Tactics Sales Management

The STORY:

What we really need around here, thought Jim looking out his window that overlooked the parking lot in which he could see three of his salespeople smoking cigarettes, is more prospecting. Look at them out there, at least 15 minutes down the drain. But then he remembered a year ago when he wasn’t the sales manager, he was down there smoking along with the rest of the salespeople.

“Where’s that article I saw in the business section of the local newspaper?” he muttered to himself, thumbing through at least six separate piles of paper on his desk. “The one about contacting customers and getting referrals.”

A few minutes later, article in hand, he headed to the photocopy machine to make a copy for each salesperson hoping to get them moving.

Two weeks later, Jim was proud of his salespeople. The article, for no reason Jim could figure out, got his people prospecting. Bob was sending out over five hundred cards to businesses in the area telling them to stop in and see “What’s happening? This is what’s happening!”

Mary Beth was going through the customer lists that had been collecting dust for the past year and seeing if folks still wanted to do business.

In fact, each of the other five salespeople was working on his own separate prospecting project.

This is just great, thought Jim. By two months from now, we’ll have tons of fresh blood coming through the door and calling. Maybe I’ll even be able to spring one of the salespeople loose to go do some outside calling.

Two months later, actually nine weeks later, all of the prospecting projects had fizzled out. Not a single one really produced any results that anyone could point to. All they did, it seemed, was take a lot of time, and the postage costs were astronomical.

By this time, mid-December, the number of smokers in the parking lot that Jim could see from his office was down to the really dedicated ones. Still wanting to get them prospecting, he wondered, why doesn’t prospecting ever work?

The RESULT:

Everyone prospected . . . correct? Did anyone ever define what was meant by “prospecting” and then define measurable goals to see if it worked?DISCUSSION:

You know how to go prospecting, don’t you?

Well, the first thing you do is buy a mule, grow a beard, don’t wash and wander around the desert for a couple of years. Right?

Oh! That’s not what you meant. You mean I should call 10 new people a day and ask them to buy our product.

That’s not it, either? Then you must mean that I create a letter, buy a 500 name mailing list and send the letter. Then wait for the people to start coming in.

Wrong again? Okay, this time I have it. You want me to call up all of our existing customers and offer them 10% off their next purchase if they give me the name of two other companies that might buy what we sell. I’ve got this prospecting thing down, right?

Not exactly? Well, just what do you mean?

APPROACH:

When was the last time you heard that someone had to do more prospecting? This morning? Yesterday? Two days ago? When you heard that more prospecting needed to be done, did anyone list exactly what this “more prospecting” consisted of? Probably not. The result of this sloppy use of language is that more prospecting could mean anything, and since it could mean anything, everyone was left to figure out for themselves what to do.

Never state that more prospecting needs to be done. What you need to state is exactly what behavior will be done to accomplish more prospecting.

If more prospecting means that “every customer who bought more than X amount in the past six months will be contacted by phone for a referral within the next 14 days,” then say it. What are you going to specifically do with those referrals? Don’t say you are going to “prospect” or “contact” them. What specifically are you going to do?

“A salesperson will be assigned to each referral, and within 48 hours the referral will be contacted in person by phone. Should an in-person phone call not happen, an overnight Express Mail letter will be sent. The following is the exact text of that letter.”

How you define prospecting is up to you, but make sure you define it as specific behavior to be followed.

THOUGHT:

Everyone knows exactly what prospecting means, right? Everyone will have the same answer, right?

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