Many sales representatives struggle with sales prospecting. In fact, 42 percent of sales associates named prospecting the most challenging stage of the sales process. (1) Why is prospecting so difficult?

  • Ideal prospects rarely exist. Studies show that at least 50 percent of prospects are not the right fit
  • Making sales is tougher than it was five years ago, according to 61 percent of salespeople.
  • 54 percent of sales representatives say that getting in front of the right prospects is challenging
  • Nearly 58 percent of sales associates do not ask for referrals (2)

While selling does require work, that does not mean it cannot be enjoyable! The trick is to break down barriers that diminish the impact of sales tactics.

1. Improve Company Culture and Management Styles 

Contrary to popular belief, the most important factor to salespeople is not financial compensation. It is company culture, followed closely by management effectiveness.  If compensation is the first priority in an organization, it may create a barrier that attracts ineffective talent and hinders top talent.

Leadership can solve these problems by taking measures to improve company culture and work on management styles. The culture should encourage and reward employees. Managers should be present and attentive, and provide mentoring/coaching/training to motivate, inspire and help employees feel valued.

2. Analyze Accounts 

Outdated, inefficient methods to find leads and win sales are not good for making sales. Top down selling, improperly researched cold outreach, targeting a single decision-maker, and so forth are all ineffective practices.  Prospecting is a critical part of sales which means there may be as many as ten people involved in buying decisions.  Each role needs to be weighed, understood as well as personalizing the customer experience through research and quality questions.

Prospects who have not purchased and clients who have become dormant should be carefully analyzed to determine if they are truly a fit. Identifying the decision-makers and influencers early on also helps to shorten the sales cycle.

3. Build Out Referral Networks 

47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, underscoring the importance of referral networks for closing sales. (3) Peer-to-peer recommendations are a powerful marketing tactic. They build trust with potential customers and act as evidence of a company’s product or service quality. They are even more effective than positive online reviews for winning business. For this reason, the sales team at every organization should focus on building out and strengthening its referral networks.

Where can referral networks be found?

  • Online in social media groups, special interest forums, or located via social listening, etc.
  • In-person connections such as with networking events, speaking opportunities, and other proactive efforts.
  • Internal customers such as through other sales team members where a mutual connection may exist, vendors/suppliers, etc.
  • External customers who have purchased already and can offer referrals to another business, location within the organization itself, etc.
  • Events such as product launches, trade shows, industry expositions, etc.
  • Complementary products/service providers such as those who provide add-on components or services that aren’t offered, companies that provide products/services to the same niche market but aren’t competitors, etc.
  • Competitors who offer similar products or services but can’t fill certain needs or niches.

4. Focus on Growing Accounts 

Closing sales with existing clients takes considerably less time than doing so with new clients. This makes it worthwhile for companies to work on growing accounts, earning additional business, and retaining clients as long as possible. The sales team should enlist the assistance of the marketing department for this endeavor. Working together, they can communicate and provide systems to define various processes within the conversion structure. Examples include:

  • Lead scoring mechanisms to better qualify and quantify a lead to assist sales.
  • Upsell training to enhance the overall average sale value
  • Automated trigger emails after the sale to follow-up on questions, issues, additional items, etc.

5. Develop Sales Associates’ Expertise 

51 percent of top sales performers report being regarded as an expert in their field. (4) Customers want to know they are dealing with someone who knows their company’s products or services inside and out. Sales representatives are their first information pipeline, and in this way, the knowledge they display is critical for success.

Salespeople who display their expertise instill confidence in their organization’s ability to meet the customer’s needs and address their concerns.

6. Examine the Methodology of Contact 

Persistence, frequency and a strong value proposition are key to making contact that results in sales. Reaching out and responding in a timely manner, and clearly communicating the quality offered by the products or services in question, breaks down barriers and earns sales.

  • High growth organizations have 16 points of contact within the first four weeks. (5)
  • 44 percent of salespeople give up after one attempt to reach a prospect (6)
  • 92 percent of salespeople will give up after four attempts. (7)
  • 50 percent of sales happen after the 5th point of contact. (8)
  • Following up with a lead within 5 minutes produces 9 times better odds at connecting with a prospect. (9)
  • Responses to leads within one hour or less are 7 times more likely to have meaningful conversations. (10)

7. Go Into Every Conversation Prepared 

Salespeople should prepare for every single scenario even if they anticipate the conversation will be routine. The phrase “prepare for the worst but hope for the best” applies perfectly here.

  • Map out every objection, concern and question the prospect could have
  • From there, come up with persuasive yet valuable answers and responses to each
  • Leverage favorable facts, statistics, stories, studies and compelling testimonials to make the case
  • Meticulously document and organize information to ensure it is easily and quickly accessible if necessary

8. Manage Expectations

 The process of managing expectations starts early in the relationship. Therefore, sales representatives should view it as an active process. They should make it an intentional part of building a healthy relationship; one that is mutually beneficial and advances the relationship and conversation.

  • Listen carefully and make it a point to understand prospects. Take notes and save them electronically for future reference.
  • Consider the following: What does the prospect need? What have other customers in similar situations needed or requested? How were those needs met or issues resolved?
  • Anticipate needs questions and issues. Think about how the salesperson can meet their needs and respond to issues.
  • Review the customer relationship management (CRM) system or marketing automation tools to figure out what kind of content may spark their interest. Follow up with the prospect to provide that content

While prospecting comes with challenges, the process can become a strength rather than a weakness for businesses if handled effectively. By following these strategies, sales associates can rise to the occasion and significantly increase the number of sales they close.

Uncertain times call for creative thinking.  Contact Gavel International to be inspired with solutions that connect and engage your people. 














Jim Bozzelli