By Richard F. Libin –
Everyone will experience change at some point in life, and everyone deals with it in different ways. Some will be satisfied with the status quo and will constantly be on the lookout for impending change. Others will become blinded to the world around them and stay in their comfort zone. They won’t notice problems until it’s too late. Then some will reluctantly move on while others will remain behind hoping that things will go back to “normal.” Those who move on will have a chance to find a new source of comfort, while those that remain behind are doomed to failure. These scenarios were addressed in the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
This is precisely what happens in sales. Some salespeople are constantly looking for new opportunities, prospecting, and never let the pipeline run dry. These are the salespeople who consistently have business to work on, who never have to deal with the peaks and valleys like a lot of other salespeople do. Most salespeople work on the wish or hope system, “I hope something will happen” or “I wish something will happen.” Seeing that sales are strong and realizing that manufacturers are offering incredible incentives they stop looking. They go through the prospects they have in front of them until they realize there are only a few left or they’ve completely run out, or essentially, until it’s too late to act. So are you always looking for opportunities, or are you waiting for something to happen? Which way do you want to work – smarter or harder?
When everything is rosy, sales should be booming and the showrooms should be busy. So, it might seem odd to say that NOW is the time to look for new opportunities. The truth is, however, that salespeople should always be looking for opportunities – prospecting – even in good times. Proactive salespeople are always looking for leads so that they never run dry. Reactive salespeople wait for something to happen.
Looking when it’s too late takes too much time to pull off. Looking now for opportunities (prospecting) is a lost art and many don’t understand its purpose or how to prospect. Prospecting is about building a continual pipeline of opportunities and referrals that flows continuously, in any time. It is the key to increasing traffic without increasing expenses. Mastering the art of prospecting can build a rock solid base of clients and deliver a steady stream of referrals, most of which bring a significantly higher closing ratio.
Prospecting pays off, over time. Prospecting might not lead to immediate sales; it has to be executed over and over, every single day. Today, everyone is looking for instant results; instant gratification. This won’t happen with prospecting, but if salespeople are persistent the long-term payoff will be huge. Sometimes that’s why they stop doing it. If you stop doing it, it stops working.
Why don’t salespeople prospect? One reason is the long-term nature of prospecting. It lacks instant gratification. Or perhaps it’s the belief that it’s someone else’s or the manufacturer’s job to have not only the best product, but incentives that attract customers. Some are afraid of rejection, but a real salesperson is not afraid to talk to anyone. Who is talking to your customers? Another may be that you really don’t know how well your prospecting is working until a requested first-time customer comes in…but then, the realization hits. Working with a prospect that asks for you by name translates into a lot less work.
Successful prospectors know that while there are many approaches, the best methods are in-person (personal), telephone, and written communication. Yet today, most salespeople don’t have the first idea about how to prospect successfully.
This is where managers, as the coaches and leaders come in. The first step is to focus the team on the overall goal – changing the variables they control, beginning with driving traffic – and then to change their mindset. Develop a game plan and create opportunities for the team to practice, play and win. It’s like Vince Lombardi says, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
- The importance of team. Think of a professional football team. They practice for hours at least five days a week to play a single, one-hour game. The team who wins is not always the biggest, fastest, or best, but the one who goes in with a well-rehearsed game plan and then executes it. Practice, Play and Win
- Change the mindset. Teach the team to prospect – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, yes even in your sleep. Take them out into the field and train them. Then be sure the team views each individual who enters the showroom as a customer with the ability and intent to purchase.
The bottom line is A.B.L. Always Be Looking – every single day, not just when the business is bad or down. Prospecting needs to become an automatic reflex, like breathing, an act that happens successfully and continuously. With a positive mindset, a view toward the future, and the right training, salespeople will understand the need and will continue to Always Be Looking for opportunities and loyal clientele, regardless of how business is doing.
Richard F. Libin is the author of the book, “Who Stopped the Sale?” (www.whostoppedthesale.com) and president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 47 years experience working with both sales and service in helping to develop your people, attain higher customer satisfaction, and maximize gross profits through personnel development and technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc.