Welcome to Selling the Sandler Way with your host, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training. He is a five-time bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and consultant to hundreds of international organizations. In this show, he talks to other Sandler trainers about the Sandler Selling System. For more information on Sandler Training, visit sandler.com. Now, it’s time to learn how to succeed by Selling The Sandler Way with your host, Dave Mattson.
Dave Mattson: Hey, welcome. Today we’re talking about prospecting, which I think is one of the most important things that you can do as a salesperson is to feed the funnel. You have to feed the funnel. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a long sales cycle person or a short sales cycle person. You hear all the terms: I’m a consultative sales process or a strategic selling or I’m more transactional. It doesn’t much matter. A lot of these selling processes, whether it’s the methodology that you use or the time that you’re involved all have certain things that are in common. Really it matters not.
One of them is you’ve got to prospect. For those that say I’m a farmer, I don’t really prospect. You do in a way. If you think about it, the company is relying on you to do a good job, to bring in business, or to look for new opportunities. This thing called a prospecting plan is one of the most important things that we can do. Today we’re joined by Jim Marshall who’s a long time trainer at Sandler, so you’re in for a real treat. He excels at helping people get in front of buyers. He does an awesome job with executive coaching, as well, so we’re going to tap into his thoughts today on what can we do as individual salespeople to create a prospecting plan and manage the plan, and how do we adjust the plan, because it’s really, really important.
Hey look, think about what I said, feed the funnel. You’re going to have to feed that constantly and consistently. This whole term, ‘feed,’ if you look at that, much like we eat food. You’re going to have to eat healthy food. We’ve also been taught to eat in small portions and just don’t go up to the old buffet line for 87 trips and then don’t eat for three days. It’s consistency and quality, and that’s really what is true in the prospecting world, but you also need a process.
Prospecting isn’t one of those activities that I think most people look forward to. Most people don’t like prospecting. Sandler used to always say, prospecting is like putting your hand in the meat grinder and chanting “I love it, I love it, I love it,” and it’s kind of true. If you wake up, I don’t know too many people that say, “Hey, it’s Monday. I’m going to go out and make 50 cold calls today. This is the best day of my week.” You can say that and kind of trick yourself into it, but our DNA says that if we don’t do it properly it becomes a burden, and that’s really the trick. How do you create consistent behaviors so it’s not a burden? It’s one of those things that it just becomes a little each day.
If you think about it, my kids as an example, when you get a term paper back in school, there’s two tracks. You can do maybe an hour every couple days so that 15 page term paper isn’t so much of a big deal three months later. Or you can wait until the weekend, then it’s due on Monday, and try to cram through it. One is not so bad and one is a nightmare, and the same thing holds true as we start to approach prospecting. The purpose of the prospecting plan is to figure out where do I find my leads from and how often do I have to do these things? That’s really, really important. Once you have those two key components down, then a lot of the anxiety that’s going to be there naturally goes away.
There’s two plans that I think as a salesperson, if you would focus in on in today’s economic world, will make you money. Two separate plans. What are they? One is the cookbook. That’s not today’s program, but the cookbook or recipe for success, if you go to any of the 250 Sandler training centers out there, they’re going to talk about the cookbook all the time, and that phrase simply means all of the behaviors and activities that you need to do every single day to be successful.
Think about it as a salesperson. What do you have to do every single day to be successful? There’s certain activities, certain things in the cookbook. If you could do that all the time, then instead of peaks and valleys in your sales process, you would have a steady increase in productivity. When people come into our company, as an example, we give them certain benchmarks that they’re going to have to do. They have a learning cookbook of things that they need to learn by when, but they also have an activity cookbook when it comes to generating business.
Things like you’re going to have to go get two face-to-face meetings per day. That’s your bare minimum. That’s your key performance indicators because if you get two a day, it drives everything. You’re going to need one second call a day. You’re going to need to do a public speech, what we call an executive briefing. You’re going to have to do those once a month. We have a list of things that people have to do to be successful, and it does a couple things. It helps you as a salesperson be quicker because you know what it takes to succeed. Now you can replicate the greatest producers within an organization.
Once you figure out what they do and the order that they do it, you can shrink the amount of time that it takes you to become number one in that company. It also does something else. If you’ve been in an organization for a while and now you realize that, maybe I’m in a comfort zone and maybe some of these newer people in the company are catching up to my numbers really quick. You need to be invigorated. You need to figure out, what do I need to do? Especially since we’re juggling so many balls as salespeople. We’ve got customers that we’re juggling. We’ve got prospects that we’ve got to juggle. We’ve got all the corporate initiatives because of all the emails that they send us from home office. There’s a thousand things that we’re juggling out there. In addition to we’ve got to close business.
