‘God placed the best things in life on the other side of your maximum fear’
Prospecting – a word and activity that can and does strike fear in many a sales person. I love #prospecting myself and believe I am good at it but I’ll let you in on a secret or two. First, I never used to. I used to actively avoid it and used many a devious means to pretend I was doing it.
Second, and most important, even today, when ‘my toes on the edge’ for the first time for the day, I am still nervous. I am still anxious. But I ‘jump’. Everyday.
I’ve learned that it’s more than worth it. It was once my maximum fear in #sales. Contacting people who don’t know me and may reject me or my ideas. Why on earth would I do that? As a business development manager, unsurprisingly prospecting is a big aspect of the role.
Well, let’s chat about why jumping out of the prospecting aeroplane is worth while.
Why should you do it…..
People Don’t Bite
The single worst fear most sales people have with prospecting is fear of rejection. The fear someone on the other end of the phone is going to be so mortally offended by your approach that they are going to tear shreds out of you. Well, guess what – it doesn’t really happen. Most people are polite. Most people you call also work for a business that has people in it charged to do exactly what you do, so they often understand. Unless you’re approached them in a completely reckless manner, you won’t suffer any harm – physically or emotional.
Obviously. your approach is important – that is, how you contact someone and what you say, but never be fearful of ringing people. The human race is incredibly polite and empathetic to the feelings of other. On the whole, we actively avoid confrontation as a species. This is why prospecting actually WORKS rather than doesn’t. People telling you it is a waste of time are often those that are too scared to try it and want others on their band wagon to justify why they aren’t doing it. Do. Not. Listen. To. These. People.
However – you will encounter the odd aggressive response if you prospect enough. But bear these two things in mind – unless your approach has been offensive/reckless
- it never hurts you
- it usually says more about them than you. They may be busy, stressed etc and the approach was just poorly timed.
- If they a person who has a propensity to ‘nut off’ at you in the first contact (assuming you’ve done nothing to warrant it) – do you really want them as a client?
People Crave Knowledge
This leads to the next point – your content. You should be approaching your prospects because you know (or certainly believe) you can improve their position. That working with you will make a positive difference to them. So, knowing this, what is worse – calling them or not calling them?
People in business CRAVE knowledge, advice and expertise that helps them and their business. They want connections with people who know how to help them, how to add value and put their interests first. By not calling, you are doing more harm. You are making a decision that they aren’t worth helping. That your knowledge, advice and expertise isn’t worth sharing. By not showing them what they could be achieving, saving or maintaining you have let them down.
Again, the prospect you encounter who isn’t receptive (again, assuming your approach is sound) is possibly someone you don’t want to have as a client as will the be receptive to your advice? Will they value it?
You Distinguish Yourself
The very act of engaging with prospects makes you distinct. Most sales people/relationship managers struggle to maintain client contact cycles, let alone tenaciously contact and chase prospects. Often, with a regular prospecting contact strategy you can be having more regular and more meaningful conversations with your prospects than your competitors are having with them as clients.
With the right approach to help them, you can quickly demonstrate why you are more valuable to their business than their existing provider without having to point it out. One of the best compliments I believe I ever get as a professional BDM is ‘I speak with you more often than I do my current bank’. It is a very sad indictment of the industry as a whole, but shows me I am doing my job correctly. Unfortunately, the bar often isn’t very high as either sales people aren’t prospecting, or when they are doing it they are doing it for selfish reasons. It is disappointing, but making yourself distinct often isn’t difficult.
Sales Leaders: Note here that you MUST have a regular, proactive and meaningful call cycle with your existing clients or professional BDM’s will quickly and methodically chip away at these relationships.
You Meet Great People
I have formed my best relationships, including friendships, with those I have actively prospected. I have found out so much more than simply business intelligence from proactively engaging with and strategising with my prospects. Humans are natural connectors – we’re pack animals and you’ll be surprised in the quality of conversation you can have with people beyond simply ‘business’.
The great thing about prospecting is you get to select your prospects and therefore get to engage with some truly great people. I have been honoured in my prospecting to meet some of the great business leaders and minds in my area through my job by reaching out. I have grown as a person as well as, hopefully, helped them in the process.
You Help People
Here is one of the key ‘whys’ of prospecting as you have to want to. Help people that is.
Prospecting gives you the opportunity to help people improve their situation. It works because you have the belief this is what you can achieve and this is why you are doing it. Whether through what you sell, what you know and/or who you know. You help. This is the true silver bullet to successful prospecting. This is your purpose. Not to shift widgets or billable time – but to improve peoples situation. The other stuff takes care of itself when you do this and, intrinsically, helping people is a much more rewarding outcome.
You may not know the answers, but know someone who does and simply make connections. This is value creation. You may not know the answers, but know where to find them. Seeking this and then delivering it is value creation. The answer may not have anything to do with what you sell, but you care enough to still seek the solution for your prospect. THIS is value creation.
You Control Your Client Base
By prospecting in a considered and regular manner – you get to drive your portfolio/client base based on the client you REALLY want to have, not the ones that find you. Ever inherited a portfolio only to find a bunch of clients you don’t like, can’t add value to, have no potential and/or aren’t really interested in a two way partnership?
Prospecting is the solution to this problem. Here you get to date your clients before you marry them. You get to find, target and form relationships with the clients of tomorrow that are your ideal clients. You get to grow a portfolio of perfect customers. Why wouldn’t you prospect for this reason alone?
Undoubtedly, successful sales people prospect. It grows your portfolio, covers attrition, and has many other ‘financial’ and measurable advantages. But you succeed in many other ways. Your brand grows both internally and in market. You learn more about your clients using the skills you have to deploy when prospecting. You learn more about yourself and you grow as a sales person. If you don’t prospect, you are an account or relationship manager, not a sales people. You aren’t complete as a sales person.
Unpinning all of this are human emotions of curiosity (wanting to better understand someone else’s position and learn) and caring (putting someone else’s interest at the forefront). Do this when prospecting and I promise you that not only do you help people, but you get a level of satisfaction that hitting target or earning commissions doesn’t come close to.
It is Fun
Back to our sky diving analogy. Once you are out the door, it is bliss. You wonder what the fear was all about. It doesn’t hurt, quite the opposite is actually fun. The more you jump, the easier and more fun it becomes.
When your feet hit the ground, you want to go again and again. It isn’t without its stressses, but like most things in life, the reward is worth the effort.
Undeniably prospecting usually isn’t an easy skill or, for many, a natural one – much like skydiving. However, very few who do it, and do it regularly, say bad things about it. The single biggest benefit of prospecting well is no one loses.
So, why don’t you put your parachute on and jump?