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3 Winning Strategies for Prospecting

Right Prospects, Right Message, Right Attitude

By David Yesford

Everything has changed in the current COVID-accelerated selling environment, putting pressure on salespeople just to make quota and continue to drive revenue for their organization. At the same time, nothing has changed with respect to the skill and discipline required to be successful at one of the most critical aspects of the sale: prospecting. You may have intensified prospecting efforts lately as customers have stopped buying, downsized, cut spending, or, in some cases, switched suppliers. The problem is that prospecting is often time-consuming, costly, and hard on the morale of the sales team. Why? Look at some of the typical tips for successful prospecting:

  • “Schedule a minimum of two hours a day for phone calling.”
  • “Spend the first 30 minutes of each day making at least three calls.”

The idea is that if you make enough calls, sooner or later a certain percentage will result in meetings, and a certain percentage of those will eventually result in sales.

The fundamental flaw in this strategy explains why most salespeople hate prospecting—they hear a very large number of “No’s” for every “Yes.” If the great majority of their calls are to people who have no interest in their offering, the time they spend has little effect other than to lower motivation and drive up the cost of sales.

Consider another set of numbers: As a rule, the unscreened suspect-to-prospect ratio is 10:1, with a prospect-to-sale ratio of 3:1. This means that the suspect-to-sale ratio goes up to 30:1. With this low rate of success in reaching real prospects, little time or energy is left over for the actual sales calls that bring in revenue.

Usually lumped in and buried with the total cost of sales, prospecting can represent anywhere from 25–50% of total cost of sales. It's a bigger number than most believe. —

David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. and Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of sales and leadership, as well as e-learning and strategic consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.