You know your product’s capabilities. You know how those capabilities can serve as solutions to common customer needs. You have honed your sales skills to a fine edge. There’s just one problem: You have no appointments scheduled this week. And instead of prospecting for new clients, you’re procrastinating. Again.

Almost half of the success top salespeople enjoy comes from effective prospecting.

Top salespeople have three secrets that make them more successful prospectors. They have a well-defined approach for getting in the door. They identify the best prospects. And they conquer call reluctance. Here’s how:

An Effective Prospecting Approach
  1. Open the call and introduce yourself.
  2. Gain the prospect’s attention with a quick statement of your company’s strongest capability. (Example: “Our new packaging system shaves 20 percent off the time required by our competitors’ systems.”)
  3. Create a vision of the benefits of your potential solution. (Example: “Our customers in your industry have been able to cut packaging costs by as much as a third.”)
  4. Ask for commitment in the form of an appointment to call on the customer at a specific time and date.
  5. Prioritize Prospects – Guard your time and ensure you see the right people by dividing prospects into three groups:
    • Prime – Decision-makers willing to take the next step.
    • Keepers – Decision-makers who need more information or influencers who can get you to the decision-maker.
    • Discards – Everyone else.
  6. Overcome Call Reluctance
  7. Unlearn negative thoughts – If you tell yourself you hate prospecting or that you’re no good at it, you’ll create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  8. Reduce your fear factor – List your fears. Rank them from worst to least. Get training on the things you fear least. Your greater fears will be reduced by the same degree.
  9. Eliminate escape routes – Identify the specific things you do to avoid prospecting. Instead of just vowing to “spend more time prospecting,” stop doing those other things during business hours.
    Unless you master your reluctance and adopt an effective approach to prospecting, no amount of effort to improve your sales skills will produce the results you want. Because nothing happens until you get your foot in the door.
Action Selling ® In Action   

Want to increase your prospecting effectiveness by a factor of six? Referral prospecting is six times more effective than cold calling. Ask for a referral every time you end a call. If you do this correctly and consistently, all of your new business will be coming from referrals within five years. You will never have to cold call again.

Here is a great technique that students learn in Action Selling ® workshops. As you end each call, regardless of its outcome, ask for a referral. But don’t make the common mistake of asking, “Do you know anyone who might be interested?” That gets you a quick “no.” Instead, ask these questions:

“When was that last time you discussed (the topic of your meeting) with one of your peers in this company or another one?

“Who were you speaking with?”

“Would you mind if I contacted them?” (Get the contact information.)

When you contact the referral, always explain who gave you his/her name and what you were discussing that caused their name to come up. This strategy works!