Jeff Beals is an international award-winning author, keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He has spoken in five countries and 41 states. His work has appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.
Do you invest in the stock market?
If so, you’re probably aware of the constant waxing and waning that characterizes the life cycle of the stock market. What goes up eventually goes down, and what goes down eventually goes up.
If you’re a long-term investor, you tend to wait out the market cycles and, instead, count on the long-term growth that has always happened in the market over extended periods of time. If you’re a short-term investor, you may be playing the cycle, hoping to buy or sell at precisely the right time.
Either way, the stock market goes up and down. When markets are optimistic, investors begin to feel enthusiasm, then exhilaration. Eventually, it starts to feel like you’re invincible, that every investment you make pays off. That false belief compels some investors to make reckless decisions and take questionable risks.
Just as the stock market reaches its feverish peak, the bull market ends. Most people don’t realize it right away, and investors often go through a period of denial. But eventually pessimism sets in, which leads to panic and then despair—the bear market. Of course, when people are depressed at the bottom of the trough, that’s when things slowly start to trend upwards, starting the whole cycle over again.
Sales practitioners tend to go through cycles quite analogous to the stock market—highs and lows, peaks and valleys.
At the peak of the prospecting cycle, the “bull market,” you have so many deals to close and so much easy business that you’re tempted to put off prospecting activities. Of course, that eventually leads to an empty pipeline. When you realize you have no prospects in the pipe, you prospect like crazy, which eventually leads to another up cycle.
If your personal sales cycle is too volatile, you are putting yourself under a great deal of stress. There’s one secret to evening out your cycle while keeping your revenue going up each year—perpetual prospecting.
Prospecting is the key. It’s the reason 20% of sales reps do 80% of the business. In some companies, it might be closer to 10% and 90%. It’s the reason why some sales reps do well even during a recession. Prospecting separates the good from the great.
I like to define prospecting as the art of interrupting someone when they don’t expect to hear from you in order to provide them with something they need that they might not yet know.
As that definition implies, there is one aggressive part of prospecting—interrupting someone. But the rest of the definition implies that sales reps are doing prospects a favor by introducing them to something important—valuable products and services.
If you want to be a better prospector and consequently make more money, here are five quick pieces of advice:
1. Prospect Like Your Life Depends on It
Your sales life does depend on prospecting. Ideally, you should consider prospecting to be a mindset, a way of life and a fundamental part of your company’s culture. When things are going well and you’re closing so many sales you can hardly keep up, you still need to carve out at least a little time for prospecting.
2. Be an Opportunity Detective
Turn over every rock and scratch the dirt. Opportunities are often buried layers below the surface. Keep in mind that every person you meet could potentially lead to business and that prospects can theoretically be found any place you go.
3. Apply Discipline to Your Prospecting
In order to make sure you prospect perpetually, block out a couple periods of time each week that are reserved for prospecting activities including telephone calls, personalized direct emails or showing up at prospects’ offices. This time should be a non-negotiable calendar commitment not to be interrupted or rescheduled unless it’s an emergency.
4. Be Obsessed with Prospect Value
When you engage cold prospects, you want to talk about things you believe they value instead of talking about you or your company. For instance, too many sales reps start prospecting messages with statements such as: “We’ve been in business since 1910,” or “We offer a full suite of IT solutions.” Instead, research the prospect before contacting them and talk about what they value and then be ready to explain how the outcomes/results of your products and services satisfy those values.
5. Plan Ahead
Nobody plans to fail, but sales practitioners regularly fail to plan. I recommend you map out your weekly prospecting plan on Sunday evening or early Monday morning. Decide who you’re going to contact and research those prospects ahead of time. That way, when you get to your dedicated prospecting time, you’re focused on communicating instead of digging through websites and looking up LinkedIn® profiles. If you do anything other than communicating during dedicated prospecting time blocks, you’re wasting the prime calling hours.