403: Prospecting 101 | Master Sales Series

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Prospecting is the first step in the sales process of identifying potential customers, aka prospects. The goal of prospecting is to develop a database of likely customers and then systematically communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential customers to current customers.

George Leith is back for another Master Sales Series for Prospecting 101. He uses his sales experience of 30+ years to share what works and what doesn’t from tried and tested methods. George shares different tactics, failures of unsuccessful attempts and digs deep to show each tactic’s value. The historical reference of the term “prospector” refers to individuals’ effort to find gold by scanning creek beds and rock formations. When flecks of gold were spotted, the prospectors would spend time sifting through dirt to find the valuable nuggets. That’s what modern-day sales prospectors do – sift through large lists of potential customers to try and uncover those who are interested and ready to buy.

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George: Welcome to this episode of the Conquer Local Podcast, all about the P word, prospecting. And our goal on the podcast is to help sales professionals and business owners become more proficient in the business of helping your clients, is really what it’s all about.

Maybe you’re listening to this podcast for the first time, or maybe you’re a repeat listener. You’ll know that I am unapologetic about being a sales person. In fact, I will chastise a sales rep when the client says to them, or prospect, are you trying to sell me something? And they go, nope, I’m not trying to sell you anything. Okay, come on. Are you a professional visitor, or are you a professional sales person that helps their clients achieve their goals?

Prospecting Myths

Sales is not a negative word, so let’s keep that in mind. And one of the places where we have to have a positive mindset is when we’re prospecting. But I think that some people out there believe that prospecting is only at the top of the funnel, and then they wonder why they’re not closing deals. The prospecting motions that we use at top of funnel to attract a new prospect are the same motions that we use as we’re moving a deal through the funnel, and as we move a deal to close, and as we start to onboard and build retention with a client, and as we move into an upsell motion. So while we talk about prospecting, please, if you’re in a customer success role, you’re like, oh, I don’t need this one. I’m gonna go listen to somebody else’s podcast. You do need to listen to this one because it is all about the motions that lead to prospects, but also could be utilized any time in the funnel.

And the first thing that we have to do is remove some myths that we have around prospects. So the first is we don’t need to be concerned about building our personal or corporate brand. The company takes care of that. I work for Disney, they take care of the brand. We don’t need to be a hunter, or we don’t need to always be professional. I only sell to my friends, I don’t need to dress up for them. I can wear a t-shirt and I can wear whatever. And you know, we can get together for coffee and we don’t need an agenda. I don’t need a proposal for Tbone. He’s been with me for years. I just come over and close the deal. I don’t need to do any research. I don’t need to be a hunter. I’m an account manager. Business just falls out of the sky to me because I’m so good at being an account manager.

Or this myth that I hate, we do not need to be experts on situational surveillance. I’ll explain what that is in a few moments, but these are some of the limiting beliefs that we have when it comes to prospecting. And I find this specifically in older salespeople that are more experienced. They’re like, ah, I don’t do prospecting. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. So first off, I want you to beware. To not be aware, I want you to beware. Because there’s always somebody trying to eat your lunch, and those people trying to eat your lunch are trying to do it all the way through the sales cycle, or the buyer’s journey, or the customer deciding journey, or whatever buzzword we wanna use. There are always people trying to eat our lunch. So the minute that we back off of certain things, like insight based selling, continuing to follow up, having persistence, multiple touch points around a customer, all of those things give advantage to the people that are trying to eat our lunch. Give our competitors a leg up, so beware. There is always someone trying to eat your lunch.

The other thing is, and I learned about this years ago, and my colleague, our sound engineer, Mr. Tbone, will be thinking about his radio days where a very wise program director told me, why don’t you drive to work, a different path every trip, so that you can see that there’s road construction over here, or that they just put a new tower up over on this corner, or a crane where they’re gonna build a new tower. And you can articulate that situational surveillance to your audience. And I never forgot that. That’s something that you can use in sales, where you’re reading. So let’s say you have a niche, and you only sell to ambulatory clinics, or no, here’s a better one, veterinarians. So you only sell to veterinarians. You should then subscribe to a Veterinarian Association blog or magazine so that when you walk in, or you Zoom in, or you Google Meet in, or Microsoft Teams in, or whatever technology you’re using to talk to a prospect, you’re able to use some situational surveillance around that niche where they go, whoa, you understand my business a little bit. Or at least you’ve taken the effort to subscribe to a blog about veterinarians.

