You need to be organized to be successful at prospecting, including:
Time Management: I believe a foundational skill for sales people is time management. If you can’t manage your time, you won’t find time to prospect. Sales people who cannot manage their time will always find something else to do. My friend John Orvos of SellMasters says you need to “build a fortress around your prospecting time.” In other words schedule your prospecting time into your calendar first before anything else in your week. Try not to let anything else interfere with it. In most companies “you eat what you kill”, if you don’t make time for prospecting, you will starve!
Scheduling Follow-Up Calls: follow up is key in prospecting. The research out there clearly shows it takes a lot of “touches” to get through to a cold contact (a minimum of 7 but could be up to 20 or 30!) You need to use some kind of system (usually a CRM system) to keep track of the next follow-up call when (like most of us) you have hundreds if not thousands of contacts. Keeping your follow-up call times documented and organized so you call when you need to (or said you would) is critical to good prospecting.
Understand Your Priorities: some calls are more important than others, some contacts are warmer than others. Make sure you develop a system for tracking key priorities in your prospecting efforts. We use fields in our CRM system to identify the importance of contacts and accounts so we can quickly identify the high priority contacts and accounts in our large database. Keeping these priority fields current is critical so important contacts do not get lost in a “haystack” of low priority records.
Note Taking: CRM systems are pretty boring. But taking good notes on your interactions with prospects is very important if you “team sell”. Team selling can be extremely powerful. It lets others come up with ideas you may have missed. But team members can only help you if you take enough notes for them to know what’s going on with that contact/account. Make sure you keep good notes on all prospects. The benchmark we use for CRM notes is: can some other member of the team read your notes and get an accurate picture of the status of your work so far on that contact? If not, improve your notes.
As I’ve said before “sales is just like accounting”. In prospecting this is so true. The details count a lot. The cliché of sales people is as loud backslappers buying drinks at the golf club. Great characters but lousy at administration…and details.
The reality in a “Sales 2.0 world” is that sales people need to be “boring” and not miss a detail — or they will miss a deal.