Sales Reps

by Linda P. Kester May/June 2010
Do you lay in bed at night worrying about your bills? Are you barely meeting your monthly volume goal? Salespeople who continually prospect have less anxiety than the average salesperson. They also keep a steady stream of business coming in the door. While all sales reps know that they have to prospect, many do everything they can to avoid it.

I have a friend who recently opened up his own leasing company. He called me asking how to get business flowing. He said “I’m sitting here like the Maytag Repair Man, it’s so quiet. I’m hoping the phone will ring. I’m used to business just coming to me. I don’t like having to market myself.”

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of leasing salespeople, and I’ve witnessed many examples of call reluctance. One day I was monitoring an unsuccessful rep. His job was to make a minimum was 75 dials per day. To my surprise he was just calling automated attendants and hanging up. He didn’t even try to talk to a live person. What a waste of time and energy.

Inside reps are not the only ones avoiding potential customers. I know an outside salesperson who has a strategy to go to a diner with a bulletin board in the lobby, (the ones where people post their business cards) remove all the cards and bring them back to the office as proof that he was making sales calls. Then there is the outside rep who sleeps late three days a week, and her manager thinks that she’s on the road seeing clients.

Why is prospecting avoided? When I ask this question in my workshops the answers I hear are: “I don’t like being rejected,” “I don’t know what to do,” “It feels like I’m just trying to hustle business,” “It doesn’t work anyway.”

After hearing these answers, the main conclusion I’ve come to is that leasing professionals dislike prospecting because what they are doing really doesn’t work very well.

So we have two problems here: 1.) getting motivated to prospect, and 2.) prospecting in the right way so that it becomes enjoyable.

Let’s address the first one. How do you get motivated to prospect?

Visual Motor Rehearsal
Julia Mancuso took home the silver medal in the women’s downhill skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. She was not expected to medal in this event. Athletes from Sweden and Austria were seeded higher.

Starting tenth, several skiers ahead of the race favorites, Mancuso put down a majestic run from start to finish. Beforehand, she was seen near the start with her eyes closed and her arms out simulating her run in her head. “I’ve been practicing a lot of visualization and getting aggressive,” Mancuso explained.

If Mancuso went into the event with a negative attitude, worried, uncertain or unprepared she definitely wouldn’t have gotten a medal. It’s the same with prospecting — see yourself succeeding, pick up the phone prepared, look forward to the call and expect to start a relationship, and you are more likely to meet with success.

The name for this process is visual motor rehearsal. Studies have shown that when you run an event in your mind, the same neurons fire off in your brain as if you were actually doing the activity. Olympic athletes do this, NASA astronauts do this and so do successful salespeople. Visualize yourself meeting your goals. You become what you think about — so think about yourself succeeding.

Take some time to get quiet, then begin to make an image in your mind of what it will feel like when you are meeting your income goals. Imagine prospecting successfully and landing your dream account. If you are timid when calling on vendors picture yourself as completely self-confident. What would you be thinking if you were totally confident? What would you be seeing, hearing? How would you walk and talk? Would you be animated in your gestures or moving slowly? Would you be displaying excitement or boredom? Act as if you are self confident and it will happen.

It’s been said that if you can go there in the mind, you can go there in the body. However, visualization without action is worthless. To motivate myself to take action, I read out loud from chapter 16 of Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World. Here’s part of it, which you can read silently to yourself. If you really want to pump yourself up, tear out this article and when you’re alone, read the next paragraph out loud with feeling:

“I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. I will repeat these words again and again and again, each hour, each day, every day until the words become as much a habit as my breathing and the actions, which follow become as instinctive as the blinking of my eyelids. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every act necessary for my success. With these words I can condition my mind to meet every challenge. I will act now.”

Play Games
Another way to motivate yourself to prospect is to make a game of it. If you make your sales job more fun, you’ll be happy to come to work. Celebrate little successes, like getting an application. Each time you get an application you can putt a golf ball, or take a basketball shot or visit a fun website. Compete with another salesperson and develop activities to make the job more exciting.

Now that you’re motivated, what’s the best way to prospect? The easiest way to start is to talk to people you already know. Call existing clients, evaluate their needs and ask them for referrals. Be aggressive about asking for referrals. The more referrals you have, the less cold calls you have to make. Ask your clients: “Who do you know who could benefit from using a good leasing company?” It’s important to phrase the question this way, rather than “Do you know anyone…?” If you ask: “Do you know,” their answer is most likely to be “no.” When you ask: “Who do you know,” they think about their contacts and may come through with a lead.

The electronic way to generate referrals is to use LinkedIn. Make a list of the top ten accounts that you’d like to penetrate. See if any of your contacts are connected with the companies on your list, then request an electronic introduction. It’s a great way to focus your efforts. Remember that your goal is to prospect with dignity. This means focusing on solutions and information. Offer ideas that give your customers solutions to their problems.

Best Days & Times
There was a study done recently by Dr. James Oldroyd from the Kellogg School of Management. Oldroyd examined the electronic logs of more than a million cold calls, made by thousands of sales professionals in 50 companies. He then applied statistical measurements to extract patterns of success and failure.

I’m a little hesitant to share this information because I believe that salespeople should be prospecting all the time. Constant and never ending prospecting! However, this is a fascinating study that you should know about. To read the entire report visit:

Oldroyd discovered that Thursday is the best day to contact a lead in order to qualify it. In fact, it is almost 20% better than Friday, which is the worst day. All the other days fall somewhere in between. The best time to prospect is early morning (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) followed closely by late afternoon (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Oldroyd’s study revealed that the absolute worst time to call is right after lunch. In fact, an early morning cold call is 164% more likely to qualify a lead than one made from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

He also determined that in the financial services industry you have only 24 hours to qualify the lead generated by your website and move it into your pipeline. After 24 hours, the urgency is gone.

If we use his research we’d:

  • Schedule internal sales meetings on Friday at 1:00 p.m.
  • Schedule prospecting sessions early morning or late afternoon preferably on Thursday, but avoiding Friday, especially Friday afternoon.
  • Make cold call selection based upon how “hot” the leads are. If they’re streaming in from your website, always make those calls first. For other leads on your list, call the most recently harvested ones first.

Constant Swarming Offense
You can call on a hot lead or get a fabulous referral, but if you only have one conversation with the prospect, they won’t remember you when they need leasing. The key is to be everywhere they turn on a consistent basis. Use e-mail, blogs and direct mail to reinforce your phone efforts.

Focus on the possibilities of landing great vendors and lessees. Visualize yourself being successful and then take action through multiple channels. When you prospect in this manner you’ll be able to sleep soundly every night.

Linda P. KesterLinda P. Kester is a bestselling author and professional speaker with 20 years of experience in leasing sales and marketing management. As founder of the Institute of Personal Development, Kester has helped hundreds of salespeople increase their volume. Her book, 366 Marketing Tips for Equipment Leasing, has produced results for leasing companies in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. For more information, visit

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