Too often we evaluate sales difficulties as an inability to close. “If account managers could just do a better job at closing, we would have more sales.”
With a closer look at the problem, we find closing is not the issue. We are simply not around sufficient prospects to meet our revenue goals. Our difficulty is not closing, but a shortfall in finding and activating sufficient core customer prospects with needs we can answer.
Joe D. was a sales manager who taught me the value of removing a prospect if they did not progress through the sales funnel. “Get it out of here” would be his decree on the stagnant opportunity. Too often, sales reps put off new prospects in favor of continued calls for update status from the friendly pipeline.
The most important skill a salesperson can possess is the ability to find and activate new prospects. Without a steady stream of prospects, sales reps will not succeed. Having said this, it is astonishing at how many sales reps lack proficiency in this area. Give them qualified inbound leads of potential customers who contact your company, and they are more than able to execute a successful sales cycle.
Ask a salesperson to find their own prospects, and too often you find excuses why it can’t be done. “Not enough time!” “That’s marketing’s job!” “Why don’t we advertise more?” “Why aren’t we at all the trade shows?!” “I’ve already done it and there are no prospects!” “Our prices are too high, we lack this or that feature, the competition can do this or that!” And on and on.
Here are the reasons for this shortcoming:
- Prospecting is proactive. Until the time is set aside, objectives are set, a plan is in place and preparation is complete, nothing will happen. Most other sales activities are reactive. Responding to a lead, preparing a proposal, sending literature to an inquiry, answering the demands of an activated prospect, turning in call reports, forecasts etc. are all on demand activities. It is the key to ensuring sales reps excel at the fundamentals while measuring them by performance metrics.
- Most sales reps lack an understanding of the objectives, a specific plan with detailed tactics and method or metrics to prospect effectively. Without a playbook, skills or experience, their past prospecting results have been mediocre at best. They find it ineffective and develop call reluctance from being in situations where they are not confident, comfortable or in control.
- Many tactics of the past have become overused. The informed buyer must be met where he is and our ecosystem or influencer are well-educated on our value proposition.
- Forward-thinking prospecting is not formally monitored, measured or evaluated. Selecting prospecting targets, the quantity of prospecting, the approach, time allocated, the objectives, and the ongoing activities are left to the individual sales reps and not a measured KPI. Assessing performance is impossible.
Failure to understand the above points cause most efforts at prospecting to be unsuccessful. Don't make those mistakes. Align your sales reps' job scorecard to the required habits for sales execution to lead for success. Monitor and track weekly results as a leading indicator to future revenue.
Identifying and activating target prospects is only one part of a complete sales process. Capturing these target prospects in your database and executing ongoing “Stay Close Campaigns” and follow-ups will add dividends to your prospect pools. With each “Need Identified” prospect, your revenue generating engine will increase in effectiveness.
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