This recipe makes it palatable, makes it very easy. All I have to know, hey look, don’t worry about a five million dollar quota per month. Put that off to the side because I can’t manage revenue. My expectation could be revenue as a salesperson but I don’t know who’s going to pay me and who’s not. I don’t know when they’re going to pay me and when they’re not. That’s out of my control. If I can control my own activities and behaviors, then that’s magical and that’s really what it does. It takes personal accountability to the process, versus, I did what I could and what do you expect from me? Which is what you hear sometimes from the bottom pack of your sales organization.
The top 30% of any sales organization understands personal accountability and they understand I’ve got to do this thing called a cookbook or manage my activities and behaviors a little at a time so I have a consistent input into my funnel and I have a consistent output. The thing that also happens is that if I do a certain amount of activities every day, it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re not getting the results that you desire, then it gives you an opportunity to say, I’ve got to tweak it. It’s kind of like when you take your car to a mechanic and they can listen to it and they say, “well, your timing is off or you need a new belt.”
They’ve got an ear for it because they understand all the components that go into an engine. Same thing with a salesperson. If you know that there’s seven or eight components that you have to do every single day and if you’re not getting success in one of those areas, then you got to tweak it. Maybe you have to have a better script. Maybe you have to do more of it.
You need to adjust your activities. You need to increase the levels necessary in your cookbook to succeed. That’s the first plan in today’s world that will help you succeed.
The second one and the one we’re focusing in on today is this thing called a prospecting plan. What is that? The prospecting plan really is the beginning of feeding the funnel, because here’s an interesting question that I ask most people, and I’ve been in front of a lot of people this week flying around the country doing workshops, and I ask a question and I say to them, “hey, how many new conversations do you need every single month in order to succeed? How many? What’s the number? It could be new conversations with people you don’t know or it could be new conversations with existing customers, but it’s a new sales call. How many do you need?” I’ve got to tell you, less than 2% of the salespeople know the answer. They don’t know.
The question then is how do you manage something that you don’t have any idea of? It’s kind of like flying around the country without any GPS or you don’t know where you’re going. I’ve got to go from here to my grandparents’ house from a car and I have no map, but I know it’s out west somewhere. They stopped doing that trick when they had wagons so that doesn’t work any longer. But salespeople that are very successful, I say how many new conversations do you need every single month for you to hit your number, and they don’t know. They don’t know what it takes to feed the funnel.
The prospecting plan, if you just hypothetically say I need 20, this plan then says, okay, how are we going to get to the 20 conversations that you need every month? What are we going to do? That’s what we’re going to talk to Jim Marshall about because he’ll say, look, if we need 20, that’s it. There are some components of what we need to do as a systematic way from a salesperson’s perspective to figure out what’s the best mix to get my 20, because here’s another phenomenon. It’s a DNA flaw salespeople have.
If they don’t have a well-rounded prospecting plan, like here are the top 10 or 15 areas that I can get my leads from, by default, A, they do nothing, they don’t prospect. Or B, they think the only thing left for me to do is outbound sales calls or outbound cold calls. Which, by the way may be the least effective way for you to find prospects. I don’t know but it tends to be for most of us, especially when we’re going after an outbound cold call in today’s voicemail jail world, a little harder, but that’s okay. You’re working, but guess what? If you look just to the left, to the right of you with these other prospecting streams that we’re going to talk about, you’re probably be mining gold. You may have a three-to-one ratio versus a 20-to-one ratio.
Today we’re talking about prospecting plans, and that’s different than all the moves that you have to make to get past the gatekeeper. That’s not what we’re talking about today. That’s almost the implementation of your plan. We’re talking about behind the scenes, all the things that you have to do ahead of time to figure out where to focus your attention and where you shouldn’t focus your attention. That way all of your skills and abilities will be maximized. To help us do that we’ve got Jim Marshall with us today who is as I said earlier, a long-time trainer. Jim, welcome to the program.
Jim Marshall: Hi, Dave. How are you?
Dave Mattson: I’m doing well. Jim, this thing called the prospecting plan, from your perspective, how valuable is it? I guess equally as important is it your sense that a lot of people don’t do it?
