Are you fanatical about prospecting?! Q&A with Jeb Blount


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Ask most salespeople about prospecting and the LAST word they’ll use to describe it is anything close to fanatical.  But in just the first few pages of Jeb Blount’s fantastic new book Fanatical Prospecting, you’ll realize that an obsession with consistent, effective prospecting is THE key differentiator between regular quota-crushers and those who struggle most months and quarters.

This book should be required reading for not just sales professionals but anyone working with or supporting them.

I had an opportunity to talk with Jeb last week about the book, about prospecting, about discipline, and what else sets apart sales winners from strugglers.

You don’t often hear people get passionate enough about prospecting to call it a “fanatical” skill or focus area.  Why did you choose that word in particular for the title?

I’ve spent most of my life studying elite level sales professionals and “Fanatical” aptly describes how they approach prospecting and pipeline management. They prospect with near robotic efficiency – relentless, unstoppable prospectors. They are obsessive about keeping their pipeline full of qualified prospects. They prospect anywhere and anytime—constantly turning over rocks looking for their next opportunity.

These superstars view prospecting as a way of life. They prospect with single minded focus, worrying little about what other people think of them. They enthusiastically dive into telephone prospecting, email prospecting, cold calling, networking, asking for referrals, knocking on doors, following up on leads, attending trade shows, and striking up conversations with strangers.

Fanatical prospectors carry around a pocket full of business cards. They talk up prospects in doctors’ offices, at sporting events, in line to get coffee, in elevators, at conferences, on planes, trains, and anywhere else they can get face to face with potential customers.

They get up in the morning and bang the phone. During the day they knock on doors. In between meetings they prospect with e-mail and text. At night they connect with and engage prospects on social media. Before they quit for the day they make even more calls. They prospect day and night—unstoppable and always on. Fanatical.

Some people think about prospecting as purely outbound and “cold” calling.  Why is that wrong – both too narrow and the wrong perspective?

Everywhere you look these days there is some so-called expert pontificating that cold calling is dead. This is usually a social-selling-obsessed nitwit with an agenda and a vested interest in telling you that everything you thought you knew about sales prospecting is “old school.” Except their narrow version of “new school.” By vested interest, I mean they’ve got something they want to sell you that promises to fill your pipe with no fuss, no muss, no rejection, and little effort.

Here’s the deal. If you want sustained success in your sales career, if you want to maximize your income, then you’ve got to interrupt prospects. You’ll have to pick up the phone, walk in the door, send an e-mail or text message, or ping a prospect on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or Facebook and interrupt someone who is not expecting you to contact them (i.e., you don’t have an appointment or they are not waiting for you to call or write) and with whom you are not currently engaged in a sales discussion.

You can argue the degrees, warm, hot, cold, whatever. It could be a prospect that filled out one of your web forms or downloaded your latest whitepaper. Maybe they just connected with you online. It could be an old customer you are trying to reactivate, or a prospect in your defined database, or a new business that you’ve stopped by to qualify, or a prospect you met at a trade show.

No matter the circumstance, the simple fact remains that you are interrupting their day to talk about something you want them to hear, do, or buy, and you do not have a scheduled appointment with them to have that conversation.

This is what gets missed in all of the useless noise about how cold calling is dead. All of the talking heads who promise an easy way ignore the real reason that prospecting is so hard, no matter how you choose to do it: It is has never been about degree of the call; it is has always been about the willingness on the part of the salesperson to interrupt.

Which, by the way, is why so many sales reps protest so loudly and will do anything to avoid making an outbound call. It is so much easier to speak to someone who is calling you.

Today most people have no idea what a cold call really is. They think that any outbound call or visit is a cold call.

They’ve turned the fear and anxiety they feel about interrupting prospects into a hobgoblin and relabeled it “cold calling.” This has provided the perfect excuse to sit and wait for prospects to interrupt them instead—and of course complain about not having enough leads.

It is not the “cold” call that is hard; it is the interrupting. Reps are just afraid to make the call, not the cold call.

Interrupting your prospect’s day is a fundamental building block of robust sales pipelines. No matter your prospecting approach, if you don’t interrupt relentlessly, your pipeline will be anemic.

So the question is not, to cold call or not to cold call?

Instead, the question is how to strategically balance prospecting across the various prospecting channels to give you a competitive advantage when interrupting prospects in the crowded, competitive marketplace.

Others think prospecting via social media only is just fine.  Discuss…

In sales, consistently relying on a single prospecting methodology (usually the one you feel generates the least amount of resistance and rejection), at the expense of others, consistently generates mediocre results. However, balancing your prospecting regimen based on your industry, product, company, territory, and tenure in your territory gives you a statistical advantage that almost always leads to higher performance and income over the long term.

There is an expert or so-called sales guru on every corner preaching to salespeople that   social selling is the one true way to prospecting salvation. But they are dead wrong. Putting all your prospecting eggs into a single basket is stupid. It’s career suicide. The foundation of a winning prospecting strategy is balance. The social channel enhances, elevates, and sometimes accelerates your prospecting efforts. It is certainly a powerful channel that should be a core part of your sales prospecting tool box. But Social Selling is not a replacement for focused and deliberate outbound prospecting efforts

The very best salespeople have mastered balanced prospecting in the same manner that wealthy people have mastered balance in their investment portfolios. Balance simply means that to get the best return from your prospecting time investment, there should be a mixture of telephone, in-person, e-mail, social selling, text messaging, referrals, networking, inbound leads, trade shows, and cold calling. The relative distribution of your time investment in each prospecting methodology should be based on your unique situation.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for balanced prospecting. Every territory, industry, product, service, and prospect base is different. As are the demands of the sales plan, economic drivers, and the strategy and direction of the business—all of which are certain to change over time. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of where you are against your goals because that may also determine the appropriate mix of prospecting channels.

The key is designing your prospecting regimen based on what works best in your industry and with your product, service, deal complexity, customer base, and tenure. Striking a balanced approach with prospecting is the most effective means of filling your sales pipeline no matter your industry product or service. With few exceptions, the combination of multiple techniques and channels is the most effective path to building a winning pipeline.

Having a prospecting plan is important, but it falls apart if you aren’t consistently disciplined about execution.  Which do you find most important?  Or is one more important than the other?

The late, great Zig Ziglar said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” I’ve always believed that messy success is far better than perfect mediocrity. I’ll beat the rep that spends a call block meticulously researching each prospect on any day by just picking up a targeted list and calling. Sure, I’ll miss a few things here and there if I don’t read every note in the CRM, but there won’t be enough of a delta to compensate for the activity gap between me and the rep who gets everything perfect before making a single prospecting call.

Ninety percent of strategy is execution. Yes, a solid prospecting plan will have a positive impact on the effectiveness of your prospecting activity. However, far too many salespeople plan to plan to plan and never actually prospect. When I am working with sales teams my first focus in on getting them consistent with their prospecting. Once that habit and cadence is established we focus on planning and strategy to become more effective.

How can new sales reps develop the right prospecting habits from the get go?

Set up daily defined and prospecting blocks on the calendar and make those time sacred. No interruptions. No excuses. Time blocking is transformational for salespeople. It changes everything. When you get disciplined at blocking your time and concentrating your power inside those blocks on singular activities, you see a massive and profound impact on your productivity and it makes it easier to sustain good sales habits.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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