The Secret to Prospecting Success – Don’t Sell

Become a better sales coaching and sales manager today.

Think about the initial objective of your prospecting efforts. If you think the goal is to close a sale, deliver a presentation, submit a proposal or schedule an appointment, think again.

Ask anyone who has to prospect or cold call in order to generate new business what their initial objective is when making that first personal contact and you will hear many of the following responses or some type of measurable action step they hope to take as a result of making that call:

  • Schedule an appointment
  • Close a sale
  • Pitch the benefits of my product or service
  • Provide a demonstration
  • Get the Request For Proposal
  • Submit a quote
  • Have the prospect take some action (complete a survey, sign up for a free trail, webinar, make a donation, visit your website, etc.)
  • Connect with every decision maker, internal advocate, influencer
  • Deliver a presentation

If your initial objective is focused on achieving any of these results, think again. While it may sound counterintuitive, concentrating your efforts on any of these outcomes is actually the very thing that contributes to call reluctance, prospecting failure and ultimately, wastes your time and sabotages your selling efforts.

To even the playing field and build off some common ground, here’s my definition of prospecting we can reference.

“Prospecting is defined as any activity or conversation you engage in to position yourself in front of a potential customer with the intention to inquire, assess, discover and educate so that you can determine whether there’s a fit and a relationship that’s worth pursuing which can then lead to an opportunity to deliver value and earn their business.”

Now, think about your cold calling and prospecting efforts. Does your approach mirror this definition and accomplish this primary objective?

Consider this. Rather than focusing all of your energy on making the sale or working towards any of the outcomes I described, first determine if there’s a good fit between you, your prospect, and what you are selling.

Find the Fit – Or Miss Your Sales Targets

Instead of feeling that the initial goal of prospecting is to pitch features and benefits, close a sale, provide a demonstration, submit a proposal or schedule an appointment, the initial objective of that first conversation is to determine if there’s a fit worth pursuing.

Take a moment and think about how this change in your attitude and mindset would change your prospecting strategy or cold calling approach, as well as your experience.

While your traditional approach may be to produce a measurable result, now your primary objective is to discover whether you and your prospect are a good match and if this relationship is worth moving to the next stage of your selling process.

If you feel that you constantly have to push your sales process forward, you’re not taking into consideration that the prospect may not be ready, or may not be a good fit for what you provide. In addition, you’re probably focused on your agenda and sales process, instead of focusing on, seeking to understand, and respecting the buyer’s buying process. Are you taking the time to ensure you successfully align your sales process around the buyer’s buying process? Pushing the sale forward before a prospect is ready only creates pressure for the both of you, fostering an unhealthy relationship from the start.

The Better Sale

While many salespeople and solution providers feel their solution can benefit every person on the planet, it doesn’t mean that everyone is a fit. After all, think about the people you speak with on a daily or weekly basis. Can you honestly say that you want every potential prospect to become one of your customers? The fact is, some people and companies aren’t a good fit.

And a good fit isn’t limited to whether or not they can afford your solution and can benefit from it. To authentically determine a good fit, you need to look beyond this myopic definition and consider these additional factors that would create or destroy the win-win relationship.

  1. Will they be a great customer or partner? Do they possess the non-negotiable characteristics of your ideal client? If you look at your ideal client profile, are they a fit or are you making too many concessions?
  2. Are you aligned with them ethically?
  3. Do you share the same values and priorities?
  4. Are they easy to work with?
  5. Are their expectations of your product or service realistic?
  6. Will they become advocates or adversaries?
  7. How do they typically work with external service providers? Does that fit for you and is it aligned with your business model?
  8. Are you able to create a positive, mutually beneficial, collaborative and healthy relationship with them?
  9. Are they willing to allocate the proper funding/budget, time and resources to realize the full benefits of your service?

While a great salesperson can close business, you don’t want to waste time calling on, following up with and closing prospects who simply aren’t a good fit. Consequently, if you’re calling on and following up with the wrong prospects, that means you’re not investing your limited time calling on the right ones. The exponential cost; missed sales targets and lost opportunities.

So, instead of asking yourself, “How can I sell this person?” change this question to, “Do I even want this person/company as a customer?”

Notice that the second question shifts the balance of your power back to you. Now, you’re the one making the choice about pursuing the relationship rather than surrendering all of the decision making power to the prospect regarding whether or not they will buy from you, let alone listen to you!

Seek to Understand – Then Disqualify!

Think about how this shift in your mindset will also change your approach. Instead of feeling as if you have to convince or push the prospect into the sale (appointment, demo, proposal, free trial, etc.) by regurgitating your pitch all over them, now you’re going to want to learn as much as you can about this particular prospect.

How do you determine if there’s a fit worth pursuing? Typically, you would conduct a process of inquiry or an investigation. Woven into the fabric of any investigation are questions. Instead of the prospect interviewing or qualifying you, this brings new meaning to the phrase, “Qualify your prospects!” Now, you’re the one who’s truly assessing the fit. The fact is, the qualifying process goes both ways.

Of course; the ultimate objective of your prospecting efforts is to sell more, sell deeper by up-selling or cross-selling, make a positive impact on more customers and help them achieve their goals, deliver value to each prospect and customer, attain your business objectives and boost your performance. However, to achieve this goal, it’s just not where you are going to focus your initial efforts, energy and thoughts.

Realize that when you’re prospecting or cold calling, one of your objectives is to open up your prospect’s thinking to the possibility of working with you in order to provide them with a better solution or eliminate a recurring problem.

As such, if you are looking to change the perception or mindset of your prospects, whose mindset do you think needs to be changed first? Yours, of course!

By identifying and embracing this common misconception around prospecting and shifting your focus to assess the fit, you will develop a strong foundation for prospecting success. Now, you can think like a top producer and subsequently, respond to each prospect in a healthier, more productive and more enjoyable way in order to attract better customers – and more sales.

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