Jim Marshall: I think that up until now there’s a lot of people out there that mistakenly felt that maybe they don’t have to do it. It was different economic times. Business was coming to them. I guess in the vernacular we call them farmers rather than hunters. When in actuality, now with business conditions being what they are, what I find with a lot of people is that they just don’t know how to do it because they’ve never had to.
When in actuality, what we find is that the sales position, the sales function that most people enjoy really consists of three things. It’s selling, obviously, it’s servicing what you sold, but the underlying foundation of that is really prospecting. You can’t sell anything unless you have prospects to sell to. They’re very good at selling, they’re very good at servicing. They’ve never had to prospect before, at least to this level.
Dave Mattson: Now they didn’t have to do that probably for a lot of reasons. One, maybe economic times were so great people were spending money and your selling cycles were a lot shorter and there was a thousand reasons for it. I also know from just reading in all the periodicals and talking to a lot of the clients, their markets dollars have come to a screeching halt, if not cut back dramatically. The pressure is back on the salesperson to do a lot of which has probably been transferred over to marketing and advertising in the last decade or so. Is that a contributing factor?
Jim Marshall: That’s a great point, especially when you have salespeople or managers that are working for larger entities. They’re not necessarily controlling those marketing or advertising dollars. Now when those companies cut back, what do they do to generate business? It’s not as easy as sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring. Now, these people have to go out and make something happen and you know and I know that many of them are not predisposed to spending their own money to do that, so they need to become more proactive and filling that sales funnel.
Dave Mattson: That is true. I think also the management teams now, if you look at managers, it’s almost like second generation managers. Some of us as managers didn’t grow up in the world where we had to go out and eat what we kill, you know, prospect per se like we did way back when. They grew up in a world where corporate marketing was taking care of the brunt. There’s a lot of empathy and also a huge generation that may not have done all the things that we need to do today to survive. I think that’s a lost art in a way.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely. We’ve got clients that have been in business 15, 20, 25 years whose attrition of their existing business is far and away greater than it has ever been. Now when they have to get back to what we call the blocking and tackling of filling their funnel, many of them just don’t know how to do it simply because they haven’t had to do it for so long. Now when we’re talking about, say, cold calling or networking or getting referrals, they don’t have a clue and now it’s back to 101, back to square one, and they have to learn those skills almost after the fact.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, and think about a prospecting plan for a second and that’s really what it is. I think we tend, at Sandler, to call things for what it is. A lot of companies will say this is the account development plan which I always got confused with. Is that your pursuit plan? Is that a sales plan? In reality, it doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s got to be a healthy part of that mix that you talked about which is selling accounts and managing accounts and then this thing called finding accounts. I think by default, whether it’s because we expected marketing to do it or we have a fear of rejection, given the choice most people will put that function last in line over the other two. I mean, I just believe it to be true over the last 25 years.
Jim Marshall: That’s I think largely the reason for that is because, again, these people haven’t recognized that it is equally as important as closing business and servicing the business that you closed. Now, I maintain that prospecting should account for maybe even 50% of your weekly activity. Again, it’s the times that cause us to look at things in a new light and now it’s probably more important than ever that people focus their time and their efforts and their energy specifically to those activities.
Dave Mattson: It’s one of our yearly functions. We were just doing a national kickoff for a corporation and they had a big account planning process, their yearly account planning. All of that was strengthening relationships which was great, and then I just asked this side comment to one of the VP’s because they were nice enough to invite me in to watch as a guest. I said, “This is great stuff. You guys are really focusing on some good stuff. Just out of curiosity, in a given year, how much business comes from existing customers versus new faces, new names?” They said, “Oh, only about 15 or 20% is coming from existing customers.”
Then we started asking, and some of it is because they’re trying to expand that, and that’s true, but they spent no time, Jim, in two days flying all these people in from around the world, they spent no time talking about developing that prospecting plan because it’s just not part of the DNA. I think you and I are talking about that now it’s an issue, but I also think by default when they hear the word ‘prospecting’ they think oh my gosh, I’ve got to make outbound cold calls, and that’s not the case necessarily.
Jim Marshall: Not at all. In fact, it was great to hear you say earlier that cold calling could be one of your least effective prospecting activities, and I fully agree with that. There is so much more that the typical sales rep can be doing to generate new business and fill that pipeline that they’re not even thinking about. The problem is that they view it as an inconvenience, they view it as something they would rather not do. I think I would rather pick up the phone and call my existing clients and talk to them about the ballgame or talk to them about, “hey, did you see what happened in the news last night?” Just a service call rather than taking that opportunity and use that to focus on those activities that are hopefully going to result in new clients.
