Read an Excerpt
M I S T A K E #1
We Are a Prospecting Machine!
“Of course my salespeople prospect. That’s what they
are paid to do. At least that’s what I tell everyone.”
Reality is a hard state to deal with. Rationalization is so much easier. Even people
who aren’t in sales know it is the salespeople’s job to go
find customers. Who else? Marketing generates leads,
customer service keeps the customers happy, shipping
makes sure the customers get what they ordered,
finance collects the money, and so on
throughout the organization. It’s up to the sales department
to go find and close new business.
Sales management agrees. Sales management
creates compensation plans, contests, and rewards
for salespeople who go out and find new business. They
have 33 motivational speeches on why their organizations
have to go broader and deeper in current accounts, as well as take business
away from the competition. They spend gobs of money on training
their sales teams to get new business. Their companies are counting on sales
to get new revenue streams from new customers. Someone needs to tell this to
the salespeople, because:
Salespeople hate to prospect.
Take a look at the salesperson in Figure 1.1. She’s
friendly, has a great smile, and seems stress-free. She’s
having fun, right? Prospecting’s cool—and everyone
always calls back. Yeah, right. Let’s get real. The
fact is, salespeople would rather do anything than
cold call—and they usually do.
Sales management doesn’t want to alienate
the sales team. It wants to empathize with them.
After all, the managers were once in the same
place; they too issued the same proclamations:
“Marketing needs to get us better leads.”
“The market is very competitive right now.”
“Getting new business is getting tougher and tougher.”
Making these proclamations is a huge mistake. Huge. However, sales management
has been known to listen to these voices and:
• Develop a prospecting-only sales department, also known as
a lead-generation team. (This is different from a qualifying team,
which works quite well for passive prospecting—leads that come
into your organization.)
• Compensate salespeople more for generating new business.
• Actually believe that retaining business is harder than getting new
business and designing rewards accordingly.
• Measure and reward for overall revenue and not break out new
sales to new customers as an important company goal.
• Designate two groups of salespeople in the organization: Hunters
and Farmers. Hunters hunt for new business, and Farmers maintain
current business. (Great idea, until your competitor sets its Hunters
against your Farmers. Then, of course, you have to deal with Trappers
and Skinners—way too much classification.)
Sales management beware: Some of this organizational thinking may lead
you to make decisions that will come back and haunt you.
• THE FACTS •
Progressive sales management in successful companies knows that customers
“How did my pipeline dry up?”
“I thought my hunters were hunting.”
“When I looked at it, my salespeople were using less than
5 percent of their time proactively prospecting.”
“I asked my sales team, ‘Who has asked for a reference
in the past 60 days?’ No one raised a hand, and the
prospecting funnel is empty at the top for what reason?”
In addition, sales managers know that most customers do not buy all they
can from one vendor, because they are not aware of the scope of the problems
that exist in other departments within their own organizations. Opportunity
Calling high—that is, calling on people who are in upper management—
with questions that let prospects think broad and wide within their organizations,
and then creating a culture around this solid prospecting effort, takes
sales management years to figure out. Let there be no mistake: The sales team
that stops prospecting within its own customer base loses.
• LEAD GENERATION VERSUS PROSPECTING •
It is important to know the difference between lead generation and prospecting.
Lead generation is the act of targeting resources. It means figuring out where
to hunt, what gun to hunt with, what to hunt, and when to hunt. Prospecting
is the act of hunting. It means going through many fields and bushes to flush out
the game, finding the game, taking aim, and pulling the trigger.
Prospecting = Hunting
A good lead-generation machine is no excuse for a lack of prospecting.
Last time I checked, game doesn’t just fall from the sky or knock on the door
of the hunting lodge and say, “Here I am. Shoot me.” The Internet has done
a good job getting some game to knock on the door, but the really big game
is still out there.
- Prospecting Machine: A company in which the sales department is
- Nonprospecting Machine: A company characterized by a weak sales forecast,
a bad sales forecast, a weak pipeline, longer sales cycles, is closing
bad business, or is closing deals based on price because the customer
does not see value.
Sales teams, and especially individual salespeople, have the right to expect
the company to do its part in lead generation. This could range from efforts
to generate potential target markets and prospects, to qualifying teams
(Q-teams) that qualify hundreds of leads, working them down to the most
likely—the golden nuggets for salespeople to pursue. Great sales organizations
have committed resources, up to 20 percent of their sales budgets, to lead generation,
be it marketing dollars or sales dollars.
Taking the hunting analogy a bit further, you’ll need to do some preparation
before you grab your gun and head for the woods. Without putting together
a strategy and culture around prospecting, you are looking at Mistake
#1: Assuming that salespeople prospect, when they don’t. Salespeople and
sales teams need to generate leads. In fact, the sales team’s focus on prospecting
is the most measurable item of success or failure that I have seen inside of
You get the point, right? The biggest mistake you can make is not to have
a prospecting and lead-generation culture. The second biggest mistake is to
have one but not measure it. You have to measure prospecting even more than
you measure revenue.
• THE CURE •
Sales management must do one or more of the five “its” to ensure an aggressive
and effective prospecting culture exists.
1. Measure It
If you can’t measure it, why do it? Your sales team is not above being measured
• The number of sales calls or qualified leads per week
• The number of executive prospecting calls or leads/month
• The number of prospecting attempts/connects/meetings per
• The number of new deals per week/month/quarter
• The number of new deals in a current, installed, base account per
• The number of new deals above $X per quarter
Sales managers who do not have a dashboard metric for prospecting are
20 to 30 percent less effective than the ones who are. This is a big number
and should grab your attention.
Prospecting metrics need to be tailored to your individual situations. But
the point is, measure it.
2. Reward It
The saying is true:
“It’s rarely the size of the reward that is most important;
it’s the accolades and the praise that come with the
reward that end up being of most value.”
How are you rewarding your sales team today? On what goals? Revenue
and percent of quota to be sure, but what other rewards can you offer so the
members of your sales team will feel good when they do something you
want them to do?
• Do you have a gong or a bell people can ring when they close a
new piece of business? (The Internet has gong e-mails.)
• Do you have your president personally acknowledge every newcustomer
deal? Do you have your president call the new customer’s
president or owner to thank that person for his or her business?
• Can you start your weekly sales meetings off with a “New Business
Report” or something that recognizes the people who have
• Do you have a “New Business Thermometer”? That’s where the
salespeople who have brought in new business during a month get
their photos on the New Business board. The salesperson’s picture
gets placed at a higher level for every new customer the salesperson
obtains. This is great for the salespeople who achieve and also for
those whose pictures never leave the “Holding Area” (or whatever
you want to call the bottom of the thermometer). It’s better than a
$50 check. Oh, and place the thermometer in the company cafeteria
so everyone can see which people are doing their jobs, and
which people are not.
3. Assign It