By CommenceCRM

Define Prospecting – Then Do It!

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.


What I really need to do, thought Ray looking out his window, which overlooked the parking lot in which he could see three of his fellow salespeople smoking cigarettes, is more prospecting.  Look at them out there, at least 15 minutes down the drain.  Not me, I’ve got to get involved with some serious prospecting.  No more parking lot trips for me.

“Where’s that article I saw in the business section of the local newspaper?” he muttered to himself, thumbing through at least six separate piles of paper on his desk.  “The one about contacting customers and getting referrals.”

A few minutes later, article in hand, he headed to the photocopy machine.  Make a copy for my files, take one home, and start cranking out the money.

Two weeks later, Ray had sent out over 500 cards to businesses in the area telling them to stop in and see “What’s happening?  This is what’s happening!”

In addition, he was going through the customer lists that had been collecting dust for the past year, finding the unassigned former customers and working on a telephone script.

This is just great, thought Ray.  By two months from now, I’ll have tons of fresh blood coming through the door and calling.  Maybe I’ll even be able to get the sales manager to get me that upgraded computer system for that sales tracking software I bought with my own money.

Three months later all of Ray’s prospecting projects had fizzled out.  Not a single one really produced any results that he could point to.  All they did, it seemed, was take a lot of time, and the postage costs were astronomical.  Not to mention that his closing rate had gone into the toilet because of all the time his prospecting projects took.

By mid-December, the smokers in the parking lot once again included Ray.  He still wanted to get a good prospecting system in place.  Maybe the software he bought, once he got the upgraded computer system, would finally produce results.


Everyone knows what prospecting is…correct?  Did Ray ever define what was meant by prospecting and then define measurable goals to see if it worked?


You know how to go prospecting, don’t you?

Well, the first thing you do is buy a mule, grow a beard, don’t wash and wander around the desert for a couple of years.  Right?

Oh!  That’s not what you meant.  You mean I should call 10 new people a day and ask them to buy our product.

That’s not it either?  Then you must mean that I create a letter, buy a 500 name mailing list and send the letter.  Then wait for the people to start coming in.

Wrong again?  Okay, this time I have it.  You want me to call up all of our existing customers and offer them 10% off their next purchase if they give me the name of two other companies that might buy what we sell.  I’ve got this prospecting thing down, right?

Not exactly?  Well, just what do you mean?


When was the last time you heard that someone had to do more prospecting?  This morning?  Yesterday?  Two days ago?  When you heard that more prospecting needed to be done, did anyone list exactly what this “more prospecting” consisted of?  Probably not.  The result of this sloppy use of language is that “more prospecting” could mean anything, everyone was left to figure out for themselves what to do.

Never state that more prospecting needs to be done.  What you need to state is exactly what behavior will be done to accomplish more prospecting.

If more prospecting means that “every customer who bought more than X amount in the past six months will be contacted by phone for a referral within the next 14 days,” then say it.  What are you going to specifically do with those referrals?  Don’t say you are going to “prospect” or “contact” them.  What specifically are you going to do?

“A salesperson will be assigned to each referral, and within 48 hours the referral will be contacted in person by phone.  Should an in-person phone call not happen, an overnight Express Mail letter will be sent.  The following is the exact text of that letter.”

How you define prospecting is up to you, but make sure you define it in specific behaviors to be followed.


Everyone knows exactly what prospecting means, right?  Everyone will have the same answer, right?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.