Rule no. 1: Your 1st year of selling you are not a salesperson, you are a prospector
Rule no. 2: Every year is your first year in selling
Some of you may be old enough to remember Janet Jackson’s hit song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately”. The title is certainly relevant for all of us in the selling profession and must not forget that last year’s deals, regardless of how big or sweet they were, are now a distant memory. With a new year we need to roll up our sleeves and start anew. January being the start of the fiscal year for many companies it is a crucial time for the sales executives to review their sales plans and activities as they could determine their income and career path.
Sales executives, hopefully you already have written, shared and agreed with your managers on your annual business plan where you have stated your objectives, spelled out your strategy and tactics, along with list of activities that will get you to the President’s Club (See previous posting on basic guide to business planning). If you haven’t yet, this is as good a time as any. Spend a couple of days to write down your ideas and build your 2017 success roadmap. I said write it down because having the most brilliant idea in the world means nothing if it only exists in your head. Now is probably the only time you have the luxury to look at the big picture and be strategic because once the madness starts you probably have little time for long term planning.
The most important part of your plan is, or should be, the answer to the question: “how am I going to fill my well-balanced sales pipeline with quality opportunities that will help me succeed this year?”. The question naturally brings up the very important subject of sales prospecting.
As the leading revenue growth service provider in the region we are often brought in to help sales organizations setup a prospecting framework, and improve activity outcome. Having developed a highly effective executive prospecting framework and methodology that we deliver as a one day workshop + onsite coaching, we have been successful in improving prospecting results by as much as 300% within two weeks. Here I am going to share some of my learnings about sales prospecting within the B2B space that I hope will help you have a prosperous and successful selling year.
I want to warn you that some of my statements may not align well with the latest sales talking points and the ‘Sales 2.0’ crowd who claim that prospecting is dead and you no longer need to proactively engage prospects. Believe me, I have heard all the arguments for and against. And I still welcome your thoughts and push backs as without healthy and open exchange of ideas we cannot get better:
- Prospecting is, and always will be hard work because it is full of rejection, interrupting people in a world filled with interruptions and people fed up with being interrupted.
- Having said that, prospecting is one of the most crucial activities in selling and can make or break an organization.
- Prospecting is not a complex task. Some companies and self-proclaimed sales leaders try to make it more complex than it is. Prospecting is simply about one human being reaching out to another human being through phone, video, email or social media and initiating a conversation.
- There is no single way of doing it. There certainly are some best practices we have gathered that will help our clients have much higher success rate. But as the saying goes there is more than one way to skin a cat.
- The most important elements of good prospecting are: focus, discipline, perseverance and positive attitude. I think these factors carry you 70% of the way.
- The approach and methodology is the other 30% of the success formula (please don’t be too literal about the percentages). But keep in mind that even with 100% behind you, you will still get rejected around 70% of the time. We have developed a very effective sales prospecting technique that will get you as high as 36% success rate in prospecting. But still that means you are rejected 64% of the time.
- Social media is a very powerful tool that could help sales professionals in their efforts to engage with current and future clients. However, it is simply a tool. Social media is no replacement for selling. Be suspicious of anyone who tells you otherwise. I have literally written the book on social selling (Winning With Social Selling) and I tell you, I cannot imagine a B2B sales professional reaching his/her potential without leveraging social media. But social media alone is not going to make anyone buy from you just because of your social media connection or sharing. Social media is a great tool for sales activities above the sales funnel. You still have to get the lead into your sales funnel.
- In prospecting execution is everything. regardless of the quality of your list, business plan or your technique, if you don’t execute your prospecting activities well you are wasting precious time and resources. Key to good execution is 100% focus on the task, minimum distraction, and positive attitude. Many times we are brought in to help improve the sales prospecting outcome of a sales or business development team. We simply observe the team members execute their prospecting activities and we identify dozens of distractions such as having email application open, having the cell phones blinking and jolting constantly, colleagues or managers stopping by for a chat, social media apps open…etc. All these distractions will reduce prospecting effectiveness by as much as 90%. We have developed a set of best practices that we use with our clients that results in sales teams spending 50% less time on prospecting and getting 200% better results!
- Winning in prospecting is a mind game. There are plenty of studies to support the premise that you are more likely to achieve an objective if you have visualized it in your mind. However, in the interest of time I won’t go into it. You can read it in my book ‘ The Winning Formula’. Before you make a call or send the email or social media message to your prospect you MUST believe that you WILL get the result you want. Your mindset will dramatically improve your chance of success.
- We have all heard it before. Sales is a numbers game. You find direct correlation between the level of success of a sales person and the level of his/her Sales generation activities. You do more prospecting, you will have bigger pipeline, and done right you will close more deals. Of course this is no rocket science but it is amazing how many times I hear sales people complain about their pipeline, the list quality, marketing department’s shortcomings, poor lead quality…etc. and never touch on the fact that their personal level of activity is anemic at best.
We love to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, feedback and questions.
Mark Ghaderi is an author, sales coach, mentor, entrepreneur and social selling evangelist with twenty five years of driving business results across the globe.
Vital Strategies Pte Ltd. Provides Revenue Growth Services to companies across the APAC region, helping organizations to grow their top line through digital transformation, embracing the subscription based business model and improving sales execution.