Dave Mattson: I think also when we do fall into that trap of calling our existing customer base, we don’t even ask them for referrals. We’re hoping that they give one up, and I also think that that’s a huge misnomer that your customers are going to call you endlessly because they thought of somebody for you. You’ve got to actively, not passively, but actively go search for your referrals. We expect you to do a great job in service, that’s a given with your customers, but you have to go find them.
Just because I threw some seeds out in the field, if you’re a farmer, doesn’t mean it’s going to grow. You got to do an awful lot of other things to make sure that you’re going to harvest. Let’s talk about what’s a prospecting plan and what are the components of this so we can take people through the do’s and don’ts of this thing because we’ve talked about it, but really, how do I do it?
Jim Marshall: I define it very simply as this, David. I define a prospecting plan as those activities that you must do on a regularly scheduled basis to fill your pipeline, to fill that funnel. Now, we should talk just for a second about scheduling these activities on a regular basis. The analogy that we use with our clients is let’s say suppose that you heard about a new five-star restaurant that has a 30 day backlog of reservations. You can’t get a reservation for six or eight weeks out. Is it fair to say that that reservation is going to go in your calendar as a not missed appointment?
Dave Mattson: Right, yes.
Jim Marshall: Or let’s suppose you’ve come down with some sort of a debilitating injury or a life threatening disease and you were referred into a specialist, and this specialist can provide a potential cure but you can’t get into see that person for 30 days. Is that going into your appointment book in ink not to be missed?
Dave Mattson: Sure, absolutely. Those are one of those things where you schedule the rest of your day around that block of time.
Jim Marshall: So why is prospecting any different? If we’re talking about generating income for you, putting food on the table for your family, why would that be any less important? You need to schedule it into your day, blocks of time, totally uninterrupted, un-cancelable, non-pre-emptible that are going to be devoted to those prospecting activities. I think that’s where it starts. You have to make the commitment to actually do it, whatever it is.
Dave Mattson: That accountability or commitment … I think a lot of it is that people aren’t really inspecting what they expect. Management is not asking you, are you spending an hour a day on your prospecting? Are you spending two hours a day? A lot of this is you, look around to see who else is watching you, you know, one of those deals and realize that you’re on your own and this is probably the something that you can sweep under the carpet.
What you said is absolutely true. You wouldn’t sweep the other activities or the other schedules that you have that you would consider very important, and this is probably by far one of the most important things that you can do, is to your point, nothing starts without this. I like that. I schedule it in, I plan my day around it, and then that’s the thought process. Is there a specific amount of time that I need to do that? Does that change for everybody?
Jim Marshall: It changes for everybody. I think it also changes on the activity. I think it should be some sort of a mix, for example, you might want to devote more time to, let’s say, making cold calls since you need to make a number of them to exhibit any kind of success whatsoever. Conversely, you can go to a networking event and budget perhaps 30 minutes to an hour. You’re in, you’re out, you see who you have to see and then you’re gone.
I think a lot of it depends on what that activity is, and there’s any number of activities that go into that prospecting plan. Some people say that cold calls work well. Some people are actually very good at asking for and receiving referrals. Could be seminars. Could be free talks. Any number of things can comprise that prospecting plan. I think what’s important is you need to be able to somehow track and identify those activities that are going to deliver the best bang for your buck.
Dave Mattson: I mean, that’s the point and I believe it’s one of the key aspects outside of a cookbook that you really need to pay attention to, manage, adjust, and as Jim said, focus in on every single day. Jim, what else should we know as salespeople to make sure that we’ve got a good prospecting plan in place? And we can talk about adjustments and managing it and reinforcing it in a second.
Jim Marshall: Well, Dave, I think it’s a multi-step process. Not a lot of steps but there are a couple of steps involved. One of the things we talk to our clients about is the necessity to identify your target. In other words, prospecting is great but who and what specifically are you prospecting? A very quick exercise that I put my people through is to have them identify for me just in a few lines their ideal prospect. What does it look like? What does it talk like? What does it sound like? What does it act like? Size, income level, whatever it happens to be. Identify who your primary prospect is.
Then, obviously the next step is to say, okay, where do those people live? Where do those people congregate? Where do they do business? I think rather than just saying, okay, I’m going to pick up the phone and call a hundred people randomly, I think it requires a little bit more of a ready, aim, fire approach than a ready, fire, aim.
Dave Mattson: You’re profiling.
