The only reason salespeople exist is to help customers solve their problems, grow and improve. The corollary is, if the customer doesn’t have problems you can solve, they don’t need you!
Judging by most of the prospecting calls I get (and most I observe with salespeople), too many salespeople fail to recognize this.
Too often, salespeople call blindly, reaching out to anyone, any company, any name on their list. Inevitably, they start their conversations with, “I’d like to tell you about my company and our solutions...”
Too often, salespeople don’t focus their efforts on customers that have problems the salespeople can solve. As a result, they waste a lot of their time and the customers’ time.
Sales Prospecting: Diminishing Returns
Prospecting efforts are best focused on finding these customers with problems. These problems may be explicit–the customer recognizes they have challenges, they need to improve, they recognize there are opportunities they are missing.
Alternatively, the customer may not recognize they have problems. Through deft questioning, or provocative insights, the sales person can incite the customer to consider, “Is there a better way? Can we improve? Are we missing opportunities?”
But until we find customers that fit into either of these categories, we are wasting our time and pissing off those caught up in our clueless prospecting.
Too often, I sees organizations and salespeople caught in this flywheel of ever escalating desperation and meaningless activity. They have numbers they have to make—number of dials, number of conversations. They dial endlessly, reaching prospects who have no need or desire. They continue to dial, producing unsatisfactory results. What used to take 10 conversations to find an opportunity, now takes 50, and tomorrow will take 100. The results from this clueless outreach plummet, but rather than change the approach, we double down on the calls, going after ever increasing volumes and velocity.
Sales Prospective: Rethink Your Approach
Imagine what would happen if we changed our approach. What if we focused on a well-defined “sweet spot?” What if we focus on companies and people within those companies that are highly likely to have the problems we solve?
What would happen if we spent some of our call time researching to narrow our focus to companies we know have problems are are looking to address new opportunities?
It isn’t difficult to do. There are tons of analytical tools that help identify prospects that may have problems or challenges. If you study your markets and target industry segments, it’s easy to identify the top performers and those that could improve. Likewise, by studying customers, markets, industry segments, it’s relatively easy to understand and target those that may be missing opportunities.
Rather wasting time and resource on those that are doing well, what if we, instead, focus on those that need to improve or want to improve?
It is, also, easy to identify those people that should change, but may not have recognized the need to change. They won’t be the top performers in our target segments. If we focus on them, focusing on the opportunity to grow and improve, to match and compete with their top competitors, we will find customers much more interested in learning and changing.
Even if we can’t determine these things from research, if we change our approach, focusing on helping them discover they may have problems/opportunities/challenges, instead of pitching our products, our engagement rates will skyrocket.
Customers don’t buy products/services because we have sold them those products/services. They buy them to solve problems and address opportunities.
Until we discover what those problems are, engaging customers in conversations about those problems, we are wasting their time and our time.
David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more.