Prospecting is the lifeblood of sales and is generally the most important thing a sales professional does. Success or failure in sales can usually be traced back, one way or another, back to prospecting.
Given how important prospecting is to sales success, I tend to worry about sales pros this time of year. Why? Because they get too busy to prospect, or at least the think they’re too busy to prospect.
At this time, many sales pros are actively working to close deals before the end of the year. What’s more, holiday parties, family obligations and networking events will be filling your calendars between now and Christmas. When you’re super busy, it’s easy to put off prospecting. If you do that, you’ll pay the price a couple months later.
I don’t want you to suffer in early 2023 because you neglected prospecting at the end of 2022, so here are some prospecting best-practice reminders…
Top producers consider prospecting to be an activity driven by their annual goals and business plans. They are highly goal-oriented and monitor progress throughout the year. They always want to be ahead of the game.
Elite prospectors are obsessed with prospecting and do it every day. They are constantly wondering, “Who else is out there that could become my client?” They prospect when times are good because they know that a rainy day will eventually come. They fight through worry and discouragement and keep prospecting during economic downturns because they know better days lie ahead and they want to be ready for future opportunity. They even prospect when mediocre sales reps would claim they are too busy to prospect.
Top producers dig deep into their professional souls and conquer the temptation to procrastinate. They know that perfectionism is the “little brother” of procrastination, so they don’t wait for things to be perfect.
You’ve probably fallen into this trap before, by the way. You keep putting off picking up the phone until you’ve accomplished “just one more thing.” Well, top producers know they will NEVER be 100 percent ready, so they jump in and just get the job done. As the legendary Army General George S. Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
The best prospectors are organized in both their personal and professional lives. They have a system of good habits allowing them to keep the little things in line, freeing them up to spend their time on big things.
They are “opportunity detectives.” A financial services CEO once told me that sales professionals should listen to their clients with the same intensity that a homicide detective listens to a murder suspect. Deep, active and fully-present listening is necessary to uncover hidden business opportunities. Most people only casually listen to prospects, causing them to miss subtle cues that could lead to millions of dollars in business.
Finally, great prospectors have an “accountability mindset.” They are accountable to themselves, their clients and their colleagues.
If you have an accountability mindset, you live your life according to three words: responsibility, authority and accountability. You are responsible for your own world, and fortunately, you have the authority to carry out your responsibilities. But with that authority comes accountability for your decisions and actions.
In other words, truly successful people graciously take credit for their successes and accept blame for their mistakes. In practical prospecting terms, this means they don’t make excuses, such as “Nobody answers the phone these days.” They don’t waste time worrying, “What if that person doesn’t want to talk to me?” They don’t complain, “Nobody will make a decision these days!”