There aren’t many certainties in selling. What works well for one salesperson fails for another. What looks like a sure sale can quickly deteriorate into a competitive loss. One thing you can count on, however, is that if you don’t have strong, qualified leads in your pipeline, it’s going to be hard to meet your sales objectives.
It doesn’t matter how great you are at questioning, writing and presenting proposals, negotiating past tough requests, or closing. None of that matters if you can’t fill your funnel. And yet, filling the sales pipeline is a constant challenge for salespeople. It’s especially hard if you’re selling a competitive solution like IT managed services, Dark Web Security, or cloud communications where there aren’t just a lot of solutions, there are a lot of providers as well.
So, does that mean you stop prospecting and hope that SEO and Google AdWords will create enough inbound leads for you?
No! It doesn’t work that way.
Even if your company is at the top of every Google search, there are 5 other companies right below you. Prospects may choose to call every one. Yes, you might get a new lead, but you also find yourself in a highly competitive sales scenario where prospects don’t see you as any more different than the other 4 companies they discovered.
In 5 minutes or less on the phone, you have to show a prospect why they should set an appointment with you.
But wait, isn’t that what happens with cold calling? Yup.
You need the same skills for inbound leads as you do for outbound prospecting. That means even if you have a great SEO ranking and strong Google AdWords, you still have to be able to prospect effectively.
Why is prospecting so hard?
Now that we know there’s no easy way to avoid prospecting, let’s tackle what’s holding you back. There are 3 reasons prospecting is so darned hard.
- Prospecting and selling are different skills. Great salespeople aren’t always great lead generators. They may be fantastic at closing referrals, but struggle to find new opportunities.
- Nobody likes awkward conversations. There are entire books devoted to cold call reluctance. We even have a 10-week training program, Sales Prospecting for Profits, on it. They all focus on one issue: nobody likes calling strangers and asking for business. Most of us don’t enjoy receiving those calls, and so you certainly don’t relish making them!
- A full pipeline can lead to an empty cupboard. When do salespeople concentrate most on prospecting? When they don’t have enough sales opportunities. The moment they do, they cast prospecting aside for sales follow up activities. Then it’s only a matter of time before they’re back at square one – with no new leads to pursue.
It’s easy to see why salespeople avoid prospecting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome these prospecting challenges.
Two Sales Prospecting Best Practices
The real secret to ensuring a steady flow of new leads in your pipeline is two sales prospecting best practices: discipline and the right message.
- Commit to prospecting on a fixed, regular schedule and be accountable to yourself to do it! There’s no secret. Recognize that prospecting works over the long term. If you do it sporadically, you’ll get sporadic results. When you do it consistently, that’s when you see your pipeline fill up.
With discipline comes accountability. It’s up to you, either as the salesperson or the manager, to be sure that you’re hitting daily, weekly, and quarterly prospecting activity targets. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before you run out of leads again.
- The right message. Yup. The big question. What do I say when I call? One reason we all hate receiving prospecting calls is that we don’t really trust the person on the other end. We get the distinct feeling that they’re more interested in our money than our needs. But there’s no rule that says that’s how you have to make your calls.
Distinguish yourself through your message. Focus on the trigger event you suspect prospects in your target market are grappling with right now. Restrain yourself from talking about the great solution you can offer. Prospects will me much more interested in having a conversation with you about an issue that’s top of mind for them right now, than your solution.
Not sure what your message should be? Think about the issues your customers are talking with you about right now. In IT, data security is a hot button, as is supporting virtual workers. Don’t call and say “have I got a data security solution for you.” Call to share the trends you’re seeing, or what you’re seeing other companies like them doing to address data security concerns.
The only thing holding you back from prospecting is yourself. When you live the sales prospecting best practices, get disciplined, hold yourself accountable, and switch up your message, you can keep a steady flow of new business coming in like clockwork.