The Real Secret to Sustained Sales Success
The path to superstar-level success in sales is brutally simple. Simple, mind you, not easy. It’s a Paradox of Basics: A truth that is so blatantly obvious it has become impossibly invisible. A truth that remains frustratingly elusive for most salespeople, causing so many promising, intelligent, talented people to fail miserably in sales, and, likewise, businesses to close their doors and entrepreneurs to crash and burn.
What’s the secret that separates superstars from everyone else, and why do they consistently outperform other salespeople? Fanatical prospecting.
Superstars are relentless, unstoppable prospectors. They are obsessive about keeping their pipeline full of qualified prospects. They prospect anywhere and anytime—constantly turning over rocks looking for their next opportunity. They prospect day and night—unstoppable and always on. Fanatical!
Seven Mindsets of Fanatical Prospectors
Mindset is completely and absolutely within your control and drives both the actions you take and your reactions to the environment and people around you.
Success leaves clues. Highly successful people, from ancient philosophers like Aristotle to modern-day thought leaders, have always made the point that there is little need to “reinvent the wheel.” If you study what successful people do, you find patterns. When you duplicate those patterns, you’ll be able to duplicate their success.
Duplicate these mindsets and you’ll guarantee yourself success in filling your pipeline and crushing your number.
Optimistic and enthusiastic
Fanatical prospectors have a winning, optimistic mindset. They know that negative, bitter people with a victim mindset do not succeed in sales. Fanatical prospectors attack each day with enthusiasm—fired up and ready to rock. They view each day as a fresh new opportunity to achieve. Because of this, they seize the day, brush past naysayers and complainers, and dive into prospecting with unequaled drive. Even on bad days they reach deep inside and find enough stored enthusiasm to push themselves to keep going and make one more call.
Fanatical prospectors view prospecting through the eyes of a fierce competitor. They are hardwired to win and will do whatever it takes to stay on top. They begin each day prepared to win the battle for the attention of the most coveted prospects, and outwit and outhustle their competitors at every turn.
Fanatical prospectors approach prospecting with confidence. They expect to win and believe they are going to win. They have developed mental toughness and the ability to manage the disruptive emotions of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. They leverage confidence and self-control to persuade prospects to give up time and resources to engage in sales conversations.
Fanatical prospectors have a high need for achievement. They do whatever it takes to reach their goal. They never, ever give up believing that persistence always wins. They use rejection as motivational fuel to get up and keep going with a determined belief that their next “yes” is right around the corner.
Thirsty for knowledge
Fanatical prospectors welcome feedback and coaching. They seek out every opportunity to learn and invest in themselves by voraciously consuming books, podcasts, audiobooks, blog posts, online training, live seminars, and anything else they believe will make them better. They have an unshakable belief that everything happens for a reason and through this lens view setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow.
Systematic and efficient
Fanatical prospectors have the ability to execute with near-robotic and systematical efficiency. They are skilled at their craft like a pro athlete. They protect the golden hours, block their time, and concentrate their power to tune out distractions and avoid disruptions. They systematically develop their prospect database to build more effective and targeted lists, and squeeze every moment from each sales day.
Adaptive and flexible
Fanatical prospectors have acute situational awareness. Because of this, they are able to respond and adapt quickly to changing situations and circumstances. They leverage the three As in their approach to prospecting: adopt, adapt, adept. They actively search out and adopt new ideas and best practices, then adapt them as their own, and work at it until they become adept at execution. Fanatical prospectors are constantly trying new things and flexing with the world around them—whatever it takes to keep their pipeline full. They tend to be early adopters of new prospecting techniques, cutting-edge technology, and game-changing tactics.
The Fallacy of Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket
Not unlike investing, there is an expert or so-called sales guru on every corner preaching to salespeople that their method is the one way to prospecting salvation. They push phone prospecting, e-mail prospecting, social selling, trade shows, referrals, networking, or inbound marketing as the one true way while disparaging all other forms—usually by labeling the forms they don’t like “cold calling” to create the ultimate turnoff. “Do it my way,” they’ll tell you, “and you’ll get unlimited qualified leads. All for only $999!”
