There are a few common reasons revenue growth and sales organizations struggle to produce the revenue necessary to reach their goals. Still, one of the most common causes is a lack of new opportunities. Without creating enough new opportunities, you make it less likely that you create incremental revenue or reach your goals. The activities that result in new opportunities all come from prospecting. Here is how you talk to your sales force about prospecting.
Number One Goal: Opportunity Creation
There are two major outcomes in sales. The first is opportunity creation, which requires prospecting and getting a meeting to help our prospects explore change and the better results we can provide them. The second is opportunity capture, all the other meetings, and interactions we have with our prospective clients.
We prioritize prospecting because without creating enough new opportunities, we cannot reach our goals. We need to create enough new opportunities each week to ensure that we reach our goals as a company, and so you can reach your individual goals.
You will need to have your list of 20-50 targets in your territory, along with the contact information for the contacts who have titles that suggest that they will benefit from our value proposition, what we do, how we do it, and the better results we deliver. Our work and our goals are too important to rely on leads. We want the largest and most strategic clients in our territories as we define them.
Suppose you don’t have enough targets in your territory. You will need to start by identifying enough targets that you can successfully create the new opportunities you need, with enough of a buffer that you can reach your goals even if a few deals don’t go your way.
Utilize Our Insights
We are a professional, consultative sales force, and that provides us with a distinct advantage over all our competitors who lack a modern sales approach. Because this is true, we have the necessary insights to command a senior leader or decision-maker’s time and attention. What we can offer them in a half-hour is enough to compel them to explore change and to engage with us. It also separates us from our competition, most of whom are stuck using outdated approaches, causing them to struggle to be relevant.
Our insights and the trends and factors that we track make prospecting easier and faster. It also positions you as a peer and increases your relevance. Our approach feels more like a briefing with an expert instead of someone pitching their solution. Our approach extends to prospecting by providing you the ability to trade enough value to increase the likelihood that your prospective client will agree to a meeting.
Synchronous Communication First
Even though you are going to use a prospecting sequence made up of multiple touches in multiple mediums over time, we are a phone first organization. We are always going to put synchronous communication mediums first.
We are always going to start every prospecting cadence with phone calls instead of email. By using the phone first, you give yourself the best chance to speak with your client, and if you can book a meeting, you eliminate all the other steps in your prospecting sequence.
Email isn’t an effective medium for scheduling a meeting. While weak salespeople and weak sales organizations try to schedule meetings without having to call and interrupt their prospective clients, we confidently reach out to them by phone, knowing that we can create value for the client and help them improve their results.
Because we prioritize creating new opportunities, you will need to block time to execute your prospecting sequence and your pursuit plan. The minimum daily prospecting block is 90 minutes, and you are going to hold that block sacred, taking no calls, and ignoring your inbox and anything else that might interrupt you.
Some of you are going to need more opportunities to catch up. I will expect you to have two 90 minute blocks on your calendar each day until your pipeline is large enough to support your goals. The effort that you put in here will help get you back on track.
Addressable Market Share Takeover
There is a time-based component to prospecting that changes the way we compete for new opportunities and new clients that we have to keep in mind as we do the work of prospecting. When we don’t do the work of prospecting and pursuing our target clients, our competitors have an advantage, which is difficult to overcome. If they beat us to a client who needs better results, getting there first gives them an advantage, even if we compete.
We think about prospecting as a land grab. We want to get there first, compel the client to change, win their business, and create enough value that we retain the client, growing the business over time. Displacing a competitor is difficult enough, but missing an opportunity because we weren’t prospecting means we may have to wait years before we get another opportunity. This is why we never stop pursuing our target accounts; when we let up, we miss the window.
We always work to pull results forward, and winning big deals means we make our competition have to work to displace us, rather than us having to displace them, a better approach when you are a competitive displacement business.
Develop Funnel/More Than We Need
We always have more opportunities than we require to achieve our goals. This allows us to walk away from bad deals, and it means we can lose some deals we believe we are going to win without having to worry about it and without missing failing to reach our goals.
