We are getting close to starting the second half of the year. Sales managers are conducting sales pipeline reviews only to discover: There isn’t enough in the pipeline to achieve the numbers necessary for third and fourth quarter results. The pipeline is either half-full or full of unqualified opportunities.
So what makes filling the sales pipeline so hard? If any of you are my age, you will recall that prospecting used to mean calling names in the yellow pages or marketing lists that gave you little or no background on the company. Today, salespeople have access to websites, LinkedIn, and the ability to follow tweets and chirps. They can google potential clients and gain important information that helps them craft compelling messaging. Folks, it is easier than ever to prospect. So what’s the reason for these empty sales pipelines?
The reasons for ineffective and inconsistent prospecting hasn’t changed in 20 years. It isn’t about the sales tools, it’s about the salesperson mindset and skill set. Here are three to review.
#1: Discipline. At SalesLeadership we often refer to discipline as delayed gratification. It is the ability to put in the work before you get the reward. The prospecting step of the sales process is about delayed gratification. You have to:
- Put in the work of calendar blocking. That means you proactively mark off times on your calendar for reaching out to prospects, existing clients and potential referral partners. This is the old “plan your work and work your plan.” Nothing new and yet most salespeople are lousy at this basic time management principle.
- Put in the work of researching and defining your ideal client. It’s easy to confuse being busy with being productive. A salesperson can be doing all the right activity—emailing, cold calling, linking in, writing blogs, and attending networking events. The effort is great, however, doesn’t produce much if your efforts are not directed at your ideal target. I have made this mistake and quickly learned that I could close more business speaking in front of two qualified prospects instead of 50 unqualified prospects.
#2: Be a giver not a taker. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to build relationships on-line or in person, the most successful people apply the deposit strategy. They are focused on making a deposit in a prospect or referral partner’s account. Back in the old days, this might have looked like cutting out an article of interest and sending to a person. Today, it’s sending a link with content that is relevant to your target.
Givers are great at connecting people. They pay attention to who needs what. They take time (calendar blocking) to introduce their clients and colleagues to each other. Back in the old days, the introduction might have been a phone call. Today it could be an email or LinkedIn but the intent is the same: Let me do something for you before I expect anything in return.
#3: Just do it. I remember a mentor from my early years in the sales training business. We were discussing the prospecting side of the business and I am pretty sure I was whining about the time and effort. He looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”
This goes back to point number one. Put in the work to get the reward. The reward in sales in running appointments and landing business. The reward is working with great customers and helping them grow their businesses. You don’t have to like prospecting but you do have to do it.
The Capitol One commercials are a good way to sum up this newsletter. “What’s in your wallet?” And if there isn’t enough, look at the above points and figure out a way to fill in your sales pipeline.