Monday, March 23, 2009

Separating Sales and Prospecting

Prospecting and selling are certainly related, but they require different mind and skill sets. They are two different and distinct activities. You will only be effective in your prospecting efforts if you successfully differentiate the two activities. With the right training salespeople can make excellent prospectors, but they need to take their sales hat off and put their prospecting hat on when they are prospecting for Wanters (qualified prospects who are ready and willing to buy).

Although there are notable exceptions, without the right training most salespeople are not efficient or effective at prospecting.

Why is that you ask. There are two reasons. The majority of salespeople receive some type of base pay, plus benefits, sales commission, and often a bonus for achieving their sales quotas. The net result is salespeople naturally focus their energies and efforts on closing sales deals, because that’s where the money is. That’s highly motivating and a great process for driving sales, but it has an unintended and seriously negative impact on both prospecting and establishing relationships with prospects that are not ready to close—especially when industry research and experience shows that there’s only a 25 to 33% chance of closing those deals anyway.

The second reason is that salespeople have been falsely taught that the primary purpose of prospecting is to generate an appointment. Sorry, that is simply not true. The primary purpose of prospecting is to qualify a “suspect” company. Do they or do they not use the products and services you provide. After that the second prospecting objective is to gather relevant marketing and sales information prospect (business or needs). The third step is determine their Willingness To Buy. There is usually a big difference between a prospect’s use of your products and services and the immediacy of his need for more of them, now. In another blog I’ll have much more to say about generating appointments. Here is a teaser in the meantime. Prospectors have virtually no control over whether a prospect is in the market for his products and services.

Salespeople, even those who are very good at what they do, typically don’t work at anywhere near their maximum effectiveness. Five years ago, the average sales professional spent over 30% of her time in a face-to-face selling situation. Today, that number is 19%. (CSO Insights 2008 Survey Results and Analysis) It may not be the only way, but better prospecting is certainly one way of increasing face-to-face selling time.

There’s never been a greater need for effective prospecting than there is today. High quality prospecting programs make it possible for salespeople to do what they do best. Your prospecting program should be designed to work symbiotically with your sales process, not disrupt it any way. Its main goal is to produce more sales, but prospecting is not selling. Prospecting is making connections, gathering information, and building trust that in turn results in to high quality sales opportunities.

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