Why Sales Prospecting Is Harder Than Ever, And What To Do About It

How To Break Through The Marketing Noise And Connect With Your Sales Prospects

Prospecting for new business has always been a major issue for sellers, but it has become an even greater issue over the past few years as it has become increasingly difficult to break through the unrelenting marketing noise and make connection.  For most of us, finding and connecting with top drawer prospects is demanding more and more time—and often with diminishing returns.

There are several reasons that prospecting today is more time consuming and difficult.  Part of the problem is that a great many prospects intentionally put barriers in our way to keep us at bay.  In addition we often sabotage ourselves by using only one avenue of approach, be that through cold calling or cold emailing or whatever.

But the real issue is that our prospects are drowning in sales and marketing noise to the point that it is extremely difficult for us to be heard. I wrote previously about what it’s like to sell in a world of 8 second attention spans. Literally from the time they are woken up in the morning by their radio alarm clock until they turn off the TV right before turning out the light to go to sleep, prospects are inundated with messages trying to sell them something—radio, TV, magazine, and newspaper ads, pop-ups all over the Internet, unsolicited sales emails, cold calls throughout the day, billboards, junk mail, elevator pitches by well-meaning sellers, an avalanche of message burying prospects with unrelenting noise.

Is it any wonder we are having an increasingly difficult time getting through?

How do we manage the prospecting function and maintain sanity?

First, concentrate your efforts on real prospects.

Not everyone on your prospect list is a real prospect—at least not today.

What is a real prospect?  My definition of a real prospect is simple—someone who both needs and can afford my service.  Obviously if they don’t need my service they aren’t a prospect.  Likewise, if they need it but can’t afford it they aren’t a prospect.  Anyone or any company that meets those two criteria are prospects for me.

Consequently I break my prospect list into three sections.  The first section is those people or companies that both need and can afford my service.  I prospect heavily to this group.  The second group are those people or companies that do not need my services today but probably will in one to three years—or who likely will be in a position to afford my services within that period of time.  I market to these prospects on a regular basis through email and snail mail but only contact them via telephone once, maybe twice a year.  The third group is people and companies that are likely to become real prospects in the more distant future.  This group I contact via email or snail mail once a quarter.

Anyone on my prospect list that doesn’t fit into one of these groups gets tossed and I invest no more time or effort on them.

By concentrating the vast majority my time and effort only on real, short-term, and to a lesser extent mid-term, prospects I reduce the amount of time I spend prospecting and increase my return because I can concentrate my time on customizing my prospecting approach and message to specific prospects.

I’m not scatter shooting and trying to be all things to all people; I’m concentrating on delivering real value to a manageable universe of prospects.

Second, use a portfolio of contact methods.

Our prospects aren’t matching paper doll cutouts.  We deal with a myriad of personalities, each with their own preferred methods of being contacted.  Some will take cold calls, some won’t.  Some will read cold emails, some won’t.  Some will read snail mail, some won’t.  Some will read blogs, some won’t.

If we want to reach our prospects and be heard we must take the time and put in the effort to reach them in the manner they wish to be reached, not in the manner that is easiest for us.  We have to deal with prospects on their terms if we want them to listen to us.

That means using a multitude of marketing strategies.

Third, breaking through the noise isn’t a one-time process.

Studies have shown that it takes anywhere from seven to eleven contacts for the average prospect to respond to our message.  You must have a prospecting program that is consistently touching each of your first tier prospects using a number of different messaging formats.

Breaking through the noise is tougher today than ever before—and it only continues to get tougher.  If you want your prospecting to be successful and manageable you must align your prospecting program to the realities of today’s marketplace.  That means using a number of message delivery methods to a focused group of highly qualified prospects—those who both need and can afford your product or service.

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