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5-MINUTE SALES COACH: Good prospectors have confidence to let weak opportunities go

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Hearing “no” from a prospect isn’t a terrible thing if it happens early in the sales process. You know who fights to the death for a “yes” on a project, even though his product or service isn’t the best fit? A salesperson who isn’t skilled or experienced enough to focus his time and resources only on the most promising opportunities.

Bill McCraryTell your people to actively—eagerly—pursue the “no.” The faster your rep hears “no,” the faster he’ll be able to pivot toward more favorable projects.

Getting a speedy no isn’t hard if your team members are good qualifiers. Let’s refresh our memory on the habits of good qualifiers:

  • They know their stuff. They know all the ins and outs of their product or service, the circumstances it was designed for, and the results it can get. This knowledge lets them make quick judgments on whether or not their product or service is a good fit for each prospect’s situation. If it’s not, they’re smart enough to abandon the opportunity and move on.
  • They know that having the right product or service is only half the battle. Factors such as the prospect’s budget, delivery, and scheduling expectations are integral to a “good fit” analysis. Even if your company’s product or service is completely right for a prospect, if it doesn’t fit their budget, it’s completely WRONG. At the end of the day (or worse, at the end of many days of wasted effort), the salesperson who ignores this fact and pushes onward is still going to get a “no.”

Now, your people might respond to this advice with something like, “It’s easy enough to say, ‘Just move on,’ but where exactly are all these more promising prospects going to come from?”

Good question, and here’s the answer: Being a good qualifier is essential, but it’s not enough. To make moving on from unqualified prospects easy, your reps must also be good prospectors. Only those salespeople who know how to maintain an appropriate supply of new opportunities will have the confidence to let imperfect opportunities go. 

So make sure your team members keep in mind the habits of good prospectors. Here are three:

  • They use a mix of methods. Cold-calling, LinkedIn introductions, direct mail, the 3-Foot Rule, networking, referrals, public speaking engagements—few salespeople engage in such a wide variety of prospecting activities. Most just stick to the two or three they’re most comfortable with. But the more methods your people use, the less dependent they’ll be on any one method to maintain a healthy stream of potential clients. A mix of active (networking) and passive (direct mail) activities is another good idea.  
  • They make a schedule. Good prospectors have a plan! They know when they’re going to tackle specific prospecting activities, who they’re going to target, and how many resources they’re going to devote to the effort. Resource considerations include both time (for the salesperson or other staff to prepare a talk, create copy for a direct mail piece, etc.) and money (such as travel expenses or printing costs).
  • They analyze their own effectiveness. What was the salesperson’s return on investment of time, staff resources, and money? A good prospector keeps track of which activities generate which leads (and which leads turn into appointments). They’ll also invest the time it takes to get better at prospecting methods that are outside their comfort zone.

Teach your people to be good qualifiers AND good prospectors. Then tell them to think of a “no” like the brass ring on a merry-go-round; go ahead and reach for it. They should have the confidence to know that they’ll trade today’s “no” for a “yes”—from a more suitable prospect—tomorrow.

Bill McCrary, a speaker, coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner, an authorized Sandler Training Center, in 1997. Reach McCrary at 803-771-0800, or

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