Published by : Louis G. Larochelle
Sales leaders always ask me: "Why don't my salespeople prospect?"
Moreover, the question becomes more frequent as the fiscal year comes to an end. That's usually when sales leaders try to set next year's sales objectives or when they realize that targets will, once again, not be met. When they look at their numbers, they realize that their representatives are always working with the same customers.
The question may be simple, but it requires a detailed answer, as several factors can affect your representatives' prospecting efforts.
3 components to improve sales prospecting
- Will to sell (desire, commitment and motivation);
- Sales DNA (need for approval, fear of rejection, etc.);
- Technical sales skills (hunting, relationship building, consultative selling, etc.)
Good salespeople will have at least 90% of the sales competencies required to succeed in sales. But the others will need help in one or more of those three categories. It is essential to evaluate your representatives objectively and scientifically to identify the specific weaknesses that affect their prospecting skills accurately.
How does the will to sell affect prospecting?
In general, a representative who lacks commitment and has a weak will to sell won't have a very high desire for success. In turn, he or she definitely won't have the determination to prospect day after day.
When a rep's will to sell is low, any reason will be good not to prospect, especially the strategies and tactics with which the salesperson is uncomfortable. Cold calling, for example, is often the first technique avoided by representatives or they be over-reliant on email prospecting.
How to solve a commitment, desire and drive problem?
A manager's impact on problems related to the willingness to sell of representatives, such as the level of commitment, desire and motivation, is quite limited. These competencies are intrinsic to each rep and, therefore, difficult to influence.
At the very least, the sales manager should present the results of the sales evaluation to the representative. He or she can show the rep how the low will to sell impacts their daily life - low business development efforts, decreased sales activities, etc.
The goal is ultimately to make the reps aware of their weakness and to question them about what they believe is at the root of it. Is working in sales a challenging and exciting career choice, or is it just a job that pays the bills?
However, other than being a generous motivator, a sales manager can't do much else to improve a rep's will to sell. A change must come from the salesperson by initiating a sustainable change.
How does sales DNA affect prospecting?
For example, a salesperson who can't handle rejection won't try to book an appointment with a company decision-maker. If a rep needs to be loved by their prospect, they won't make prospecting calls so as not to disturb people.
These are two essential actions when acquiring new accounts.
How to solve a sales DNA problem?
Prospecting problems related to sales DNA elements aren't the easiest to overcome. However, with time and will, it's possible to reprogram the need for approval, fear of rejection, emotional control, limiting beliefs, buying habits and comfort discussing money.
The manager can also suggest readings, videos or films that could help them develop the element they need. For example, Jia Jian's book Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection is an essential book to deprogram the fear of rejection.
To address their Sales DNA weaknesses, representatives must be prepared to make a sustained effort over a long period.
Changing an element that's intrinsic to the individual doesn't happen overnight, and their manager shouldn't expect that.
How do sales skills affect prospecting?
If a rep's problems are related to their technical sales competencies, the salesperson will still prospect, but won't be very effective.
For example, a salesperson who has difficulty hunting will not prospect regularly, won't know how to use LinkedIn for prospecting, will not make enough appointments and will have trouble reaching decision-makers.
If you can't build rapport quickly during the first contact with a prospect, it will be more difficult to get an appointment and uncover their needs.
A representative who has weak consultative selling competencies will likely have difficulty identifying, during the prospecting call, at least one problem that his or her company could potentially solve. Consequently, it will be more difficult for them to get to 1st base (if you follow the Baseline Selling methodology).
How to address sales skills problems?
Tactical skills are the easiest to improve. The representative can benefit from adapted training to acquire the knowledge necessary for his or her success. Then, the sales coach can help him/her develop specific skills that he/she doesn't master.
A manager can help representatives improve their consultative selling skills with role-playing exercises and co-development initiatives. For example, to improve getting appointments with prospects, the sales manager and rep can role-play to help the salesperson learn how to answer the questions prospects may ask.
Challenges with relationship building skills
The relationship building competency is one of the hardest technical selling competencies that's the hardest to address. Only 42% of salespeople have strong relationship building skills.
The competency is linked to the salesperson's personality and the way he or she relates to prospects, which can cause a lot of discomfort during coaching sessions. The manager discreetly needs to make his representative aware of the defect.
Learning that you have difficulties building relationships can be challenging to handle when you're in sales. That's why the manager must reassure the salesperson that it has nothing to do with their personal life. Just because they have difficulty making a good first impression when prospecting doesn't mean that they are inadequate in their social relationships.
Even if it's a sometimes sensitive subject, the director shouldn't hesitate to take the necessary actions. Knowing how to connect quickly with potential customers is a foundation of prospecting. If a representative doesn't consciously accept to work on this inability, he or she will never be fully capable.
Just one deficiency can lead to prospecting problems, but most of the time, it is a mixture of several factors related to the will to sell, sales DNA and technical sales skills.
Assessing the 21 core sales competencies is the most effective way to find out why your salespeople are not prospecting well.
A sales evaluation is the first step to answering your question.