Thursday, June 12, 2008

"But I'm Always Prospecting!"

I read a great post recently on Paul McCord's blog about how "busy" salespeople can be. This is the same guy who only reads email and answers phone calls at four specific times throughout the day (something I haven't been able to bring myself to do!), so I trust he knows what he's talking about when it comes to productivity.

Here's his story:

"But I'm always prospecting." That was Rachel's response when we began talking about her failure to generate enough business to make the cut with her broker/dealer. Rachel is a relatively new salesperson who has been struggling for months and she and her manager have been trying to find a way to get her on track.

It didn't take long for the conversation to get around to her activities, in particular her prospecting activities. She was baffled by her lack of success because as she said, she was 'always prospecting.'

Rachel showed me a list of several hundred names and phone numbers she had on a call list - a few dozen had check marks beside them, even fewer were scratched through. She showed me the stacks of fliers and letters she had mailed out. She showed me a list of networking events she had attended over the past couple of months. She showed me a passel of follow-up emails she had sent out. She told me that her business card had been added to every corkboard in every restaurant, laundromat, and other business that had a board to display customers' cards.

Rachel had been busy; there was no doubt about that. The problem was although she had been busy, she hadn't been prospecting. In reality she was finding ways not to prospect. She engaged in a great deal of activity, but the activity she engaged in wasn't the activity that would produce business; instead, it was the activity that made her feel good, made her feel productive, allowed her to convince herself that she was being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity - after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed. But activity alone is fruitless. Activity for activity's sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has. As salespeople we have three very basic duties - finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale. Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn't make a sale, doesn't generate income, and doesn't move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not. If it isn't directly producing income, does it really need to be done? If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale.

Author of "Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals," and "SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar," Paul McCord is president of McCord & Associates, a sales training and management-consulting firm.

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