Not everyone wants, needs, or values the product you sell or the results you deliver. Persistently pursuing these non-prospects wastes your time and energy, both of which would be better spent on your targets. You are also wasting your non-prospect’s time and damaging your reputation.
Not Everyone is a Prospect
One of the things that will cause people to believe that you are not a value creator, a trusted advisor, or even a halfway-decent salesperson is thinking that everyone is a prospect. Treating every person you encounter as if they were a prospect reflects a harmful self-orientation, as it shows that you’d rather make a sale than provide something of value to your actual customers.
More to the point, it’s a lazy approach to selling. The worst salespeople insist on calling and texting and emailing people and companies that don’t even buy what they sell— because it just doesn’t benefit them. To avoid this, you have to tighten your filters and decide who you should spend time pursuing. At least when you’re starting out, an easy approach is to screen out anyone who doesn’t need what you sell, even though that filter wipes out almost the entire population.
If everyone is a prospect for what you sell, then no one is a prospect for what you sell. This truth is a tough one, since it’s difficult to build a list of true prospects: people who care about what you sell because it benefits them. Pursuing people who already spend significant money on what you sell tends to be worth your time, even though some clients may not be a good fit for you, or you for them.
Damaging Your Reputation
Every day, desperate salespeople on flood their LinkedIn contacts with cold pitches, using a brute force approach to prospecting by leveraging automated messages and the services of professional spammers. They believe that sending unsolicited messages to people without any real targeting is the right way to schedule meetings with prospects, mainly because it’s easy.
Many times, I’ve gotten meeting requests from people who work in the very same industry and sell what we sell. My usual response is something like, “Will you teach my people how to research and build a target list as part of your offering?”
These people believe that it is worth being wrong almost one hundred percent of the time, as long as it results in a few meetings. But their actions give them away, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. When you spam people using the exact template and approach being used by what must be thousands of other people, you identify yourself as just another spammer.
Professional salespeople use all the tools available, including LinkedIn. However, they don’t ask every person they connect with to schedule a meeting with them, and they certainly don’t send a pitch email immediately after connecting. Instead, they work to create value before trying to claim value.
Persisting in the Wrong Direction
There is a certain species of salesperson that believes persistence is all you really need to acquire clients. Even some sales trainers still teach that you have to keep asking until you get a yes, ignoring models and methods that make success faster and more certain— and without relentlessly bugging people who have shown no interest in your product and even less willing to pay for it.
Persistence is necessary for success in sales, but it’s not the only valuable character trait. When you’re trying to create new opportunities and new clients, you first need to consider the value your product could create. You want to sell to people who value what you sell, for the obvious reason that they are in the select group that cares about what you sell.
If you feel obligated to chase clients that don’t buy what you sell, it’s because you haven’t put in the time to identify your target market. Success in sales comes from spending the majority of your time and energy pursuing prospective clients who need the value you create.
If this post hit a little too close to home, let me offer you a few practical suggestions for rebooting your prospecting.
First, pause your efforts. Instead of flailing around, trying to make clients out of people who don’t care about what you sell, make a list of factors that would indicate that a person or a company is the right target for you. Your target list will shrink considerably, but it will contain a much higher percentage of potential buyers.
Second, decide how you are going to pursue those targets. You want to use a prospecting sequence that makes sense for you and for your potential clients. Throughout that sequence, you want to create value for your clients by providing something of value to them, something that isn’t possible when you straight pitch them every time you two communicate.
Finally, as you start to pursue your dream clients, be persistent without being a nuisance. Season your persistence with respect and restraint— you don’t want to be so aggressive about what you want that you repel people instead of attracting them. Project the image of a confident, trustworthy, consultative advisor, not a self-oriented, smarmy, belligerent salesperson. There are some lines that, once crossed, end any opportunity you might have had.