Let’s face it: Past growth does not guarantee future growth.

If you want to succeed in sales, you must have a prospecting plan — and actually use it!

I wish I could say it was easier than this and that solid leads will just appear before you.

However, I’ve yet to meet a successful salesperson who could attribute their success to such a gamble.

Here are 3 things you must know about successful prospecting:

1. If you can’t prospect, you can’t sell.

Ouch.  That one kind of hurts, doesn’t it?

Well here’s the deal — if you put little or no effort into prospecting or if you think it’s not part of your job, then you really are nothing more than an order taker.

Successful prospecting demands that you be proactive. You must keep your pipeline full, and the only way you will do that is to constantly be drumming up new business.

A lot can change with “current” customers, including the possibility that they will go away completely.

I especially caution salespeople who bank all their numbers on one or two very large customers.  Such a situation quickly deteriorates if one or both of those customers either reduces their regular order or eliminates it all together.

If you can’t prospect — but you want to remain in sales — then you MUST learn how to prospect.

2. Not all prospects are created equal.

Successful prospecting requires that you become incredibly discerning about which prospects are actually good prospects — and which ones are mere suspects.

A good prospect will provide you with what I call proprietary information.

Through your discussions and questioning, this prospect will share with you at least one piece of information about the company or industry that is not common knowledge and that you would have difficulty getting elsewhere.

Through effective questioning techniques, you also will be able to uncover the person’s genuine needs — and then match your product or service to those needs.  Often, the good prospect also will be operating within a certain timeframe of making a decision (this isn’t always the case, but you should be on the look out for it).

What you are trying to determine is if someone is simply using you and your precious time to gather information so that they can just go make a buying decision elsewhere.

If this is the case, they are a suspect. You do not want to invest a tremendous amount of time and effort with suspects.  You want to reserve your effort and time for genuine prospects.

3. Prospecting is like showering.

What? Yes, that’s right.  Prospecting is like showering.

You need to do it every day.

You need to ingrain it in your daily habit in such a way that it becomes almost second nature to you to intentionally pursue new customers.

Even on your days off, you would be wise to jot down prospecting ideas that come to mind, even if you are not going to do anything with them right at that moment.  You may think you’ll remember without writing the ideas down, but come Monday morning, you will be drawing a blank.  I guarantee it.

And certainly on your working days, prospecting must involve actually talking to prospects, not simply “thinking” about talking to them or “planning” on talking to them.

You have it in you to successfully prospect and keep your pipeline full.  You can stand apart from your colleagues and your competition, especially if you do these 3 things!

For more information about this topic and others that will lead you to high profits, see my book High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.

Copyright 2012, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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