ACTG Sales Management Blog

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Managing 80/20 Prospecting Time to Increase Sales

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Apr 08, 2021

The most successful salespeople are always challenging and adapting their personal sales process to be more effective and increase sales. However, they don’t challenge the notion of the importance of making prospecting their "A" priority every week.

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They know that no matter how successful they are, if they don’t continue to add new relationships, that eventually, their business will decline. If you really want to increase sales this year, you MUST block off time every week for prospecting new clients.

As we think about all of the things as sales professionals that we're supposed to do, it really comes down to three things that actually get us paid: 

  1. Find Opportunities
  2. Qualify prospects
  3. Get a decision

I want to focus on the first thing we get paid to do and that's to find opportunities. There are many ways we can find opportunities⁠—cold calls, drop-ins, direct marketing, social selling (LinkedIn and Twitter), getting introductions, etc. 

Although there are many ways we can prospect, some provide a higher return on the biggest investment we can make, and that’s our time. In a previous blog, I tried to debunk the “time management” problem. It isn’t a time management problem, it’s a priority management problem

As we focus on prospecting, the least return on our investment is cold calling. For all the time you invest in cold calling, the actual return (speaking to a decision-maker) is extremely low. We know it’s a necessary evil, but not a permanent problem. On the other hand, it is a proven fact, the highest return on our prospecting time is in getting introductions.  

So here is what I would like you to consider:

Time blocking
  • Do you have time set aside each week to prospect? If you don’t, you would be well-served to block time to prospect

Allocate your time within the time block you’ve scheduled

  • If you have allocated an hour a day, my recommendation would be:
  • If you have allocated 15 minutes to cold call, you should be able to get 15 calls in within that time. If you call 15, you will probably speak with two people. How long does it take to NOT talk to 13 people?  You can make a lot of calls in 15 minutes if you are focused.
  • 15 minutes for social selling to find introductions—maybe not sell, but find introduction opportunities.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—whichever you are allowed to do within your work rules, do it on a regular basis.
  • 30 minutes on getting introductions
  • Calling people and saying “I’m looking to expand my base of contacts” Or “I’m looking to meet great people such as yourself, when can we get together to determine if we can help each other?”
  • Identify your 15 best clients and make it a goal to get three introductions from each of them. How much success would you have with 45 new names to call?

This is just a rough outline on what you can do but the big takeaways are this:

  1. Prioritize prospecting—make it a significant part of your week.
  2. Prioritize how you are prospecting—get introductions—it will provide the highest return on your time invested.

Someone needs what you do, so go find them and start prospecting today to find more of them!

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Prospecting, prospecting skills, sales prospecting, increase sales, time blocking

The Art of Silence in Sales

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Apr 01, 2021

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be awkward or a sign that the prospect has mentally checked out. But that's simply not the case! It is critical that you let silence do some of the heavy lifting during your prospecting conversations.

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Ah, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound? If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does. Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests, "To make your conversations more impactful, allow the silence to do the heavy lifting."

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is a bad virus; they instantly run away from it. But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation? What if silence took you to a deeper level in a conversation with a prospect?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them. But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen, so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople- they ask a great question, the prospect goes radio silent, and then the salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting.

I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing. Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: Meaningful Sales Conversations, prospecting skills, Qualifying leads, Qualifying skills, sales prospecting

The 3 Things Keeping You From Connecting With Your Prospects

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Jan 28, 2021

In today's world of selling, it is increasingly more difficult to get the attention of a prospective buyer after only a few outreach attempts.

We know that they're busy but let's face it, we're all busy. So, how do you stay consistent (and persistent) in your outreach with a prospect while remaining sensitive to their daily lives and the distractions they face?

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From the dawn of time until present day, it has always been a difficult task for salespeople to be able to reach the prospects they call and email each day. They call…and they email…and they keep following up, wondering if anybody will ever do one of two things:

  1. Answer the phone.
  2. Return a voicemail/reply to an email.

While certainly not a new development in selling, engaging with prospects has become increasingly and dramatically more difficult in the last 10 years. If we go back to 2009, it took around 8-10 outreaches on average to engage with a prospect. In 2019, that number has risen to 16-18 attempts. Keep in mind that these are averages. Sometimes it takes even more attempts to get the prospect to pay attention to you.

Recently, I was leading a sales training workshop in Dallas and a high-ranking bank executive asked me why I thought the number of outreaches required had basically doubled in the last decade. In my judgment, there are three main reasons:

  1. Distraction: Prospects are busier than ever before and are constantly battling the numerous distractions that come their way. Their mobile device buzzes and they have to look. The email notification on their computer sounds and they can’t resist. Some have estimated that the typical person picks up and puts down their mobile device between 600-700 times each day.
  2. Competition: There is more of it than ever before and it’s fiercer than ever before!
  3. Commodity: The belief of the prospect that, in at least some industries, the vendor calling them and the vendor they currently use are essentially the same. The prospect just doesn’t see any meaningful difference. To them, a bank is a bank.  An insurance broker is an insurance broker.  A technology provider is a technology provider.

Of these three reasons, #3 is the most concerning (or it should be). And here's why...

If you don’t differentiate yourself from your competition by providing value, your prospect will do the differentiating for you. 

But they won’t use a measuring stick of value. They will more often than not use a measuring stick of price.

Finally, here is another sobering statistic about the world of modern day selling. While the average number of attempts has increased to 16-18, most salespeople quit after less than 5 attempts. 

Maybe they think the prospect is being rude by not replying. Maybe they think that, "in the good old days", people used to return calls. Regardless, the world has changed. Prospects are a hard fish to catch. 

