3 Questions to Help Define Your Prospecting Strategy
“To cold call, or not to cold call–that is the question:
Whether ’tis wiser in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous rejection
Or to take aim against a sea of prospects
By email and Linking with them. To call, to fail–
No more–and by a fail to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That sales is heir to…” (With deepest apologies to William Shakespeare)
Which side of the great Cold-Calling Debate are you on? There is a
seemingly never-ending debate in sales circles over the relative and
absolute merits of cold-calling as a method for lead generation and
prospect development. The proponents on either side tend to view this as
an “either-or” proposition. It shouldn’t be if you are asking the right
On one side of this argument are the “traditionalists” who believe that
cold-calling, even in today’s information-driven economy, remains:
a) An effective tactic for reaching new prospects
b) A productive use of a salesperson’s limited selling time
c) An essential skill that every sales person needs to possess.
On the other side are the “progressives” who believe that:
a) Cold calls are unnecessary as there are a variety of tools that
enable a seller to connect and engage with prospects before the first
call is made.
b) Cold-calling is an inefficient use of a salesperson’s limited
c) Contemporary sales skills, such as social selling, are more
crucial to sales success than the “elevator pitching” skills of cold
While the arguments put forth by both sides in this debate have some
merit, the correct solution for most companies and individual sellers is
not an “either-or” answer. Managers and sales people have to ask
themselves a few key questions in order to decide which approach to
prospect sales lead gen and prospect development is the most practical,
and effective, for them.
Question 1: What Do I Need To Accomplish?
The first question to ask is “What do I need to accomplish?” Be specific
and determine how many prospects you need at any one time in order to
meet and exceed quota. Define how many leads you need to develop within
a certain timeframe in order to develop a certain number of qualified
prospects. Having this information in hand will let you determine
whether cold-calling, or some other prospecting activity, is the optimal
strategy to achieve your prospecting goals. What will be the most
effective use of your selling time?
In this day and age, given the abundance of new sales tools that exist
to make it easier to connect with potential customers, it seems unlikely
that even the most fervent advocates can unequivocally state that
cold-calling is the only answer to Question 1.
Question 2: What Am I Good At Doing?
The second question to ask is: “What am I good at doing?” Or, “What is
my sales team good at doing?” It is essential to align your prospecting
activities with your sales strengths.
The fact is that not everyone has to be good at all forms of
prospecting. Success in cold-calling, or the lack thereof, can be due as
much to a salesperson’s temperament as their skills. And no amount of
training can change that. The most talented and successful salespeople I
have ever worked with in my career were not very good at cold-calling.
Personally, I don’t like cold-calling. In 30+ years of a very successful
sales career I have avoided cold-calling whenever I could. It doesn’t
suit my personality and I have never grown comfortable with it. Even
when I was in the field, working my territory and making 30-40 cold
calls a day.
However, I almost always had a healthy list of prospects. What did I do?
Question 3: What Are The Alternatives?
Without question, there is almost always more than one method for sales
people to generate a sales lead, whether it is social selling,
referrals, inbound marketing or cold-calling to name a few.
It is important to not be reactive and make the assumption that there
will be only one solution to a problem because in most prospecting
scenarios it will be a mix of activities that will produce the optimal
I mentioned above that I didn’t like to cold call. However, I have done
it throughout my career because I have needed to. I haven’t lead my
prospecting with cold-calling. I was never fortunate enough to work for
a company where new prospects would knock down my door begging to buy
the products I was selling. So, I would start prospecting with the
non-cold-calling activities that I thought would produce the biggest
return on my time. Sometimes those activities would generate enough
leads for me. Often times they didn’t. That’s when I would make
cold-calls. It’s one thing to say you don’t like to cold-call. But, if
everything else you try isn’t working, it is still your job to develop
new prospects, close orders and make quota. There is no hall-pass in
sales. If that means making cold-calls to help make your numbers, then
that is what you have to do.
Practical Sales Tip: Start your prospecting with those activities that
are best aligned with your strongest capabilities, or those of your
sales team. But if those activities aren’t generating enough leads, then
you have to try something else. Even if it means picking up the phone
and making cold-calls. (As Shakespeare said “ay, there’s the rub…”)
For more on this topic click here to read: Doing What You Need To Do
Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A sought-after speaker and business coach, Andy conducts workshops and consults with sales teams of all sizes to teach them practical selling strategies that use responsiveness, speed and simple sales processes to increase sales. Enjoy what you just read? Sign up for our regular digest of valuable and practical sales tips and strategies, “Selling with Maximum Impact.”
© Andy Paul 2013