A few years back, my son and I went apple picking with his best friend and the best friend’s mom. My son’s friend was about 6” taller than my son. And his mom was probably a full foot taller than me. While we were picking, it quickly became obvious that their basket was filling up faster than ours and that they had some beautiful apples while we were settling for some that I’d already decided were destined to become applesauce.
Pretty soon, my son figured it out. He said “all the ones I can reach are rotten” and he asked for a ladder. So we changed our tactics – He climbed the ladder and I held my breath, fearful that he would reach too far or do something unsafe. It turns out he was sort of scared, too, and took it just one step at a time, constantly reminding me to hold the ladder (AS IF I would ever let go!). Once we overcame our fears and got comfortable with this new approach, we found some beautiful apples. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much time in that zone because our friends were already done and were getting a little impatient with us.
It’s no different when it comes to prospecting.
We spend a lot of time standing with our feet firmly planted on the ground, comfortable, complacent, avoiding risk… And relying on the low hanging fruit.
The problem is that the low hanging fruit is often rotten. Sometimes, we have to reach higher, go outside our comfort zone, pick new tactics and overcome our fear in order to go after different fruit.
But first, we have to come to grips with the fact that the fruit is rotten, that the prospects we’re picking aren’t the best ones we could be going after. One of the very best clues that a prospect isn’t the best one is simply this – you wonder if you should give up.
Listen to that clue! This is a signal to analyze what you’re doing. When we were apple picking, I simply accepted that these were the best apples available to us. It was my son who refused to settle for applesauce apples. He analyzed the situation when I did not.
Sales is exactly the same. You have to stop and think about the way you’re spending your valuable time. Be strategic in how you prospect so that you invest your time wisely, choosing to make investments that will pay off for you.
Many years ago, a colleague frequently said “Effort equals Opportunity.” Her maxim made sense to me then, and it makes even more sense to me now when we are all faced with increasing demands on our time.
Effort equals Opportunity means that the size of the opportunity determines 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.
There is an exception to this rule… It is a very narrow exception, so don’t fall into the trap of overusing it. The only exception to this rule is for people who have a very small number of prospects and are restricted from increasing that prospect count by internal rules of engagement or by very small numbers of customers in the category you’re selling. For example, I work with a number of newspaper sellers and some of them have not just finite but very narrow categories and account lists that they sell to. In some cases, they work with a list of just 10-20 prospects and that number will never go up. They don’t have the luxury of moving on.
You probably do.
So what’s holding you back? Is the allure of the low-hanging fruit coupled with the fear of climbing keeping you from stretching and making an effort? Look up and see the opportunity that’s just beyond your current reach. It could be a very fruitful exercise.
About the Author: Deb Calvert has worked as a Corporate Director in a Fortune 500 company and as a consultant, coach and trainer to nearly 400 businesses of all sizes. She helps leaders, managers and sellers become more effective in their roles. Deb is a certified executive coach, and one of 2015's Top 50 Sales Influencers. Her bestselling book, DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected®, is based on field research with buyers and what they want from sales professionals.