Avoid the Lunacy of One Size Fits All
The very best salespeople have mastered balanced prospecting in the same manner that wealthy people have mastered balance in their investment portfolios. Balance simply means that to get the best return from your prospecting time investment, there should be a mixture of telephone, in-person, e-mail, social selling, text messaging, referrals, networking, inbound leads, trade shows, and cold calling. The relative distribution of your time investment in each prospecting methodology should be based on your unique situation.
Walk Like an Egyptian: Managing the Prospecting Pyramid
Salespeople who struggle with prospecting view their prospect database as a square. In other words, they treat every prospect exactly the same. For this reason, they attack their database randomly—with no system and no objective.
There are several problems with this approach. First, it is statistically inefficient. When your first call and subsequent calls are made merely by chance, you might call a prospect who is ready to take action or you might not. However, because only a small number of your prospects will be in the buying window at any given time, the statistical probability that you will call poorly qualified prospects is high.
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.
Action: These are your highest-priority prospects and should be on the top of your daily prospecting list. The goals is to move them into the pipe.
The key to leveraging the prospecting pyramid philosophy is a systematic daily focus on gathering qualifying information that identifies buying windows and stakeholders and moves prospects up the pyramid based on that information.
The Five-Step Simple Telephone Prospecting Framework
Few things in sales have been more overcomplicated than the simple telephone prospecting call. Efficient and effective telephone prospecting should get you to yes, no, or maybe as fast as possible, in the least intrusive way, using a relaxed, confident, professional tone that reduces resistance.
An effective telephone prospecting call might sound like this—a simple five-step framework:
- Get their attention by using their name: “Hi, Julie.”
- Identify yourself: “My name is Jeb Blount and I’m with Sales Gravy.”
- Tell them why you are calling: “The reason I’m calling is to set up an appointment with you.”
- 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.”
- 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?”
The Five-Step In-Person Prospecting Call Process
The in-person call process is similar to the five-step telephone prospecting framework. The main difference between the in-person framework and the phone process is a slower pace and there will typically be more dialogue.
- Approach with confidence. There is no substitute for enthusiasm and confidence. These are the two emotions that sell.
- Expect to win. Walk in like you own the place and ask direct questions that help you gather information and get in front of decision makers.
- Plan questions in advance. The research you do in advance helps you plan the questions you want to ask about problems, issues, decision makers, and competitors. Having a plan gives you an extra boost of confidence as you walk in the door.
- Identify yourself and say why you are there. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t hesitate, and never use cheesy lines designed to trick gatekeepers. You are a professional, so be straightforward and transparent about your purpose for being there.
- Gather information. Engage in a conversation rather than an interrogation.
- Avoid the temptation to pitch. You will quickly lose the attention of your prospect if you begin talking about you, your company, your product, or your service. As soon as you start pitching, your ears turn off and so does your prospect.
- Ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Decide what you want to ask for before you walk in the door, and be prepared to bridge to something else—like closing the deal—if the opportunity presents itself.
- Turn around objections.
- Develop and prepare turnarounds in advance.
It Takes Grit
In their book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson again, Dr. Chris Croner and Richard Abraham describe mental toughness in salespeople using three dimensions
Optimism: When you get knocked down, optimism tells you that if you can look up, you can get up. Optimism is the mother of perseverance. It powers a positive belief system and attracts positive energy.
Competitiveness: Do you hate to lose or love to win? The drive to avoid losing is what keeps superstars working longer, harder, and doing whatever it takes to win. Competitiveness is the mother of persistence.
Need for achievement: Psychologist and researcher Henry Murray defined the need for achievement as “intense, prolonged and repeated efforts to accomplish something difficult. To work with singleness of purpose towards a high and distant goal. To have the determination to win.”
The need for achievement is the mother of self-motivation.
The Only Question That Really Matters
When you are faced with a challenge or when the game is on the line, it is not about how big you are, how strong, how much training, resources, experience, background, degrees, talent, intelligence, money, that BS story you keep telling yourself about why you can’t, or any of the other things that far too often become excuses that hold you back.
When you face your Goliath, when you set your goals, when you face fear, rejection, and adversity; when you’re tired, worn out, and have the choice to go home or make one more call—the only question that really matters is:
How bad do you want it?