6 Mistakes Salespeople Make When Prospecting
The sales process is ripe with pitfalls, as a deal can go south at any time — it’s just the nature of the profession. From the first contact through closing day, salespeople continuously manage the process, hoping to maximize the chances of winning while minimizing any mistakes on their part, all while prospecting for new clients to fill the top of the funnel.
But what if those mistakes that we all try to avoid are happening long before we get a prospect on the hook?
In fact, some of the most costly mistakes salespeople make occur while they’re prospecting, smothering any potential deals before they have a chance to move down the pipeline.
Here are six common prospecting mistakes that salespeople make:
1. Not having a goal for each contact
If you’re picking up the phone or sending an email without having a clear goal in mind, your outcome will likely go according to plan: nowhere. Before you start your outreach, make sure you identify what you hope to achieve, then measure your results against that goal. By doing this, you’ll drive the conversation toward a useful outcome (instead of having a conversation for the sake of having one), and you’ll also know whether or not you’ve been successful. Once you’re operating against clear goals, you’ll notice that you’re starting to achieve them.
2. Choosing the wrong prospects
There’s almost no worse way to spend your limited time in sales than by going after people who have no need (or interest) in your product. When prospecting, you need to target those who fit your ideal customer profile, and not those who are simply reachable. Conversations are great, and having lots of touch points is important, but oftentimes we convince ourselves that spending time with a prospect makes us productive when in reality, all we’ve done is the equivalent of shooting the breeze with a total stranger. Research and target first, call second.
3. An inconsistent process
Sales is somewhat repetitive: reaching out, pitching, closing deals. Too many salespeople, however, don’t have a consistent and repeatable prospecting plan, and leave their efforts up to chance. In practice, prospecting tends to become a “when I have time for it” activity: crammed in between other tasks and done randomly instead of during planned sessions. The solution is to block off time specifically for prospecting, no matter what comes up. Keep in mind that 30 minutes per day is not enough time to make a measurable impact. Prospecting sprints should be long, focused, and, most importantly, consistent.
4. Not personalizing
There are lots of templated solutions for salespeople out there, whether it’s software that sends out canned email messages, or scripts written by sales trainers who love to use the word “grind” in every single sentence. These solutions are not solutions at all, but merely ways to avoid the time-consuming process of researching and customizing your outreach messages, to the detriment of your future commission checks. Prospects these days can easily tell when you’ve spent time getting to know who they are, and when you’ve simply fired off your hundredth send of the day — and it’s only the former that will get your foot in the door.
5. Thinking there are rigid rules
At the end of the day, given equal effort, an industrious salesperson will almost always outperform a salesperson who follows strict guidelines. The real world is complex, and it’s usually those who think outside the box who can make an impact. If you’re not getting a response over the phone, you need to come up with a way to get a prospect’s attention, whether it’s finding a unique way to get in touch, a clever appeal, or something else entirely, as long as you’re doing it with the desired outcome in mind. As they say: fortune favors the bold.
6. Giving up too easily
Thomas Edison once said that the surest way to succeed was to try one more time. The famous inventor was surely onto something, and in sales, a profession where effort is usually directly tied to outcome, his advice couldn’t be more applicable. Believe it or not, there’s a huge percentage of prospects who would have moved forward had their salesperson just reached out a few more times. There’s nothing that can replace perseverance, so if there’s one thing you get from this article, it’s that you can get where you want, if you’re willing to try just one more time.
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