Bob absolutely detests cold calling, and when he is in a sales slump, like he is this month, he’ll do just about anything to avoid the phone. The past customer files in his desk will suddenly all get new folders. He’ll update his Rolodex with all the new phone and fax numbers that he can remember. Picking the lint off his suit becomes a serious endeavor. Figuring out his commissions, should he make some sales beyond the normal price points, requires intense calculator work. Lunch time starts at around 10:40 a.m.
With luck, he’ll remember that one of his customers mentioned three months ago that she might know someone whom he should stop by and see. At last, someone to call. But, unfortunately, she is on vacation this week. Have to mark that one to call next week.
Thumbing through his card file of past “dead” prospects, he decides to sort them by when he saw them last. Then he’ll call the oldest ones figuring that by now they probably want something. But, looking at the cards, he realizes that not all of them have Date Of Last Contact filled in. “Damn, that won’t work,” he mutters to himself.
I know what I can do, he says to himself, feeling much better, I’ll go find the sales manager and bug him about not having the latest product information sheets that were promised five weeks ago. I really need them today if I’m going to get anywhere.
Coming back to his desk an hour later, without any new product information sheets, he decides that now, since its 2:10 Wednesday afternoon, no one he calls will have any time for him. I’ve got an appointment tomorrow morning at 10:45 so that kills tomorrow for cold calling. I think I’ll spend the rest of the day preparing for that meeting. It is my first time into the company. I want to make a good impression.
Bob has not accomplished any prospecting activity that will generate any future sales. In fact, as he sits there, his prospects are being cold called by the competition. And if he contacts them some other day, only to find out they bought from the competition, will he see the point of “Why didn’t you cold call me?”
Unless you have a prospecting plan that is reasonable and doable, you will never do any serious prospecting. Instead, much like Bob, you will go from day to day “running into” prospects who might or might not buy your product.
Most salespeople decide to create a prospecting plan when they are in a sales slump. While a sales slump does provide motivation to do something, the psychological push to do something is based on the fear of failing. Fear is a lousy motivator because every act that the salesperson thinks of doing becomes tinged with the thought that it won’t work. “And since it won’t work,” thinks the salesperson in the slump, “why bother doing it. I’ll just fail.” The vicious circle of sales slump, fear of failing, thinking of things to do but coloring them as probable failures, leads to doing nothing productive.
Perhaps Bob’s preparation for tomorrow’s appointment will result in a sale. If it does, he will believe that when he is in a sales slump, the proper action to take is preparing for a future appointment.
What will Bob do when he does not have an appointment the following day?
There are many ways for salespeople to prospect. Cold calling on the phone, physically showing up unannounced, sending invitations to seminars, asking existing customers if they were you, whom would they call—literally hundreds of ways. None of them will work unless the salesperson does them on a daily basis.
Daily prospecting is the only method that will work if you want to be successful. How to start? Take the first thirty minutes of every morning and do one of the prospecting activities. Stop thinking about doing it and do it.
At the end of the first week you will have spent a minimum of two and a half hours looking for new business. Within four weeks you will have spent ten hours.
Ten hours a month may not seem like a lot of time, but consider this, if you ask Bob how much time he spent prospecting, he’d tell you the whole day. In truth, he did not spend one minute prospecting. He spent the entire day avoiding it.
Prospecting is a daily activity like breathing—If you don’t breathe, you die.
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