You might need to be out there fishing just a bit longer than you would like.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: prospecting skills, sales prospecting, increase sales, contacting prospects, prospect outreach

How to Handle Difficult Prospects: Why Prospects Are Like Produce

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Years ago, while attending the Objective Management Group International Sales Conference, Dave Kurlan, president of OMG, talked about how to effectively manage opportunities through the pipeline.  He made the analogy that prospects are like fruit and vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery – they are all perishable.

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Ways of Dealing with a Difficult Prospect

Sometimes, reaching out to prospects is like pulling teeth.  

Some prospects are difficult because they don't understand the value of what you have to offer, while others simply do not want to be bothered by a salesperson right now.  

No matter the reason, you still need leads and so being able to move forward with a prospect

 

Not Every Prospect has the Same "Shelf Life"

Prospects- they have a shelf life and can have thick skin, just like fruits and vegetables.

Some of them last longer than others. 

While some produce is ripe for the picking, and others have a toughness to them.

Bananas – not so long, apples and mandarins- a little longer, potatoes and squash- they'll last the longest. 

The bottom line is that none of them last forever.  You need to either pick them now or find a way to preserve them for later.

Below, we'll give you some tips on how to help deal with some of those more difficult prospects and in hopes to get them closer to the sale.

 

How to Deal with Difficult Prospects

Practice Actively Listening

Listening is one of the most important, yet underrated forms of communication.

When people think of listening, they generally associate it with silence or not talking at all.

However, that is not completely correct.

Active listening means that you are trying to understand what someone is saying rather than just wait for your turn to talk.

It takes practice but can be a great tool for not only for your sales profession, but in any conversation in the future.

 

Practice the Beginner's Mind

The beginner’s mind — also known as the zen mind — is a strategy of approaching every situation as if you were starting from scratch.

When you open yourself up to the beginner's mind, your perspective on everything can change.

When we adopt this way of thinking, it becomes easier for us to enter conversations without any preconceived notions or prejudices about our prospects and their situations; instead focusing solely on what they are saying while putting ourselves in their shoes.

Instead of telling yourself "the prospect should have known this", or "they should have called me back by now", put yourself in the beginner's mindset and it becomes easier to recognize that no one is perfect and you can tailor your approach to better accomodate.

 

"Chunk" Your Problems

Chunking is the process of taking one big problem and breaking it into several smaller, more manageable portions.

These small pieces are easier for us to tackle because they allow our brain time-out from thinking about all those difficult details while still moving forward with progress made on previous sections!

Chunks can also be used strategically when coming up against challenging problems--chances are if given several tasks in order then maybe we'll find an issue that needs addressing immediately or at least feel less overwhelmed by responsibility alone.

 

 

Don't let Prospects Perish

Here is the point.  When going out into the market, you can find yourself wasting your time with prospects that aren’t quite ready or are already past their prime time for consumption. You may experience:

  • That the prospect is too "green"
  • They just opened a new account with their bank partner
  • Just renewed their insurance
  • Their lease expires in 11 months

If you want to close more business, more quickly at higher margins, then find the highly perishable prospects and work with them on solving their problem. Present a solution to them and get them off of the shelf.  Do not neglect the potatoes, bananas, tomatoes or green beans; continue to check on them, plant them in your database (your CRM) and, when the time comes to make potato salad, they will be ready.

 

For more online sales resources, check out some of our other sales articles over at our Sales Brew.

If interested in sales training or sales coaching, we have a dedicated professional team of sales experts that can help drive better sales performance and build better sales teams.

Contact us today to learn more!

Topics: prospecting skills, improving sales results, increase sales, qualifying sales prospects, contacting prospects

Know What You Aren't Looking for in a Prospect!

Posted by Jack Kasel on Tue, Aug 20, 2019

Prospecting isn't always the easiest task we are required to carry out in sales.  It can be daunting, monotonous, and inconsistent.  However, it must be done and it must be done well!

So, what are some ways in which you can make prospecting easier on yourself to get in front of the right people at the right time?  It all starts with knowing what you want and DON'T want in your ideal client, and being able to share this directly with your Centers of Influence in the marketplace.

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When trying to describe something obscene, William T Goldberg once said,  “I know it when I see it, and someone else will know it when they see it, but what they see and what they know may or may not be what I see and what I know, and that’s okay.” 

Confused?  Yeah, me too.

Unfortunately, many salespeople suffer the same challenges when attempting to describe what their ideal client looks like.  Why is this so important?  It eliminates wasting time (your most precious asset) and causing frustration for your Centers of Influence  (C.O.I.).

Even if trying to describe what you are looking for is challenging, it may prove helpful to first describe what you aren’t looking for

Here are some reasons why knowing what you aren’t looking for is important:

  1. It eliminates ambiguity
    • If you aren’t specific, it’s hard to get introductions. When I’m trying to make introductions for people and they are vague about what they are looking for, it makes it difficult for me to think of someone to make the introduction.
  2. It reduces frustration with your Centers of Influence
    • If you aren’t crystal clear on what you are looking for and what you are NOT looking for, your COI’s might make an introduction for you, only to find out you can’t help the person they introduced.
      1. When working with my introduction partners, I say “This is what type of business I’m looking for. Of equal importance, I really can’t help these types of businesses . . . and here’s why."
    • That brings clarity to the conversation.
  3. It reduces your opportunity cost.
    • Your opportunity cost is simply this . . . If you called on Company ABC, that means you AREN’T working on Company XYZ. Your opportunity cost is what you aren’t working on, which might be more viable for you and your organization.

So, in closing if you know what you don’t want and the reason why, it could reduce the quantity of opportunities in your pipeline, but the quality should increase dramatically.

Good luck and happy hunting.

 

Topics: qualifying prospecting, prospecting skills, centers of influence, sales prospecting

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.

     

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