The Cure for Prospecting Constipation

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My mom likes to tell the embarrassing story that when I was old enough to eat solid food in my highchair, I would start each meal by grabbing a fistful of food and holding it tightly in my left hand. I would then eat my food using my right hand and only when it was all gone would I then open my left hand and eat that too.

Now, this might explain the extra pounds I’m carrying ☺ but it also serves as a very effective metaphor for a condition that afflicts many salespeople and that is the idea that holding prospects tightly in one hand, i.e., having prospects “in the pipeline” is the same as making progress.

Now, to be clear, prospects need to move through your pipeline. The equivalent of holding on to them tightly in one hand looks like any of the following:

  1. Contacting them once and waiting for weeks or months for them to return your call or to make a second call,
  2. Putting them through a sequence of activities but allowing the time between activities to go so long that the prospect has no sense of a rhythm of contacts and never hears any compelling reasons to speak with you, or,
  3. Making a series of contacts (ideally 8 within a 2 ½ week period) and getting “crickets” and leaving them as active prospects that you will “continue to work on”.

To continue with food and digestion metaphors when you are working a territory, you can think of your pipeline much like your intestines. (I know, I’m sorry!) If you don’t remember from high school that food moves through your gut by peristaltic action, Google it when you’re bored someday. 

The comparison is that each time you conduct a prospecting activity on the same prospect, it’s like a squeeze as food goes through the gut, moving it further along until a conclusion. Some food provides much needed nutrition to your body as it goes through the gut, and some is just waste to be disposed of at the end of the process.

Simply having a bunch of prospects stuck in your pipeline is like being constipated! You prevent a healthy flow through the body. And you expend more and more effort trying to wring some value out of low percentage prospects, sometimes because they don’t see the value in your offer (crickets) or because you haven’t done a good job of getting them to hear your message in the first place.

The cure for prospect constipation is as follows:

  1. You need a prospecting sequence of activities that you will take each prospect through until they speak to you and give you a meeting, speak to you and tell you to quit stalking them or never speak to you within a defined number of prospecting activities (see item 2 below).
  2. You need to execute your prospecting sequence with the understanding that there is momentum to all sales activities but especially prospecting. Set a number of days between each activity and stick to it! Create a series of activities that utilize different contact methods (phone, email, social media, letter, bulky item, etc.) and try to conduct about 8 touches in your sequence within a 2-to-3-week period—no longer.
  3. When you come to the end of your prospecting sequence you have two choices. You can “throw them back” into your overall database (stop working them!) or choose extended prospecting.With the advances in technology, I now recommend largely automated extended prospecting for all those prospects that did not respond to your active prospecting attempts.To continue the unfortunate metaphor, we might consider the digestive system of the noble cow. It eats hay, which works its way through the cow’s digestive system but then is regurgitated back to the mouth to be chewed again (chewing the cud).In this way, automated extended prospecting does the same thing. It keeps your name and the pains you address in front of your prospects and takes them to a video landing page with a call to action for further engagement, while you are able to observe what is happening from a dashboard. This allows you to attempt to connect directly when you see that engagement is occurring.
  4. In terms of your active prospects, as you move them through and out of your active pipeline, grab a new group and put them through the process. 

While some salespeople find this discouraging (I guess this is why they want to hold onto the familiar but unproductive prospects they are already working) I think about it in a different way. 

Instead of being all plugged up (constipated) with prospects that are unresponsive after you run an active prospecting sequence, it is so much better to move them into automated extended prospecting and start working with the next group.

To continue the metaphor, after breakfast and digestion and elimination comes lunch and after lunch, dinner. And so on and so on.

Holding on to prospects who are not ready to talk is like, well, if you’ve ever potty trained a toddler you may have experienced kids that don’t want to poop and get themselves all plugged up. 

Good salespeople are always on the hunt for those opportunities that are ready to “raise their hand” and come out to play.

Good selling!

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller is the President and Founder of Business Development Associates, a marketing strategy, sales development and operations, management, and profitability consulting company specializing in working with clients in the cleaning and restoration industry. 

Miller is a highly regarded sales and marketing expert in the industry and brings over 30 years of experience and a unique perspective to help restorers overcome their business challenges, grow to the next level, and maximize net profits.

You can reach Miller at (773) 339-4769 or tim@gobda.com.

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