Jim Marshall: Exactly. Once you do the profile, then you need to identify where do those people live? Where do they exist? Now, how do I reach those people? Is cold calling the best way? Are there networking associations where those types of people hang out? How about referrals? Who do you know who knows people in those industries, or more specifically, those companies? A very easy way to do that is to identify those companies and those individuals that you would like to prospect, a hit list, if you will. Make 10 of them, 15 of them, 20 of them, and it’s very easy at that point to get referrals into those people from your existing book of business, and it sounds something like this.
“Fred, appreciate you doing business with us. I was wondering if you might be able to help me with something. I’m trying to get into the A, B, C company to do for them perhaps what we’ve done for you. I don’t suppose you’d know anybody that knows somebody at that company, do you?”
Dave Mattson: You just come right out.
Jim Marshall: Come right out.
Dave Mattson: People are like, what? That’s it? That’s the magic?
Jim Marshall: That’s what it is. It’s a very targeted rifle like approach. In fact, in our training room we’ve got a refer-a-board where our clients are invited to simply list 10 companies or individuals they would like to get into, and it’s up there all the time.
Dave Mattson: Really.
Jim Marshall: People are looking at it and they’re saying, oh wait, I know somebody at the x, y, z company. Let me give you the name and number.
Dave Mattson: So that little move there alone, if we peel back the onion for a second and talk about psychology and why that works. Oftentimes when you say, do you know anybody besides yourself that could use my product or service? The mind goes blank, right? It’s too big. They just don’t know who to go to so their mind just freezes. What you’ve done is you’ve actually just said, all right, I’m looking for these one or two companies and it focuses them down.
You may hear, yeah, I do, or you may hear, no I don’t but I know somebody in a similar type company and even that’s a home run. What you’ve done is you’ve narrowed down their thinking which is really a slick move, and we say that so subtlety because we do it all the time. That’s the magic of what that move does when you just pinpoint, rifle shot, as you say, exactly the company that you’re looking for because it also gives them an idea about the industry. They may even do one better is they may feel a little not okay, hey, Jim, I can’t help you but hey, how about this company? Either way you win.
Jim Marshall: Sure, absolutely. On this topic of referrals, which by the way, if you’re going to start prospecting anywhere building your prospecting plan, to me, that’s where you got to start. Referrals are absolute magic. Here’s the rule about referrals. If you take 10 people that you know, acquaintances, friends, business clients, the rule of thumb goes like this. Out of 10 people there are two people that will never ever, ever give you a referral. They don’t believe in it. They don’t want to violate someone’s confidence. It’s just against their grain.
At the other end of the spectrum there are two people that will always give you a name and a phone number. Why? They have a high need for approval. They like to feel good about themselves, and that’s okay. The problem is the two people they give you are not qualified prospects. The real money, the sweet spot are those six people in the middle. These are people that know you, like you, trust you, maybe are even doing business with you. They would love to give you a referral. The problem is they don’t know how.
It’s incumbent upon you to teach them how to give you a qualified referral. Once they know how, they would love to help you. They know you, they like you, they trust you. Of course, they want to see you succeed. That’s where I think a lot of people miss the boat, either with people that they come in contact with or more importantly their current book of business.
Dave Mattson: There’s a couple things that went on. The two who always will, you may get discouraged because they’re never qualified, as you said which is so true. The six, the money list, the six in the middle, if they don’t ask, if they don’t necessarily just cough up the referral, you’re going to have to go after them and teach them how to give them to you, as you said, and I think most of us just expect that if we do a good job, they’re going to give us the referrals. To your point, that’s a mistake.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely. I really think that any salespeople that have been in business for any length of time whatsoever, what I find is most of them are sitting on a gold mine and they just don’t realize it or they don’t take the time to appreciate it. That is either their current list of clients, their current book of business, or people that perhaps were clients at one time that are no longer clients could even be prospects that they’ve tried to sell and did not sell. All of those represent absolute mother loads of referrals sources if they take the time and trouble to do it and nurture those referrals in a way that’s going to be productive.
