I started making cold calls when I was fifteen years old. I left my job washing dishes at a large banquet center and started calling community leaders to ask them to host a bike-a-thon for a popular charity.
On my first job, I learned that it was very easy to outwork the other dishwashers, especially those who were afraid of getting wet, which prevented them from working in front of the station. The dishwashers that didn’t like to handle the hot dishes coming out of the machine weren’t hard to exceed, mostly because they tried to wait until the plates cooled, which was impossible because they were immediately needed.
I carried the habit of continually working into all the jobs that followed, including the charity. While other people found ways to avoid making calls, I dialed one phone number, followed by the next. Other than taking a note to send information, there was nothing else to do. As much as I would like to tell you I loved that job, I didn’t. I worked there for a few weeks and took a job at the local skating rink.
When I quit, the charity asked me to come back, as I was the only person to have scheduled two bike-a-thons. My new job being much more fun, I refused.
Later, when my manager in Los Angeles forced me into outside sales, I dialed the phone from 8:00 AM until Noon, and then from 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM, until I was so busy with clients and meetings that I had to block time for prospecting. Until I reached the point that I had enough clients and opportunities, there was nothing else to do.
The Prospecting Mindset
One of the things that separate salespeople who succeed from those who struggle is their willingness and ability to schedule first meetings with their prospective clients. Because they are willing to prospect, eventually, they improve their ability to schedule first meetings. You can adopt the mindset to move into the category of those who have separated from the herd.
Mindset 1: Opportunity Creation Comes First
The laws of the universe have proven not to be very flexible. Some of the rules are what you might call “iron laws,” laws that cannot be bent or broken. In the movie The Ten Commandments, Moses says, “You can’t break the laws. You can only break yourself against them.” The same is true in prospecting.
You are never going to capture a deal that you didn’t first create. You are not going to harvest in fall if you didn’t plant seeds in spring.
There are only two significant sales outcomes, both of which must command your time, attention, and energy. The first is opportunity creation, and the second is opportunity capture. Everything else that looks like work but isn’t one of these two outcomes may be necessary, but you must never allow lesser outcomes to distract you from what’s most important to your results.
Are you living in line with the law that insists that you create new opportunities to have the chance to capture them?
Mindset 2: Selling Is Something You Do for Someone
When you prospect, you are trying to get a meeting with your prospective client or, if you have done the real work of targeting, a meeting with your dream clients. You are trying to gain that meeting because you believe that you can help your prospective clients improve their results. You don’t call every company in your territory because you can’t help any of the companies that would not benefit from your insights, advice, and solutions. You only call the ones you believe you can help.
You must believe that you can help your prospective clients improve their results. Prospecting is how you start a conversation about your client’s current state and the better state you can help them achieve by scheduling a meeting.
You are not trying to sell your client your product, service, or solution. You are trying to help them improve through your advice, part of which includes what you sell.
Selling isn’t something you do to someone, and your attempts to engage in a conversation don’t harm anyone. Withholding your help by not prospecting does harm the very people who need your assistance.
What problems can you help your prospective clients solve? What better results can you deliver them?
Mindset 3: My Interruption is Worth the Contact’s Time
The idea of trading value for time is one of the critical success factors when prospecting. When you ask a prospective client for a meeting to share information about your company and your solutions and learn more about them and their business, the lack of a value proposition repels people away from you. We are all suffering for our brothers’ and sisters’ sins in sales by showing up and wasting the client’s time.
You can learn the technique for trading value, something I included in both The Lost Art of Closing and Eat Their Lunch. But until you believe that what you have to share with your client is worth their time, you aren’t going to do your best work prospecting. When you doubt that you can create value for your client, you’ll hesitate to pick up the phone and interrupt your contact. When you believe that the value you can trade for a first meeting is so high that you should be charging the client for your time, you’ll feel very different about prospecting.
Why should a client take a meeting with you?
Mindset 4: Your contact is not rejecting you.
When your contact says “no” to your request for a meeting, they are not personally rejecting you. Your connection is rejecting is your value proposition or your lack of conviction. Your prospective client might reject your request for the meeting you asked them for because your value proposition wasn’t strong enough. They might also refuse your ask for a meeting because you don’t sound confident that what you want to share is worth their time.
One of the ways to project a lack of confidence in your value proposition is not directly dealing with the only real objection to a meeting and asking again, restating your value proposition. One persists in pursuing a meeting because they believe that it is worth the client’s time, confident that they will exceed expectations once they’re in the room.
Every salesperson who calls a contact gets the first “no” for free. Your contacts give that “no” to everyone, most of whom go away, never to be heard from again. You have to earn the second “no” by asking again, even though many of your second attempts will find you adding a meeting to your calendar.
Are you convicted enough about the value you create to ask again?
You are not harming anyone by prospecting, and you are not going to suffer any harm while doing so. You are hurting your prospective clients by withholding your help. You don’t want to prospect because you don’t believe you should have to make calls, or because you are lazy and distracted, all of which mean you are harming yourself.
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