What Tangled Webs We Weave

Number One: Never implement more than one prospecting activity at a time (unless you’ve decided to assume the responsibility for reaching your sales goals).

Being engaged in more than one prospecting activity at a time (cold calling, networking, and generating referrals, for instance) requires focus, organization, follow up, and follow through—activities that demand considerably more time and energy than sitting at your desk waiting for the next hot prospect to call you.

If you expend all your energy attempting to uncover potential prospects, you’ll be too exhausted to effectively interact with them when you find them.

So, stay at your desk and take it easy. Have another cup of coffee, and by all means, preserve your energy. The phone is bound to ring any time now.

Number Two: Never establish a meeting agenda when you schedule an appointment with a prospect (unless you see some sort of benefit to adding a degree of predictability to the outcome of the meeting).

Establishing an agenda at the time you schedule an appointment takes all the mystery out of the meeting. Since you and your prospect will have agreed to the objectives for the meeting, and also know what to expect from one another, odds-on, the meeting will move along in a predictable and uneventful manner. Sure, the meeting is likely to be more productive—you won’t waste time making small talk and your prospect won’t be giving you an impromptu tour of left field as he or she eventually gets to the point. But, think about how boring that will be. It will be like watching a movie where you already have a strong sense about the ending. No surprises. No drama. Who wants to watch that sort of movie or invest their time in THAT sort of meeting?

When you schedule an appointment, settle on the date, place, and time—and not much else. Don’t even establish how much time—let that be a surprise as well. You may not accomplish much during the meeting, but think about all the great stories you’ll have to tell when you get back to the office.

Number Three: Never qualify opportunities too rigorously (unless investing your time where and with whom you can obtain the greatest return on the investment is something you find appealing).

Using specific criteria that directly relate to the advantages of your product or service and the competencies of your company to qualify a selling opportunity will limit the number of opportunities you pursue.

When you sharpen your focus and invest your time and energy in opportunities that have the greatest probability of “taking you to the bank,” you’ll use your time more wisely, your closing ratio will improve, you’ll close more sales, and you’ll earn more commission. But, think about all you’ll be giving up—all the unqualified prospects with whom you won’t have the opportunity to interact. Think about all the colorful stories (albeit irrelevant to the selling opportunity) you won’t have a chance to hear. Think about all the creative stalls, objections, and excuses you’ll miss out on. Are you really ready to give up all of that?

Number Four: Never ask your prospects to make commitments (unless you wish to have more control over the selling process).

Asking prospects to commit to the next step in the selling process or a future action will enable you to maintain a greater degree of control over the process. While there will be fewer surprises to deal with, you and your prospects will feel more comfortable, and the selling process will progress more quickly, that strategy is likely, over time, to weaken your selling skills.

Here’s why.

When you have no idea about what’s going to occur at an upcoming meeting or at the conclusion of a presentation, for instance, you must be on your toes at all times. You must think on your feet and respond quickly and skillfully with the appropriate strategy and technique to handle stalls and put-offs, overcome objections, and arm wrestle prospects for decisions. When you ask prospects to make commitments in advance, you significantly reduce the number and frequency of these skill-honing opportunities. Is it really worth the trade off?

Number Five: Never give up on prospects as long as they express some interest in your product or service regardless of how long you’ve been pursuing them (unless you value your time and can find more productive areas in which to invest it).

Some prospects just take a long time to make a decision and take action. They wouldn’t have expressed an interest in your product or service unless they had the intention of buying it at some point. Right?

So, hang in there. Keep following up. Keep sending information. Keep dropping in on them when you’re “in the neighborhood.” They’ll buy some day… from someone. It might as well be you. Sure, you’ll miss other sales opportunities while you’re pursuing these prospects. Sure, you’ll earn less money. Sure, you’ll become frustrated. Sure, you’ll eventually come to believe that you’re wasting your time. But, hanging in there demonstrates your persistence. And, isn’t that a characteristic sales managers appreciate?