Dave Mattson: Really then, salespeople, we’re a path of least resistance in a way. I’m not saying that that’s a negative. It’s just facts. Really to your point then if we were to call on referrals, A, we have a higher closing ratio, B, at least it’s an introduction or a warm lead depending on how good you are at getting a referral, and I got to believe if we’re going to do one or the other, I’d like to talk with somebody that we mutually know versus a complete stranger. It kind of gets all of our needs met, even feeds the script of I hate to talk to strangers.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely. It’s a question that if people stop and do a little self-examination, if they look in the mirror, ask themselves a real simple but very difficult question, and that is this. When’s the last time I spoke to 10 of my current clients or, even more importantly, previous clients sometime in the last six to 12 months? It’s amazing the response you get. Insurance people, for example, or financial advisors. They divide their list into A’s, B’s, and C’s. Ask them the question, especially of the B and C clients. When’s the last time you had a conversation with them? You’ll hear, well, they get my newsletter, they get my postcards. No, no, no. Face-to-face conversation, how are you doing? What’s going on in your world? Is there anything we can do to help? Oh, by the way, who do you know?
Dave Mattson: How do you fight the objection that people will give you that, hey, Jim, I can’t hardly get home before 11:30 at night. How am I going to do all that? If I’m meeting B and C clients, that seems like it’s going to take a lot of time. I don’t buy into that, but how do we overcome that objection that they’re giving them right because they’re trying to figure out, uh-oh, that sounds logical, I may have to do this. Oh you know what? I have no time.
Jim Marshall: Right. What’s the old adage, David, about time expands to fill the number … How does it go again?
Dave Mattson: Time expands for what? The project you allow to fill it or something like that. The bottom line is things can take as long or as little as you want it to take.
Jim Marshall: Exactly. Which is why it is so critically important to carve out the time. Now maybe they’re not comfortable doing that. Maybe it’s a very easy excuse. Oh, I have to service this other account rather than talk to some of my previous clients. People will always find an excuse and my response to them is very simple. How is your revenue now? How are your sales now? If you are comfortable making what you’re making, generating what you’re generating, continue to do what you’re doing. If it’s not where you want to it to be, what are you going to do about it?
Dave Mattson: I guess to your earlier point, if you’re going to commit an hour a day or a half an hour a day, whatever your time block is, you might as well use that time as effectively as possible. Your first premise is commit time every single day.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely.
Dave Mattson: Now let’s just do it more effectively. I mean, that’s the point. If you haven’t committed the time, you’re going to talk yourself out of this thing nine ways to Sunday.
Jim Marshall: Part of it might also be comfort level as an example. Somebody might justify going to networking events as a means to prospect because they’re comfortable doing it. They go, they see people they like, they can get a drink, they can eat the stale crackers and the old cheese. That’s great. Is it effective? Don’t know. I think what people have to do is they have to take a look at the effectiveness of what they’re currently doing and consider the fact that another activity might be more effective although they’re not comfortable doing it.
Dave Mattson: You’re asking them to do a historical perspective on what’s been the most effective way to do these things.
Jim Marshall: Sure.
Dave Mattson: If I went back to my last 50 customers, if that’s doable, is a good action step for me is to figure out where they came from?
Jim Marshall: Where they came from and then part B of that is to say, okay, what prospecting activities am I engaging in now and what kind of business am I getting off of them? You may discover that you can go to two or three networking events a week. If it’s not generating money in the bank, you might have to re-look at that. Conversely, take a look at, for example, how many of your current clients you received as a referral from another client or from a friend or a relative. Well, if in fact your closing rate is greater there, does it make sense to consider that perhaps I should spend more time nurturing those referrals?
Dave Mattson: Yeah, I mean, those are good points. I think that intuitively we think we know but sometimes we really don’t know. Over the last 25 years, we’ve spent plenty of time in front of short selling cycle salespeople, two years selling cycle, people who consider themselves hunters, people who consider themselves farmers. It doesn’t much matter. At the end of the day you’re going to have to figure out a way to drive business in.
Whether you’re on commission sales or not, we’re all judged on the amount of revenue that we’re bringing into the company and we can passively wait for marketing to do their jobs and passively wait for somebody else to do their jobs, but in today’s economic world it doesn’t work that way. Even in the IT consulting world where I spent many a year, you’ve got consultants on site with customers who do a great job extending contracts, finding more work. You’ve got other consultants who may be smarter than those people who just did the job, kept their blinders on, and then were what we used to call on the beach. Their utility to the company wasn’t as much as those who continued to hunt while they farm as they say.
The point is it doesn’t matter what you do in the company. It’s our job to figure out how do we bring in additional revenue and this is one of the key ways to do it. To help us understand that, again, we’ve got Jim Marshall who is one of our top trainers helping us really from the sales perspective understand what goes into a prospecting plan and what do we need to do to manage that process. Hey Jim, we’ve covered a lot so far. Anything else popping up that we should think about, need to know from a salesperson’s perspective on how to adjust it or how to manage it?
