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Neuberger and Company, Inc. | Baltimore, MD and Georgia

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To sell effectively to the modern buyer, we need to identify and set aside all the head trash that keeps us from engaging effectively and often to uncover new opportunities. 

This means understanding the power of our own behavior. Behavior is our muscle memory in action, which we regularly turn to and do as a matter of course, time after time. Behavior is quantifiable, meaning we can count it when it happens. Our prospecting behaviors drive our income. It’s that simple. 

You don’t have to like prospecting; you just have to do it.

Does anyone really like to prospect? The salesperson who claims to “like” prospecting hasn’t ever done it. How can anyone “like” a process that produces such an arena for rejection? When salespeople say they like prospecting, they might mean this: “I don’t mind paying the price of prospecting to reach my objectives.”

Many salespeople haven’t reached that stage. If you’re still at the stage where prospecting means dialing a number and hoping the line is busy… don’t worry. You’re okay. You just haven’t learned to focus on the end result. Instead, you focus on what you must do to get the end result. 

Prospecting is simply finding prospects – those people who need your product or service – while hiding in a sea of suspects. You must keep your focus on the goal: finding prospects. 

You will encounter more people who don’t need your product or service (or won’t admit to the need) than people who do. There will be many more people who won’t want to talk with you than people who will. This is the nature of the job of selling, not something to regret. Admittedly, reaching out to start conversations with people you don’t know is not the most glorious selling activity. This may be because it takes place at the beginning of the selling cycle, with the payoff from the effort still comparatively far off in the future. However, whether glamorous or not, it’s a strategically essential activity that gives you control over your selling efforts and adds predictability.

All prospecting activities are about separating prospects from suspects, nothing more and nothing less. When it’s time to prospect (and it usually is), think of yourself as the fisherman who, upon pulling up the net, must sort through the catch and throw back all the fish that are too small. Some days, you’ll throwback many small fish. On other days you’ll only throw back a few. However, the one thing you must do with a consistency that borders on obsession is cast your net. After all, that’s your job.

So, how do we turn prospecting into something that we just do?  There are three big ideas you may want to think about implementing.

1. Count the no’s, not the yeses. Many people we work with need to have twenty or so initial conversations with the right people to generate an appointment for a viable second conversation; you probably have similar numbers. Think about that for a moment. We’re going to face rejection nineteen times. One way to look at this is to say we need that one appointment. But a better way to look at it might be that we need to collect those nineteen declines, and the sooner, the better. Instead of taking the no’s personally, we just get them out of the way. If we think of it that way, it’s going to be a lot easier, and we’re going to be a lot more effective. This is known as “going for the no.”

2. Use a cookbook. You want to execute a consistent behavioral plan. Think of this plan as a proven recipe you can return to as often as necessary. If you follow all the instructions in the correct order, you’ll get the outcome you want. With a good recipe for chocolate cake, you gather all the right ingredients and follow all the instructions correctly, and you get a chocolate cake, not just sometimes, but all the time. The same principle drives a strong daily behavioral plan. What do you need to do every single day, no matter what, to hit your numbers? Meet with your manager, identify the financial goal and the timeline, and work backward from there. You can identify the behaviors, crunch the numbers, and work out the recipe together. Once you have identified the right set of activities, you can work out how many occurrences of particular activities are needed and when those activities need to happen. Make sure that your cookbook captures all the relevant aspects of business generation. Then, once you have the right cookbook… execute!

3. Do what you need to do every day, no matter what. Take the activity of prospecting and commit to it on a personal level. Break it down. Block out the time on your calendar, identify the specific activity target for that day, and then defend that time and that activity with full positive intention.

Adopt the following mindset: “I only need to have 10 initial discussions today, then 10 tomorrow, then 10 the next day.” (Or whatever your number or your activity is.) Then do that. Don’t cheat yourself. You don’t want to let it pile up. Prospecting only becomes overwhelming if you haven’t done anything by the end of the week. On Friday, you’ll think, “Great, I have to do 50 today.” Then it will be much harder to get motivated. To avoid that downward spiral, get out in front of your plan. Make it happen daily so you can move on to the rest of your day.

For most of us, prospecting is the lifeblood of our business. We don’t have to like it. We just have to do it. That’s reality. The good news is that it gets a lot easier once we commit to setting and implementing the behavioral plan and learning not to take NO personally.



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