So the point is, where are you going to perch in the next 52 very short weeks that will make up 2021 to be one of the top in your industry? Where are you going to take that all knowing look across the space, whether it’s your prospects, the industry that they’re in, the industry that you’re in? You need to always be watching. Great line, Al Pacino, where he’s coaching in the movie, “Any Given Sunday,” and he’s giving the motivational coach speech to the team. And he says, “Man,” to the shark. I love the shark in that show. He goes, “Man, shark, you gotta have your head on a swivel. “You gotta be looking around. “You gotta see what’s out there.” So this is prospecting 101. It was articulated to me 30 some odd years ago as moving salesmen attracts business. You need to go to the networking event. You need to be in the think tank. You need to be taking that all knowing view. If somebody volunteers to be on the Chamber of Commerce, it’s you, because that gives you that level of surveillance over your market so that you can know what’s going on and offer that value in those insights.

Heat Up the Prospecting

Your prospect is being hammered by everyone else that’s trying to take money from them. Everyone else is trying to show them value. Everyone else is trying to sell them or help them. The graphic that I like to use on this is something that I saw a few years back. And it was a picture from the International Space Station, and it basically shows every satellite orbiting Earth, and Earth is your prospect, and every satellite is everybody else that’s trying to take their budget. Everyone else is trying to sell them something, even right down to the logo t-shirt that they wear. And if you are going to be successful in communicating your message to that prospect, you need to put heat all around the Earth. You need to get yourself like eight Death Stars, and you need to just heat that prospect up a little bit. Like not so much that you blow it up, like Alderaan. That’s not gonna work out for you. But enough heat, I like the Star Wars analogy, but enough heat around your prospect so that they think of you before they think of any of the other people that are sending messages to that prospect.

I’ve said before in past broadcasts, the minute that I realized that I needed to be in the top three of the 20 media reps that were calling on a client in order to have a hope of getting some of the budget. That’s that same thing, put heat all around your prospect. And some of the Death Stars you might wanna use are LinkedIn, email messaging, texting, account-based marketing, good old fashioned snail mail where you send a postcard to them. Like what heat can you, oh, and the phone. You know, that thing that you carry around, that computer that’s in your pocket? It’s called an iPhone for a reason. Pick it up and just call the client. Go back to Jason Forrest’s episode back in season three where he said, “Hey, I’ve just been teaching my people “recently to phone customers.” Like, how the hell is that even a lesson? But we have all of these different Death Stars that we’re using. And please don’t fall in the trap of just using one, because it is going to take multiple touch points to break through all that clutter and get your message through to your prospect.

I want you to think about your prospect as embarking on a buyer’s journey. And I should stop there and go “Overused phrase” with quotation marks. But this is one I actually really believe in is the buyer’s journey, because the buyer’s journey is different depending upon what you’re buying. Like, I’m gonna buy a cabin at the lake. Just don’t tell my wife. She’s a huge blocker in that buyer’s journey. She’s like a semi across the road where she’s like, I’m not gonna sign the mortgage on that thing, and we’re not doing it. So I have to come up with some way to remove that roadblock and deal with those objections. Might take me some time. If she’s listening now, it’s gonna take me another year because now she knows that I’m dealing with those objections.

But as I embark along my buyer’s journey of buying a cottage, cabin, house at the lake, whatever it might be, I’m moving into that deciding mode, and I’m gonna go to a number of different places. The first place that I go is online and I do research, and I go to my favorite lakes that I’ve determined it would be nice. And why did I pick the lake? Eh, ego. It’d be nice to have a cabin at this lake. Or the view, maybe you’ve been to the lake, and you just love that sunset, and you want that view. So then I’ve got an, oh, I’ve got that roadblock, wife. She’s blocking me from my goal of making the purchase. So I’ve gotta figure out how to deal with that. Now, what if someone who is going to help me on that buyer’s journey gave me a piece of data or a piece of content that helped me remove that blocker? Blocker happens to be wife, and why does the wife have a blocker? She doesn’t wanna maintain another friggin’ house. She’s got, you know, her fear is that she’s already got a house that she’s gotta look after that has cost her a lot of money over the years. So I’ve gotta say, and oh, by the way, it doesn’t work saying “Don’t worry, you’ll never have to do anything, “I’m gonna take care of everything,” because then her bullshit meter goes off on that one. But what if I had a piece of data that said that investing in land, especially recreation land, is the best investment that you could ever make? So if you’ve got a bunch of money parked in a mutual fund, or parked in a savings account, God forbid, that’s earning, like, less than 1%, maybe there’s a better place to put that money, and now I’m able to deal with that objection. You can see where that message that came in during my buyer’s journey at the moment where I’m dealing with an objection is quite valuable.

