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Turn Prospecting ‘No’ Into ‘Yes!’

Author Kendra Lee

My youngest son is looking for a job. He has a list of all the places he wants to apply and he’s making his way steadily down the list, submitting applications, then picking up the phone to find and call the hiring manager. He’s very methodical about it and not the least bit discouraged by the phone calling – which feels a heck of a lot like prospecting to me.

Call the gatekeeper to get the right name. Call the decision maker and try to get the first appointment.

What’s struck me is his philosophy: They can’t say yes if I don’t ask.

We always approach prospecting from a negative, glass half-empty perspective: Out of 10 cold calls you’ll reach one decision maker for one good conversation. Expect to set an appointment 20% of the time.

While meant to motivate, that perspective can actually deflate.

No wonder sales reps avoid calling.

Worse yet, no wonder they live up to those discouraging stats. If you want more enthusiastic “yes!” replies than deflating “we’re all set” proclamations, change how you think about your calls. It’s not about counting the “no’s.” It’s about the possibility of a “yes!”

Turn your negative prospecting perspective around:

  • You’ll talk with a decision maker and have a great conversation every 9th time you pick up the phone.
  • You’ll set an appointment with the 5th decision maker you talk with.
  • Every time you leave a voicemail, a prospect gets to hear how interested you are in talking with them.
  • The tough gatekeeper is busy. She / he doesn’t mean it personally. They need someone to sincerely take an interest in them.
  • An unanswered email slipped below the first screen on a busy day.
  • A contact who hasn’t replied might be very interested but not had a free moment to reach out.
  • A prospect who didn’t respond to a calendar invitation may be waiting for your call.

Not only is it easier to find the motivation to pick up the phone when you turn your prospecting attitude around to see the possibility of a “yes!”, it changes your approach on your calls.

Pie in the sky, Pollyanna thinking? Maybe. But suddenly you’re excited to get to the next call because it may be the one where you’ll brighten a gatekeeper’s day, and she will give you a tidbit of information that will help you break through. It might be the call when the decision maker picks up because yes, you’ve called and emailed every week for the past 4 weeks and they know it’s time to talk with you.

All in the Attitude

That positive attitude – expecting a yes! – comes through in prospecting. Contacts feel it. And when it does, you actually achieve more success

We ran a sales blitz day with a group of sales reps last month where we saw positive prospecting in action. Nine sales people and business owners cold called for half a day. Four of them were just going through the motions, not expecting much but doing the job. Those negative Nellies plowed through the calls making an impressive number and not closing even one appointment between them. Contrast that to the other five who were nervous but excited to see what results they could get. Every one of the positive reps scheduled an appointment for 25-40% of their decision maker conversations. Much better than the 20% average of most salespeople.

There’s a great deal of opportunity just waiting for you. There’s even more if you take a positive approach to prospecting and expect to get what you want.

Bonus: It’s Q4 when assuming “no” is especially prevalent among sales people. Download our new ebook “Close the Year Strong: 10 Sales Strategies to Boost Q4 Sales” for loads of prospecting strategies to help you see a whole lot more yeses!


Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group, which works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment. Read more blogs from Kendra here.

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