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 and Insecurity

Most human beings are at least a little bit insecure, at least some of the time. Insecurity certainly can foster fear. But as countless philosophers have noted in a variety of ways, courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, courage means that while you may indeed be afraid, you do the thing you are afraid of anyway.

Prospecting insecurity is the same way. Most people get nervous asking for something when they have no real authority to influence the answer. Asking for a meeting to discuss new business with a new or existing relationship certainly qualifies as one of those nerve- wracking situations.

A similar situation that many non-salespeople can relate to is approaching an attractive person of the opposite sex and initiating a conversation that they hope may lead to romance (or something similar).

In both cases, prospecting for sales or a romantic connection, whoever initiates conversation asks for something that has a high probability for rejection. Human beings don’t like rejection, and to deliberately and repeatedly set up a situation where the likelihood of rejection is high is quite unnatural and counterintuitive.

Great salespeople simply suck it up and do it anyway.

One way that many successful salespeople compensate for the anti-instinctive nature of this behavior is to make the process systematic. For example:

  • Creating a “power hour” a few times a week where the sole focus is prospecting.
  • Setting up weekly or monthly meetings with the members of a client company who are involved in a long-term project. The main reason can be to ensure the successful flow of a current project. But a secondary reason is to create an opportunity to talk about “scope creep,” or new issues that the initial parameters of the project and require an expansion of the project, or perhaps even an altogether new project that was discovered along the way.
  • Using a CRM system effectively to schedule calls and track results.
  • Attending periodic events like events like trade shows, seminars or formal networking events.
  • Creating periodic communications like newsletters, blogs, video or audio podcasts (as long as there is a follow up mechanism built in.

When you interview a prospective salesperson, listen for, ask about, and dig into specific prospecting activity that is regularly scheduled. Your strongest sales candidates will have such a system, and most importantly, will be able to tell you about some other unit of measurement over time associated with these efforts.

Your salespeople should also be able to talk about prospecting efforts in terms of specific times and numbers, but more about that in the next chapter.

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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