So as we identify the prospect, or we identify the customer that we’re maybe moving to a new purchase, an upsell, or maybe we’re moving them to a new state, or maybe we’re bringing in a new prospect to our organization, we should always be thinking about their buyer’s journey. We should be thinking about how many times we have to touch the prospect to bring the heat, but then we also should be thinking about what messaging, because if the person that is assisting me on my buyer’s journey, and maybe it’s a real estate agent, if they send me the wrong piece of information at the wrong time, like you need to put an offer in today. I’m like, no, no, I’m not there yet. I haven’t even really decided if that’s the lake that I wanna be at, I haven’t even decided what type of cabin. I’ve got this massive friggin’ semi in the way of me that I’ve gotta move off the road to get to my destination, that getting me to the contract isn’t gonna work.

Here’s another analogy. Think back to your dating days. You’re online, ’cause I know that’s where all dating is done. I actually didn’t get to live in that universe, but you’re online, and you’re swiping left or right. And you swipe right, and you get somebody to respond to you, and you’re gonna go out for coffee, right? That age-old icebreaker, coffee, and you get to the coffee shop, and you’re sitting across the table, and you throw an engagement ring across the table, and you say, “Let’s get married.” Whoa, that’s not gonna work out for you. Probably, actually, you’ll get arrested in 2021 for doing that. But this is what it’s like if you don’t understand where the prospect is in their buyer’s journey. And if you deliver wrong messaging, or you start to rush through to a decision and they’re not there yet. Keep in mind the majority of prospects like to make up their own mind before they ever talk to a salesperson. So you’re going to wanna make sure that the information that you’re sending or the way you’re articulating during that buyer’s journey is very sensitive as you continue to your prospecting. Something I’d like you to consider are what are the questions I’m going to ask that prospect to understand where they are in the buyer’s journey? And don’t forget about multiple touches.

Work the Prospecting List

We need to remember to keep working the prospect list. And I find this happen a lot of times, you know, the salespeople that I’m really afraid of are the ones that have a massive month. So they just knock it out of the park. They’re crushing it. And what I’m worried about is what’s happening to their pipeline. And you know, it’s human nature. You’re winning. In fact, I’ve encouraged sales reps, I’m like, you’re winning, go phone three more people in your pipeline. You’ve got the Midas touch. Everything you touch is turning to gold. Don’t stop closing, keep going, keep going, keep going, and what happens is, the pipeline starts to deplete. They stop doing some of those top of funnel and mid funnel motions to keep putting deals in the pipeline. So it’s not, prospecting is very, very important to organizations. It’s very, very important to teams. It’s very, very important to individual contributors. So we need to remember to keep working our prospect list.

Most of our competitors, here’s the good news, most of our competitors will give up. That’s the fact, most people give up before they ever put in enough touches on a prospect to bring it across the line. And keep also in mind that a lot of our competitors will screw stuff up. So they’ve got a client. So you know that your prospect is working with your direct competitor. I’m just sitting in the weeds. I’m just peering through the grass, looking over there at my competitor and waiting for them to make a mistake. And I’m continuing to send information. I know where the person is in the buyer’s journey. They haven’t even thought about something else, but I’m gonna send them some top of funnel items so that when that competitor screws up, because we all do, I’m going to be the first brand that that prospect thinks about. So you wanna continue to work the list. You don’t wanna give up, and remember that your competitors’ solutions, where they are today, they won’t work 110% of the time.

When you’re building relationships, be friendly, but not necessarily your prospect’s friend. And why this is important is I’ve found when I really get to be good friends with a client, start giving them unbelievable deals, and in fact, I stop being the sales person, and I’m like, oh, well, they really need this. I’m gonna give it to them, and then that stuff comes back to bite you. So I’m not saying that you gouge anybody, but I’m saying you should always really deliver the value. The other thing that happens is if you become really good friends with your clients, they won’t tell you the bloody truth. They don’t wanna hurt your feelings. They’ll just go spend money somewhere else. And so you wanna be friendly, but not overly friends. Now I’m not saying you can’t be friends with your clients, ’cause you can be, but just don’t make it the main piece. I gotta be friends first, and then I’m gonna sell them something. Okay, that’s long, and it’s not gonna work out for you in the long-term.

