Have you heard this cliché Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail? Do you wander around in your territory aimlessly or sit at your desk with your quota looming over your head because you do not know which qualified leads you are going to call on first? I have been reading posts from different sales groups on LinkedIn. One of the most common questions I have found relates to prospecting. HubSpot research published data that sales representatives feel prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process.
Here's a story you may be able to relate to, you have blocked off the rest of your afternoon to focus on cold calling. You map out your calls based on the most efficient route to get through the prospect list in a particular part of your territory. Google says your journey will take 3 hours of driving (without traffic) you press start directions, and you’re on your way. You get through most of your list, set up a few lunches, said hi to a few receptionists and finish your day feeling successful. You wake up the next day, head to the airport and take off to the next city to repeat the same motions, list, map, drive. You are one of the busiest reps you know, your calendar is, and there is only one problem. You are not making your quota. It’s hard to understand because you are attempting to contact ALL the targets or specialists in that city. What am I doing wrong? Most likely it’s because you do not have a Strategic Prospecting Plan in place. You may have a list of qualified targets and a map, but after that, no strategy.
What method do you use to determine who you should be pursuing and in what order? If you are going to make progress at prospecting, over the telephone or even in person then you had better put together a strategic prospecting plan so that you know where to go and whom to target. Think about it, you can't prospect or cold call with president’s club success, if you don't know who your most important prospects are. Strategic prospecting is a process where you identify, qualify, and prioritize the sales opportunities that you have in your territory.
In a perfect world, you will know your corporate vision and a clear definition of who the target customer is, the company’s “sweet spot.” You need to know everything about your target customer. Your manager should provide input to help make sure you have a solid strategy to ensure your prospecting efforts are fruitful.
I have heard multiple sales representatives state that they feel completely overwhelmed with the size of their territory. They have many targets with a lot of travel and limited time to get to all the prospects in their territory. This feeling of being overwhelmed can quickly become a ticket to failure. If you are not focusing on a specific target list, then you tend to have what I call the "shiny client syndrome", where you're bouncing from target to target. This type of aimless vision results in feelings of frustration. You are frustrated about not closing an account within the first few visits.
My suggestion to you is to focus on a smaller number of segmented targets and become completely obsessed and focused on closing that target list. What you will find is that as you start to experience success, you will be able to translate the success into stories, and the stories will help to demonstrate your credibility. You will have more confidence in yourself as a sales representative, and it will continue to show up repeatedly. The success that you create using this method is repeatable as you move on to the next focused list of prospects. Your target list will narrow because you will be pursuing only the best sales opportunities. We all realize that not all sales opportunities result in a closed deal. You may ask how big or small this list needs to be? Only you can know the answer to that question. The take-home message is to make sure your list can be worked effectively, thoroughly and focused over a specific timeframe that results in closed business that exceeds your quota.
Here's a time management tip for you, there are only 8-9 hours in a workday. Make sure you are using most of those hours focusing on the accounts that have the most significant potential benefit to you and your company. Maximum sales growth is finding the right balance between new business and organic growth from existing customers.
When you spend time segmenting your prospects, it becomes clear where efforts will reap the most reward. You are now becoming more strategic in your planning. No more aimless wandering and the level or your frustration lowers and starts to disappear. There are many different methods you can use to categorize your potential business prospects. I am going to give you a simple way that many of the sales representatives I have managed put into place, ABC segmenting and the 80/20 rule.
ABC market segmentation is a method which allows the classification of different prospects or clients by their profitability or their high growth potential. The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule used to frame our discussion states that 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of the clients. Through your target segmentation, you will begin to understand which names on your list will be a part of the 20 percent. Figure 1.0 is an example of how the prospect segmentation will align with meeting your quota.
Here’s another time management tip. I have seen representatives get comfortable with one of their newest customers. Let’s say it’s a C customer or prospect and it is close to home. Resist the shiny object. Stay focused on your goal to be an A-Player. If you are not hunting for new business, your time will be better spent on another revenue producing activity or learning a new skill. Keep working the strategic prospecting plan.
Selling is a complex process. Strategic prospecting is just one spoke of the selling cycle. We haven’t even begun to talk about the other areas that require your time and energy, areas like pre-call planning, building rapport, strategy and execution, negotiation, follow-up, etc. Committing to becoming an A-Player and proactively planning to win must start with step one, knowing who is going on your target list. You need to have more than a list and a map, you need a successful, repeatable strategy.
Good luck and happy selling.