Every January, many salespeople come back to work after the holidays, sit down in front of their computer, open their inbox, and look for something to do. These same salespeople avoid calling their prospective clients, telling themselves that the decision-makers just returned to work and aren’t going to be interested in speaking to a salesperson. When asked why they aren’t prospecting, they will tell you that all their contacts need to catch up on more important things before they will take a meeting.
In Like a Lamb, Not a Lion
This aversion to calling prospective clients in January isn’t based on the theory that a contact won’t take a call or schedule a meeting. The real cause is internal, indicating that the salesperson doesn’t believe that they deserve their prospective client’s time. It’s a lack of confidence in the value they create and the value of the better outcomes they can deliver. Instead of following their example, you should adopt a prospecting mindset and apply a blue-collar work ethic to your white-collar work of sales: it gives you the best shot at reaching your goals and making more money.
Say you have a quota of $1,200,000 for the year and your win rate is 33%. You need to win $100,000 of new business every month of the year. Because you lose two out of three deals you create, though, you need to create three new deals every month. Giving up even a week of January so you or your clients can “catch up” will all but ensure you miss your goal.
Fast forward a few weeks. Because you didn’t do much prospecting in January, you only created one new opportunity, by following up with a prospect you talked to last November. You are now going into February with a deficit of two opportunities, even though you might believe you don’t need them because you have the one deal you need to make your January goal.
You start February needing five opportunities: the two you didn’t create in January, plus the three you need in February. You try desperately to catch up, but you can only create two new opportunities. You tell yourself that you will win at least two of the three, doubling your historical win rate.
Entering March, you need to create eight new opportunities to create the number of deals you should need to reach your goal: you created one out of the three you needed in January, then two out of five in February. Now you need to win all three of your existing opportunities just to break even. And early in March, you hear from the main contact who calls to tell you that they “decided to go in another direction.” This is about the time you decide it’ll be impossible to catch up in a month, so you talk yourself into believing that you can fill in the gaps sometime before 2022 rolls around.
Stop Digging a Hole
The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. A better result is not to dig a hole in the first place: you’re a lion, not a rabbit! The way you avoid digging this particular hole is through consistent prospecting. There is never a reason not to prospect, not even on the first day of the year or the last two weeks. It makes no difference whether it’s Spring Break or summer vacation. There are always people who need help producing a better result, some portion of whom will meet with you—but only if you pursue that meeting.
Consistent prospecting is necessary for consistently winning new deals, whether they are new clients or new opportunities from your existing clients. The more inconsistent your approach, the more you ensure equally inconsistent results. Those who produce the best results commit themselves to ninety minutes of prospecting each day, which works out to less than 20% of a forty-hour work week. Remember, the two categories that make up selling are opportunity creation and opportunity capture; everything else is simply commentary on those two outcomes.
Fixing Your Prospecting Problem
Start by blocking time on your calendar to prospect. Don’t worry about what day is the best one to prospect or what time you should make your calls. Having a consistent approach to cold outreach is far more effective to improve your ability to contact a client.
Prospect first, every day. There is no empirical evidence that morning is better than afternoon for earning meetings, but there is a large body of evidence that your willpower will wane later in the day—and your good intentions will not produce a single meeting. Like exercise, do it when your discipline is strongest.
By prioritizing the act of creating new opportunities, you are creating the greatest insurance policy for reaching your goals, whether your company provided the target or you decided to reach the income level you desire for yourself and your people. Nothing inoculates you from negative events like a full pipeline.
Don’t lose January or February. Instead, stay on pace and recognize that consistent prospecting is the key to creating enough opportunities to reach your goals.
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