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Prospecting is key to success in sales

Every salesperson is familiar with the sales cycle. The first step in this cycle is prospecting.

From our workshops we observe many salesperson’s challenges start and end with prospecting-or rather the lack of it. Sales is a process, not a destination. Perhaps it is because it comes first and a salesperson, eager to progress along the cycle, fails to give prospecting the attention it deserves.

Prospecting is simply the search for potential customers or buyers (the entrepreneur.com). As simple as it sounds, when a salesperson fails to search for these buyers, he has no prospect to go and see- his pipeline is dry and his day is long. Agony lies with the salesperson who has no prospect to visit.

Most salespeople that sulk may not realise it, but do so because they are idle. They have no one to see and the realistic ones decide to cold call or seek referrals.

The majority though allow the devil to tinker with their idle mind. Reaching into the negatives of a sales job is so easy. They end up blaming the supervisor, weather, transport, targets and even the competitors.

At such times the salesperson remembers she has a salon to visit or repairs on his car to make. And this is because, she failed to prospect. An idle salesperson is perhaps the most poisonous staff member any employer may have.

Judging from our workshops, I dare say prospecting is one of the most feared and disliked activities in selling. Yet, prospecting is the alpha and omega of success in sales.

It is impossible to progress to booking appointments, presenting and closing if you have no one to set the appointment with in the first place. As basic and absurd as that statement is, the act of not prospecting is surprisingly common place.

As the definition implies, prospecting is not a destination-it’s an ongoing and never ending process. Perhaps that’s the number one reason why many salespersons falter in this step. Admittedly, it does happen even to the best.

What to do then when prospecting stops?

Successful salespeople advise that first be consciously aware that prospecting has stalled. This way you are able to arrest it in time before it spirals into a cess pit of negative energy and complaints.

Immediately thereafter, start prospecting. Google will give you a myriad ways of how to do that. A salesperson who sells tyres, tells me that he prospects by reading the brand name on the tyres of every truck that passes him. Those that he did not sell, he notes the address and soon enough calls the truck owner. If you don’t prospect you die it has been said. So true!

If you are salesperson reading this, how many people in your pipeline are prospects, and how many are suspects? Out of 10, how many have you really qualified and can say they are your prospects, or target audience? Half? Less? More?

A suspect is a person who cannot buy from you because he is not your target market or doesn’t have the means to. It’s a long stretch for instance, to have a man in your prospect list of female products. It is much akin to having ghost workers in an institution.

Surprisingly though, it is common place for the salesperson to submit a sales report full of suspects. This may go on weekly basis, but sales is the fairest job; your virtues reward you; your sins catch up with you. And all this happens with zero external influence.

The sins manifest themselves in the shape diminishing sales calls, even fewer sales presentations and almost non-existent closes. And why? You failed to prospect.

Mr Kageche is a Lead facilitator, Lend Me Your Ears, a speech writing and sales coach. Email: [email protected]

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