No matter how many sales records you break with current customers, this skill outranks every other selling skill – by a long shot.
The No. 1 selling skill, without question, is prospecting.
When salespeople stop attracting new customers, their long-range sales ability is seriously undermined.
Puts you in charge
Prospecting puts you in charge of how successful you’ll be. That’s a much better place to be in than just leaving things to chance and hoping that business will pick up — or that a great sale will wander in off the street.
It allows salespeople and companies to be successful on purpose rather than by accident.
Easiest of sales skills
The good news: Prospecting is the easiest sales skill to master.
But it’s the hardest to sustain.
Here are seven key points to keep in mind about this critical sales skill:
- Prospecting is more than a part-time job — it’s a livelihood. One of the biggest mistakes some salespeople make is to only prospect aggressively when sales are slow. Customer attraction is an ongoing responsibility, not something to do only during slow periods. You need to continuously find more people to sell to. That’s not something you can do on an occasional basis. It’s a good idea to treat prospecting as an activity that is as vital as getting paid. The stakes are that high.
- Prospecting is not about short-term goals. The real truth about prospecting for new business is the word “prospecting” itself. It’s borrowed from the Latin word prospectus or “distant view.” Prospecting is an activity that serves far more than short-term goals. Think of it as an investment that will help you shape your future and pays dividends not just in the next sales quarter but in years ahead. By constantly finding and developing new leads, you ensure that you always have an audience for you product or service — no matter what kind of market you face.
- Prospecting is a discipline. There are plenty of skilled sales professionals who know how to close, who can navigate past objections, who are adept negotiators and who are great at networking. But all of those skills won’t be fully taken advantage of if they don’t have the discipline to make those prospecting calls. It’s not enough to just be good at prospecting. You have to be good at being persistent about it. Cold calling is one of the best ways for salespeople to uncover new prospects who may be unhappy with their current situation and are willing to listen to a better offer.
- Prospecting takes time to get it right. How much time should sales professionals devote to prospecting? Enough to maintain a healthy pace and meet sales targets is the best answer. The key is finding a schedule that helps attracts good prospects and sticking to it. Consider this: A recent study by CSO Insights found that just over 50% of salespeople hit or exceed their quotas every year. The best way to avoid winding up on the wrong side of that statistic is to make sure the sales funnel is full of quality prospects.
- Never lose sight of what needs to be done. For salespeople who’ve enjoyed a string of meeting sales quotas, it can be tempting to forget about prospecting or look disdainfully at cold calling. But the need for prospecting never goes away. So it’s important to never lose sight of what you must do to ensure your success rate remains constant.
- Prospecting requires urgency. If you don’t do it now, it won’t get done. Much like the discipline that’s behind exercising, if salespeople don’t do their prospecting every day, chances are good that it won’t get done at all. It’s something you must do, so get it done first, and then move on.
- Be choosy. It’s important that salespeople know where to look. As you develop a list of prospects, zero in on prospects who have the decision-making authority and the need for the product or service you’re offering. Even the most talented salesperson with the best product or service can’t sell to a poor prospect. So it’s critical to qualify all prospects early. Try to pinpoint the decision-maker and ask why he or she your product or service.
Adapted from: “Nonstop Sales Boom,” by Colleen Francis, founder of Engage Selling Solutions. Her clients include Merck, Chevron, Royal Bank and Hilton.