Prospecting is the skill of identifying and engaging with new business. Whether stone cold calling or seeking introductions and referrals to warm the contact up – it is the pointy end of the sales spectrum. For some sales people it represents all of their role – the pure hunters. More often though it represents only part of the sales role you undertake. You accumulate customers and relationships over time, which reduce the perceived need to prospect as regularly. Sometimes, you even develop the feeling that you don’t need to do it at all. You have customers and intermediary relationships – they can do it for you. You can ask for referrals. You can wait for business to find you. Prospecting becomes less important to you, so you do less of it. Most people don’t like prospecting for new business, so avoid it.
Suddenly, you need more business as your targets have increased, or your pipeline dries up, or you’ve tapped out your known network or the growth potential of your clients slows or stops. Prospecting rears it’s head again – but it’s hard to know where to start, how to pick it up again.
In my experience, a few things typically happen here. Some will just get on and do it, and do it well. The few. The many will either try it sporadically – be unsuccessfully and quickly slide back to scavenging for business – or they just won’t – they’ll avoid it, look like they’re doing it but won’t.
Why do most fail in this situation?
Most sales people have the skills – if you can sell to an existing client, you can sell to a prospect – so that’s not the issue (if it is, your sales leader has bigger issues than prospecting).
Most sales people can use a phone, speak to people, sell themselves and their business and network – or should be able to
Most sales people can, if they wish to, find lists of potential targets and research them – sure the quality may vary, but they can do it.
However, most people fail in this situation due to not planning. They don’t set time aside on a regular basis to truly focus on prospecting. Most fail because they don’t treat is seriously. Because they hope it is only a short term glitch in their pipeline, they take a short term focus to prospecting. They think the first thing to prospecting is picking up the phone – they don’t plan their strategy.
If you wish to develop new business well and you can sell, the first and most important step is setting time aside in your diary every week to focus on it. Having the time away from the routine of your role allows you to focus on the task of prospecting properly. It forces you to address it and action it.
As a sales leader – this is the first thing to check – does you staff have regular time set aside each week/period to grow their book. If not, they just aren’t planning properly.
Most people don’t fail at new business acquisition because they don’t have the skills, they fail because they aren’t preparing to do it properly.