Your time is limited. You need to focus where you can make an impact and where you can produce results. This means you have to be exceedingly disciplined with how you invest the most fleeting resource you have available to you: your time.
Your prospect wants to spend time with you. They want to spend a lot of time with you, answering your questions, giving you tours, going to lunch, and asking you endless questions. This must be good!
It’s a Trap
To get in, you need receptivity. You need someone on the inside of your dream client company who is receptive to your message, and who is open to exploring an opportunity to work together. It’s necessary.
But receptivity by itself isn’t enough, and it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily spending time with a qualified dream client. Nor does it mean that spending time on activities that look good on your calendar and your activity report are going to produce any meaningful results when it comes to your win reports and new business acquired.
It feels good to have someone interested in exploring opportunities to work together.
Questions mean they are interested in what you do, how you do it, and how you might be able to help them. Spending their time with you and giving you tours, introducing you around, means they want you to understand their business enough to help them. This is meaningful, relationship-building activity . . . except when it isn’t.
Sometimes, you are calling a prospect with an empty calendar, few urgent priorities, time on their hands to talk to interesting people, and no business whatsoever to give you.
The trap works because it feels like you are making progress; the activities look and feel the same as when you are calling on a dream client. But sometimes, they are simply receptive, unqualified, non-prospects, and nothing more.
They are call report and pipeline fodder, and they should be violently yanked from both. You can never, ever reclaim lost time.
(Don’t) Send Me Dead Flowers
Receptivity needs to be one of many criteria by which you qualify your targets; it cannot be the only criteria.
You can’t nurture something that isn’t ever going to grow or bear fruit. Because a prospect is receptive, doesn’t mean you can confuse them for a dream client and delude yourself with the idea that what you are doing is selling or nurturing.
In the long run, you are better off either spending your time nurturing the dream clients that will take a long time to develop and eventually produce something great, or spend your time prospecting to build a pipeline of real, qualified, and receptive dream clients with whom you can invest your time.
It’s better to live through the pain of a few bad activity reports to build a solid pipeline that to die later from having produced no results.
For those of you in sales management, it’s better to trade four weeks of meaningless activity for four solid weeks of prospecting. In both the case of the salesperson and the case of the sales manager, you will be happier that you only gave up a few weeks, rather than the months, quarters, and years lost to calling on unqualified but receptive prospects.
Beware! It’s a trap.
Why is receptivity such an alluring attribute when you are prospecting? How does that allure extend itself longer than it should?
How do you extricate yourself from the trap of being in too deep with a prospect that is receptive, but nothing more than receptive?
What are the signals that there really isn’t business that can be developed? What are the things the receptive-only prospect says, the pseudo-commitments they make to keep you engaged in the process with them.
Tell us your worst receptive-only, unqualified prospect story.
ANNOUNCEMENT: On January 14, 2011, Future Selling Institute is being launched. It’s focused on sales leaders and aspiring leaders—sales managers, executives, general managers responsible for the sales function. It’s packed full of resources to help sales leaders excel! Any sales leader interested in their personal, professional and career development will want to join this community. Join us on January 14, 2011 for the kickoff conference.
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