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The Do’s and Don’ts of Prospecting

The do’s and don’ts of prospecting is about developing your personal best practices and uncovering techniques and tactics that are essential to achieving success outbound prospecting.  Prospecting is not always easy; it can be challenging work.  Like with any profession, you will need to learn new skills.  It will take practice and patience.

There is Quality in the Quantity

When you are new to prospecting it is common to find yourself using the popular prospecting strategy “spray and pray.”  This approach is where you make hundreds of calls and sends thousands of emails all in the hopes that you will connect with a few prospects, some of which will accept an appointment, and even fewer will results in opportunities that will close.  It is ineffective, time consuming, and without focus.  It also potentially damages you and your company’s brand.

It is commonly thought that there is quality in the quantity.  But it is a bit of a penny toss – sometimes it will come up heads and other times it will come up tails.  If a random approach is acceptable, then so should subpar results.  Dial 1,000 random numbers and a few might be interested in your company’s products and services.  Dial one hundred carefully targeted prospects that match your ideal customer profile, and you are more likely to generate more opportunities than a random approach.

“Spray and pray” is labor intensive, time consuming, and will result in less success than is acceptable.  A more precise approach is often called for.  Targeted prospecting puts the buyer first with a customized, personalized approach to outreach.  By targeting prospects you believe are likely customers, you can spend more time on who matters more and less time on trying to reach prospects that will never buy from you.

Schedule Time for Prospecting

What is scheduled is managed especially when it comes to finding time for all the things that need to get done.  This is especially true for prospecting.  If you prioritize prospects and schedule time to prospect you are likely to have a higher degree of success than those that do not.  There are always lots of excuses for not prospecting; some of which are valid, but most are not.  You may become a professional excuse maker out of fear of failing.  Repeatedly hearing “No” is not the strongest motivator to make that next call.  Rejection is a powerful demotivator.

Priceless optimism is required when connections are few and often met with objections when you actually reach a prospect.  If you are paid $100 for each appointment set, and you must make one hundred calls to successfully book one appointment, then each “No” is worth one dollar ($1.00) to you.  The priceless optimist within you is going to bank that dollar for each “No” in your relentless quest for a “Yes.”  The math is the same: ninety-nine calls at $0 and one call at $100 or one hundred calls at $1 each.  The odds of a payout are surprisingly good at one hundred calls though not as good as the one-armed bandits in Las Vegas where slot machines have a legally mandated minimum payout.

Be Enthusiastic but not Overly Dramatic

Your delivery is everything.  An overly dramatic delivery signals the prospect that what they are about to hear will be too good to be true.  Equally, a monotone delivery will fall flat with prospects and turn them right off.  Animated but not agitated can still come off as insincere and you will get the brush off from prospects.

Sales is fundamentally an acting job – especially in the beginning.  Prospects do not have a copy of your scripts and dialogues so they will not know if you adlibbed or followed the plan.  And in the beginning, you will sound like you are reading it – you will be – but in time you will develop your “sales character” and deliver Oscar winning performances.  Each time you have an opportunity to connect with a prospect, you get a chance to practice a perfect delivery.  Practice however does not make perfect, it makes permanent.  If you find yourself delivering the wrong message in the wrong tone it will be hard to correct.  So, nip it in the bud early on with corrective coaching through active monitoring.

When you are new to the sale, you can come off robotic and scripted in your delivery.  Prospects will just tune you out.  As you mature, your delivery will improve, and it will not come off as sounding so canned.  Nonetheless it is important for you to know your lines.  When talking with a prospect you will hope that your brain and your mouth are connected and that the words and phrases you utter will make you sound like you know what you are talking about.  And in time you will.  Practice the power of positive thinking.

Why are You Calling Me?

Know why you are calling the prospect.  The prospect does not know you and will not immediately understand why you are calling them.  They are likely to ask, “Why are you calling me?”  And you will need to have a well-rehearsed answer.  It should be planned, but casual and always authentic.  Saying “I’m call you because you are my ideal customer.” is not a sufficient reason to have a conversation with you.  Remember, you are interrupting them when you call.  No prospect sits around and says, “OK everyone, I’ll take your sales call between 9 and 10 on Tuesdays and 3 and 4 on Thursdays.”  It does not work like that; although it would be great if it did.

You are calling the prospect because you think that they match your ideal customer profile.  You are calling the prospect because you think they have a problem that might be solved by your product or service.  But you will not know the answer until you have had a conversation with them.  You must first understand the prospects situation before you can determine if and how you can help them.  Only then will you know if you have products and services that might help them solve a problem.

