Today’s post is brought to you by our friend, the very rad, Dave Cooke. Enjoy!
In today’s world “instant gratification” is a very strong mindset. It seems we may not have learned enough from the economic collapse of the past few years. “Instant gratification” is especially prevalent in the sales world these days, as well. It seems that the teachings of “getting to no” in conjunction with management pressures to close deals today have created a sales professional that is only interested in spending their time with prospects who are ready to buy now. Effective prospecting in sales has become what day trading is to the stock market – no one is investing for the long term.
Today’s prospecting behaviors involve finding someone who is ready to buy, submitting piles of proposals, or responding to RFQ’s (Request for Quote) that have little chance of being won.
What happened to the time honored tradition of building relationships through persistence and presence? What happened to the strategic and tactical activities of investing some real time with your prospects to demonstrate your skills, abilities, and commitments to their business? Making a few sales calls, sending a couple of emails, and dropping a proposal on someone’s desk is not an investment in building a relationship. Worse, it is not even good prospecting! It is merely like day trading — betting on the short run in the hopes of a quick win. News flash – great sales and exceptional prospect management requires an investment in time, energy, and persistence. Just because a prospect is not interested now does not mean they will not be interested later. When you love a prospect only when they are ready to buy, you will be outflanked and outmaneuvered by a smarter, more diligent professional who actually invested real time in getting the deal.
Instead of demanding instant results from your sales team, educate them on how to develop and manage a prospecting relationship. Managing a prospecting relationship is even more fundamentally strategic and tactical than chasing and closing a deal. For managing a prospecting relationship requires time, planning, diligence, and consistency. Far too many of today’s sales pros do not have the mental or organizational horsepower to pull this off. Of course, I blame this on management for hiring sales turkeys and I blame the transactionally oriented sales trainers who can only teach professionals how to close existing deals.
Here are my recommendations for organizing a professional team around strategically keeping prospects engaged before they become clients:
- Only prospect for clients in markets, segments and demographic that reflect your ideal target customer. If you do not know who your best future customers are, you need to. Your sales team needs to invest their time and energy on businesses that would best value, appreciate, and utilize your services. Not all business is good business. Not all deals are good deals. When you educate your team on how to identify, connect and communicate with your best prospects the pool of opportunity shrinks and they are forced to get really good at bringing in clients that are best for your business.
- Educate your team on effective prospecting management techniques. (Note: I did not use the word “train.” “Train” is like running your team through the car wash –they get clean, but it doesn’t provide long term value.) Prospect management involves creatively connecting with the prospect on a wide variety of tactical activities including personal notes, forwarding articles of interest, occasional drop-ins or phone calls, and the very, very occasional entertainment or lunch offering. Unfortunately, entertainment is the favorite prospect management tool and it is the least effective, most time consuming, and most expensive to the company. Having a great educational understanding of more productive and influential tactics saves everyone time and money and is much more productive.
- Engage management and executive leadership in the process. This is not about another level of wasted meetings or expensive entertainment activities. This is about building connections throughout the prospect’s organization at all levels. A wide range and levels of connections and relationships within a prospect firm opens up the sphere of influence and depth of information. Management and executive level leadership need to participate in managing prospect relationships and need to be educated (item #2) on how to be effective in this regard.
Investing in managing a prospecting relationship provides a multitude of benefits over the long haul. Besides the obvious benefit of validating and strengthening the value proposition, it demonstrates commitment to the prospect’s business and positions the sales professional closer to the action when a real opportunity surfaces. Your sales people can waste their time chasing a lot of deals they won’t get or, if they do, are not as profitable; or, they can invest in building great relationships with great prospects that truly value and appreciate your organization’s product offering. I encourage you to start educating to a better prospect management program. It will pay bigger dividends.
Dave Cooke is CEO of Strategic Resource Group, llc. Dave leverages over 25 years sales and marketing experience to provide businesses with educational programs and consulting services focused around sustainable growth strategies and effective relationship building behaviors. Dave has developed the Sustainable Revenue Formula (SuRF) which provides an organizational program for increasing and stabilizing revenues. His commitment and his passion are founded in the belief that businesses will grow only as effectively as the team is organized and committed to growing it. Dave is also part of a dynamic duo with Chris Conrey in producing the podcast series, Don’t Sell Me Bro.