The number one reason for failure in sales is the failure to prospect. And the most important ingredient for success is having the right, realistic, practical attitude about prospecting.
Tuesdays with Chad
Do you hate and dread going through airport security as much as I do?
Do you also hate and dread prospecting, as much as I do?
They're both a means to an end. For both, they're the first, sometimes unpleasant step toward getting where I need to be – whether it's traveling or growing my business.
Jeb Blount has authored over 10 books, including the runaway bestseller Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling.In the book he explains that the number one reason for failure in sales is a failure to prospect. It’s that simple. Nothing else comes close.
This is at a time when prospecting has become much more difficult given the increasing number of ways that your customers can avoid your unwanted sales and marketing messages.
But in a time where it has never been more difficult to break through to your prospects, there has never been a better time for finding out more about your prospects via the internet in order to personalize your outreach and add value.
And while getting through via the traditional cold call is much less effective than it used to be, there are still opportunities to get on the radar screen of your prospects and create interest.
Examples include calling (yes, calling) and leaving a voice message, sending a personalized video email, sending a hand-written note, reaching out on social media to show interest and add value (not pitching), attending events and getting warm introductions and referrals.
So while there are technical barriers to breaking through in prospecting, there is one much bigger challenge.
General James Mattis (USMC, Ret) said: “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
That also applies to prospecting. Chad Stenzel and Sandler Training explain that there are three types of attitudes about prospecting.
Two of them guarantee failure. One of them will make you successful. Which one do you have?
1. The Unsupportive Prospecting Attitude
Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh’s is the spirit animal for salespeople with this attitude. It’s also the most prevalent attitude of the three.
The Unsupportives don’t want to prospect and have convinced themselves that prospecting, particularly picking up the phone and calling doesn’t work.
They tend to surrender to gatekeepers and when they do get through they are terrified that they won’t keep the prospect’s attention.
With this mindset they practice what is called “creative avoidance.” This happens by finding other, less important tasks with which they are more comfortable such as calling existing clients or going to a networking event and speaking only with people they already know and feel comfortable with.
Is there a customer fire to put out at work? They spring into action like a firefighter!
Occasionally they will do a bit of prospecting, but they don’t have an overall plan. And sadly, this inconsistent, start and stop approach rarely generates quick results, which only serves to reinforce their fatal attitude that prospecting doesn’t work.
2. The Unrealistic Prospecting Attitude
Think of the life insurance salesman character Ned Ryerson in the movie Groundhog Day (click here for a scene). This is the polar opposite of the Unsupportive Attitude. To this state of mind, everyone is a prospect. Can someone fog a mirror? They’re a prospect!
The Unrealistics assume everyone is interested in what they’re selling if they can just get the chance to pitch it. They're convinced that their product is for anyone.
They’re insufferable and people avoid them like the plague. Within seconds, people’s “fight or flight” response kicks in and they try to flee.
You’ll find more new salespeople with this attitude. And at some point many of the Unrealistics slide all the way over to the Unsupportive camp.
3. The Practical Prospecting Attitude
This attitude occupies the ground between the two polar opposites of the Unsupportives and Unrealistics.
The Practicals understand that not everyone is a prospect. And even those that have been identified as a prospect may still not be worth spending time pursuing.
There are two reasons for this:
- The Practicals have a very good idea of who their ideal customer is.
- They know that unless the prospect has some kind of pain they can alleviate, they are not likely to make a sell.
The Practicals qualify hard and close easy. When they encounter a prospect that does not fit the profile of an ideal customer who has any pain, they don’t chase them – they move on to finding another prospect that might fit the mold.
In Brad McDonald’s book The Art and Skill of Sales Psychology: Why Buyers and Sellers Do What They Do, he explains this phenomenon with a metaphor about gold miners:
You don’t have to turn suspects into prospects any more than a gold miner has to turn gravel into gold. You're just on a search for that which is already gold–that interested person–so you can set an appointment.
You don't have to enjoy prospecting. But you have to do it in order to be the most successful in sales. The right attitude makes all the difference.