Prepare to Have Your Call Answered, Not for Rejection

Hang ups.  No thank you.  No answer.  Voice mail.  It is going to happen and happen often.  You may get so accustomed to dead end dials that you are unprepared when a prospect does answer the phone.  You will be startled by their hello.  You will forget who you were trying to reach and why you were calling them.  You might even hang up on them because you were not planning to leave a voice mail anyway and just as you are clicking the hang-up button on your softphone you hear “Hello.”  But its too late.  The signal from your brain has already been sent to your index finger.  Your finger is on the mouse.  You tap the left-click button.  The call is over before it even started.  Embarrassed, you will not call back today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe never.

Stay focused.  Easier said than done somedays.  Try not to let your mind wander when you are calling.  Focus on one or two personalization points for that prospect only when you start the dial.  Hold onto that positive attitude.  If you think you can, you will achieve success.

Be prepared and stay on point.  You will also want to be brief.  You will want to personalize your conversation but do not be overly friendly or attempt to be too chummy.  This is a business call, not a call to a casual friend you have been out of touch with for a while.  Minimize engaging in small talk other than very brief ice breakers.  Keep the call short and simple.  Aim for brevity over verbosity.  Remember to breathe; it gives the prospect a chance to respond and interject.  Be prepared to answer questions and overcome objections; all the while staying on point.  It is easy to lose control over the conversation when you let the prospect start meandering.

Do not forget to ask for the order.  You have had an enjoyable conversation with the prospect, and they are ready to hang up and you forget to ask them to take the next step.  The next step might be to take the order.  But it might not be.  Always have at the ready a call-to-action, a next step, a follow-up action.  Be prepared to close the sale.

Become a Student of Sales

When you have been in sales long enough, you will start to recognize when “you are being sold.”  Furthermore, you will easily know the tactics and techniques that they are employing.  You might even want to have some fun with them by tossing out a few objections that they will need to overcome before you are ready to buy.  Since you know how they are trying to sell you, you can easily derail their attempts to close you.

My favorite instance of this was when the manager at the car dealer where I was purchasing a car walked by noticed that the salesperson was having difficulty closing the deal with me.  He whistled in passing “Well that car may not be here tomorrow; we’ve had a lot of interest in it.”  My response took him off-guard when I replied with “Well then, you’ll sell it to that buyer and not me.  I can find another one elsewhere.”  He was trying to create urgency by leverage scarcity and demand.  While I remained in control of the sale – and I did in the end purchase the vehicle – it was on my terms, not theirs.  Never try to sell a salesperson.

Sales professionals do not get old, they just author a book, offer a course, or consult.  There are almost as many sales trainers and coaches, along with their sales training courses, as there are salespersons.  What is old becomes new again; what is current becomes passe.  Sales is an evolving landscape while the fundamentals remain the same.  What changes are the channels, messages, products, and offers.

For aspiring sales professionals, a career in sales can be quite rewarding and not just monetarily.  Being in sales can be a fast path to a CEO position.  Many CEOs were once in sales, later in sales leadership, then progressed to management to find themselves tapped for the tip top job of the big boss.  From sales rep to CEO, if that is your destiny, you will find yourself in the company of Mark Cuban (from software sales to billionaire investor), Howard Schultz (from copier sales rep to Starbuck CEO), Sara Blakely (from door-to-door sale rep to founder of Spanx), and the list goes on.

If you become an ardent student of sales, you can not only sell your prospects on your products and services but your boss on a promotion and raise.  You will learn to actively listen, effectively communicate, build relationships, conduct negotiations, learn to build trust and rapport, and how to sell to people that are different than you.

In Conclusion Do Not Give Up

No matter what, do not give up.  Prospecting is challenging work.  It is probably the least favorite of all the sales activities you will perform.  It might even be lower on the list than administrative paperwork.  Anything worthwhile takes patience and action.  Endurance develops strength of character.  Having uncovered your personal best practices, applying those techniques and tactics to prospecting for customers will ensure that you achieve the success you seek in outbound prospecting.

About the Author

Stephen Howell is a multifaceted expert with a wealth of experience in technology, business management, and development. He is the innovative mind behind the cutting-edge AI powered Kognetiks Chatbot for WordPress plugin. Utilizing the robust capabilities of OpenAI's API, this conversational chatbot can dramatically enhance your website's user engagement. Visit Kognetiks Chatbot for WordPress to explore how to elevate your visitors' experience, and stay connected with his latest advancements and offerings in the WordPress community.

Stephen Howell
Stephen Howell is a multifaceted expert with a wealth of experience in technology, business management, and development. He is the innovative mind behind the cutting-edge AI powered Kognetiks Chatbot for WordPress plugin. Utilizing the robust capabilities of OpenAI's API, this conversational chatbot can dramatically enhance your website's user engagement. Visit Kognetiks Chatbot for WordPress to explore how to elevate your visitors' experience, and stay connected with his latest advancements and offerings in the WordPress community.
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