I’ve been teaching salespeople how to prospect since I was in my twenties. Prospecting skills – interrupting the day of a prospect via phone, email, social, text, or in-person – are basic, foundational, competencies for sales hunters (inside and outside). These same skills are also fundamentals that inbound salespeople must master to become skilled at inbound lead follow up calls.
Over the past few years though I’ve noticed an alarming trend: More and more self-styled gurus popping up and pontificating to the sales profession that one form or another of prospecting is dead. They pander to the salespeople who are scared of, uncomfortable with, or simply don’t want to do the hard work of sales.
At the same time I’ve observed legions of sales leaders who have lost the managerial courage to lead high-performing teams of sales hunters. Instead, in the words of my good friend Anthony Iannarino, they are “creating vegetarian sales forces [made up of] salespeople who don’t know how to hunt, and some who refuse to hunt.”
Left behind are the millions of salespeople who are frustrated, failing, and earning far less than they should be because they don’t know how to prospect, have no guidance or structure for prospecting, and are confused by the endless stream of mixed messages.
There is a Direct Line Between the Failure to Prospect and the Failure to Sell
This unfortunate trend is killing sales cultures in organizations big and small. So much so that today, the number one issue facing salespeople, sales leaders, executives, and entire companies are anemic, and sometimes non-existent pipelines. It is the top complaint I get from C-level executives about their sales teams (from start-ups to SMBs to the Fortune 1000).
When my Sales Acceleration firm is called in to help companies fix broken sales teams, the root cause of their performance problem is almost always prospecting.
In fact, I’ve never worked with an organization that was missing its number in a big way where a straight line could not be drawn directly from the miss on the numbers to the miss on prospecting.Sadly, few organizations are able to see these issues on their own.
It’s The Paradox of Basics: An answer so blatantly obvious that it remains impossibly invisible.
So, instead of focusing time and attention on the root cause of their sales performance problems, many sales organizations spin their wheels on flavor-of-the-day patches that frustratingly never seem to make a difference. Because so many sales leaders don’t understand how to prospect or how to effectively coach prospecting activity, they willingly go along with these schemes and, all the while, the sales team spirals downward.
Hope and the YST Method are Not Prospecting Strategies
Meanwhile sales training programs rarely offer deep dive training on prospecting. It is as if salespeople are supposed to come to the job with the innate ability to open new doors, a comprehensive set of prospecting techniques, the know-how to interrupt prospects across multiple prospecting channels, and the mental toughness to sustain unrelenting rejection.
While sales leaders push hard on salespeople to build stronger pipes – in many cases with yelling, screaming, and threatening – salespeople across the globe respond with a collective “huh?” because they simply don’t know what to do and sadly most are unaware that prospecting is holding them back from building a stronger pipe and income.
The good news is, despite some of the hard to fix issues like hiring better talent, shifting organizational infrastructure, or changing the compensation model, it is relatively easy to accelerate prospecting and generate massive results.
For example, I was recently working with a cloud solutions start-up that was $10 Million behind its new account plan. They had multiple issues holding them back but the most obvious was the fact that their reps were busy doing anything other than prospecting. I worked with them for a week providing training, coaching, and motivation (a kick in the rear). We moved the activity needle in less than a week and when prospecting improved, sales followed.
Four months later they made their year-end number. The CEO told me it was a miracle. Actually I think he said the overnight improvement was “like magic.” I knew the truth though. There was no magic.
It was a back to the basics effort that gave his salespeople prospecting techniques that worked in the real world, a balanced approach, coaching to anchor their learning, an environment that fostered winning and mental toughness, and the managerial courage to create a structure of accountability.
There is No Easy Button and One Size Does Not Fit All
It’s time to tune out the pseudo experts who pander to the masses, just to peddle their “one-size-fits-all-easy-buttons,” and put prospecting back into sales.
We need to teach sales professionals and sales leaders tried and true balanced prospecting strategies (across all prospecting channels) with an eye towards actually delivering value rather than Buzzfeed worthy hyperbole.
Salespeople need to understand both the why and how behind the most important activity is sales with a drive to become both efficient and effective at opening sales conversations, filling the pipeline, and crushing their number.
It’s time to get off of the feast or famine roller coaster for good. My new book Fanatical Prospecting is the most comprehensive book ever written on prospecting. In it I teach you the techniques and secrets top earning salespeople leverage to keep their pipelines and bank accounts full. Check it out here.