Prospecting Is a Numbers Game

Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts with a prospect. These people have more sales success because they have more first meetings. By Gil Cargill

It's an old cliché that prospecting is a numbers game. This is very true, but not enough of us know what the real numbers are. As I mentioned in an earlier article, you must make two sales to get a new account. The first sale is when the prospect agrees to an appointment to discuss the value of your offer, and the second sale is when you close the transaction and get a contract or a check. The statistics associated with selling in this environment are pretty enlightening, and they are as follows:

According to the Sales Lead Management Association, 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect. Further, 25 percent of salespeople who make a second contact with a prospect stop there. And 12 percent make only three contacts and then give up. Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts, and these are the people I refer to as "The Tenacious 10 Percent." The Tenacious 10 have more sales success because they have more first meetings.

The numbers go on: Two percent of appointments are booked on the first contact; 3 percent are made on the second contact; 5 percent are made on the third contact; 10 percent are made on the fourth contact; and 80 percent of all appointments are made on the fifth to the twelfth contact. Now, ask yourself: How many times do you follow up to get an appointment?

You see, it is a numbers game, but far too often, salespeople are not swayed by the numbers to make additional contact. Instead, the majority prematurely abandon their efforts to get new appointments with a prospect. One email won't do it and neither will one cold call. You must be tenacious yet professional. Badgering a prospect absolutely will not work. The old-school approach of manipulating a prospect into a first meeting is equally unproductive.

What the Buyer Needs
Today's buyer must have a relationship with you prior to even considering your offer. Today's buyer does not want to be sold; rather, he or she wants to understand your value before making a buying decision. This is another area in which many sellers get into trouble because they are attempting to sell their product, not the appointment.

So, once again, let's get ready for 2014 by breaking down the value, from the prospect's point of view, of meeting with you. What's in it for your prospect to meet with you? What will he or she learn? What potential value will you deliver? If the prospect doesn't understand the value, he or she just won't move forward-that's a fact. You have no more chance of changing this reality than you do of reversing the force of gravity.

So, as my old high school coach used to say, you must "go with the flow." In other words, gear your prospecting to get a relationship. Make sure that each time you contact a prospect you deliver value to that person. Do not badger your prospects. Be persistent and recognize that you must touch that prospect's brain upwards of 10 or 12 times to get an appointment. This is the new reality of selling in the 21st century. Unfortunately, far too many sales teams fail to recognize this.

When you consider how easy it is for you to touch a prospect, not doing so is even more tragic. Judicious use of email marketing will help you find the prospects that are interested in speaking with you. End the fruitless searching (aka prospecting) and use email to find the people who are interested in talking to you right now.

GIL CARGILL is principal of Cargill Consulting Group Inc., a sales and sales training consultancy in Los Angeles that he founded in 1978.

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