Prospecting is considered one of the most daunting jobs in selling. Many people in sales or other roles charged with developing new business, especially with new prospects, find the task of prospecting anxiety provoking and tend to put off the prospecting task in favour of more desirable or less frightening tasks. Yet in their desire to escape prospecting they inadvertently set themselves up for greater issues in the future.

Prospecting is the oxygen that fuels the fire of sales. Prospecting involves a series of sequential activities designed to:

  • Identify your prospect
  • Qualify your prospect
  • Prioritise your prospect

Prospecting is therefore a step-by-step process for identifying organisations and individuals who have a potential need for your product or service, making contact with them to see if you can be of service and then generating a client & supplier relationship.

Having a plan or system is therefore critical to prospecting success.

Without a prospecting plan you cannot sell because you will not have anyone to sell to. Prospecting is not the most important aspect of selling, but it’s the first thing that has to happen for the sales process to begin. Prospecting is not just isolated to cold calling either. It’s essential for reigniting dormant accounts and clients or developing new business with existing clients.

Putting off the task of prospecting will leave your sales pipeline anemic and weak and put your job or business in jeopardy. In essence, if you don’t prospect you will become ‘sales unfit’.

If we’re serious about our physical health and wellbeing and want to be physically fit we know we need to exercise every day or several times a week in time blocks of 30minutes, one or even two hours. We don’t do little bits then stop. We do not leave our health to chance and instead set aside time in our day to pay attention to our physical wellbeing. So why leave our sales result and careers to chance?

Yet too many people charged with growing sales and healthy client relationships leave their sales fitness to chance by not prospecting on a consistent and regular basis.

One reason people find it hard to prospect is because they have never been taught how to prospect effectively. Prospecting is a skill like everything else and it can be taught. That is why at Barrett we find ourselves doing a lot of coaching and training in our 4 Step Prospecting Process. It is one of the most impactful training modules in our training program. Once people learn to master the skill of prospecting the results are fantastic. “Just wanted to say a BIG thank you to you for your assistance with one of my clients. I got them back! What helped most was omitting that “fear of rejection” like you said. You were right, I had nothing to lose as we had already lost them. In addition, making phone calls with a clear purpose or intention really assisted with this client, which eventually led to a meeting face to face, and it all went swimmingly. This client is now using us consistently since the meeting, and fingers crossed, this will continue. I am not taking chances this time, and will continue to manage this client carefully. Thanks again for all your help, the follow up phone call with you really made all the difference.” Testimonial from Specialist Recruitment Consultant.

Another important reason why a sales pipeline suffers is because people do not make the time to prospect. This can be because they’re either ineffective at prioritising or they’re afraid of prospecting and so avoid it all together. Either way avoiding prospecting makes matters worse.

If you have a fear about prospecting even if you have been shown how to prospect, you need to address those fears and then make time to prospect on a regular and consistent basis. Practice at prospecting will also help overcome your fears a bit at a time. If you have difficulty prioritising what is important then you need to make sure that prospecting is made one of your most important priorities. By doing a little each day you can achieve your sales goals and reduce your anxiety about prospecting one phone call at a time.

Here are some tips For Scheduling Your Prospecting:

  • Schedule specific time in your week for prospecting.
  • Chunk your prospecting calls in batches – maximum of 120 minutes, ideally 2-3 batches per week.
  • Consider doing your prospecting calls first thing in the morning. This works on two levels, 1) you get it out of the way first thing in the day and, 2) it is often the best time to call people.
  • Ideally make prospecting calls at the same time of the day, each day of the week.
  • Consider when you are at your best. It’s best to be clear headed, listening accurately, awake and alert (this varies for everyone). You are therefore less likely to have negative or self-defeating thoughts and least likely to take rejection personally.
  • Consider distractions – what time of day are you least likely to be interrupted?

Remember follow-up with persistent daily effort
Choosing your state of mind and your attitude is also critical when prospecting and selling. Successful salespeople know that prospecting doesn’t happen by chance as it requires a consistent and persistent effort. Successful sales people:

  • Diarise follow up calls
  • Use Sales Pipeline to track activity
  • Keep a number of activities on the go
  • Prioritise
  • Persist

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au