During the course of my sales career and my sales coaching career, I’ve seen traditional prospecting strategies – canvassing, networking, cold-calling, et cetera – become increasingly less effective.
As a matter of fact, most salespeople do their best to avoid prospecting because they know, based on their experience that it does not produce the desired effect… more first meetings.
When you look at prospecting through the lens of a process, there are four steps or phases to every prospecting campaign.
- Research: A top-performing sales team does its research in order to assure that they only invest their time pursuing demographically desirable prospects. Failure to do the research properly virtually guarantees that the sales professionals will waste time and effort pursuing deals that can’t buy, won’t buy or, worse, shouldn’t buy.
- Approach: The next phase of prospecting is the one that is most visible. It’s the Approach phase. This is where the sales professional will pick up the phone and call strangers. The unwritten hope of this phase of prospecting is that we hope to find a stranger who is actively pursuing a solution to preexisting business problems. In my parlance, I call this phase of prospecting searching, because you really aren’t approaching too many people but you’re spending a huge amount of time.
- Engaging: The engagement phase of prospecting is when you finally have a prospect on the phone and/or face to face who has demonstrated some interest in the range of solutions that you offer. At the engage phase is where salespeople start to earn their living. The unspoken dream of all salespeople is that all prospecting calls would involve an engaged prospecting and an engaging conversation.
- Follow-up: This is the fourth and frequently the most often missed phase. Some studies show that as high as 87% of salespeople fail to follow up diligently. Failure to follow up is the number one reason why the effort, energy and money that goes into the first three phases of selling are a waste. A very small percentage of the prospects that engage will buy at that first contact. You must nurture those relationships perpetually. Studies show that anywhere from 43% to 65% of the prospects who say “not now” will buy when they are nurtured for six months or more.
A recent breakthrough in prospecting technology is the use of cold email to take care of the first two phases of this process.
Moreover, cold-emailing does it for a far less investment of cash, time and energy.