Lets get this out of the way: Over 90% of businesses are not actively prospecting and qualifying for their business’s ideal and new customers. They rely WAY too much on existing word of mouth and even “sales gravy” and marketing leads and referrals to come their way when they can add their best customer to the top of their pipeline.

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Everyone is considering daily prospecting vs marketing as a their main means of growing revenue.

So to solve that, I’m giving you a ton of inside data on prospecting from our own personal and trained experience over at Web Strategy Viking. At this point, all of our account executives and managers have been trained in the Sandler Sales methods and most of this post has been re purposed from the Fanatical Prospecting book. Still, no excuse for anyone (myself included). Still, I’m using the Ultimate Guide for Starting Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, and Cold Calling and distilling it for you in this book.

My name is Jake Goss-Kuehn, the digital strategy director over at Web Strategy Viking agency, and if you are not adding 5 new qualified prospects to your pipeline each day (regardless of industry), you must read this. Doubly so if you’re not adding any per week!

You can subscribe to get notified when we put out another cutting-edge blog post like this one 😉

OK. Let me ask some of the most common questions before I get into the real tactics of sales. I’ll share some tips as well as word-for-word scripts, meetings, closing strategies and more in upcoming posts. Lets start with the most common question(s).

Why is prospecting an important activity for sales people

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I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about sales people. But they make money for a reason.

Prospecting is the way to add people to your sales pipeline. When a company is not growing revenue, its not because of a deficit of talent. Its because the pipeline is just empty and not being worked on. Opening sales conversations fills the pipeline. Inbound leads is gravy, the rest needs to be hunted down.

It looks like collecting a list of suspects, preparing a list to make the best use of your time, and dialing to set appointments in 1-minute calls. They are not used to qualify, but the next meeting is used to do that. Never stop prospecting and qualifying.

What happens if you do not prospect for your business?

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[SCREAMS INTERNALLY]

An autonomy of a sales slump looks like this:
At some point you stopped prospecting (see the 30-Day Rule).

  • Because you stopped prospecting, your pipeline stalls (see the Law of Replacement).
  • Because the prospects in your pipe are dead, you stop closing deals.
  • As you experience this failure, there is an erosion of your confidence.
  • Your crumbling confidence creates negative self-talk and that further degrades your confidence, wrecks your enthusiasm, and causes you to feel like a loser.
  • Feeling like a loser saps your energy and motivation for prospecting activity.
  • Because you don’t feel like prospecting, you call the same old dead-end prospects over and over and get nowhere.
  • The lack of prospecting activity makes your already stale pipe even worse.
  • You start hoping for silver bullets. But, because hope is not a strategy, nothing changes.
  • You sink deeper into your slump, get desperate, and then bam! You get slapped by the Universal Law of Need.
  • Your sales days become depressing black holes of misery.

Why does prospecting and qualifying go hand in hand during the process but not during the call.

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Theres a time and place for qualifying. The first call isn’t it.

If you’ve spent time on a prospect that did not turn into a sale. You could have spent that time closing someone that did. Asking the right questions, or making sure they close is the difference between preparing for the meal and deciding to eat. They’ll close if they’re qualified. They will not close if they’re not qualified. If they are, they shouldn’t buy.

Prospecting vs qualification

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You should see the green light when you are able to ask the right questions. Now, you’re just setting time to HAVE that convervsation.

The first inital call is just to set an appointment to qualify. The next meeting can be 5, 10, 15, 60 minutes. You can ask all the question you need.

The only question you should get answered in the first Prospecting call is when you two can have that conversation to learn more.

Prospecting vs lead generation

We do lead generation. A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is sales gravy and a luxury. Being real with it lets you go out and hunt and prospect for the better and bigger sales. You get to qualify people on your own terms and interupt their days to solve problems. A MQL lead may be qualified, but we’ve found 30% of MQLs are ready to buy, and the other 60% aren’t ready for some weird reason while the 10% are just not a good fit.

Use both. Use both the prospecting and qualifying in selling process as well a lead generation. It shouldn’t be one or the other. Get your sales qualified leads and get that gravy on top when you can get it.

