By Jeff Beals
Prospecting is not something you do when you don’t have anything else to do. It is not something you do when you suddenly find yourself without enough customers. Prospecting is perpetual.
So says globe-trotting sales expert Mark Hunter in his new book on prospecting set to be released September 20th.
“View prospecting the same way you do taking a shower,” Hunter writes. “You take a shower daily, and you should be prospecting daily. Failing to prospect on a regular basis is putting yourself in a situation where your sales will constantly be in a peak/valley syndrome.”
Whether you’re a rookie salesperson hoping for a head start or a grizzled veteran looking to stay sharp, I highly recommend High-Profit Prospecting. (AMACOM, 2017). I’m a connoisseur of sales books, and this one ranks among the best.
Hunter, known by his epithet, “The Sales Hunter,” defines prospecting as “an activity performed by sales and marketing departments to identify and qualify potential buyers.” It’s the most fundamental task in a salesperson’s job description, but vast numbers of underperforming salespeople are so uncomfortable with prospecting, they dread the thought of it.
Perhaps that’s why so many salespeople fall for snake-oil messages that “prospecting is dead” and “telephone selling is history.” Hunter recalls sitting in the back of a room during an educational conference while a so-called sales expert explained how his social media-based prospecting system had rendered telephone prospecting extinct. The notion was ridiculous but that didn’t stop audience members from being mesmerized, enthusiastically nodding in agreement with everything the charlatan on stage was saying.
Hunter was not surprised that the audience of salespersons was unreservedly lapping up the message; they were tired of being rejected, having phone calls ignored and not being able to generate good prospects. If someone promises a struggling salesperson a panacea, no matter how pie-in-the-sky it might be, the temptation to embrace it can be irresistible.
No doubt prospecting is hard work. It can make you feel uncomfortable, but it has to be done. If prospecting was easy, salespeople wouldn’t be so well compensated. If you make a commitment to prospecting, you will grow as a salesperson and eventually be that person who makes so much money your friends and colleagues marvel at you.
Hunter’s prospecting philosophy essentially boils down to five components:
1. A Positive Attitude – You need a can-do mentality and a healthy respect for prospecting. Believe you will succeed!
2. Preparation – Prospecting is inefficient if you don’t do the necessary background work before making the call.
3. Execution – Top-producing sales professionals are action-oriented. They resist procrastination, the biggest thing separating poor prospectors from good ones.
4. Discipline – Prospecting is a daily activity. You need to do it even when there are a hundred things you’d rather do and dozens of things that seem more urgent. Prospecting is an investment in your future production.
5. Time management – Don’t allow your time to be wasted by prospects who will never buy from you.
So what are some of Hunter’s pearls of wisdom? Here are a few:
Making Initial Contact
Ultimately, your prospects really don’t care about you. They care about themselves and their goals. Too many salespeople start the first email or phone call wasting everyone’s time by introducing themselves and their company. As Hunter says, “You can permanently delete the ‘capabilities presentation’ the marketing department built for you five years ago.” Cut to the chase and explain why the two of you need to connect quickly.
Does Anybody Listen to Voicemails?
Voicemail might feel like a black hole, but if you leave the right messages, voicemail is your friend. The key is leave messages that expresses a value you could give the recipient. But you don’t have much time. Hunter says voice mails should never exceed 18 seconds. Twelve seconds is ideal. What’s more, a single voice mail rarely leads to a call-back. Craft a series of voicemails periodically leaving them for prospects over an extended time.
The Lazy Way Out
Sales reps who always choose email instead of picking up the phone are lazy prospectors. Hunter says email is a fine prospecting tool but not if your reason for using it is to avoid having to call someone. Make email one part of your prospecting plan, not your crutch. The same thing applies to social media. It’s a good tool but just one tool. You can’t depend on it exclusively.
Getting Past the Gatekeeper
When your prospects are major decision-makers, you’ll encounter gatekeepers – administrative assistants whose jobs are to protect the boss from interruptions. Hunter recommends you see the gatekeeper as a partner. Ask them the same questions you would ask the boss. That will win their respect, plus if the gatekeeper realizes they don’t have the answer, they just may pass you on to the senior person you seek. Don’t back down too quickly if a gatekeeper puts up barricades. “If it’s hard for you to get in,” Hunter says, “then it’s hard for your competition.”
I could go on and on recounting Hunter’s salient advice, but you’ll have to read the book for yourself.
It’s rare for a book to deliver so much actionable advice chapter after chapter, but that’s exactly what Hunter provides. Similarly, it’s unusual for a content-heavy book to be such a quick-and-easy read. Upon finishing it, you’ll be ready to roll up your sleeves, pick up the phone and hit the streets.
As Hunter likes to say, “Great selling!”
Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”
Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:
“Jeff is sure to deliver an engaging and motivating speech! He cleverly ties together his stories and makes the speech end with a punch. Being the closing speaker is tough, but he stepped-up to the challenge and hit a home-run. Due to the high ratings and overwhelming response to re-watch his speech, we are planning on using his video during our NextGen watch party.” – Megan Dotson, Senior Client Success Consultant & Event Director, GovLoop.com, Washington, DC
“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil
“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and
building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team
“If you are considering hiring Jeff, I will only say this: do it now. His ability to connect with an audience and explain the importance of telling the story is nothing short of extraordinary. The true litmus of any great speaker is authenticity. And when authenticity is coupled with an incredibly high amount of energy, humor, and engagement – you get Jeff. I would highly recommend him to anyone who needs a speaker attendees will talk about for a long time to come.” – Alison Cody, Executive Director, Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Atlanta, GA
“I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here. He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard. Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA