Forget Closing! Just Get The Appointment

“You can’t sell to everyone, and because you must sell to someone, you don’t want to pick anyone. Prospecting remains the most important step in sales. All others cannot manifest if there’s no one to work them on”

What is the most important skill in selling? Prospecting. Interestingly, when I ask the same question, I’m told its closing. And why do I insist it’s prospecting: because all other skills are useless if you have no one (a prospect) to work them on.

One of the hard truths about selling is that you can’t win them all. And not only because they don’t need or can’t afford your product; but sometimes because they just don’t like you or something you said. That aside, if everyone you approached bought your product, then what purpose would you be serving? You can’t sell to everyone, and because you must sell to someone, you don’t want to pick anyone. You want to be choosy and limit your options to those who can buy your product-and this is what prospecting is; sieving wheat from chaff. Even free newspaper vendors tend to choose whom they distribute (not give) their free wares to. You are less likely to see them on Mbagthi Way dishing out the paper to the stream of casual labourers making their way to Industrial Area and more likely to see them weaving through traffic pushing the paper through the slit in the drivers’ slightly open window. The thinking here is that the latter has the purchasing power to place an advert in the paper and the former doesn’t. For those that cry foul at the discrimination, now you know that even “free” isn’t “free”-it must be targeted.

Selling is prospecting. Done correctly, all the other steps tend to fall in place like dominoes. Done incorrectly and you find yourself strumming the harp at a goat. Regrettably, prospecting isn’t taken with the gravity it deserves. Many sellers tend to gloss over it yet prospecting isn’t something you do when your sales are low or when you are in the mood. No. Prospecting is selling; it is your livelihood. Like breathing, it’s a full time job-not a part time one. But to thrive in prospecting requires discipline. The discipline to make the necessary number of calls to get two appoints daily for Business-to-Business (B2B) Selling and eight daily, Business-to-Customer (B2C). I know B2C salespeople who choose to go to where the prospects are concentrated, instead of seeking them all over. Insurance and bank sales people who “camp” at Kenyatta Hospital or such other large employer, and are sufficiently disciplined to present to eight people every day, kill two birds with one stone: they prospect and present simultaneously. In my books they are miles ahead of the ones lounging in the office making occasional phone calls in the hope that one of the shots in the dark will hit home and an appointment will yield.

So how many prospects should I have in my pipeline to meet my target? Well, take your target and triple it. If it is 100M in deposits make it 300M and working with a closing ratio of 1:3, you arrive at the 100M you seek. Because for most sellers, prospecting is equivalent to eating a frog, and because you must eat it to thrive, then do so and be done with it at the beginning of the day, or week or whatever regularity that feeds your pipeline with triple the number of people you need to present to, to meet your target. Like any other skill you’ll soon realize prospecting is an acquired taste

Dutifully prospecting is how you take charge of your sales success and feel progressive movement in your career. The rest is just details.

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