How do you help salespeople prospect when they struggle to do so?
As a sales manager you may have that rep (or more) who struggles to add new early stage opportunities to their sales funnel. Sometimes it’s a ‘farmer’ type who you’re trying to get to ‘hunt’ more.
During our clients’ Funnel Audits each month we inevitably discuss how to prospect to build healthier sales funnels. It takes only a few cycles of Funnel Audits for us to know if a rep is generally more or generally less naturally inclined, and therefore competent, to prospect.
I realize this topic is a monster of possibilities but here I offer some of the simple ways we help our clients with this vital function.
Many of my clients are SMBs that don’t have staff or know-how for running email marketing campaigns or lead nurture programs. Therefore much of the job of lead gen falls to salespeople. You see why this can be a problem.
Here are ways we tackle this challenge.
Identify The Main Issue
I try to dumb down the prospecting challenge by asking the rep and manager these two questions:
Is your challenge more about getting access to the stakeholders in companies you have identified to call on, or
Is your challenge more about finding companies to call on?
When the challenge is getting access we focus on these tasks:
1 – Are you targeting the right stakeholders?
2 – Is your message compelling enough to get their attention?
3 – Are you being persistent enough?
When the challenge is finding more companies to call on we focus on this:
1 – Are you sure you’re getting as much share of current customers’ business as you could be?
2 – Are there divisions or business units or lines of business within current customers that you could be referred to?
3 – Do you have a vetted target account list of potential companies?
4 – Are you being persistent enough?
See what’s similar? Again, I realize there’s more complexity to this challenge, but we have to start somewhere. Often I find in my coaching that salespeople lack the persistence element.
Finding more companies sometimes means the rep needs to have ‘shorter term memory’. They’ll say they don’t call on ‘x’ because ‘x’ turned them down the last time they pitched some business, or ‘x’ has been buying from competitor ‘y’ forever. This may be true but it’s also defeatist. Sales managers have to encourage reps to get back up to the plate again, take another shot, and keep trying, albeit with different creative approaches.
I think prospecting is a bit like rebounding in basketball. Several years ago I taught my son’s 4thgrade team how to box out. But in the games the boys who grabbed the rebounds were typically the ones who wanted the ball more, not necessarily the ones that boxed out well. College announcers comment all the time that the team that wins the battle of the boards are usually the teams that looked like they wanted it more.
Prospecting struggles often come back to how bad you want it. If you give up after a few tries of trying to see someone or break into a new account you’re doomed. In my experience highly persistent salespeople are often rewarded by a stakeholder who finally gives in or even feels bad for not returning the call.
Author, The Funnel Principle and soon to be released sales coaching book Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching
Creator of The BuyCycle Funnel