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Do Sales People Still Know How To Prospect?

To be a successful salesperson, you need to know how to prospect. But with the ever-changing landscape of sales, it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest techniques. So, do salespeople still know how to prospect?

Challenges in the Marketplace

In today's market, more than ever, salespeople need superior skills to find and secure new customers. But, in doing so, salespeople encounter all kinds of challenges.

Pivotal Advisors hosted two sessions with sales leaders and salespeople on the topic of Prospecting. Listening to the salespeople talk about their challenges on prospecting was exciting.

We heard sales leaders say things such as:

  • I used to make 30-40 calls per day when I sold, and I don't understand why they can't do it.
  • The salespeople need to spend more time prospecting.
  • Salespeople today just don't like to prospect.

On the other side of the equation, salespeople said things like:

  • My boss just wants me to pound the phone, but cold calling doesn't work anymore – nobody answers, returns a call, or answers email.
  • If I use tools like LinkedIn or other types of social media, those contacts don't show up on my activity report, and my boss gets mad.
  • It's tough to get people to talk to you.

How Do You Go About Generating Interest?

In the discussion section of the event, Pivotal Advisors covered all kinds of topics, such as ways to identify prospect companies and contacts, research you can do before the call, etc. 

Then we asked the critical question, "How do you generate interest on that first call so they want to commit to the next call or keep talking?" 

The answers were rather revealing:

  • "I ask them about their biggest challenges."
  • "I ask them what I can take off their plate that they have a hard time getting to."
  • "I tell them about all the ways that we've helped other clients."

The problem with these approaches is that the salesperson has not earned the right to ask these questions yet. Furthermore, the prospect doesn't even know whether they want to keep talking to that salesperson, so why would the prospect start sharing their biggest challenges?

In short, they wouldn't.

The Problems Salespeople Face

In the old days, before everything was available online, people would take your call or return your email because you, as the salesperson, were a source of information that they did not otherwise have access to. 

In today's world, customers don't need to talk to a salesperson. Nowadays, salespeople need to lead with something relevant that draws the prospect in and makes them want to hear more. There is a big difference between saying, "We have cool stuff and help our clients solve problems," vs. "I've researched your company and found that you are active in the XYZ industry.”

In the first example, the salesperson is "telling" the prospect things that they can find easily via Google. In the second example, the salesperson leads with something particular to the company, then shares something specific to the market, all the while trying to engage the prospect in a conversation.

Technology has Changed the Landscape

With the growth of social media and the internet, more tools are available than ever to help salespeople succeed. However, with all of these new tools comes the challenge of learning how to use them effectively. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful tool for prospecting.

The same concept of detailed information can be applied to both social media and email. "Selling the problem" before discussing a solution is a great way to gain trust and credibility. 

In the End

The things that worked in the past may not work anymore. Effective salespeople research, find an issue or challenge that the prospect is likely to care about, and then engage the prospect. Try the new approach of selling the problem first. You will find that it is more effective and is the first sale you make in any account.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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