I have been building companies my entire life.
At my first company, Wilmar/Interline, we had 450 inside and outside salespeople by the time I stepped down as CEO--all across multiple brands and sales channels. And just like most CEOs and company leaders, I was constantly scratching my head as to why the top 15-20 percent of our salespeople were consistently outperforming the remaining 75-80%. This is something that happens at just about every company I know, where the "top performers" rise to the top and then stay there, while others with very similar qualities or nearly identical sales pitches fail to close at anywhere near the same rate.
But over the course of my career, I've learned why:
The secret ingredient is prospecting. Or should I say, how often you prospect.
See, while sales is absolutely a mix of people skills, drive, confidence, creativity, and just plain old hard work, the truth is that what really separates the top performers from everyone else is their relentless approach to prospecting. It's a numbers game. The more people you interact with, the higher the likelihood of success.
This is something I talk a lot about in my book, All In, but back at Wilmar/Interline, the top performers in the company simply prospected more than everyone else. They constantly kept their pipeline full of new business, and they never had customer concentration issues. They exceeded growth targets. They followed up with warm leads constantly. But all in all, they were just "on the hunt" longer than everyone else. Every moment of their day, even when they weren't at work and were out at a restaurant with a bunch of friends, was an opportunity to learn about other people and potentially come across another prospect.
They lived and breathed it.
With my current company, LendingOne, we actually train our inside and outside salespeople to be tenacious prospectors. Of course, we have to train them on how to do so effectively (otherwise all those efforts are for nothing).
Here are seven quick and easy ways to get your team prospecting better than ever:
1. When it's prospecting time, turn off distractions.
It's hard work looking for leads. Sometimes, it can feel like you're going down a rabbit hole, poking around on the Internet and scouring different sites and social platforms for your target customers. But this is valuable research time. Don't let yourself get distracted. Stay on task and accomplish your goal to completion: find where your prospects are spending time.
2. Open one new relationship, every single day.
If you aren't starting some sort of new dialogue with at least one (hopefully many, many more) prospect per day, you are failing as a salesperson. Prospecting isn't something you do and then you're done. It's a habit. A mindset. A way of approaching your work over the long term that ensures you always have people ready in your pipeline.
3. Use every method possible, even the ones you aren't familiar with (yet).
Email. Social media. Cold calling. Digital ads and landing pages. Direct mail. The amount of ways we can reach customers in today's day and age is far and wide. So don't just settle for the medium you're used to, or that you "think" will be best (based on your own preconceived notions). Instead, try them all. Learn them all. Leave no stone unturned.
4. Write scrips for different customer segments.
The message that works with one prospect won't necessarily work for the next, and so on and so forth.
It's important that you separate messages based on who it is you're speaking to--whether it's over the phone, email, direct message, etc. These scripts are your conversation starters, so take your time thinking about what you should say to get the prospect's attention.
5. Every step should be moving the prospect toward your ideal outcome.
So many sales reps and sales teams in general approach sales with a barrage mentality. They think, "Well as long as I'm talking to people, I'm doing my job." But that's not what sales is about. Sales has one focus, which is to move the customer past the finish line. Which means every email, every phone call, every blog post you send them, all of it has to be orchestrated to move them closer and closer to becoming a paying customer.
6. Don't disregard cold calling.
So many companies disregard picking up the phone, and it's a mistake. Customers want to be talked to--and they usually want to talk to someone before they buy (especially if what you're selling is a higher ticket product or service).
7. Keep a (growing) list of people to follow up with over time.
Just because someone isn't ready to purchase right now, doesn't mean they won't be three, six, nine months from now.
It's important you keep tabs on where people drop off in the sales cycle, so that you can return to them over time. Otherwise, all those conversations you're having are for nothing. If a customer was thinking about buying at one point, chances are, they're still thinking about buying--and just need to be reminded a few more times.