Industrial Sales

Why should good salespeople be terrible at prospecting?

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Here is a simple proposition: When a salesperson is selling, he or she is not identifying new opportunities. And that’s a good thing because you always want your salespeople to be actively selling. The better the salesperson, the greater the imperative to focus their attentions exclusively on selling. It’s not that great salespeople can’t prospect successfully.

Sales prospecting needs consistency

It’s just that they simply shouldn’t have the bandwidth available to do the job well. Consistent prospecting requires organized, dedicated contact with prospect companies, identifying the right stakeholders and then engaging with them, cultivating a relationship, and building an in-depth understanding of their needs, challenges, and aspirations. That’s a full-time job; it can’t be done well on a catch-as-catch-can basis.

Salespeople hate prospecting!

It’s not a “one day a week reserved for prospecting” kind of task. And, it’s no secret that most salespeople hate prospecting. They often find it demotivating and foreign to their primary skillset. Good salespeople get “pumped” when they are eye to eye with a prospect, deeply engaged in problem identification and solving, not when they are “smiling and dialing.”

Put them in front of the right people with an identified need and interest, and they are smack in the middle of their ideal milieu, with their juices flowing. That’s when they can be most productive — cultivating the relationship, building a foundation of trust, and closing the sale — and that’s what you pay them for.

Lead generation without salespeople

So, if your salespeople aren’t engaged in prospecting, how do you get it done? You can either develop your own internal, dedicated business development team or outsource the activity to a company specializing in lead generation. The choice is up to you, and it’s a function of how you want to deploy your resources. There are arguments to be made in support of either choice.

Outsourced sales prospecting

The key variables to consider are whether or not you want to take on the responsibility and overhead of hiring employees and the associated costs. If you go down that path, you will have the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to meet your seasonal needs — not as easy with an in-house team.

There’s also the matter of lost opportunity costs associated with sick time, vacations, and turnover. You pay an outsourced partner only for what they do, not for lost time. Along with turnover comes the need to hire and train regularly (it becomes a revolving door). Then there are the costs of management, equipment, and systems (all of which have their associated indirect costs).

Most often, in-house solutions are more costly than outsourcing if you account for all direct, indirect, and lost opportunity costs. But you may want to spend more to gain greater control, and owning the process internally certainly gives you that. Moreover, it’s easier to facilitate communication and teamwork between your employees than if you use an outsourced partner. And that’s an important consideration.

Be careful when outsourcing

Let’s not forget your brand and the image portrayed by those who represent you to your prospect (and customer) base. Whether the solution is in-house or outsourced, a critical variable is too often overlooked.

The cost of a bad connection between one of your representatives and a prospect or client is enormous. You can’t overestimate the importance of professionalism and brand and product image. So, whatever route you choose, be sure that your representation is professional enough to raise the esteem of your brand and accomplish the primary goal of generating qualified sales opportunities.

You need a solid ROI!

Ensure that your management structure is sufficient to mandate accountability from everyone involved, from those responsible for seeking out the opportunities to the salespeople who must follow up if your investment is to have solid ROI. Regardless of your choice, the lesson here is simple.

Salespeople are among your most expensive assets

Employing them to undertake work that a competent, dedicated prospecting team can accomplish more consistently and productively is far more expensive and unproductive. Keeping them in front of the right people as often as possible is the best way to maximize their productivity and the return on your investment.