This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 2 – The Right Skills: Prospecting

People mean different things when they say prospecting. For our purposes, prospecting is contacting a lead (new prospect or existing client) to initiate a sales conversation about a new piece of business.

Neglecting to proactively and consistently prospect for new business is a key driver of failure among salespeople. All of the other stuff people talk about ─ the ability to identify needs, present solutions, bond with the client, answer objections, negotiate, close ─ never will happen unless new lines of business are started in the first place.

Simply put, starting new lines of business is prospecting; prospecting is starting new lines of potential business.

Like with lead generation, whether the line of business comes from someone who has been contacted previously by the firm or has even bought from the firm is irrelevant. It may be a goal of the company to do one or the other, to get more business from people who have never been exposed to the company or from existing or former clients. These all just require different prospecting and lead generation targets, tactics and methods, but the skills associated with prospecting are the same in all of these cases.

What are these skills? They are less qualitative than you might think.

Disciplined time management
In most cases when I work with salespeople, we begin by walking them through the front end of the sales process ─ lead generation and prospecting. I usually am hired to help improve sales, and it is hard to improve sales unless salespeople are actively engaged in reaching out for new business opportunities. We also walk through everything that happens afterwards, like handling objections, closing, etc., but this front-end work drives the rest of the process so we almost always spend some time there.

In the VAST majority of cases, salespeople push back about their ability to find time to do this. Even after I include existing clients in the set of lead sources and prospect targets, they insist they have no time. Even when I tell them the joke about being too busy driving to stop for gas, they insist they have no time. Even when I point out that they make time for other things that come up in their week (like a spontaneous meeting with the boss or a key client or to fix a flat tire on the way to work) they insist they have no time.

This inability to accept my low-ball suggestion of 30 minutes a week possibly is related to the next two skills described below (or the lack thereof). If someone is so insecure about prospecting or doesn’t know how, arguing that they don’t have time is a natural human reaction. This is similar to a prospect who gives you a simple objection that is not really true (like they have no money) in place of a complex and possibly even subconscious reason for not agreeing to accept your offer (like they can’t really see the value of your product). Insecurity and lack of knowledge will be addressed below, but for now, imagine that the time objection from our salesperson is real. What does this mean?

It means that the salesperson is unable to effectively prioritize and manage his or her time. This is a significant problem! The life of a salesperson will always be riddled with interruptions, new opportunities, and crises (personal and business-related). If a salesperson is unable to know what key tasks must get done on a daily and weekly basis, it is hard to imagine that this person will be able to make positive changes in work or even in life.

….to be continued next week

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David