The Intrusiveness Of Prospecting


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I’ve been carrying on a number of discussions in various forums on LinkedIn. It’s been with people reacting to my post, “Well It Worked, Didn’t It?”

One of the key themes in these discussions is prospecting, with people taking all sorts of positions, and lot of discussion about the “C” word–yes, Cold Calling.

Let’s face it, most of us don’t like prospecting. We’d rather be working a deal. Speaking to a customer who already knows us and is working with us to solve a problem. Finding new deals is a pain! We have to do a lot of work, we have to reach out to people who we may not have a relationship with. Many of these people may not have a real need, many may not want to talk to us or even read our emails. Regardless of how well we prepare, how knowledgeable we might be of the customer’s requirements, how powerful our referral might be, sometimes people are just plain annoyed with the contact.

Many in sales look to social media and web-based approaches to relieve sales people of the responsibility to find new deals and opportunities. They are glad to push that responsibility off to marketing with its nurturing, content, and lead management programs. They are glad to push that first contact–the first emails or phone calls off to someone else. (We’ve not eliminated prospecting, we’ve just shifted prospecting to someone else).

Prospecting is critical! It has to be done by every organization. We try to leverage many channels and many approaches. We try to create messages or calls that are meaningful and impactful to the targeted people in our markets. We try to create great first impressions through messages that create value for the recipient (if we don’t know them, it’s always just an educated guess). We have very powerful tools that help tune the content we deliver to be relevant, timely, and impactful. But it’s still prospecting.

A prospect is a potential client, customer, or purchaser. This person may be someone we know–perhaps a past customer. This person can be someone we’ve never met, but believe might have an interest in our solutions. Prospecting are the sets of actions taken to identify if the prospect has a need or a problem that we can solve.

Prospects can reach out and contact us. All of us love these. It’s so much easier to respond to someone who says, “I have a need and I may be interested in your products, can you help me?” Or we have to reach out to contact them, we want to make them aware of us—so when they have a need, they pick up the phone. We have to reach out and ask the question, “Do you have a need?” We may have to reach out to teach them–to make them aware of an opportunity, a problem, a need which they haven’t yet recognized.

But we have to prospect, we have to identify people who might have a need and interest in solving a problem. We have to let them know we have a potential solution to their problem. We have to ask their permission and gain their agreement in continuing discussions.

It would be wonderful if somehow magically, enough people called expressing interest to generate a sufficient number of opportunities to fill our funnels. If that happens, however that happens, it makes sales people happy.

However, if we have an insufficient number of qualified opportunities in our pipelines, we have to find new opportunities. We have to be pursuing enough opportunities to fulfill our commitments to achieve our revenue goals. It is unacceptable and irresponsible to not do this.

So we have to prospect.

We don’t like to prospect because it’s intrusive. But is the intrusion the issue? Afterall, most of our work lives are interrupt driven. We don’t schedule 100% of our activities. There is always the new unexpected email or phone call. There is always the person that drops by the office wanting to talk about something. These interruptions may be from colleagues, people we know, or strangers. We are used to–in fact too often thrive on interruptions. We often seek them because they divert us from what we have to do (but may not like doing).

So intrusiveness is probably not the issue, but can be an excuse.

Intrusiveness is annoying when it wastes our time! Whether the intrusion is caused by our boss, our colleagues, people we know and work with, or that sales person we have never met, if it wastes our time we are annoyed. We feel cheated, we are upset, we may react negatively.

So when prospects say, “I hate all these #@?%$ sales people calling and interrupting!” I suspect it’s not the intrusion, but it’s that we’ve used their time poorly.

People make decisions about “being intruded upon.” We choose to open the email, we choose to open the direct mail, we choose to answer the phone. If we don’t want the intrusion, we simply don’t do those things.

So it’s not the intrusion that’s the issue, it’s how we use that person’s time, once they have made that choice.

We have to create value in every interchange with the customer. Whether it’s the first prospecting email, the blog post, the discussion forum, or that first telephone call. We have to create value in every subsequent interaction.

Creating value means not acting blindly, but doing the research to assess, “What might create value for this individual?” We have to tune our communication doing everything we can to create value–to use that person’s time well.

So it’s not the intrusion–the customer has chosen to be intruded upon. It’s what we do once we’ve intruded.

Are you using your customers’ and prospects’ time well, once you’ve intruded?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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