by Tina Cherpes, Featured Contributor
“I USUALLY just wing it” Carrie had answered the prospecting question sincerely. She had been selected to enter the training workshop hot-seat where one brave rep would have the opportunity to have their sales techniques deconstructed; publicly.
“There’s an old saying,” the sales trainer paused for effect, “a failure to plan, is a plan for failure; but there is an upside. Failure to plan, is a prospecting mistake we can learn to avoid.”
Just as there are keys to prospecting success, there are also common pitfalls of poor prospecting we can learn to avert.
Effective prospecting is an intentional activity which, as revealed in Carrie’s hot-seat review, requires planning. What does our ideal customer look like? Where will we get our prospect information? What’s the best time to make contact? What are the key metrics? How do I find the decision makers and move past their gatekeepers? If there is a single prospecting mistake to prevent, it’s failing to make the investment in the up-front planning effort.
Failure to measure and evaluate is another common prospecting pitfall. There are a wide variety of tools available from pencil/paper to sophisticated client relationship software and regardless of preference, we can improve our ratios if we understand what is working for us (and what isn’t). The best tracking tool is the one we actually use.
Unless we’re able to properly profile and clearly define the attributes of our target market, we’re likely to invest a great deal of time and energy without producing a meaningful return. We can avoid letting this prospecting mistake trip us up if we qualify our search; it’s much easier to find what we’re looking for if we know what we’re looking for.
Historical sales ratios exist for nearly every industry. When we fail to know the ratios for our particular niche, we can set ourselves up for a great deal of frustration. If we’re competent and our prospects are qualified, it becomes a numbers game and the numbers can’t beat us. If we know the math, we need only apply persistent repetition.
As we develop our own prospecting skills and those of the team members we’re responsible for, we’ll go further faster, through a heightened awareness of the common prospecting pitfalls that produce poor results. When we allow our teammates to “wing it” we set them up to fail; effective prospecting is a learned skill advanced through intentional activity.