Jeb Blount, the author of Fanatical Prospecting, famously said the number one reason for empty pipelines is “failure to prospect.” While prospecting has always been important, in today’s challenging market, prospecting is more important than ever.
When it comes to prospecting, most sales leaders focus on activity, insisting that their sales reps make more calls. While activity is critical, there are three important things to consider when building out a prospecting program that drives revenue growth: priorities, process, and practice.
Priorities: Focus On Ideal Clients
If you do not tell your sales team who to pursue, they will typically go after the easiest targets. Most of the time, these are not your ideal clients.
Ideal clients are companies that are a perfect fit for your organization. They value what you do. They have the potential to buy all of the products and services you offer, not just one. You enjoy working with them. They are loyal.
Ideal clients have the potential to transform your business, driving significant revenue growth across multiple products and services. In the second session of a Revenue Growth Workshop, we unpack the 10-year value of an ideal client versus a regular client is typically 20X to 30X.
Here’s the obvious problem: if you don’t prospect for ideal clients, you won’t add more ideal clients. Thus, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to bring on ideal clients that can really move your revenue forward.
Smart sales leaders identify ideal prospects, develop a target account program, and hold reps accountable to make sure 100% of target accounts are covered with consistent prospecting. This should be a non-negotiable in sales teams. Unfortunately, for many teams, prospecting to ideal target accounts is often an afterthought.
Process: Build a Prospecting Process
Boil any business down to its basics and you have two things: people and processes. Functions like finance, H.R., and operations have detailed processes. However, when it comes to sales prospecting, most companies are like the wild west. We hire “great salespeople” and tell them to go make some calls. Then we wonder why the pipeline is empty.
Sales prospecting may be the most important function of driving revenue. Without prospecting, nothing happens. Thus, this should be an area of focus when it comes to process.
Salesforce.com tells us that it takes 6 to 8 touches to get an appointment with a cold prospect. This tells me that we need more than “one-and-done” prospecting. The days should be over where a sales rep makes a call and tells the manager, “They’re not interested.” This is especially true of your ideal clients.
Instead of asking sales reps to make calls, we should be requiring them to initiate a process. In today’s world, this means a series of touches using multiple media such as phone (yes, the telephone!), email, social, and now video.
- First, the prospecting process should be documented like any other process in your business. The steps and tactics should be documented and continually reviewed by the sales team.
- Second, the process should include the message. What are the outcomes that your ideal prospects desire? Make sure these talking points are part of your prospecting process.
- Third, the process can be automated. Sales sequence technology allows reps to initiate a sequence of emails, call reminders, and social touch reminders that roll out over a period of time. A growing number of sales sequence tools make this possible. Automating the process boosts productivity and enables the fourth key: metrics.
- Fourth, prospecting must be measurable. Sales prospecting is far too important to a company’s results for this not to be done. The old days of, “How many calls did you make?” followed by a gross exaggeration by a rep are over. Instead, activity should be measured by hard results such as tasks completed inside the automated prospecting sequence.
Practice: Continually Train and Coach Prospecting Skills
Professional golfers go to the driving range. Professional baseball players go to the batting cage. Professional salespeople practice their prospecting skills.
Prospecting requires a core skill set. Reps need to know how to approach the call, what to say, and how to handle the inevitable brush offs. This requires practice.
The best model for this that I’ve seen is Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount. In this book, he gives a detailed plan for the core skill set required to prospect effectively. These skills need to be practiced—over and over again.
Every month sales teams should carve out time to role-play. This is like hitting the driving range with a golf coach. The hours you spend on the driving range are what make your golf handicap drop. The hours you invest in practicing prospecting are what make your appointments, funnel, and sales board increase.
This is the time to get back to fundamentals. Don’t just tell your reps to prospect. Set priorities around target accounts. Build a process. Then, practice, over and over again.