Jim Marshall: Yeah, as a matter of fact, David, and it is this. I firmly believe that in today’s day and age, you need to do something differently than you’ve always done. You need to approach, you need to skin this cat from maybe a little bit different angle. There are so many things that people can be doing that frankly don’t take a lot of effort and they can pay off many times over. We talked briefly about networking. I don’t know about you but there are good networking places and there are bad networking places.
The fact of the matter is whether you like to do it or you don’t like to do it, it should probably be a part of everyone’s prospecting plan. The key is, as we kind of alluded to earlier, there’s only so many hours in the day. Here’s one way you can make networking work well for you, if in fact this is part of your prospecting plan. Find out how to get to know who the organizer of that networking event is ahead of time. Have a conversation with them ahead of time. Ask them the kinds of people that are going to be there.
Then when you get to that particular event, if you really want to maximize your time, find that person who’s in charge and say, “Sally, thanks for the invitation. I’m really looking forward to being here. If you don’t mind, could I ask you if you could point out maybe two or three people here that you think I should get to know before I leave.” Now what do we know? The organizer of the event has the attendee list. They know who’s going to be there. They can point out to you and even introduce you to two or three key contacts.
You can be in and out of there in 20 minutes and meet three brand new contacts, rather than waste two or three or four hours, unless you really want to, of course. That’s a great way to maximize your time at networking events. Ask the organizer who you should know, ask them for the introduction, and maximize your time.
Dave Mattson: We’re back to focus again, aren’t we? You said this casually twice and I don’t think people realize how true it is or even if it’s doable. You said go into a networking meeting, get your two or three opportunities, your leads, and of course, you want to give some, as well, because you give and take at those so it’s worthwhile, but then get out and move onto something else. Versus suffering your way through the cold chicken and the melted ice cream and doing the routine, and all sitting there Velcroing yourself into the chair because it’s a death march so you don’t fall over asleep. We just said that twice.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely.
Dave Mattson: We believe it. We know it. We live it. The greater point is I guess you have to have a mission. How many leads do I need and who am I looking for?
Jim Marshall: You have to have a plan. What is your goal going into those events? If you can say my goal is to meet three new potential business contacts, go to your goal, achieve your goal, go home to your family.
Dave Mattson: That’s really key. Hey, one last point before I know you need to jump. Talk to us about active versus passive activities within our prospecting plan.
Jim Marshall: Active versus passive. The activities that you’re engaging in, are they measurable? Are they trackable? Do you have any control over the results? I’ll give you a great example. A lot of people will say, well yes, I market and I prospect. I send out postcards, I do mailings. I advertise, maybe I take out ads in the paper, maybe I do radio, whatever. A lot of that is passive. You can’t really track the results unless your phone rings. You don’t have any control as to whether people are going to respond. To me, that would be passive marketing, passive prospecting.
I’ll give you a great example of active prospecting. One of my clients actually did this with huge, huge success. We talked earlier about the referrals. Going back to past customers, even current customers, that you haven’t touched in a while. Here’s an example of active prospecting. He identified A’s, B’s, and C’s on his list. He took his B’s and C’s and he decided to pick 10 B’s and 10 C’s. He went to Starbucks and bought five dollar gift cards, bought 20 of them. His out of pocket expense was 100 dollars. Sent a note to those prospects and said, “Fred, been meaning to get together with you for a cup of coffee for a while now. My schedule has just gotten away from me. I apologize. Have a cup of coffee on me.” That’ll get somebody’s attention.
Then, he waited a couple of weeks. He picked up the phone and called Fred. “Hey Fred, did you get the gift card?” “Yeah, I did. Thanks John. I really appreciate it.” “Terrific, Fred. Guess what? Now it’s your turn to buy me a cup of coffee. When do you want to get together?”
Dave Mattson: The meeting was forced. That’s very good.
Jim Marshall: He set 20 meetings and got three brand new six figure pieces of business out of it.
Dave Mattson: Just from the Starbucks move?
Jim Marshall: Just from the Starbucks move.
Dave Mattson: Wow.
Jim Marshall: What he did was he took an active approach to the referral process, almost forced behavior on his part. Once he sends them, he has to follow-up on them. Guess what? Now there’s a feeling of gratitude, there’s a feeling almost of expectation on the part of his prospects.
