While it may not always seem that way, sales is not that complicated, notwithstanding what pundits and also rans will tell you. That’s not to say it is easy to execute, and we all know that success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, but in terms of complexity, not that much. The size of the deal, or the number of people or moving parts involved, do not make it complex, people who claim to be doing “complex sales”, make complex. Especially when you consider all the tools we have at their disposal than ever not only to reduce complexity, but to get ahead of it, simplifying things even more. What makes it complex is when you leave out things that have to be done for success, and then have to do a whole bunch of things to make up for what you didn’t (want to) do. Like prospecting.
It’s hard to keep a straight face when a rep tells me that they were “too busy to prospect.” Excuse me, too busy to do a core part of your job?
Let’s simplify it here a bit, let me quote an old timer who taught me a bit about sales: “sales come from prospect, and prospects come from appointments” (Or any engagement, live, phone or web). Sure we can dress it up, complicated with a bunch of words borrowed from IT, but I challenge you to show me the flaw in that? The complexity happens when you try to succeed in sales by leaving out one of the above, yup, prospecting. Proactive hands on prospecting, not waiting for “lead?” from someone who like your latest infographic.
Yet regularly sales people tell me they were too busy to prospect. Often these sales people were also too busy to make quota. While many will hide behind customer service, or some other thing that someone else could do much better than them, but if they did, they would have no excuse to not prospect. Like the rep who rather than prospect, drove a $12 part across town to a client, “I am very customer focused”, he told me. I told him so is UBER, and they could have gotten it there for $20, and you could have prospected for new clients needing more $12 parts.
It starts with understanding ALL the things that have to be done during the course of a sale cycle, not just the stuff we like, and then doing them, including prospecting. Say based on you experience, you need to dedicate 10% of your time to prospecting. Given a fifty-hour work week (I know you work so much more), that’s five hours, and hour a day. The best sellers I have met look after the building blocks first. They go into their calendar and block out the time for the winning activities. While actual specific client meetings will be hard to pinpoint in advance, you do know how may meetings a week you will need to succeed based on your conversion rates across the stages of the cycle. Say your number was
eight a week, and your clients are usually a drive away, it is not hard to carve out 16 hours in a week to ensure that when the meeting is secured, you have the “inventory” to fulfill.
Using the example above, if you need an hour of prospecting a day, and your best time to hit your targets is 10:00 am to noon, then go into your calendar today and block an hour a day, you have choice, you can vary it up, but go in there today, and block that time off through to the end of your fiscal year. This will ensure that you have the time needed to get your next opportunity. No matter how good your pipeline looks today, even if you close every opportunity, you will need new opportunities after you celebrate. By blocking off that hour in advance, you will always be prospecting. What I find telling, is that I have never had a rep blow off a client meeting because their pipeline was anemic, and they wanted to make sure that it was healthy again.
Stop making excuses for why you are too busy to succeed, and start making an appointment with success.