a balanced methodology that works for your industry and customer base.
 
Q: Reps in today’s digital age are finding more and more ways to avoid picking up that phone, relying instead on virtually every other form of contact. In your opinion, please discuss the downfalls of this trending strategy.

Selling is a human to human endeavor. When salespeople make the conscious decision not to engage other people via phone or face to face, they’re making the decision to fail.  The phone is still the best, fastest, and most effective way to touch prospects, engage in meaningful conversations and initiate the sales process, fast.  The most successful sales reps leverage the phone as part of their approach to engage more prospects.
 
Don’t misunderstand, though. I am a proponent of a balanced prospecting methodology wherein we leverage every channel possible to make contact with and engage a prospect. Many of the digital channels are excellent for building familiarity, monitoring trigger events, and anticipating buying windows. What I see, though, is reps spending hours on LinkedIn “warming up prospects” rather than just making the call. My advice? Pick up the phone. Call them. It’s faster and far more effective. If you can’t get through, or get shot down, then leverage the other channels through a strategic cadence to engage your prospect.
 
Q: We know that winning, superior attributes in sales pros can make all the difference in a typical sales process. On the contrary, what are the losing qualities that can stifle sales performance? In other words, what characteristics are best to ditch before coming into the office?Whining about why sales is so hard.

Certainly you need raw talent to succeed in the sales profession. You need a certain level of drive and intelligence. When all things are equal, though, the salespeople who foster a winning mindset win. So, stop whining about how sales is hard or the leads are bad or your manager doesn’t treat you well. Stop. It is hard, it is a grind, and it is not going to get easier. Instead, take responsibility for your performance and focus on the only three things you can control – your actions, reactions, and mindset. Simply put, change your mindset, change your game.
 
Q: What piece of advice has proved most significant in your career?  

When it’s time to go home. When you are worn out and over it. When everything inside you screams to pack it up and quit. Will yourself to make One More Call.

Q: Without giving too much away, can you please leave us with one technique that can make prospecting suck (way) less?

High-Intensity Prospecting Blocks are the key. Think about it. When something sucks but you have to do it anyway, the thing to do is get it over with fast. This is why I schedule my telephone prospecting blocks first thing in the morning. Then I break them into small chunks. Rather than dialing for three hours, I dial for 15 minutes. I’ll set a goal to make 15 dials in 15 minutes and set one appointment. Then take a short break and do it again. While I’m at it, I turn everything off so there are absolutely no distraction. That’s a high-intensity block. It gets better when you prepare your list in advance. A good list equals a better outcome. The key is quantity + quality. As many dials as possible, in the shortest time possible, delivering the greatest possible outcome.

Jeb Blount is a leading expert on how human relationships impact account management, customer experience, leadership, and sales. He helps many of the world's leading organizations accelerate revenue growth and profits through a focus on interpersonal relationships. He is CEO of Sales Gravy, a sales acceleration company.