Effort Equals Opportunity
The size of the sales opportunity should determine how much effort you put into it. You have to be objective in assessing the opportunity in order for this equation to work. You can’t limit yourself by looking only at the low-hanging fruit that seems to be in reach. Instead, you have to be willing to stretch and climb for the greater opportunities. And you also have to be willing to put less effort, maybe even no effort, into low or no opportunity prospects.
But first, you have to be objective. That means:
- Emotionally, you may want to give up on prospects that you’ve already called 4 or 5 times and never gotten a reply from. Let me just say that 4-5 calls or e-mails is not nearly enough. Rationally, consider the opportunity. If this is a business you can help, one that will benefit from the products and services you sell, the opportunity may be worth a little more effort. If this is a business that could spend a high dollar amount relative to your other accounts, then this is a potential opportunity worth a lot more effort.
You see, opportunity is not measured by how easy the prospect is to reach. So don’t let frustration or fatigue influence your objective analysis of how much effort you should rationally invest in a good opportunity.
- Emotionally, you may want to abandon a prospect who is unpleasant to deal with. This is the one who complains about your company, had a bad experience, seems to enjoy watching you squirm or just doesn’t appeal to you for some reason. Think twice before you subjectively eliminate this one from your list. There are clues in this dynamic that you may need to mine so you can objectively assess the opportunity. Whatever the prospect is complaining about or objecting to is a clue about what they value. With a little effort, you could probably deliver exactly what they value now that you have this insight. Consider, too, why you are uncomfortable – chances are that this prospect reminds you of another customer you have or had in the past. What did you do to turn that one around?
The takeaway here is the same as in the first scenario. Your emotional rationalizations for dumping a prospect might not be as helpful as a fact-based, neutral assessment.
- Emotionally, you might like to dump a prospect because you feel minimized or rejected. In sales, feeling this way is not unusual, even for those who develop a thick skin and a healthy resilience to bounce back after hearing the word “no.”
That’s why it’s so important to keep a level-headed, dispassionate, objective perspective when assessing the opportunity presented by a prospect. There are some we don’t really want to put our effort into because they make us feel bad for a myriad of reasons. Those reasons should not dictate who you spend time on!
To get away from making emotional decisions… And, let’s face it, if you have any say so about when and who to call as prospects, you may let your emotions in the moment dictate who you choose to call. I’ve watched the process – a sales rep pulls up the list of contacts to be made today from the CRM. And an unscientific filtering process happens. When field coaching, I ask “why did you skip that one?” or “what caused you to go straight to that one?” The answers are almost always based in emotion – “This guy likes me, he’s close to buying.” Or “I have a good rapport with this contact.” Or “I just call who I feel like calling… in random order.”
Well, you know what happens next. The time for prospecting fills up and there are some prospects who aren’t called at all. In coaching, I ask sales reps to give me a reason why they chose not to call the ones on that list… Invariably, there are at least a few on the not called list that the seller simply didn’t like, didn’t feel good about today, or didn’t want to call.
Instead, assign criteria to distinguish between good prospects and bad prospects. Objective, non-emotional, criteria that would signify there is truly good opportunity. This is really hard for some reps. They struggle to get past the emotions and the pre-conceived judgments they have. Your criteria should be about which prospects have a need you can meet and what the size of that opportunity could be for you.
If you keep it simple and keep emotional intrusions out of your process, you will make smarter decisions about who and how you prospect.