Prospecting vs marketing

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Its easy to make a LOT of noise online. But nothing beats a call that overcomes your fears to talk to strangers.

Prospecting is a form of marketing. The way you are structured communicates how you perform. If you come accross sharp as a tack or even as an expert, people will associate you with that. You’ll sell your product if its good, and letting people buy it and know you buy it is easier.

We do digital lead generation and marketing, but when a potential buyer is called and given an opporunity to buy. They’ll consider it because you went to them with a chance to buy.

When to Prospect? What are the best times for prospecting?

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There are 10000 reasons NOT to call. Interrupt your prospect, get their attention, and set an appointment.

The golden hours are the best times for prospecting. Do important non-sales activities before or after the golden hours. Your admin tasks. Even CRM updating should be done outside of these golden hours. You want to be prospecting and qualifying in sales process nearly as often as you can.

If you have 60 Minutes, you can dial 50 Prospects and have 30 Conversations leading to 2 Appts to connect for later.

You can set aside call blocks 10-12pm to 2-4pm.
Do a time tracking. Check times, call other time zones during the 7am to 10am block and fro 3:30 to 6pm block. The absolute best times are 8:00AM to 9:30AM and 3:30PM to 5:00PM as well. Now you will have a super high DM connect rate even earlier from 7:15ish to 8:00AM and from like 5:00PM to 5:45PM but you can call those hours and hit 40 voicemails. Hit or miss.

The worst objection for a marketing agency is solved with prospecting

“If your program is so good, why are you cold-calling me? Shouldn’t I be calling you?”

Marketing is not a replacement for focused and deliberate outbound prospecting efforts. Every business prospects. Each and every one, even online and local brands like Web Strategy Viking.

Consider Horstman’s Corollary.

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Don’t be glad you completed the task in time (and take a break). Use the time set for completing the task.

Parkingsons law states that work tends to fill the time alloted for it. Horstman’s is the inverse. Block their time, focus on a single activity, and set an outcome goal for that activity. Work will fill for the alloted time and it’ll get done. How many all-nighter cram sessions have you done? When did you do them?

Prospecting for SEO agencies work well for times before 7am and after 5pm. Some do power Hours, Morning, Mid Day and afternoon. They are pure 60 minutes of dialing and setting calls in 1 minute intervals.

A little tip is that you can Prospect for 1 hour via phone, and 1 hour for email and social… for 60 days. You’ll have a sales pipeline you can work. Bock off your prospecting hours to yourself, and a time to update everything afterwards. The concentration of power and focus will let you just deal with dialing. You can control that. You can take notes of the call during, and update your CRM after the call block.

Platinum Hours:, sets up the sales day.

  • Building prospecting lists
  • Research
  • Precall planning
  • Developing proposals and presentations
  • Creating contracts and getting approval
  • Social selling activities
  • E-mail prospecting
  • Prospect research and call objective planning
  • Planning and organization
  • Administration and reports
    Responding to e-mail
  • Calendar management
  • CRM management

Law of Triviality. Doing trivial tasks (like data entry) thats below your pay grade (10/hr) vs selling ($50/hr)

Prospecting like you breathe

The enduring mantra of the fanatical prospector is : one more call. That is their purpose. They don’t make any excuses. They talk to strangers, call at any time. They have a singular purpose to increase the pipeline.

Prospecting for building familiarity

Use prospecting as a touch to get someone to buy.

Our data and data that we’ve gathered and analyzed from a diverse set of sources indicate that it takes, on average:

  • 1 to 3 touches to reengage an inactive customer
  • 1 to 5 touches to engage a prospect who is in the buying window and is familiar with you and your brand
  • 3 to 10 touches to engage a prospect who has a high degree of familiarity with you or your brand, but is not in the buying window
  • 5 to 12 touches to engage a warm inbound lead
  • 5 to 20 touches to engage a prospect who has some familiarity with you and your brand—buying window dependent
  • 20 to 50 touches to engage a cold prospect who does not know you or your brand

Prospecting vs retargeting

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Your sales calls should be hitting your target every time. You can retarget them after with ads after the fact.

