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You’ve got 1,000 new names in your prospect database

900 of them will NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH YOU.

How much in sales resources are those 900 costing?

    When Brian was hired as V.P. of Sales for a Mid-western manufacturer of telecom equipment, he inherited a sales force of five and a database with approximately 1,400 names, addresses, and phone numbers. These names were a legacy of trade shows, direct mail responses, and even a list purchased three years ago from a list broker. Each sales person was responsible for servicing between 30 and 35 accounts. So the sales force is in some ongoing profitable contact with a total of about 150-175 accounts. Brian’s COO feels that there is just a TON of untapped business in the suspect database, and in management meetings, continually hounds Brian about milking that list.

The sign behind Brian’s chair in his office could read "REAL SALESMEN PROSPECT", because that’s what he’s preached. He’s encouraged his team to dig into that fertile mountain of pregnant business and grow the company. But here’s what Brian doesn’t understand. On the average, his sales people prospect less than one hour per day….after all, they’ve got all these customers to service and orders to track and…and…and. Further, when they prospect, they dial the phone between 4 and 5 times per hour….rejection is not exciting for them! The deck is stacked against the salesperson prospecting. When they DO reach a person with some interest in the product, the prospecting call usually turns into a feature rich sales pitch frequently ending in high expectations on the part of the sales person and one more piece of potential, but unlikely business in the pipeline. They’re SALESPERSONS! It’s what they’re supposed to do! On top of that, Brian has discovered a pattern of calling on the same prospects over and over which resulted in over 900 of these names having not been contacted in over three years, over 500 of them having NEVER been talked to.

A lot of money has been spent acquiring this list of names. Too often management assumes (ASS U MEs) that the size of a list of suspects (or the cost to obtain that list) indicates the number of new customers or the amount of new business (in dollars) to be obtained. The truth is a vast majority of these names will never do business with you. The Salespeople know that. That’s why they hate prospecting!

When would you like to know that? A year from now? Six months from now? NOW?

First, the list is as fresh as it’s ever going to be right now. If Brian could hit a key on his computer that would tell him which of these names are worthless, he’d probably do it right now. So why are 900 of these names still sitting out there unresolved? Because he doesn’t have that computer program and his salespeople are not interested in finding out who’s worthless!

Before Brian can know who’s a real prospect (has Money, Authority and Need, is Logically and Emotionally qualified, is In Market…whatever term you wish to use) now, he needs to know who is NOT a real prospect. A non-prospect is someone who doesn’t buy what we sell…or who doesn’t buy in quantities large enough for our business model…or doesn’t have budget. There can be any number of reasons why a suspect could be a non-prospect. Every time one of our salespersons locates a warm bodied attentive listener, they STOP PROSPECTING and start selling. Sometimes they work at making a non-prospect into a prospect (by stretching the qualifications of a prospect, or over extending the company to satisfy a need). Again, it’s their JOB! In these cases, the prospecting effort gets compromised by the selling effort. They COMPETE for salesperson resources.

So lets’ try something new. What if Brian hired someone who was not a sales person to continually rake over the suspect list and ask them all the tough DIS-qualifying questions sales people don’t want to ask…such as "Do you do enough business for us to be interested?" Or, "Do you have any work coming up for review in the next 90 days?" A "NO" from either of these questions would NOT result in a further sales call, or resources being spent pursuing an on-site interview. Rather, the name (if there is any logical reason for it) would simply be re-cycled for a call 90 or180 days down the road. If the prospect turns out to be someone who never buys Brian’s ‘stuff’ then he falls off the list totally…one more name no one has to call. If nothing else comes from this exercise, Brian’s list shrinks, but the quality of what’s left is far superior to what he began with.

Thought for the day. PROSPECTING is the art of quickly DISQUALIFYING a suspect so it doesn’t interfere with the selling process. SELLING is the art of getting your solutions to fit a QUALIFIED lead’s needs.

A dedicated Prospecting Specialist can make 18 - 30 calls in one hour! Working half time (20 hours per week), the Prospecting Specialist can call the whole database in less than a month! Asking the right disqualifying questions, he will know immediately (well, within a month) which ones to spend resources on and which ones to scrap.

A large database full of question marks, or a small database of qualified prospective business.  It's your choice.  You decide.

# # #


About the Author:

 Kim DeMotte is the founder and managing partner of Power of NO™, a St. Louis-based firm specializing in improving corporate sales and management effectiveness. He works with companies developing strategies for saying "NO" when and where it is appropriate. He has successfully owned and operated two distribution companies, a manufacturing company, two service companies, a software company and a consulting firm. He can be reached at kim@powerofNO.com or at (877) 245-8250. For more information on The Positive Power of NO, visit his website at www.powerofNO.com.

 About the Book:

 The Positive Power of NO: how that little word you love to hate can make or break your business (2003, Facts on Demand Press, ISBN: 1-889150-40-1, $17.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 929-3811.



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