Prospecting is difficult when you don’t have a well-developed plan. The more specific you are about what you need to do and block the time to do it, the more effective you will be at creating new opportunities, building your pipeline, and winning big deals.
In Eat Their Lunch, you will find a framework for a prospecting sequence for professionally pursuing your dream clients, gaining the commitment for time, and helping them explore change. As important as it is to pursue your dream clients, there is more prospecting you still need to do.
The best use of your prospecting time is working on gaining a meeting and creating new opportunities with your dream clients. Your dream clients are known to you. They spend money in your category. Your competitor is already serving them, and you know they are already qualified. They will also find massive value in the outcomes you can help them produce.
The challenge with dream clients is that they are not easy to acquire, especially when your competitor has deep relationships and has worked with them for some time. It takes time, effort, and real value creation over time to gain a meeting, and even then, it can take more time to create an opportunity—or to be known and considered when things change. You can never give up on your dream clients, requiring you to play the longest of long games.
By prioritizing your dream clients, you ensure that you spend time every day working on the most meaningful opportunities you can create, and focusing on those who are often the largest, most meaningful clients you will ever obtain.
Depending on your industry and a half dozen other factors, you might start with 60 dream clients.
There is a class of companies just below dream clients that should command your attention after you have spent time on your dream clients. Let’s call them targets. These companies are not quite as large or strategic as your dream clients, but they are also not insignificant. Like your dream clients, you know they spend in your category, and you know they would benefit from what you sell.
Over time in B2B sales, you tend to know who spends in your category. You also tend to know some of the contacts and which of your competitors they are presently using. Like your dream clients, the companies you consider targets are not going to be easy to acquire. Because the level of difficulty in gaining a meeting and creating an opportunity is high, a good portion of salespeople give up on targets just like they give up on dream clients. You, however, should not.
Because targets aren’t quite as challenging to acquire, you likely win more targets than dream clients as it is easier to find and address their dissatisfaction. They are always fertile ground for competitive displacements. You need a prospecting sequence that addresses the need to continually pursue your target clients, using all of the tools of a modern sales approach, including a theory that might compel them to change, starting by meeting with you to better understand their world, new possibilities, and new potential.
After your dream clients, you want to spend your time on targets.
We use the word prospect in many different ways. First, we use it to describe a set of activities designed to acquire a meeting and help our contacts explore the kind of change that will benefit them now and in the future. Second, we use it to describe a contact or a company that is qualified, meaning they have the kind of problem we can solve. They can meet all our criteria, including credit and other important considerations.
If the contact and companies here don’t rise to be in either the dream client or target categories, it is still necessary to spend time prospecting against the list of companies you know to be qualified. Some of these smaller companies will grow up to be larger clients over time, and many of them will be small clients you may keep for decades (I won a minimal account in 1996 that still works with that company twenty-four years later. They only spend $105,000 a year, but over that time they have spent 2.5M).
Because many prospects don’t have the same need as the two categories above, they tend to be easier to contact and gain a meeting. Their receptivity often being the most attractive feature to salespeople who allow themselves to be frustrated by calling on the more difficult categories of dream clients and targets. That said, a thoughtful prospecting plan will make time for prospects, working their list to find the opportunities available to them.
The desire to start here is an indication of your priorities when it comes to prospecting, and they are almost exactly backward.
One of the most evident signs of a poor salesperson is their desire for new leads. Seeking some way to avoid having to call on those who are often the most difficult to obtain clients, your dream clients, and being frustrated by the fact that their targets are all already buying from their competitors, they look for something they believe will be easier.
To a lead seeking salesperson, the next lead is better than the one they have now, a judgment they make only based on how recently the name, phone number, and email address was acquired. The fact that it is new means they may have a shot of getting a meeting and selling them something, anything.
Prioritizing leads in most consultative or complex sales is almost always to get things in reverse order. That said, if someone walked up to you handed you a key to a safety deposit box, contents unknown, would you walk down to the bank and take a peek inside the box, just in case?
Even though most leads are not valuable, you still have to make time to check and see if there is something there, saving this prospecting work for when you finish working the three more meaningful categories.
Priorities mean doing what is most important and most valuable first. When prospecting is what is critical to your success (and I promise you it is, since opening is the new closing), you want to do the work in the order of importance to your overall results.
Fast is slow and slow is fast. Doing hard things makes producing results more manageable, and trying to do what is easy makes results harder to obtain.
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