Prospecting: The Ability to Open Relationships
The third sales-related attribute is the ability to prospect.
The ability to prospect follows the ability to close, because it requires the ability to obtain the commitment to exploring the possibility of working together.
Prospecting follows the ability to differentiate because without the ability to distinguish yourself in a crowded field, obtaining that commitment is less likely.
What is Prospecting?
Prospecting is the ability to open relationships.
Prospecting is an attribute that is built upon the attributes of closing and differentiation. But more still, it is built on the foundational success attribute and the Master Key to Sales Success, self-discipline.
Prospecting in Sales
Throughout it’s modern history, the field of sales has paid way to much attention to the ability to close, especially as it pertains to obtaining the final commitment to buy. Far too little attention is given to prospecting, particularly to the ability to open potential relationships.
No sale ever gets closed before it gets opened. And great salespeople are great, in part, because they focus a good bit of their energy towards opening new relationships.
Great salespeople have the self-discipline to set aside the time, the attention, and the energy to prospect daily. They utilize all of the prospecting methods available, including telemarketing, cold calls, inbound marketing, email, letters, white papers, networking, referrals and more. They behave as if the health of their pipeline depends on their constant care and feeding of their pipeline, providing it with opportunities from a variety of sources.
Great salespeople treat their prospects with great respect, getting to the point of their communication quickly, and creating interest by explaining how they might be able to create value for the prospect and their company. They have a professional, consultative approach that generates trust, regardless of the medium.
When they prospect, great salespeople never ask for a greater commitment than they have earned the right to request. They never ask for more of a commitment than the opportunity to learn about the prospects business in order to determine whether or not they may be able to create something of value together. And they focus only on the outcome of generating that opportunity to learn, never conducting a needs analysis when they intend to schedule an appointment, and never presenting their company and it’s solutions during a prospecting encounter.
When Prospecting is Missing
Few salespeople lack the ability to prospect, and almost anyone can learn to prospect effectively. Most of the failure when it comes to prospecting is not a lack of ability; it is almost always a lack of self-discipline.
When prospecting is missing, salespeople cling to opportunities that they are unlikely to win, instead of focusing on opening new and additional opportunities.
When prospecting is missing, salespeople limit the methods that they use to prospect instead of using every available method. They forgo the difficult methods like cold calling, and they buy the hype that opportunities can be gained without disciplined effort.
Salespeople who lack the ability to prospect mistake the outcome of prospecting, and they try to turn prospecting calls into something more, like a needs analysis or a sales pitch. Their prospects feel this is disrespectful, as a waste of their time; not enough value has yet been created to warrant anything more than an exploration of working together.
More often than not, the inability (or unwillingness) to prospect leads to a weak pipeline, missed commitments, missed quotas, and, ultimately, the salesperson’s failure.
Failure to prospect leads to failure in sales.
Salespeople open relationships. Opening relationships is built upon the ability to prospect. Successful salespeople are disciplined with their prospecting, and they obtain commitments to explore working with and for their prospects. They open relationships by developing trust, and by demonstrating their willingness and their ability to create value for their prospects. And they use every method at their disposal to do so.
1. Am I disciplined enough when it comes to prospecting, setting aside time each and every day to open new potential relationships?
2. What do I need to do to be more disciplined?
3. What prospecting methods do I currently use? What other methods are available to me? How do I incorporate additional methods into my prospecting plan?
4. Is the outcome I hope to achieve something more than the opportunity to explore working together? Am I turning prospecting into a sales pitch? A needs-analysis?
5. When prospecting, do I generate the trust, the ability and the willingness to create real value for my prospects?