Sales Prospecting – Why It’s Getting Harder

Sit down and think about this for a minute. As a service provider, you are constantly putting yourself out there, playing the numbers game with potential clients, hoping something lands with your sales prospecting. I’ve been there and in the main, had a decent level of success.

The problem is, times change and with them so do peoples buying and selling habits. We have become email and banner blind. We have learnt to scan our news feeds and dismiss 99% of the junk we see. Make a conscious effort the next time you’re on Facebook or Linkedin to take note of what actually stops your thump in it’s tracks.

What is it about that content?

How did it make you feel?

Was it a brand you recognised or just something so different you had to stop?

Was it targeted to you?

Did you react to it with a like or comment?

What people are trying to do with this activity is hook you with their brand or messaging. Much of it however is just another form of spam as you did not ask to see it.

Effective prospecting is hard. In an ideal world, your branding efforts would work so well that people are coming to you direct. In the real world, this accounts for a very small percentage of businesses globally. So for the rest of us, we need to be very clever about how we approach people for maximum impact.

Current Techniques

Think about our current prospecting techniques

  1. Cold Calling – An age old strategy for businesses stuck in the dark ages that have not taken the time to understand how people like to be addressed in the 21st century
  2. Bulk email blasts – A copy and paste strategy that I have certainly adopted in my time but one that demands a lot of man hours for minimal return.
  3. Social media posting – Long ago this may have generated some initial business however today it is quickly filtered as news feed spam.
  4. Events and Meet Markets – A great way to put faces to names however you are quickly forgotten. This process also demands that you reach out to new contacts within a day of returning home or they are lost

Safe to say that much of what we currently do is fast becoming harder to convert. The right people are more and more shielded from incoming attempts to grab their attention, leaving you chasing after the scraps from much lower down the food chain.

So what’s the answer? How do we approach the right people in the right companies and ensure they want to listen to what we have to say? Is there a magic solution that many of us are simply not aware of? Well put simply…NO.

Lose the Fear

Prior to writing this post, I was reading a detailed report on current Growth Hacking techniques and something really stuck with me. As a nation, we do things we know and understand. They may have worked in the past so we expect them to work again. The report talks about people’s fear of being different, to try something new and not be afraid of the consequences.

It got me thinking about the conversations I have on a daily basis and the times I have tried to mix things up. The thing that potentially stopped me continuing down this path was peoples opinions and narrow minded feedback. I fell victim to the fear which has held me back.

When was the last time you received a list of email prospects? Did you take time to create a great pitch email that would work for all of them? Was it tailored to them by changing a few details? Did you try and include as much about the business as possible?

I’m sure many of you have done all of the above and then sat wondering why the response rate was less than expected. I know I have. This process is so common, it has almost become a tick box exercise that you can easily say to the boss…Done it!

Prospecting however is not a tick box exercise. Well, not if you want to make any money or even survive it’s not. Businesses need to take this stuff seriously and lose the tick box attitude before they are steamrollered by the company next door who will prioritise it.

Get Creative

You must unleash your imagination and really ask yourself…’What is it about people that get my attention?’ You dismiss a lot more communication than you acknowledge so how do they do it? What methods do they use? Does it tend to be big players or the SME’s that come up with something special?

Who do you admire the most and what do you think they went through to get where they are now? Do you think Richard Branson started his empire by blasting out a few letters to people and hoping for the best? And that was decades ago when this sort of thing was arguably easier!

Why not try listing a few things that if there were no rules, would grab people’s attention. Let your imagination run wild for a moment and forget the backlash. Remember, all you are trying to do right now is stop someone in their tracks. Whether that is on email, social media, on the phone or even on the street!

Here are some examples

Call a prospect and when you get through to their office, tell them it is a matter of national security that you speak to your contact

Arrive at a prospects address and tell the reception you have a way to double their NET profits in 1 month and you must speak to your contact today

Create a video pitching your business and share it all over social media. Choose the most outrageous person in the office to record it and offer a share incentive

Create an event stand with a bar and free beer on tap. Have a popular movie playing in the background and run a raffle for a top prize.

Add a crazy video clip to an introductory email with the subject line – ‘The most outrageous thing you will see today’

Ever done any of these?

The Future of Prospecting…

People are becoming harder to reach, more wise to a salesman’s tricks and and particularly choosy about who they want to work with. They have an attitude of ‘If I want to work with someone I will contact them’. This mindset does not help the ambitious business development teams that are just trying to get a foot in the door.

You don’t know what you don’t know however and that is exactly why prospecting exists. It’s easy to think everything is going well so there is no need to change. We all let the stresses of life get in the way of embracing another option. Every now and again though, someone does something we simply can’t ignore.

You must find that one thing that your target audience cannot simply skim past. That thing that makes them forget what’s consuming them for just a second and take notice. You must think beyond what you currently see as acceptable and push the boundaries. What’s the worst that can happen?

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