Prospecting for Your (Business) Health: Push Past Pain to Do it
For several years I’ve been traveling the country, talking to financial advisors about client acquisition. Sometimes I feel like a dentist. How many dentists tell their patients to floss, cut back on sugar and never smoke while they’re filling those patients’ cavities? (I hope my dentist isn’t reading this!)
The advisors I work with are busy. They may have built a website. They do their best to set up events. Yet many just don’t have their hearts in the game. When we talk at length, some confess they’d rather undergo a root canal than prospect with any vigor.
I understand where they’re coming from. Many of them are seasoned veterans, with 15 or 20 years’ experience in the field. When they started out—I was there, too—the primary prospecting activity involved two simple elements: a phone and a script.
Actually there was a third element—pain. I can barely remember scripts I read hundreds of times, but I still can feel the anxiety invoked by dialing a cold lead. If that is your primary experience with prospecting, no wonder if you’re out of practice.
Here’s the truth, though: If you have aggressive sales goals, you must replenish the well with fresh business. If someone else sets the goal, you have no choice. In either case, without prospecting, the well can run dry unexpectedly. (Did I mention pain?)
Prospects: you can’t have enough.
But where to start? If you’re in avoidance mode, prospecting five new clients might seem as daunting as roping in 500. But it isn’t—if you break down the task into a daily plan.
Chet Holmes wrote in The Ultimate Sales Machine: “If you are a one-person army or a very small company . . . you personally must spend at least 2-1/2 hours per day growing your company—2-1/2 hours a day of brand new prospecting, and that’s if you already have a full load of current clients.”
Go ahead and laugh (I’m used to it). But then stop and think. Holmes isn’t talking about cold calling. He means you must work on a strategy to bring you the business you want. Building a business plan for your prospecting is the idea.
If the prospector in you needs to get in shape, consider this training regimen:
Set a goal, but don’t let it hang overhead. If someone wanted to lose 50 pounds, how would she feel if, after a hard day of exercise and smart eating, she said “I’m still 50 pounds overweight”? Despondent. She’ll do better if she credits her proactive attitude day by day.
Keep engaged. Even on weekends. When you’re getting in prospecting shape, don’t drift too far away from the mindset. Do some small chore—research, pitch practicing—even on your days off. Backsliding is too easy in the beginning. Your mind should never be far from your strategy.
Redefine those 2-1/2 hours. No, you don’t have an extra 150 minutes to spend on the phone. You do have downtime for web research, dusting off your LinkedIn connections and scheduling events where prospects gather. Follow up with personalized statements or gestures.
Redefine prospecting. You’re well past the days when you were selling to people who didn’t know you. Prospecting isn’t searching for the golden nugget; it’s the effort required to sprinkle your personal gold dust through your network.
When you invert the process and make prospecting about your clients, not you, you won’t prefer root canals. Instead, to paraphrase the good doctor, you’ll be thinking: “That wasn’t so bad. Was it?”
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