Ask any sales leader if their team is doing enough prospecting, and they’ll invariably say “No.” Ask sales reps if they should be doing more prospecting, and they’ll grudgingly agree that more prospecting would be better.
The benefits of sales prospecting are apparent; more prospecting equals more sales opportunities. So why aren’t sales teams doing enough prospecting?
The most straightforward reason is that consistent, ongoing prospecting is tough. Prospecting is a numbers game with a high rejection rate, so it’s easy for reps to get discouraged. Just asking your reps to make more calls can produce a vicious cycle of poor results, which discourages reps who then do less prospecting and get even worse results.
Compounding this problem is the fact that sales reps are busy managing existing sales opportunities and customers. That’s why reps often feel like they have no time for prospecting.
To avoid these pitfalls and get your team to do more prospecting, consider these five factors:
#1 Activity Goals
Successful prospecting starts with setting specific and realistic prospecting goals. A great way of doing this is to “reverse engineer” your sales goals into prospecting activity levels.
For example, if your reps carry a $1,000,000 annual quota, start by calculating how many new deals they need to close. For purposes of this example, I’m assuming that the rep has no recurring revenue and must go out and find $1,000,000 of new business.
If your average deal size is $40,000, then your rep will need to close 25 deals annually to meet the sales goal of $1,000,000. Twenty-five deals a year, or about two deals per month, sounds easy enough, but now you need to translate that into actionable activity levels. That means analyzing data from your CRM system to determine your pipeline ratios. What’s your proposal to close ratio? If your ratio is 2:1, then you’ll need to submit 50 proposals per year to close 25 deals and achieve your sales goal. Next question: How many qualified opportunities result in proposals? If it is a 2:1 ratio, then you’ll need to create 100 qualified opportunities over the next year to submit 50 proposals.
What about meetings to opportunities? If the ratio is 3:1, you’ll need to meet with 300 buyers to develop 100 qualified opportunities. The next calculation is the number of prospects you need to speak with to get 300 meetings. Let’s assume that your ratio of conversations with prospects to qualified meetings is 5:1. That means you need to have 1,500 conversations to get 300 meetings.
Now the big one: how many calls do you need to make? Typical connect rates are 8:1 – i.e., eight call attempts for each connect. To keep the math simple, I’m ignoring all other forms of prospecting and only focusing on calls. That means that you need to make 12,000 calls per year to have 1,500 conversations. That translates into prospecting activity goals of about 48 call attempts per day (assuming 251 business days in a year).
To create buy-in for your prospecting plan, walk your reps through this math.
One of the downsides of prospecting automation is that prospects today are inundated with generic-sounding calls and emails. While automation will help your team maintain high activity levels, that by itself won’t guarantee great prospecting results.
If you want to improve prospecting results, your reps need to offer prospects compelling reasons to meet. You do this by sharing insights, ideas on how to solve problems, success stories, or other relevant information. But creating such content will require help from your marketing and sales enablement departments.
#3 Ideal Prospect
A common trap that’s easy for sales organizations to fall into is trying to “boil the ocean” when prospecting. That means when in doubt call everyone. While this strategy maintains high call volume, it doesn’t necessarily produce great
A more productive strategy is to narrow your prospecting efforts on prospects that share the same demographics of your ideal customers. While having a more focused prospecting list may produce fewer appointments, the appointments will likely be more valuable.
The most well thought out prospecting strategy won’t work unless your team has the requisite skills to execute your plan. Does your team know how to quickly engage with prospects, manage resistance, or ask for appointments? Spend time listening to your team’s prospecting calls and assess their skill levels. If you hear too many unproductive calls, you may want to consider sales training for your team.
Prospecting will not happen by itself; it requires discipline. High performing reps have this self-discipline. For everyone else, you should schedule dedicated prospecting time.
High performing sales teams prospect consistently, but successful prospecting doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a well-conceived plan that will set your team up for success together with great execution by your sales team.
About David Jacoby