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Should Salespeople Prospect Anymore?

Last week, during a client's sales meeting, we got into a discussion regarding pipeline values. Needless to say, the number of prospects and dollar values were insufficient to achieve the overall corporate revenue objectives. Several of the salespeople blamed marketing for not generating enough quality leads (ever hear that before?)  and, as the discussion of "territory development" evolved, several of the salespeople said they simply didn't feel it was their responsibility to prospect because of the futility of cold calling/phone calling and event marketing. 

In many organizations, marketing is expected to develop leads via a well-messaged, nurturing campaign with a quality database with an objective to set up the salesperson with a highly qualified opportunity. In this format, there may be a series of marketing campaigns, telesales people and a well-designed CRM reporting system.

In other organizations, there is limited marketing of this nature, with an expectation that sales will build relationships that lead to additional business opportunities. The question is: As a sales manager, how should you structure your sales team's expectations around prospecting?

First, it depends. What is your sales process? Are you selling large accounts with a complex sales cycle or are you more transactional, with short sales cycles selling to small business? Are you territory-based or open territories? Your business type will alter what works.

Second, it is my belief that salespeople need to prospect continually. The real question is how. Below are a few ideas with brief descriptions (brief simply because of space; if you have questions on the specifics, just ask!).

  • Networking: Every salesperson should attend one event a month. This is not negotiable.

  • Circles of Influence: Develop a list of individuals who can influence your sales opportunities or who can refer business to you. Depending on your business, these could CPAs, commercial real estate brokers, contractors, architects, et cetera. Each of these individuals needs to be contacted at least once a quarter.

  • LinkedIn:  Read my blog on Acumen power networking or ask me for it at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.

  • 20/20 Plan: Each salesperson sends two distinct direct mail pieces referring to your products/services to 20 suspects -- 20 pieces one week, 20 the next week. In the third week, the salesperson calls the 20 suspects. This process is repeated each week.

  • Thought Leadership Events: Schedule one breakfast event a month with a topic based on thought leadership marketing. This event is driven by marketing, but the salesperson is responsible for calling/inviting individuals to the meeting. This gives the salesperson a reason and message to communicate to their prospects/suspects.

  • Referral: The salesperson should ask their customers for referrals twice a year.

  • Bus-Ecosystem: Each salesperson should develop relationships with three to five other salespeople who sell non-competitive, but related products/services into common marketplace.

  • Who-You-Know List: Each salesperson should create a list of everyone they know -- friends, business associates, professionals. This is a good sales meeting idea to come up with "titles" of individuals your sales team might know. Then, make sure they know what you do and what problems you solve using a personal letter.

  • Review Calendars: A good thing to do this time of year is to review your calendars for the past 12 months. You might find someone you had forgotten to follow up on.

That's a good list to start with. What prospecting ideas are you using that are working? Care to share? Let's build up a comprehensive list so that everyone can finish the year strong and be positioned to make 2015 your best year ever.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM