This is another question from The Sales Blog mailbag.
I don’t know how many times I have heard the statement, “I am great when I am in front of a prospective customers, but I just can’t get in.” I struggle to accept this premise for a couple of reasons.
First, being great in front of a customer isn’t a judgment that the salesperson gets to make; their prospective client gets to make that decision based on how well the salesperson did creating value for them. It results in an advance and, if you do really well, a won opportunity. But let’s set that aside.
Second, there is a problem with the logic that you can be great in front of a prospective customer without having had a lot of experience actually making sales calls, something that is illogical and unlikely if you can’t schedule appointments. But let’s set that aside, too.
Instead, let’s accept the statement at face value and remember that prospecting generally isn’t easy. So, if you are good once you get in but you struggle to do so, here are four ideas that can help you improve your ability to get in.
Stop Taking “No” for an Answer
Salespeople that struggle to schedule appointments accept “no” as the answer to their request for time. They believe that a request to call the prospective client back in a quarter is positive request.
Being effective in sales requires that you are determined and that you persevere. This is especially true for prospecting. It also means you are politely and professionally non-compliant. It requires that you possess great confidence in yourself and your ability to create value for your dream client. Without being all of these things, it’s easy to take “no” for an answer.
To stop taking ‘no” for an answer you have to make a professional and polite attempt to overcome objections, and you will have to ask for the appointment more than once. It’s uncomfortable, unless you believe deeply (moral obligation).
Make More Attempts and Vary Your Approach
Salespeople that struggle to get in seem to have a few things that they routinely do that make it more difficult than it might otherwise be.
First, because they accept “no” as an answer, they make way too few attempts on the same prospective client, believing instead that need new leads. Second, when they do call the same prospect back, they stick with the same approach, always calling the same contact, always saying the very same thing that failed last time. Finally, they do little to no nurturing of the relationships that they need between calls; they don’t try to create value ahead of claiming it.
Instead of going away and disappearing, you have to continually call your prospective client back. You have to be determined and persevere. Calling quarterly isn’t enough.
You also have to vary your approach. You don’t always have to make cold calls. There are lots of ways in, and maybe you would do better to find someone to refer you in, attend a networking meeting, or make the effort to meet your dream client at a conference. Mix it up, man!
Varying your approach also means not always trying to get in with the same contact. Even though you don’t want to get caught in the receptivity trap, calling on someone who is only receptive. You can search for other contacts. You can find contacts that are more receptive to you and your message and leverage those contacts to find your way in.
And then there is nurturing.
To improve your skills and abilities at any task, you have to make a study of it. Prospecting is no different.
You can read blog posts by people that study prospecting. You can read books. You can take classes. You can also make a study of your own success and failures, capturing the lessons you have learned.
You can also look at and listen to those around you that are successful prospecting. What are they doing differently? What do they do that seems to work for them and why does it work? What are the underlying attributes that they possess that you could work on to improve your own prospecting? Are they more confident? Do they sound like they are worth their prospect’s investment of time?
Make it study. Write down what you learn. Practice it. See if that doesn’t make getting in way easier over a short period of time.
Spend Real Time Prospecting
To get better at any task you have to spend time doing it. You don’t get better at sales without selling. This is true of all of the tasks that being effective in sales requires. Prospecting is no different.
If you want to get better at prospecting, you have to devote the time and energy to prospecting. This probably means spending more time than you are presently.
What evidence is there that you are great in front of customers? Who makes that judgment and what outcomes prove that you performed well?
Why is getting in so difficult, even for very good salespeople?
How do learn to stop accepting “no” as an answer? Is it always correct not to accept “no” as an answer?
How many different approaches do you have in your “getting in” repertoire?
How do you study prospecting?