Our ability to prospect effectively and our disciplined approach to prospecting is a competitive advantage, especially over our competitors who are afraid of the phone and who allow themselves to be distracted by work outside of opportunity creation and capture.
One of the most significant changes in sales is the meaning of the word “closing.” In the past, sales leaders would suggest that they wanted to hire people who could close deals, asking the prospective client to buy, and getting ink on a contract.
That idea of a closer started to fall apart in the 1980s, something Neil Rackham documented in his most famous book, SPIN Selling. In that book, Rackham explained that closing behaviors worked very well when the sales were what we might call transactional, the idea that is a frequent decision and one with low consequences.
What worked in more challenging sales, defined by the low frequency of the decision and significant consequences, was a series of commitments that Rackham called an “advance.” Over the last few years, some who write about sales suggest that “closing” is no longer important. This is not only incorrect but also something detrimental to winning big deals.
In the modern world of B2B sales, you need to close a series of commitments that lead to what would have been “the close,” using a consultative approach that makes asking for the business simple and straightforward.
Understanding Conversations and Commitments
Both opportunity creation and opportunity capture are made up of conversations, diligence and commitments. The commitments are what advances the conversation and move the client closer to their ability to make a decision, and the better results we are helping them pursue.
Our sales process is our theory about what conversations are necessary to help a client explore change, collaborate on what the right solution needs to look like, acquire the support of their team, agree on the right investment, review the solution and allow us to resolve their concerns and, eventually, sign a contract.
The view we have of the buyer’s journey is a map that allows us to think about what the buyer needs to move forward. We use these maps, and even though they don’t exactly match the terrain, they help us know what conversations we need to lead, and when it makes sense to have those conversations. We also use these processes and methodologies to remind us what commitments we need to acquire, keeping both our prospective clients and ourselves tracking towards a decision and their goals.
Recognizing the Complexity of the Sales Conversation
We think of sales as conversations and commitments because the sales conversation and buying conversation tend to be nonlinear. They don’t always move from target to discovery, from discovery to solution design, from solution design to presentations and proposals, from presentations and proposals to a verbal commitment, and from a verbal commitment to negotiation and a signed deal.
What is more often true is that things progress forward with discovery, followed by the introduction of additional contacts and stakeholders who, having missed the first discovery meeting, still need to explore the ideas you have already discussed with the first contacts that agreed to meet with you.
You can develop a solution only to find later it conflicts with something someone else needs, causing you to have to go back over ground you believed you have already covered. This is the nature of the dynamic, human interactions around the sales conversation.
We accept the non-linear nature of the sales conversation, using our sales process, our understanding of the buyer’s journey, and our conversations with our clients about what comes next, why that conversation is necessary, and what we believe they need to do next.
Managing the Process through Negotiation
When we do our best work, we control the sales conversation. Because we sell what we sell every day and our clients buy what we sell infrequently, we have a clearer and more informed view about what conversations we need to have and what commitments the client is going to need to make to get the best results when it comes to making the decision we are helping to make. We call this “management of our process" but there is more to this than leading the client.
Our clients know their company and their people far better than we ever will. Even though we know we are obligated to lead this process, we are including the client in every decision. They are almost certain to know who they need to bring into the conversation and what order, as well as who they might need to leave out until later in the process when it will be easier to get their support.
They also know better what their solution is going to need to look like for you to be able to execute a solution that produces the better results they need. The sales conversation comes with some conflicts, including conflicts around the sales conversation. Wherever conflicts exist, collaboration is possible. We negotiate these commitments with our clients to help them make a good decision.
Fast is slow, and slow is fast! We don’t jump ahead to the end of the process without ensuring that we have served our prospective clients with a professional, consultative sales approach. We don’t allow ourselves to get so far ahead of the client in the conversation that they can’t keep pace with us. As long as we stay connected, we can move as fast as our clients need us to move.
Our approach to closing is efficient because we are moving from conversation and commitment to conversation and commitment, without skipping any of the conversations necessary for our prospective client to choose us because of our insights, our ideas, and our approach. Both of these define us as a sales organization and provide us with a competitive advantage.
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