Need More Sales?
Prospecting, the #1 Job for the CEO

By Tony Cole

Does your company need more sales? I’ll assume that for the majority, the answer is yes. When did you last schedule and then spend an hour prospecting for your business? With the mountain of things to get done each day and the number of people looking for time on your calendar, there is just no way that you can do that too. Maybe you don’t really prospect, but leave that up to your sales manager and sales team. Beware!  You must cast the shadow, walk the talk and be the lead prospector so that your team understands that prospecting and bringing in new business is the number one job. Even for you.

Step into the shoes of your salesperson for just one moment and think about these universal truths.

Your attitude about prospecting will determine how successful your sales career will be. If you feel that prospecting is something you “have to do”, then you will view it as drudgery. You will resist it; you will find other things to do instead of prospecting. You will not improve your skill at it, and therefore your performance and success in sales will suffer. You must embrace prospecting. You must understand that prospecting is the job. You get paid a lot of money because you are willing to do what others won’t - prospect. The operative word is willing!

Is your daily leadership communicating a strong and positive attitude about getting out and making calls? Are you catching people making phone calls and setting appointments and holding them up to emulate? Are you encouraging their use of you as a resource to help get in the door? Are you sharing your company’s unique selling approach numerous times a day? Are you holding daily and weekly sales huddles and are they focused on what is in the pipeline and how to get more?

As you well know, the people in sales who are making the most money are not making the most because they are brighter or have better presentations, or because their product is better than others. They are making big money because they have figured out that the real job is getting in front of people or businesses that need, want and can pay for the product and services they provide.

In analyzing these salespeople who are successful year after year, we find significant consistencies in behavior and practice management. So, borrowing from Steven Covey, here are 7 Habits of Successful Salespeople.

1) The only "A" priority is prospecting. Successful salespeople service accounts just like everyone else. They also have fires to put out and meetings to attend. But nothing gets in the way of consistent prospecting. You don't have to like prospecting; you just have to do it. If you learn to like prospecting, you will do more of it.

2) Don’t look, act or sound like every other salesperson calling on the prospect. Create a unique approach - Don't just say that you are different. Put yourself in your prospect's place. Would you take your phone call and be responsive? If not, work on your strategy and script.

3) Successful prospectors understand that the purpose of a call is to set an appointment with a qualified candidate. Stop seeing anyone who will see you. Make sure the prospect qualifies to do business with you. Stop selling on the phone.

4) The quality of the phone call determines the quality of the appointment. Your goal is to identify on the phone if your prospect has a problem that you can solve. Establish that they would like to fix the problem. Even though the prospect identified a "problem" on the phone, the identified problem isn't the real problem.   Ask questions about why the problem is a problem and how much the problem is costing them.

5) "Drill down" past the pain or problem indicators (symptoms).   Here are a series of questions for you to use to get past the initial symptoms that a prospect will give you:

  • Tell me …

  • How long has this been a problem?

  • What have you done…?

  • When you spoke with …?

  • What has your current provider done to make this problem go away?

  • What happens if you don’t fix…?

  • How much is it costing…?

  • Is that a problem?

  • Do you want to fix it?

  • But not today?

6) Finally, know that prospects want to meet professionals through introductions, not cold calls, so always ask for introductions as your first prospecting strategy.

7) Always track your activity and look for ways to exponentially improve revenue by improving your techniques. You may be great at getting that first meeting but not great at uncovering real opportunities. If you track this, then you know this and you can get better at this step.

The moment you realize that prospecting is THE job for you as the Leader of the company, you have taken your first step to the best year in sales your company has ever had.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength, not lack of knowledge, but rather in lack of will.”       -  Vince Lombardi

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