One Cause of an Aversion to Prospecting

The Gist:

  • Prospecting isn’t easy, but it’s even harder with a poor strategy.
  • Our only tool in sales is a conversation, making language a primary variable to success.
  • An aversion to prospecting is often caused by horrible approaches to asking for a meeting.

The salesperson who called me was talking very fast, and I had a difficult time making out what she was trying to say. The gist, I think, was something about having a discovery call to see how her solutions could help me book more meetings with my prospective clients. This salesperson was using the script her company provided. For some reason, they believe that their prospective clients are interested in a “discovery call.” They may as well have asked for “a chance to pitch you our service,” as neither phrase promises anything of value in exchange for my time.

There are number of reasons I take cold calls. First, it is a form of field research on the state of prospecting, where much is known about how to succeed, but it’s rarely used. The second reason I take cold calls is because my teams make them. No sales leader who has their team making cold calls should refuse to take them (lest they offend the vengeful gods of sales and doom your team to six months of missed goals).

Instead of chastising the salesperson who was just following her training, I offered to give her my feedback on her pitch and how she might improve. I started by asking if she was using a script, and she confirmed that she was using the script her company gave her. Next, I shared that her clients are not likely to agree to a “discovery call,” for two reasons. First, only salespeople call them discovery calls—prospects just call them meetings. Second, and more importantly, there is no value being traded for the time she is requesting from her prospects.

Once I explained that every prospect has to believe that a meeting is going to be a valuable use of their time,  the salesperson had an aha moment: “So that’s why no one will meet with me!” She thanked me for sharing my insight, then she asked how she might improve her pitch. I told her that she should promise the client that she would share with them about the challenges of scheduling sales meetings with their prospective clients, as that’s the service her company sells. The salesperson ended our conversation by thanking me for taking the time to help her.

A salesperson lazily resting at his desk to avoid prospecting

The Aversion to Prospecting

An aversion to prospecting is prevalent among salespeople for several reasons, starting with the low effectiveness and even lower yield of legacy prospecting approaches. While there is tremendous value in effective language (talk tracks, or scripts if you prefer), there is no value in providing salespeople with language that is out of date, ineffective, and embarrassingly self-oriented (like asking for a discovery call).

It has never been easy to get a meeting with a prospective client. As one who used to practice the legacy laggard approach to selling, I know this to be true. Decision-makers and decision-shapers have always been protective of their time. But their unwillingness to waste time has only increased over the last couple decades. The central concept of trading value for the time you are asking your client to gift you—and it is a gift—is made easier when you are able to tell them what’s in it for them.

Another reason for salespeople’s aversion to prospecting is that some sales organizations and sales leaders still have not recognized that adding more (poor) activity isn’t an effective strategy for creating more meetings and more opportunities. You should never scale up a process that is ineffective, as the result is always wasted time and effort, something that frustrates everyone involved: the salesperson, the sales manager, and the poor prospective client who is has already heard 10 other bad pitches this month. You’re better off prospecting using a method that ensures that, even if you don’t get a meeting, you make a good first impression.

Because most activity problems stem from a general lack of effectiveness, producing better results starts with finding an approach that works. Once you solve that problem, then you can work on adding more activity. But alas, we live in a world where “efficiency” is more important than effectiveness, with the evidence found in your inbox (or more likely, your spam folder) each and every day.

Mastering your craft

Mastering Your Craft

Selling is a skilled craft, like making something by hand, or in our case through conversation. The way to reverse your aversion to prospecting is by working hard to discover the value you can trade for your prospective client’s time. Generally, people feel better about their work when it benefits another person, even if the work isn’t always easy or pleasurable. A large part of the frustration that some salespeople feel about prospecting is directly related to their legacy, non-value-creating approaches.

Every increase in effectiveness counteracts the negative aspects of prospecting. Additionally, every increase in value creation makes the work that much more engaging, since it’s easier to see how you help your clients produce the better results they need.  Success breeds greater success by sharpening your skills and increasing your confidence.

Selling is made up of two major categories of work: opportunity creation starts with prospecting (most likely through a cold call), while opportunity capture builds on that first meeting to create more value and help your client move towards better outcomes. You cannot expect to capture any opportunities without doing the work of creating them first.

To do that, you must change your approach to one that is modern, one that trades real value for your client’s time and allows you to create value during a first meeting. Anything less will just make prospecting a chore—for you and for everyone on your call list.

Do Good Work:

  • Eliminate any self-oriented language in your sales scripts.
  • Identify the value you could create in a first meeting, even if your client doesn’t buy from you, and promise that value when asking for a meeting.
  • Update your approach to reduce or eliminate any aversion to prospecting.

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