Easy is the greatest marketing hook of all time. Retargeting is a digital advertisting strategy used to reattract people who visited your website to see ads to bring them back.

Its 10x cheaper to find leads from existing website visitors, but nothing beats picking up the phone and actually targeting your ideal customers.

You can control the later, you can’t c ontrol exactly when people come to your website unless you spend money on Adwords, content, or email campaigns. Even then, inexperienced marketing can’t guarentee if the user will even visit the site, set an appointment, and be qualified!

But here are 3 Things you can control
Your actions, your reactions, your mindset.

Why is prospecting important?

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Make the most of your time.

With the 3 Core laws of prospecting honored, you grow a steady stream of prospects into the pipeline. The three tactics are the Universal Law of Need, The 30 Day Rule, & The Law of Replacement.

Number 1 reason for failure in sales is an empty pipe, and the root cause of an empty pipeline is the failure to prospect.

Law of Need
The more you need something, the less likely you will get it. It comes into play in sales when lack of activity has left your pipeline depleted. Its the opposite of the law of attraction, what you focus your thoughts on are what you are most likely to get. But if you focus on what will happen to you if you don’t get what you need, you attract failure.

Prospect and you’ll not come across as desperate, b/c you’ll have other opportunities waiting.

30 Day Rule

The prospecting you do in this 30-day period will pay off for the next 90 days. Some B2C and B2B have shorter sales cycles, so it may be a 1 week rule. Miss a day of prospecting, and it’ll bit you in the next 90 days. Miss a week, and you’ll feel it in your check. Miss the month, and you’ll tank your pipeline. Fall into a slump and wake up 90 days later desperate, feeling like a loser, with no clue how you got here…

Law of Replacement
Filling the pipeline and then working them isn’t sustainable… When someone drops off, its like a rollercoaster, it falls off and next month is weak.

If Becky has 30 prospects, and her closing percentage of 10%, and she closes one deal. How many prospects remain? Most people answer 29, real answer is 20. Replace based on your statistics.

What is prospecting truths are there in business

Law of Universe: Nothing happens until something moves.
Law of Business: Nothing happens until someone sells something.

If you’re not doing anything or selling anything, you won’t grow, prosper, or get any work going.

What is the goals of prospecting?

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This is the end result, but the goal of the first call should be to get closer to this.

You want to achieve one of four goals when it comes to your prospecting strategy.

  • Set an appointment.
  • Gather information and qualify.
  • Close a sale.
  • Build familiarity.

For us, we want to set appt with a DM or decision maker to move forward, gather information, build familiarity.

For a qualified database of leads, setting appts and building familiarity.

What are prospecting activities?

  • Call early or late. The boss tends to be in the office earlier than the gatekeeper and stays later.
    • Leverage social. Few people allow their gatekeeper to have access to their social inboxes. Sending a LinkedIn InMail, for example, allows you to move right past the gatekeeper.
    • Meet them in person. Attend conferences, networking events, civic clubs, charity events, and trade shows where your prospect hangs out—no gatekeepers there.
    • Send an e-mail. An e-mail may allow you to skip past the gatekeeper.
    • Send a handwritten note. In today’s digital culture, handwritten notes sent via snail mail get through. If your note is sincere and funny, and if you add something of value (note: a brochure is not value) or congratulate your prospect on an achievement, there is a very good chance that you will get a response.

What are prospecting techniques

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Picking this sales tool up is one step.

An effective telephone prospecting call might sound like this—a simple five-step framework:

  1. Get their attention by using their name: “Hi, Julie.”
  2. Identify yourself: “My name is Jeb Blount and I’m with Sales Gravy.”
  3. Tell them why you are calling: “The reason I’m calling is to set up an appointment with you.”
  4. Bridge—give them a because: “I just read an article online that said your company is going to add 200 new sales positions over the next year. Several companies in your industry are already using Sales Gravy exclusively for sourcing sales candidates and they are very happy with the results we are delivering.”
  5. Ask for what you want, and shut up: “I thought the best place to start is to schedule a short meeting to learn about your sales recruiting challenges and goals. How about we meet Wednesday afternoon around 3:00 PM?”

