I Am Great When I Am In Front of a Prospective Customer, But

This is another question from The Sales Blog mailbag.

I don’t know how many times I have heard the statement, “I am great when I am in front of a prospective customers, but I just can’t get in.” I struggle to accept this premise for a couple of reasons.

First, being great in front of a customer isn’t a judgment that the salesperson gets to make; their prospective client gets to make that decision based on how well the salesperson did creating value for them. It results in an advance and, if you do really well, a won opportunity. But let’s set that aside.

Second, there is a problem with the logic that you can be great in front of a prospective customer without having had a lot of experience actually making sales calls, something that is illogical and unlikely if you can’t schedule appointments. But let’s set that aside, too.

Instead, let’s accept the statement at face value and remember that prospecting generally isn’t easy. So, if you are good once you get in but you struggle to do so, here are four ideas that can help you improve your ability to get in.

Stop Taking “No” for an Answer

Salespeople that struggle to schedule appointments accept “no” as the answer to their request for time. They believe that a request to call the prospective client back in a quarter is positive request.

Being effective in sales requires that you are determined and that you persevere. This is especially true for prospecting. It also means you are politely and professionally non-compliant. It requires that you possess great confidence in yourself and your ability to create value for your dream client. Without being all of these things, it’s easy to take “no” for an answer.

To stop taking ‘no” for an answer you have to make a professional and polite attempt to overcome objections, and you will have to ask for the appointment more than once. It’s uncomfortable, unless you believe deeply (moral obligation).

Make More Attempts and Vary Your Approach

Salespeople that struggle to get in seem to have a few things that they routinely do that make it more difficult than it might otherwise be.

First, because they accept “no” as an answer, they make way too few attempts on the same prospective client, believing instead that need new leads. Second, when they do call the same prospect back, they stick with the same approach, always calling the same contact, always saying the very same thing that failed last time. Finally, they do little to no nurturing of the relationships that they need between calls; they don’t try to create value ahead of claiming it.

Instead of going away and disappearing, you have to continually call your prospective client back. You have to be determined and persevere. Calling quarterly isn’t enough.

You also have to vary your approach. You don’t always have to make cold calls. There are lots of ways in, and maybe you would do better to find someone to refer you in, attend a networking meeting, or make the effort to meet your dream client at a conference. Mix it up, man!

Varying your approach also means not always trying to get in with the same contact. Even though you don’t want to get caught in the receptivity trap, calling on someone who is only receptive. You can search for other contacts. You can find contacts that are more receptive to you and your message and leverage those contacts to find your way in.

And then there is nurturing.

Study Prospecting

To improve your skills and abilities at any task, you have to make a study of it. Prospecting is no different.

You can read blog posts by people that study prospecting. You can read books. You can take classes. You can also make a study of your own success and failures, capturing the lessons you have learned.

You can also look at and listen to those around you that are successful prospecting. What are they doing differently? What do they do that seems to work for them and why does it work? What are the underlying attributes that they possess that you could work on to improve your own prospecting? Are they more confident? Do they sound like they are worth their prospect’s investment of time?

Make it study. Write down what you learn. Practice it. See if that doesn’t make getting in way easier over a short period of time.

Spend Real Time Prospecting

To get better at any task you have to spend time doing it. You don’t get better at sales without selling. This is true of all of the tasks that being effective in sales requires. Prospecting is no different.

If you want to get better at prospecting, you have to devote the time and energy to prospecting. This probably means spending more time than you are presently.


What evidence is there that you are great in front of customers? Who makes that judgment and what outcomes prove that you performed well?

Why is getting in so difficult, even for very good salespeople?

How do learn to stop accepting “no” as an answer? Is it always correct not to accept “no” as an answer?

How many different approaches do you have in your “getting in” repertoire?

How do you study prospecting?

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  • Adam

    Another great post Anthony, the statement “being great in front of a customer isn’t a judgment that the salesperson gets to make” really hit home with me. I had a close friend develop a custom software solution for a potential client. I was inquiring how he was making out and had informed me he was having trouble getting a commitment, but according to him he had done everything that was needed for them. I informed him if he hadn’t got the sale, in their eyes he hadn’t done everything THEY felt he needed to do. In fairness to him he is never been in sales, but it was hard to watch him give up on the money at the table.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      All non-salespeople, especially those with their own business, should be required to take a course in sales. It’s sad, but they don’t lose because they lack the technical skills or abilities. They lose because they don’t know how to move an opportunity in a way that makes it more likely that they win. 

      The proof that you did well shows up as an advance, not as how well you believe you did. Your friends story is a good example of this idea!



  • Wholesale Suppliers

    There is no evidence that you are great in front of a client. Your greatness can only be judged by the client and if he is impressed and agrees to your offer then only you can assume to be great in front of a client. “Getting in” is not an easy task even for the veterans. Everybody does not posses the same taste and we all differ from each other, same is the case with the client you can impress one but there is no guarantee that you posses the power to dominate every client you meet. Work your way in that’s the recipe to achieve the goal and the most important part of the plan is do not settle to accept “NO” for an answer

  • Tony Johnston @ CNi

    Wow Antonio, you just served up the equivalent of a morning cold-shower wake-up jolt with this post. Love your clear headed thinking and top drawer motivational blog posts. Keep the good stuff flowing ’cause you’re keeping me pumped to be out there selling!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Haha! Thanks for the kind words, Tony! Anything I can do to help keep you pumped up to go out and sell and make a difference for your dream clients! 


  • Wim @ Sales Sells

    Wow, that’s one meaty post Anthony, so much to take in here!

    One thing that has always struck me is how some sales people expect prospecting to be easy. They can’t figure out why they’re not getting appointments, but when you analyze their efforts they are hardly making any calls and their approach lacks any hint of structure.

    My best advice? Use one method and stick to it for a while. It’s the only way to analyze what you’re doing, then tweak. It’s one of the reasons I believe in scripts (not the limiting ones).

    And of course hustle. A lot!

    Thanks for a great article man, I always enjoy coming here!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Two good points, Wim. Activity isn’t a cure for everything, but it is a cure for low activity. You need to step up to the plate and swing! Structure counts, as do scripts, and as does THE ALMIGHTY HUSTLE! 

      Thanks for the kind words!


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