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Sales Training Article - Prospecting Has Changed

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Published: Monday, April 26, 2010

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Sales Training Article: How to Prospect Has Changed - Have You?

By Gary Walker, Co-founder of CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

One of the recurring complaints that I hear from salespeople and sales managers is how difficult prospecting has become today. They complain that the things that used to work to generate leads, like cold calls to prospect organizations, emails to executives, postcard mailers, and tradeshow registration cards, are simply no longer working. The truth is that the prospecting activities undertaken by most salespeople, though not all, are a knee-jerk reaction to a weak pipeline or a management directive to "you better start prospecting." As a result, the prospecting activity often consists of traditional approaches, in series, which are ill conceived as well as poorly planned and executed.

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I don't know about you, but I'm inundated with people that want to speak with me to try and sell me something. I can return to my office to find countless emails and voicemails, more than I'm prepared to deal with on any given day. As busy as I am, if I receive an email that I don't recognize or, perhaps it's a subject line that is attempting to sell me something - I DELETE it. If I receive a telephone call and don't recognize the caller on my Caller ID, I allow it to go to voicemail; voicemail has become my screening device. When I get around to checking my voicemail, if it's from someone I don't know or from someone who wants to speak with me about their latest and greatest offering - I DELETE it. If I had to guess, I bet you are doing the same exact thing! The fact of the matter is that you are no different than the people you are trying to reach. Think about that for a minute. They are most likely deleting your emails and voicemails too!

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Results from a survey of senior executives in the high technology industry identified cold calling as the least probable reason they would agree to speak with a salesperson (Selling to Senior Executives). No wonder salespeople hate it.

Faced with this new reality and my need to generate more sales, I began to modify and experiment with new approaches to business development and prospecting by:

  • precise targeting of executives who could purchase my offering;
  • utilizing productivity tools like LinkedIn activity, Google Alert, PRNewswire, Lead411, etc. to monitor the organizations I was targeting;
  • identifying what I call triggering events (business challenges, goals, problems, or needs) that were important to the executives I was targeting;
  • developing Sales Ready Messaging® that is relevant to those known business challenges and initiatives;
  • engaging with executives, using multiple methods, with information that is relevant to their challenges and initiatives;
  • leveraging business and social relationships to connect with the executive(s); and
  • becoming part of the continuing conversation to stay engaged and relevant.

I've been extremely pleased with this approach and the results I've obtained since beginning to use it. It aligns perfectly with what we teach in our CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS™) workshops. However, despite the success that I have experienced and all of the productivity tools that I just outlined, I find that this approach requires a great deal of time to prepare, plan, and execute. Triangulating with multiple sources to find information that should be available but isn't, and verifying what you believe to be factual, is in fact the correct the information.

I began to think about how we could integrate the above approach into the CCS™ workshop content. It wouldn't be enough to say, "Looked what worked for me!"; so I needed to conduct some research. Thank goodness for the Internet!

As a result of that research, we now offer a one (1) - day, instructor-led CustomerCentric Selling® Prospecting and New Business Development™ Workshop. This workshop will instruct salespeople on how to:

  • prepare, plan, and execute a prospecting and business development plan;
  • how to take advantage of available prospecting technology and tools;
  • how to identify and use triggering events to surgically target senior executives that could benefit from your offering;
  • how to develop Sales Ready Messaging® that is aligned with the senior executives' critical issues or business initiatives;
  • how to use multiple messaging delivery methods (i.e. telephone prospecting, email) to engage with a targeted executive; and
  • how to influence and remain part of the ongoing dialog and conversation - the key to selling is your ability to converse effectively with the right people.

The CustomerCentric Selling® Prospecting and New Business Development Workshop would be ideal as a one (1) -day lead-in to a sales meeting, the final day of a sales meeting, annual sales kick-off, or any time that you or the sales team feel they could use some help and would like to improve their prospecting and business development skills.

While conducting the research necessary to develop this new workshop, I discovered an amazing new application called InsideView for Sales ( It eliminates much of the hard work I just described above and makes planning and preparing to prospect a breeze. Let me explain.

InsideView for Sales -Smart Connections™ technology automatically discovers relationships between you and decision makers in the target accounts that you specify. It searches through thousands of executive profiles and biographies from trusted sources - including specialized research providers like Thomson Reuters, and Capital IQ (a Standard & Poor's Company), social networks like LinkedIn and over 20,000 online news sources - and identifies connections at all levels of an organization, from the CEO and board members down to line-of-business directors and managers.

InsideView for Sales finds and alerts you to triggering events which drive your prospecting strategies. Smart Agents monitor specialized research providers, social networks and 20,000+ online news sources to alert you to those triggering events, like a management change, earnings announcement, press releases, or contract award. These Smart Agents work on your behalf to minimize research and ensure that you will never miss a prospecting opportunity. They are completely configurable, allowing you to be alerted only about the events that are meaningful to you and that you want to monitor.

You can choose from a library of Standard Agents (currently comprised of 18 common key business events such as Leadership Changes, New Offerings and Acquisitions). You can also create unlimited numbers of Customized Agents to find business events, management discussions, and media coverage specific to your prospecting efforts. Creating your own Agents lets you identify key events and insights as unique as you and your business.

We were so impressed with InsideView's capabilities and how tightly it was aligned with the CCS™ approach to prospecting and business development, that we have entered into a Managed Partner Program relationship. One of the value added benefits of this relationship and you being a CCS™ client is that you will have the ability to subscribe to this application at a reduced rate. In order to obtain that reduced rate, simply contact our InsideView channel partner, Brian Bachofner at and mention promo code "CCS" to obtain your discount.

Happy Prospecting and Good Selling!

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