This process deployed consistently will double your callback rate.

  1. Identify yourself. Say who you are and the company you work for up front. This makes you sound professional.
  2. Say your phone number twice. Prospects can’t call back if they don’t have or you garbled your number. Give your contact information up front and say it twice—slowly. After they hear your name and company, they may not care about the rest of your message because based on their situation, they can infer what it is about.
  3. Tell them the reason for your call. Tell them why you have called. There is nothing more irritating to a buyer than a salesperson who is not honest about their intentions. After you give your personal information just say, “The reason for my call is…” or “the purpose of my call is…,” then tell them why you are calling and what you want. Transparency is both respectful and professional.
  4. Give them a reason to call you back. Prospects call back when you have something that they want or are curious about. Curiosity is a powerful driver of behavior. When you have knowledge, insight, information, special pricing, new or improved products, a solution to a problem, and so on, you create a motivating force that compels your prospect to call you back.
  5. Repeat your name and say your phone number twice. Before you end your message, say your name again slowly and clearly and always, always say your number twice.

How to filter your prospecting database?

FILTERS
Prospecting objective: set an appointment, gather information, close the sale, build familiarity

  • Prospecting channel: phone, e-mail, social, text, in person, networking
  • Qualification level: highest qualified at the top of the list—least qualified at the bottom of the list
  • Potential: largest opportunities at the top of the list—lowest potential at the bottom of the list
  • Probability: highest potential probability to achieve your objective at the top of the list—lowest probability at the bottom of the list
  • Territory plan: day of week, postal code, street, geographic grid, city
  • Inbound leads
  • Conquest prospects
  • Decision maker/stakeholder role
  • Industry or market vertical
  • Customers that purchase a specific type of product or service
  • Seasonal customers
  • Inactive customers
  • Leads from a recent trade show or conference.
  • Organizations like the chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, trade organizations, and other business and civic groups are always in need of guest speakers.

How does prospecting work

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Move people up the qualifying pyramid and you’ll be able to dance daily.

PYRAMID
Top performers view their prospect database as a pyramid.

  • At the bottom of the pyramid are the thousands of prospects they know little about other than a company name and perhaps some contact information. They don’t know if the information about the prospect is correct (and there is a good chance that it isn’t). Action: The goal with these prospects is to move them up the pyramid by gathering information to correct and confirm data, fill in the missing pieces, and begin the qualifying process.
  • Higher up the pyramid, the information improves. There is solid contact information, including e-mail addresses. There may be information on competitors, product or service usage numbers, the size of the budget, and other demographic information. There may also be contact information for decision makers and influencers. Action: The goal with these prospects is to identify the buying window and all potential stakeholders.
  • Moving higher up, potential buying windows have been identified. There are complete contact records for decision makers and influencers, including social profiles. Action: Your focus at this level is to implement nurturing campaigns to stay in front of confirmed decision makers in anticipation of an identified future buying window.
  • Further up are conquest prospects. This is a highly targeted list of the best or largest opportunities in your territory. There will be a limited number: 10, 25, 50, 100. Action: The focus for conquest prospects includes nurturing and regular touches, stakeholder identification, buying window qualifying, monitoring for trigger events, and building familiarity.
  • Closer to the top are hot inbound leads and referrals. Action: These prospects require immediate follow-up to qualify and/or move them into the pipeline.
  • At the tip-top are highly qualified prospects who are moving into the buying window due to an immediate need, contract expiration, trigger event, or budgetary period.

BUT I HIT A GATEKEEPER!

Gatekeepers suck the soul out of sales calls. But be honest and treat them well.

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Even if you can’t prospect well, you can still deal with gatekeepers. They guard riches.

