Here’s reality: very few salespeople prospect for new business. And even fewer do it effectively.
There are lots of reasons that’s the case, but one stands out above the rest. Fewer and fewer salespeople have a working knowledge of how to prospect! Many in sales today don’t prospect because they never had do to it and a good number of them don’t know how. That ignorance is only reinforced by the false teachers from the Sales 2.0 movement who proclaim that prospecting is no longer effective for picking up new business.
A large percentage of today’s sales population survived, or even thrived, when enough business came their way. Many are victims of their past success and easier times when they could hit their numbers by responding to opportunities rather than having to go out and create them. A strong macro economy or a hot industry provided an environment where the reactive, non-prospecting salesperson could skate by, often during long seasons of economic prosperity and high demand.
The unfortunate result of what I’ve described above is a frightening shortage of skilled sales hunters. There are plenty of account managers and reactive-type salespeople who excel at various aspects of selling (customer care, retention, relationship management, etc.). But in company after company, there is incredible need for salespeople who can proactively pursue and acquire new customers – those who, as I like to say, can go out and create new business out of the dirt. Sure, prospecting for new business is not something that a lot of people love to do. But the plain truth today is that even if more salespeople wanted to, they can’t because they don’t know how. And that is why I wrote New Sales. Simplified.
I am disturbed on a daily basis by the lack of true sales mentors today. Who is showing the younger salespeople how to sell? Where are the wise old vets who take rookies under their wings? Who is reminding crusty old sales veterans about forgotten timeless truths – and the “basics” they used to execute when it was the norm to chase down new accounts? Why are sales managers more concerned that their salespeople keep the CRM updated than they are with whether they can use the phone effectively or conduct a proper a face-to-face sales call?
The tough economy of the past several years, drastic shifts in many company’s market dynamics, the general sales population’s avoidance of, or lack of experience prospecting for new business, all combined with the lack of sales mentoring and coaching today have created a dangerous situation for many businesses and salespeople. They are lost, confused and scared as inbound demand has dried up and their reactive approach is not achieving desired levels of revenue.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Developing new business is not complicated. But it requires some effort, and it’s really helpful when you have a simple framework to guide you and a few tools in your tool belt. Take two minutes to read the Foreword sales blogger extraordinaire S. Anthony Iannarino wrote for my book. He nails it cold. Success in most things is about the fundamentals. And if salespeople and sales teams are going to succeed at developing new business, it’s beyond time that we returned to simple fundamentals of selling.