Dave Mattson: You know in today’s world I guess we should even make that part of the prospecting or the Starbucks plan will help their stock, but to your point, yeah, it’s just an active way to go back into your B’s and C’s and put a little life into them, and we should be doing that anyways and now above and beyond that they’ve got additional business in referral. Very good idea.
Jim Marshall: Do you have time for another one?
Dave Mattson: Yeah, please.
Jim Marshall: One more. Active versus passive. One of the prospecting activities that we talk about is this idea of free talks. Passive might be where you send out a mailer to Chambers, to Kiwanis, to Rotary saying, “Hey, if you ever need a guest speaker,” and sit back and wait for the phone to ring. Well, it may not ring. An idea might be this. If you contact all of the Rotaries, the Chambers, the Kiwanis, any group like that within, say, a five mile radius of your office or a 10 mile radius. Call them and ask to speak to their program chair. Get the program chair on the phone and say, “Hey, listen. I know you’ve got a roster of speakers. I’m not calling you to get on your speaker list, but do you ever have a situation where one of your speakers cancels at the last minute?”
Dave Mattson: Of course they do.
Jim Marshall: Maybe they’re scheduled for Friday morning, they call you Thursday afternoon sick or something came up, they’ve got to go out of town. Do you keep an emergency contact list? Why don’t you put me on your emergency contact list. I’m not saying I’m going to be available, but if I’m available and I’ve got the time, I’ll be happy to come and spend 10 or 15 or 20 minutes with your group.
Now, the caveat to that is make sure that you have a general interest 10 or 15 or 20 minute talk that you can deliver that is going to capture the imagination of those people there. Here’s what’s going to happen, almost guaranteed. You will get a call within 30 days from one of those people saying so and so just canceled, can you make it? Every time one of our clients has tried that, they have always come away with meetings and those meetings have turned into new clients.
Dave Mattson: Very cool.
Jim Marshall: That is active talks as opposed to passive, well, I’ll try and get some.
Dave Mattson: I’m on the list. I’ll wait for my time. It’s like the lottery ticket.
Jim Marshall: Exactly.
Dave Mattson: Those are the great ideas. I guess to the greater point, you just got to have a plan, develop one for you and whatever it is, make sure that you implement it on a consistent basis. That’s the key.
Jim Marshall: You know what? Your plan might not be all that accurate the first time if you’ve never even done one. The key is, is that you have to track it and you can adjust it along the way. If this isn’t working, that’s okay. Then you adjust. That’s why plans are written in pencil, not pen.
Dave Mattson: That’s true. I think it doesn’t have to be an annual plan. You could look at this at a quarterly basis, a monthly basis, and make those adjustments necessary so you don’t wake up and it’s November and find out that it didn’t work out for you. That’s the key. You’ve got to continually pay attention to it. I’ve always said when people do account plans that they put them in their trunks in their car and don’t pay attention to them for another year. That’s just not what we’re talking about here. This is a live plan, a live document, and that’s the key.
Jim Marshall: Absolutely. And, as you’ve alluded to earlier, accountability. Once you establish the plan, you have to be held accountable. I daresay that in terms of the potency of accountability, give it to your spouse or significant other rather than your boss. It’s livelihood.
Dave Mattson: They’ve got more at stake, don’t they?
Jim Marshall: People whose livelihood depends on your paycheck. You go home at the end of the day and when you have a significant other saying, hey, you were going to make three new contacts today. How did that go? You can run but you can’t hide.
Dave Mattson: That is so true. Hey listen, I really do appreciate you taking the time this afternoon to help us understand prospecting plans. When we have more time, come back again, okay?
Jim Marshall: Absolutely. Thanks, David.
Dave Mattson: Jim Marshall is with us talking about prospecting plans and there’s so many things that we could do, but you got to determine the number of leads that you need. Number two, figure out the total ways to prospect in your industry. What are they, A to Z? Then go back and determine the most viable for you. There’s 35 ways and you know seven are good for you, that’s what you need to focus in on. Forget the rest. Then go back to the ones that you’ve said are viable for you and determine if I need 20, how many from each category do I need? Do I need five referrals? Do I need two from networking? Get a number. Manage the number.
You’ve been listening to Selling the Sandler Way with Dave Mattson. This podcast and its contents are the property of Sandler Training. Unauthorized duplication or rebroadcast is prohibited and unlawful under the U.S. copyright law. Sandler Training is the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations. For more information on Sandler Training, including free white papers, webinars, and more, visit Sandler.com.
Download our free ebook: Why Salespeople Fail And What You Can Do About It!