Prospecting with Gusto: Engaging the Right People in Real Time

by Linda Kester November/December 2018
Just the thought of prospecting inspires dread in many salespeople, but Linda Kester says it doesn’t have to be that way. She provides five tips that will get your sales team excited about creating new opportunities.

Have you ever been driving on a highway when the driver in front of you suddenly slams on the brakes? This happened to me recently, and I immediately hit my brakes, checked my mirrors and prayed that the guy behind me wasn’t too close. It was panic-inducing.


There are two other experiences that make me feel panicky. The first is getting a phone call in the middle of the night. The second one is walking into a sales department and hearing nothing…crickets. All the reps are staring at their computer screens and no one is on the phone. Whenever I see this, my stomach drops, my heart beats faster and I want to shout, “Why isn’t anyone on the phone?”

Maybe they are looking up a prospect on LinkedIn to prepare for a call? Maybe they’re playing Words With Friends? Or maybe they want to prospect but just need a little nudge to get started?

Prospecting doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity, like showing your credit card statement to your husband. It’s really just engaging with the right people in real time. Here are some ideas to get your salespeople prospecting with gusto.

1. Make Calls with Your Team

A boss can sit in an office barking orders, but a leader gets out and helps with the work. Sometimes bosses forget that they need to demonstrate sales and leadership skills. One practical way to do this is to keep a list of aspirational accounts in your phone. When the floor is quiet, sit within earshot of your reps and — without any fanfare — make some calls. This helps earn your team’s respect and gets the sales juices flowing.

As a sales manager or corporate executive, you may be out of the prospecting habit, so here’s a tip to get more from a prospect call: Be ready for a brush off. The most common response you’ll hear from a polite prospect is, “Can you send me some information?”

Your response (no surprise here): “Absolutely. What’s your email address?” Then use their request to your advantage and ask a quick question to get them engaged. After a vendor gives you their email address, say: “I want to send you the most relevant information. Can you tell me, what is your bestselling piece of equipment?” Or if you’re calling on a lessee, “Can you tell me if you’ve financed any equipment before?” This tiny follow-up question is powerful because it gets the prospect to lower her guard and shifts the momentum of the call.

Some people will cut you off and tell you to just send the information. However, sometimes one little extra question can open the door. It can turn a 30-second snub into a 15-minute conversation.

I’ve witnessed sales calls in which a prospect tried to get rid of a rep by asking for more information, and by using this simple engagement strategy the rep brushed off the prospect’s brush off, and moved the relationship forward.

2. Power Hour

I love power hour because everyone buckles down and works together. There is strength in numbers and speed. Once you set a timer for 60 minutes, you make calls without overthinking them. Setting aside specific blocks of time for prospecting also adds structure to a rep’s day. During this time, all other activities get put on the back burner.

Pick one hour a day and get all of your reps on the phone. I like the hours of 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. or 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Everyone does it, no excuses or exceptions. This gives the team a sense of camaraderie. It gets the blood flowing. When your sales team is working together without any distractions, everyone really digs in, and any prospecting anxiety they may have had turns into a sense of excitement.

3. Have a Pacesetter

A pacesetter sets the speed, pace and cadence of calls for your sales team. Pacesetters create an environment that’s conducive to a high volume of sales calls.

The idea of a pacesetter was originally created to help runners (think track and field) achieve world record times. Pacesetters help to ensure runners meet their game plan on race day. The pacesetter is told to run at a very specific pace, and is the marker for those following. In equipment finance sales, pacesetters are important because they push reps around them to consistently make high quality calls at a good tempo.

In track, a pacesetter is often called a rabbit. Why not designate one of your reps as a pacesetter/rabbit for a day or a month? They get started first thing and set a pace of prospecting that allows the other reps to achieve excellence.

Pacesetters must know the correct pace for achieving productive and efficient sales calls. They need to know what a successful prospect call sounds like. They also need to use a natural speaking voice and cadence, because if the rep sounds relaxed, it can relax the prospect, which leads to better calls. Your pacesetter should have the skills, the leadership ability and the charisma and make the other reps buy-in and take action.

4. Teach Reps to Focus on Actions not Outcomes

Salespeople can fall into two categories, novice prospecting or professional prospecting. The goal of the novice is not losing, which means the rep focuses on playing it safe, looking good, staying comfortable and avoiding anything scary, awkward or embarrassing. Many times the novice rep experiences call reluctance.

The goal of the professional prospector is to win by going as far as possible with every tool in the toolbox. When this rep falls down, she gets back up and keeps going. Which means, despite any fear, the rep keeps playing full out.

Professional prospectors realize the fear of making a prospect call is just in their minds. It can be scary talking to someone new, but it’s only a phone call. If it doesn’t go well, it’s no big deal. You both will quickly move on. At the end of the day, you may have struck out, or you may have uncovered a great potential client — that is the job.

Some novice prospectors have so much call reluctance you would think the phone weighed a thousand pounds. If sales people get nervous about picking up the phone, have them write down their call objectives and a couple value-added offerings to talk about. This calms them down and helps prevent awkward silences or rushed conversations. They also can write down three things that went well during the day, and why they went well. Thinking about the good things gives them a sense of gratitude, which makes them feel better.

One of the most liberating things reps can do is to remain unattached to results. Try to let things flow without worrying about the outcome. Know that if you prospect in the right way and on a consistent basis, you will be successful.

The sales process is all about providing value. Professional salespeople don’t bully prospects into a relationship, they help uncover value that otherwise would’ve been missed. That’s the secret sauce. When prospects understand the value you provide — and you address their priorities throughout the sales process — they’ll make time for your call.

Engage with lessees and vendors by believing 100% in how you can help them. Then ask the right questions with gusto, probe for the truth and really listen. That is enough to stop any panic attack.

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