Remember, your goal is to solve their problem, not necessarily tell them everything they wanna hear. So if they’re doing things that will not solve the problem, and you know for a fact that you can solve their problem, you are fully within your right to challenge or sale them, and say that’s not gonna work. Here’s the reason why, here’s the data that backs it up. Here’s five clients that I have already shown that that’s not gonna work. You need to come with me, you need to follow me.

So understanding their business challenges, and keep in mind, you need to be a student. Always have that professional mindset, seek to understand. Two thirds, one third, let the prospect, let the customer talk two thirds of the time. You should be talking one third of the time.

How many emails do I send? How many LinkedIn email messages do I send? George, you said earlier, bring the heat. You used an analogy like a Death Star, but don’t blow it up like Alderaan. So how many calls do I make? How many are too many? Should I leave a voicemail? People don’t listen to voicemails anymore, do they? Should I like their posts on social media or is that a little creepy if they see me liking those? Should I ask a question of their business on Google Q&A? Should I leave them a positive review online? Do I even want them to know that I shop at their business? These are all questions that I’ve actually been asked throughout training sessions, or talking to organizations, or maybe you asked this question in the Conquer Local community.

I don’t think that you can ever send too many. I think, you know, let’s go back to Zig Ziglar very famous line, “For every deal you lose “because you’re too enthusiastic, “you’ll lose 50 because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” There might be hyperbole in there. It might’ve been 10, might’ve been 100. You know I’m a pretty enthusiastic guy. That’s a part of my DNA. In fact, I’ve had introductions at various sessions where like, hold on, you might think he’s had too much coffee, but this is just the way he is. But I’ve never had somebody say, “You know, George, I’m not gonna buy from you “because you’re just too positive and enthusiastic.” I might’ve had some people who didn’t buy from me because they think I’m an asshole. So that might be true. But on the other side, I’ve never never had that, but yet I guarantee you I have lost deals because I didn’t send one more email, or I didn’t send one more LinkedIn message, or I didn’t make one more phone call, or I didn’t leave a voicemail for a prospect, or I didn’t like their posts on social media and my competitor did, or I didn’t ask a question of their business on Google Q&A, which is something new, by the way. I’ve just started doing that. Or I didn’t leave them a review online.

So this actually happened to me recently where I left a positive review online because I had an interaction with the organization. So it was valid, and then when I made the phone call, the prospect promptly answered the call and said, “You’re that guy that left the review. “I didn’t even know you were a customer.” And for a sales professional, that’s gold, ’cause you take that right there and you run with it. You know, it was a really great experience. That Brent that I was dealing with, he’s great. You should give him a raise. How long has he worked for you? Do you have a lot of other people like Brent that work in your organization? Tell me about those folks. Really? Do you know that we have a solution that helps folks like Brent be 15 times more successful in working with their prospects and their customers? Yeah, I’d really like to get 15 minutes of your time to show it to you, but I’d love to understand a little bit more about your business. Is this a good time for us to do a little bit more discovery? You can actually use some of that scripting if you want, but that is an example of where you ask that question.

If you were asking the question of how many emails should I send, how many, you haven’t done enough. Grant Cardone’s got a great line that I heard him use in one of his, either online, like the guy produces so much content. I admire it so much. And he said, “Hit the list, hit the list.” You’ve got the list of contacts, send them one more. So to the how many question? You will lose more deals because you haven’t done enough than you ever will lose deals because you sent too much information. I want you to expect potential prospects and customers regardless of how small of a customer or big of a customer. I want you to expect them to ghost you, a lot. Just expect it, it’s 2021.

Prospecting Through the Sales Funnel

We’ve been talking for four seasons about how you can Conquer Local. We’ve brought in some of the most prolific sales experts on the planet to help teach some of these things, and the one common thread is that prospects are more distracted. They have more information coming at them than ever before. They have more people trying to take whatever budget they might have that they’re willing to invest to solve their problems. So that level of information overload that we’re all being pounded with means that those prospects will ghost you and clients will ghost you. And that means we have to deploy more efforts. So in the preamble, the monologue to this episode, I said this isn’t just something to get new business. It’s something that you need to deploy across your entire funnel, whether it’s top of funnel, mid funnel bottom funnel, retention, upsell, cross sell. You’re looking just for lunch, wanna take somebody for lunch, they will ghost you. And what I find is when you finally are able to command their attention, and maybe that’s through your efforts, or through the problem that they have now has brought you top of mind, that you’ve articulated you have this solution to solve their problem, usually the response will be something like this: “Oh yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you. “I’ve just been so bloody busy, “and I had all of these other problems, “and the whirlwind sucked the life.” You know, whatever it might be. Have some empathy for the prospect, have some empathy for the customer. Think about all the people you bloody ghosted this past week that were trying to sell you something, or even try to help you with something that you bought. That courtesy call that you got after the trampoline that you bought at Walmart. Now, I don’t know if they would do that, but you know, maybe you bought it at a local retailer, and they phoned you to say, “Hey, did you have any problems setting up your trampoline?” And you just ghosted them, didn’t take the courtesy account management call to make sure everything went well. So expect to be ghosted.