Seven Keys for Dealing with Gatekeepers

  1. Be likable. Project a positive, cheerful, outgoing personality. Be polite and respectful. You are guaranteed to fail with gatekeepers if you are rude, pushy, and ill mannered. Always leave them with a positive impression of you and your company.
  2. Use please, please. In his book The Real Secrets of the Top 20 Percent, the author, Mike Brooks, advises that the “single most powerful technique” to get past gatekeepers is to use please twice. For example, when a gatekeeper answers the phone you might say, “Hi, this is Jeb Blount from Sales Gravy. Would you please connect me to Mike Brooks, please?”
  3. Be transparent. Tell the gatekeeper who you are—your full name and the name of your company. Full disclosure makes you sound professional and worthy enough to pass through to the boss.
  4. Connect. Gatekeepers are people just like you. And like you, they like people who are interested in them. If you speak to a particular gatekeeper often, be sure to ask about how they are doing. Learn to listen to their tone of voice and respond when you hear something amiss. Ask questions about their family and their interests. There are gatekeepers I deal with on a regular basis who I know better than the boss. When I call, I will often spend more time talking to them than to my client. Because of these strong relationships, they take care to ensure that I get on calendars.
  5. Hold the cheese. Never use cheesy schemes or tricks. Tricks don’t work. They harm your credibility and you’ll end up on the gatekeeper’s do-not-talk-to list, which means it will have to snow at the equator before you get through. Be honest about who you are and why you are calling and ask for what you want. You may not get through the first time, but your honesty will be appreciated and remembered, which will play a huge role in opening the gate in the future.
  6. Ask for help. Sometimes an honest and authentic plea for help will get a gatekeeper on your side. Sprinkling in a little humor can also make a difference. Once I walked into a business, attempting for the umpteenth time in a row to get an appointment.
    The receptionist looked up at me and said, “Are you back again? I thought I told you that we are not interested!”
    I responded with a smile, “I just came by to see you because I hadn’t gotten quite enough rejection today to fill my quota.”
    With that she laughed. It opened up a conversation where I was able to explain that I really needed some help. She made a call to the DM and I got a meeting.
  7. Change the game. Sometimes the best strategy is to sidestep the gatekeeper. This can be accomplished in several ways:
    • Call early or late. The boss tends to be in the office earlier than the gatekeeper and stays later.
    • Leverage social. Few people allow their gatekeeper to have access to their social inboxes. Sending a LinkedIn InMail, for example, allows you to move right past the gatekeeper.
    • Meet them in person. Attend conferences, networking events, civic clubs, charity events, and trade shows where your prospect hangs out—no gatekeepers there.
    • Send an e-mail. An e-mail may allow you to skip past the gatekeeper.
    • Send a handwritten note. In today’s digital culture, handwritten notes sent via snail mail get through. If your note is sincere and funny, and if you add something of value (note: a brochure is not value) or congratulate your prospect on an achievement, there is a very good chance that you will get a response.

If the gatekeeper, usually a receptionist or lower-level blocker, is unwilling to give you the name and contact of the decision maker and you are unable to find the person through an online or social search, try these three hacks.

How do I qualify a sales prospect?

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Go forth and conquer.

Use a unique value proposition. This is your elevator pitch to qualify a sales prospect and establish what it is you do. Its a power statement. They get it. They want it. Its a paragraph, sentance, or a few words.

UVP

  1. Focuses on a business objective that is measured: You’ll get their attention when you focus on a metric that impacts their performance.
  2. Disrupts status quo: The status quo is powerful. People abhor change and will only move from the status quo when they feel they can significantly improve their current situation—increase sales, reduce costs, improve efficiency, reduce stress, and so on.
  3. Offers proof or evidence: When you can provide information about how much you have helped prospects in similar situations, you gain instant credibility.

Power Statement must answer:

  • The prospect’s issues
  • Your offerings that address these issues
  • Competitive differentiators

What would cause your prospect to say, “So what?” to your message?
Answer that before you get shut down.

Notes:

1. Ryan Fuller, “3 Behaviors that Drive Successful Salespeople,” Harvard Business Review, http://www.hbr.org/2014/08/3-behaviors-that-drive-successful-sales-people. 2. Anthony Iannario, “Prospecting Rule One: Don’t Check Email in the Morning,” The Sales Blog, http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2011/06/24/prospecting-rule-one.

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