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Beware of Who’s Preaching that Prospecting No Longer Works to Develop New Business

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by Mike on August 7, 2012

There is a lot of noise and confusion about prospecting in the sales world.

It’s always been hard to get salespeople to prospect for new business — even when proactively pursuing strategic target accounts was widely accepted as a valid method for acquiring new customers. Today, the false teachers, many from the Sales 2.0 movement, loudly proclaim that prospecting is dead and completely ineffective for developing new business.

Be on guard when you hear people preaching that prospecting no longer works. Be careful because it is exactly what your itching ears want to hear. No one really likes to do the grunt work involved to prospect successfully, especially if it involves cold calling. So it is natural for us to gravitate toward those who tell us what we want to believe. It’s the same concept our parents taught us:  It matters who your friends are. Much of our subjective truth is based on the beliefs of those we choose to listen to.

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past couple of years as a coach and consultant to business to business sales teams:  Those with the loudest voices boldly proclaiming that prospecting is ineffective and that proactively pursuing target accounts who aren’t coming to you is a waste of time, are not only wrong, but they also have an agenda.

There are two distinct camps of loud voices preaching the deadly advice that many in sales are excited to hear.

The first camp is filled with  your under-performing colleagues in sales. These are the folks who survived, or possibly thrived, when times were good and there was plenty inbound demand for what they sold. For the most part, they never had to prospect for new business. It came looking for them. Or they were so skilled at account and relationship management, they benefitted from an abundance of opportunity at existing accounts during good economic times. These people did well without ever having to go out, turn over new rocks, hunt for new relationships, etc. So, now, in tougher times, not only do they not want to proactively prospect for new accounts, truthfully, they don’t know how. And because of their own fears, stuggles and current poor results, they don’t want you to prospect either. You get it? They are failing and the last thing they want to see is you succeeding picking up new business when they’re not. They’re scared, lost and confused. And they figure that the louder they yell that prospecting doesn’t work that a) you will listen and agree, and b) they may not be forced to do it themselves.

The second group motivated to turn you against prospecting are those in the Sales 2.0 camp peddling products, services and content for Inbound Marketing. Don’t over-read into that statement. There are some incredible sales minds and great people delivering huge value to the sales community from the 2.0 group. And I’m as big a fan as anyone of integrating new media and smart inbound marketing into our business development initiatives. But there is also a contingent of false teachers vehemently declaring that prospecting is passe, worthless, dead… that “old” methods don’t work anymore. And it just so happens that many of these same folks stand ready to sell you their solution so you never have to cold call again. Not exactly unbiased advice, is it?

We can embrace the new without discarding the old. Social media and inbound marketing are great supplements to, not replacements for, our personal prospecting efforts. Pay attention to who is telling you not to prospect for new business. I bet there’s a good chance they’re from one of the groups described above.

I believe that prospecting not only still works, but is an essential part on any new business development initiative. That’s why I wrote New Sales. Simplified. – The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development. I promise not to turn this blog in a perpetual commercial for the book. But I invite you see what some of the most respected sales minds in North America are saying about the book and the importance of returning to the timeless truths and fundamentals of selling.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Leanne Hoagland-Smith August 8, 2012 at 10:47 am

So true, Michael and it is human nature seeking the quick fix instead of working hard and doing what it takes.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

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Mike August 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I am with you Leanne. We all want the magic bullet! If it only existed…

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Maureen Blandford (@MaureenB2B) August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm

You couldn’t be more right. And I SO appreciate anyone pointing out that there are special interests in the marketplace that have stuff to sell; that bias needs to be taken in to consideration.

Even though I’m more in Sales Support/Marketing than Sales Development, I always always always tell my clients that Sales should be the TOP priority.

In many B2B sectors, lead gen stuff simply doesn’t work and you definitely need sales guys who can prospect.

Bravo man.

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Mike August 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hi Maureen,
Thanks for the support on twitter and commenting here. Well said. There are “special interests” which are apparent if one looks hard enough. I agree on SALES being the priority. And, truthfully, if a salesperson isn’t interested in proactively working prospect accounts, should he/she really be in sales?

I wish my clients had more leads. That would be so wonderful. But in many cases, it just doesn’t work that way. Leads often must be self-generated by prospecting against a strategically selected list of target accounts.

Glad to have you here! Mike

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S. Anthony Iannarino August 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

You know how I feel about the charlatans proclaiming the death of cold calling, and with it, the death of prospecting. This is one of the most harmful lies salespeople and sales organizations can believe. Almost every sales organization I know would benefit from more–and more effective–prospecting. Immediately, too! The great lie here only worsens their problems and leads them to believe there is a magic bullet, if only they could find it.

This may not be a perpetual commercial for New Sales. Simplified., but I strongly recommend that NSS is a damn helpful antidote to the lies that infect salespeople and sales organizations with the disease that is an aversion to prospecting.

A

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Mike August 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Strong, but necessary words. Thanks Anthony. And thanks for blazing the trail down this path. It is always amusing to hear someone who doesn’t prospect or cold call tell others who successfully do that it doesn’t work.

Excited about the reception to the book thus far. Can’t thank you enough for writing the foreword and for the support!
Mike

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Fred August 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

Many of the people who embrace ‘inbound marketing’ as the end all, have never sold professionally, and has a result know no other way. It certainly has its place, but to depend on it for your personal or company goals, is a tremendously risky. Don’t bet your sales goals on this and have the dual detrimental effect of having a sales team that ‘waits for the good leads to come in’.

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Mike August 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Good to have you here Fred. Thanks for the strong words. I agree. I like to say that “waiting is a recipe for new business development failure.”
Mike

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