And it’s important to keep the cadence of your outreach, to be delivering your brand message repeatedly. This comes back to the how many question. It’s like Groundhog Day, over and over again. So you may be listening to this pre or post Groundhog Day. You know, that’s a great movie, right? The day just keeps repeating over and over. You’re like, oh I already sent this contact to that prospect. What else should I send? I don’t have any new content. I just won’t send anything. Send the other stuff again. You don’t know if they, even if they opened it, and you can see they opened it, did they read it? Did they consume it? Did they actually understand it? Did they start to? I have to read things, and this might not just be my education that I didn’t get, but I have to read things eight times to understand the bloody things because there’s very complex messages out there. So the more complex your message, you may have to read through it a number of different times. So make sure that the content is articulating information that maps to the buyer’s journey, but then make sure it’s being delivered opportune times and multiple times to cut through that clutter.

And remember to be original, people like to buy from people. We’re not at a point now where we like to buy from robots. Although no, that’s not true. I do like robots, grocery store robots, I love those. End of the day, I’ve been talking for 14 hours. I’m actually, I know some of you listening to this podcast go “That guy never gets tired of his own voice.” No, by five o’clock, after 12 hours, I’m sick of George. I’m usually sick of George by about 11. So I’m also sick of asking questions that I don’t even care about the answer. And that’s rude to say, but when you ask the question of the person working the till at the grocery store, you know, how was your day? Oh, good, how’s the weather? You know, all of those, they don’t care how your day was. They’re just like, okay, old gray haired guy, through. But what I’m saying is in a sales led motion, which is why you’re listening to this podcast, you’re conquering local in a sales led motion, human being interacting with other human beings, you need to be original. What is the thing that’s going to stand out? So I wanna call out something. If you’ve been listening to the broadcast for a number of years, you’ve got the slam line, the closing line, “I’ll see you when I see you.” Where did that come from? Well, it’s actually from one of my favorite actors in one of my favorite series of movies, “Ocean’s Eleven,” or maybe it was 12, or maybe it was 13, but it’s Matt Damon. You, everybody wanted to be sitting at that bench in Las Vegas with George Clooney and Brad Pitt when Matt Damon said, “I’ll see you when I see you.” So that is a stolen original line, but it is an original thing, and by being original, you’ve gotta repeat it. Like there are some of you, when you get to the end of the podcast, I’m sure you actually say “I’ll see you when I see you.” It happens. Like I love Steve Harvey on Family Feud. That’s a great show, and Steve Harvey is like, “Gimme Tbone, gimme Colleen, let’s go!” Like he uses the same messaging over and over again. So it’s repetition of an original message that drives it home to the prospect. But you have to decide what’s your original piece.


Go back to an episode back in late 2021, season three, Janice Christopher, the queen bee. That’s how she’s original. She wants to be known as the queen bee. And when you listen to her, she’s brilliant, and she likes to challenge thought process and methodology, but she is an original individual. Are you a hunter or are you the hunted? So keep that in mind, and I’m throwing this out there to all the account managers that say, “No, I’m a farmer, I’m a farmer.” But every once in a while, the farmers need to grab the shotgun and shoot a coyote that’s trying to eat their chickens. You need to still be a hunter, and you need to have some sort of hunter motions because you constantly need to be like, I think of hunter as rigor, hunter as, you know, always being a little suspect, and looking around the corner, and trying to find the next deal. I’m not saying that farmers and account managers don’t do that, but I just want you to remember that hunting is something across the entire buyer’s journey that we need to deploy.

I encourage you to utilize some of these prospecting items, or maybe you wanna use them all. They have been built over the last number of years. They come from a number of different contributing authors of books, of seminars, of sales leaders that I’ve been working with, and there’s a whole bunch of trial and error in there, and failure in there as well. But I hope that these insights will help you in 2021 by deploying some of these prolific prospecting tactics to being the very best conquer that you can be. And thanks for joining us. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.

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