Needle in a HaystackI think the headline of this article accurately reflects the hope of most prospecting efforts. Regardless of what you and your team sell, if you’re engaged in prospecting as it has been taught for decades, then you are directing your team to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

This thought hit me after a conversation that I had recently with a gentleman that I met at a tradeshow. He was pretty frustrated about the lack of high-quality leads that were being established by his telemarketing efforts. In the course of the conversation, I learned that he sells a high-end training program to the HR departments of large companies.

Now, if you’ve ever sold anything that requires a significant investment to large companies, you know that it is very difficult to get someone to change budgets and strategic plans to match your timetable. It is far easier to become involved in the budgeting process and get your program or product inserted into the planning for the department that you’re selling to.

In other words, if you sell a product or a service that is not in the current quarter’s budget and your product or service requires a significant investment, you probably won’t get it closed this quarter. However, there’s a very good chance that you can get into the budget for the next quarter and/or next fiscal year. The one exception to this would be a sale that has a very short and provable breakeven / ROI.

You see, the mistake this gentleman was making is he directed his team to prospect to find people that wanted to get the results that his product delivers, right now. Those are the proverbial needles in the haystack. A much more effective, albeit longer term, strategy is to find people that are willing to create a relationship with your company.

Prospecting that is done to create relationships produces long-term, beneficial, productive results. Conversely, prospecting that is expected to create immediate results isn’t really prospecting; it is searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Allow me to explain why I feel that this gentleman was actually looking for the needle in a haystack.

If you’ve ever sold to the HR department of a Fortune 1000 company, you know that these departments build budgets and plans for one or more years into the future. If what you’re selling is in the plan for the current time period, you’re in luck and you have found the needle in the haystack. If it’s not in the plan, then you have to get it into the plan; and therein lies the sales challenge.

You may be able to get it into the plan for the current time period, if the HR executive is willing to substitute an initiative that is in the plan and replace that initiative with your offer. Getting that HR executive to change his/her plan to match your goals is frequently very difficult. Granted, there is an exception to every rule, but your prospecting efforts will be far more rewarding if you prospect to create relationships.

In a phrase, your activity should be designed to get in touch and then stay in touch… perpetually, with all demographically desirable decision-makers in all demographically desirable accounts. When that’s your goal and you execute these tactics consistently, you will eventually have a nonstop flow of high-quality, sales-ready leads. As always, I wish you…

Good Luck and Good Selling!!!

Gil Cargill
Sales Acceleration Coach
Direct: 310.362.0615
Mobile: 310.447.4102

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