Prospecting For The Sake Of Prospecting Is Probably A Waste Of Time
Too often, a sales manager will tell the sales team that they have to make some number of prospecting calls per day (or week). I hate to be insulting to your manager, but this is typically a sign of a manager that doesn’t understand the value of salespeople.
Instead, salespeople should find prospects who can buy the product and are open to evaluating new offerings. Lazy salespeople are financially poor salespeople, but activity for the sake of activity is not the goal.
I would much rather the salesperson identify great prospects and then spend a lot of activity trying to put a targeted and customized value proposition in front of that prospect. You may still make 25 or 50 calls per day, but the metric should be lots of activity in front of great prospects rather than just a lot of activity.
Who Is A Good Prospect?
In the wilderness, a Trapper understands where to find the best prey. He does this by understanding the habits of the quarry and the terrain. He plans and puts Traps in the most optimum place to be successful. The Trapper doesn’t place his Trap directly in front of the animal but instead anticipates where the animal is going to be in the future and places the Trap in that location. You will need to follow this same pattern to be successful.
You need to define the sweet spot for you to prospect. Trying to prospect to people who will never use your product is simply a waste of your precious resources. You need to maximize your investment so that you can maximize your commission.
Your personal sweet spot will be different from that of any others reading this site. It may be similar to your co-worker, but it is likely that there will be differences even among co-workers. Your personal sweet spot combines the benefits of your products, your employer, and your personal skills.
It is impossible for me to tell you your personal sweet spot on this website. I will give you some exercises here to help you deduce this list.
Your personal sweet spot will be defined by geographic location, size, industry, structure, and your personal knowledge of the company. It will be further refined by your product’s sweet spot as defined by the target market identified by your marketing department.
Let’s do a quick example. Perhaps your product marketing team has identified your product will be excellent for banks but not very appropriate for manufacturers. Obviously, you would want not spend time prospecting to manufacturers in your territory but instead would focus your attention on banks. You may want to include insurance companies in your territory, though, since there may be some overlap of need with insurance companies. In this way, the focus of your product will dramatically influence your sweet spot analysis.
Your sweet spot also has a lot to do with your honesty regarding your specific skills and network. This is not a time for wishful thinking. You need to prioritize your opportunities, and you cannot prioritize if you are not truthful about your skills and capabilities.
Your sweet spot is an honest appraisal of where you are personally the most effective. If you answer the following questions with the general answer that you are good at everything, you simply are not being honest. You cannot be equally good at all things. Even if it is personal preference, you are best at something, and you need to focus on your strongest traits.
Answer the following questions with a range of 1-5 where 5 is the highest confidence and 1 is the lowest confidence. Don’t cheat; this assessment will help you focus on your best prospects based on your personal capability.
Every territory is different. If your territory is only one city or part of a city, then all accounts will score a 5. However, if you have a larger geographical territory, you need to score each account, with the farthest being a three and the closest being a five. Geography should never be given a one or a two simply because if your territory is so large that it is inconvenient to call on a prospect, you should probably take that prospect off your territory list.
Where are you most successful selling? Have the majority of your historic deals been smaller companies with fewer decision makers or larger companies with more decision makers and bigger budgets? Be honest here. Just because you sold one thing last year to the largest company in the city doesn’t make you a big company guy. You will want to rate smaller or larger companies higher or lower based on your personal success history. It is possible that you do better with medium sized companies and don’t do well with larger companies and smaller companies – it is fine to score medium companies as a 5 but have small and large companies getting a 1 or 2.
Assuming your product can be sold to multiple industries, this will be an important consideration. Your territory is likely to be heavy in a couple of industries. Also, your understanding of those industries will affect your weighting.
It is important that you do not let your industry knowledge affect your success in your territory. You must go the extra mile to learn the most important industries in your territory. One of the ways to do this is to join industry groups that meet within your geography. Typically, there are associations and meet-ups that people will attend to talk about similar interests. You need to attend these on a regular basis to network.
Similarly, there are newsletters and discussion groups online that are very beneficial for you to grow your network and learn industry information. An excellent example of these is the various groups on LinkedIn. You should join 10 to 15 industry groups on LinkedIn so that you are familiar with the issues and terminology of the industries that are in your territory.
Ultimately, you need to have industry knowledge as part of your sweet spot evaluation. For each industry create an evaluation that matches the product’s ability to solve problems in that industry with your territorial knowledge of the industry. This will allow you to focus on the industries that are most relevant for selling that particular product.
The structure is often aligned with the size of the company. You may be more comfortable selling to the owner of a small company than to a director in a large company. You may be more comfortable dealing with buyers in purchasing than with people in the marketing department. While this is uncomfortable to discuss since it identifies your weaknesses, it is important that you are truthful with yourself to assess your best fit.
Identify your strengths based on your ability to sell to the structure of the company and how that relates to the product you are selling. Are you more comfortable with small companies where you have access to the owner? Or should you be looking at large multinational companies where you will have to influence people who aren’t even within driving distance of your office? This truthful self-evaluation will make you more successful since you will be targeting companies where your comfort level is higher.
Score Your Sweet Spot
You should take the target industries that your product marketing has identified and create a list of every company in your territory in those sectors. To the side of every business, create a column and put your scores for geographic location, size, industry, and structure.
On this score, you probably cannot change much. The companies aren’t going to move, and they aren’t going to change their structure to make life easier for you. The one thing that you can change is your ability to have a personal relationship with individuals within the company.
You can learn much more about this topic by subscribing to my blog supporting increasing the commission of salespeople and sales managers. You can also read my book Eliminate Your Competition to really immerse yourself in this topic.
You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.