There is a lot of noise and confusion about prospecting in the sales world.
It’s always been hard to get salespeople to prospect for new business — even when proactively pursuing strategic target accounts was widely accepted as a valid method for acquiring new customers. Today, the false teachers, many from the Sales 2.0 movement, loudly proclaim that prospecting is dead and completely ineffective for developing new business.
Be on guard when you hear people preaching that prospecting no longer works. Be careful because it is exactly what your itching ears want to hear. No one really likes to do the grunt work involved to prospect successfully, especially if it involves cold calling. So it is natural for us to gravitate toward those who tell us what we want to believe. It’s the same concept our parents taught us: It matters who your friends are. Much of our subjective truth is based on the beliefs of those we choose to listen to.
Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past couple of years as a coach and consultant to business to business sales teams: Those with the loudest voices boldly proclaiming that prospecting is ineffective and that proactively pursuing target accounts who aren’t coming to you is a waste of time, are not only wrong, but they also have an agenda.
There are two distinct camps of loud voices preaching the deadly advice that many in sales are excited to hear.
The first camp is filled with your under-performing colleagues in sales. These are the folks who survived, or possibly thrived, when times were good and there was plenty inbound demand for what they sold. For the most part, they never had to prospect for new business. It came looking for them. Or they were so skilled at account and relationship management, they benefitted from an abundance of opportunity at existing accounts during good economic times. These people did well without ever having to go out, turn over new rocks, hunt for new relationships, etc. So, now, in tougher times, not only do they not want to proactively prospect for new accounts, truthfully, they don’t know how. And because of their own fears, stuggles and current poor results, they don’t want you to prospect either. You get it? They are failing and the last thing they want to see is you succeeding picking up new business when they’re not. They’re scared, lost and confused. And they figure that the louder they yell that prospecting doesn’t work that a) you will listen and agree, and b) they may not be forced to do it themselves.
The second group motivated to turn you against prospecting are those in the Sales 2.0 camp peddling products, services and content for Inbound Marketing. Don’t over-read into that statement. There are some incredible sales minds and great people delivering huge value to the sales community from the 2.0 group. And I’m as big a fan as anyone of integrating new media and smart inbound marketing into our business development initiatives. But there is also a contingent of false teachers vehemently declaring that prospecting is passe, worthless, dead… that “old” methods don’t work anymore. And it just so happens that many of these same folks stand ready to sell you their solution so you never have to cold call again. Not exactly unbiased advice, is it?
We can embrace the new without discarding the old. Social media and inbound marketing are great supplements to, not replacements for, our personal prospecting efforts. Pay attention to who is telling you not to prospect for new business. I bet there’s a good chance they’re from one of the groups described above.
I believe that prospecting not only still works, but is an essential part on any new business development initiative. That’s why I wrote New Sales. Simplified. – The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development. I promise not to turn this blog in a perpetual commercial for the book. But I invite you see what some of the most respected sales minds in North America are saying about the book and the importance of returning to the timeless truths and fundamentals of selling.