Sandler Sales Institute is one of my favorite sources of timely, relevant advice for sales people. Here is a blurb from Lissa Versteegh (Lissa@sandler.com) for you folks in my line of work:
The "More Prospects" Paradox
Logic suggests that “more prospects” will lead to more sales. While that may be true for some salespeople, for many others, “more prospects” actually leads to fewer sales.
“Prospects” is undeniably the essential element in the sales process. However, the quality of the prospects and the pattern of interaction with them after the initial contact will determine if the sales process leads to closed sales…or closed files (and fewer sales).
What accounts for the difference?
It starts with the salesperson’s mindset. Some salespeople are of the mindset that “everybody’s a prospect.” These salespeople jump at the chance to tell their stories to anyone who will listen—voluntarily or otherwise…whether they’re truly interested or not. And, that mindset gives rise to two problems.
First, the salespeople spend an inordinate amount of time chasing prospects of questionable quality. Their quest being to convince those prospects that the product or service they have to offer deserves consideration. The more time they are in “chase” mode, the less time they have to develop and close sales.
Second, during the appointments they eventually schedule, they waste additional time attempting to “convince” prospects of the merits of their product or service. Their “convincing” approach (along with their “everybody’s a prospect” philosophy) fails to recognize the difference between a suspect (someone who may be curious about or have a casual interest in the product or service) and a prospect (someone who has a recognized need or acknowledged desire for the product or service).
Another element that accounts for the difference between “more prospects” leading to either more closed sales or more closed files is the process used to qualify and develop opportunities. The more structured (and perhaps stringent) the process of qualifying an opportunity, the more quickly suspects can be weeded out (wasting little time with them) and the more quickly opportunities can be developed and sales closed with qualified prospects. Salespeople with the “everybody’s a prospect” mindset, however, are likely to have an extremely flexible selling process (which in some cases means no defined process at all).
If you want “more prospects” to lead to “more sales,” first, be more selective about the people you target as prospects and with whom you invest your time. Develop a profile of the “ideal” prospect derived from the characteristics of your most consistent and/or profitable customers and then target prospects that most closely fit the profile. Even then, when a potential prospect expresses an interest in your product or service, quickly determine if that interest is driven merely by curiosity…or an actual need or desire for the outcome your product or service delivers. Sometimes, it takes nothing more than a direct question like, “What specifically sparked you interest in…?” or “What are you hoping to accomplish by investing in…?”
Next, be more stringent in qualifying the various aspects of the opportunity. Prospects must not only have a legitimate need or desire for your product or service, but they must also have the wherewithal to obtain it. And, they must be in a position to make a decision in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time frame—reasonable for you, that is.
When you focus your efforts on quickly identifying and weeding out suspects, and then use a selling process to methodically qualify the remaining prospects, “more prospects” will lead to more sales.