Is your prospecting plan to "aggressively" wait for the phone to ring?

Recently, we were meeting with a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) to discuss training for their team in the science and art of prospecting. To kick things off, I asked the CRO about the current prospecting process and the plan to hold the sales people accountable. His answer?

“They aggressively sit at their desks waiting for the phone to ring.”

While we found the answer amusing, his response underlined the reality that their sales people had become order takers and not sales professionals. The CEO agreed and added that when he walks through the sales department it sounds like a 1950’s typing pool with everyone tapping on the keyboard; there is no noise or excitement. He felt that the former sales leadership prior to the new CRO really did not know how to lead. The CEO then went on to comment that once promoted to sales leaders, the managers are of the opinion that lead development is no longer their responsibility but resides with their team. They didn’t have to cold call anymore and that attitude is prevalent with experienced people who have forgotten how to make calls.

It’s all in the numbers.

This made me recall the sales prospecting sessions that went well for this organization and the ones that were just average. The main differentiator between successful engagements and those that are “just okay” is directly related to the involvement of the sales leader; in one case, the SVP made calls and ran a “hunting blitz” that got everyone involved, demanded excellence and participation from the team - including him.  Meanwhile his counterpart was in a different room with his team but decided to hang out at the door, drink coffee and shoot the breeze with one of his sales managers.

Their behaviors conveyed completely opposite messages. In the first scenario, the sales leader shared accountability and responsibility for all of the prospecting activity taking place. In the second room, the manager was basically conveying the message that the sales team’s job is to provide a blanket of income for him to enjoy. He was not sharing any accountability for the work of prospecting. At the end of the day the 1st team had 50% more contacts and 12% more responses for a 28% overall response rate in the calling exercise. The other team ended at 13% response rate and fewer dials. 

The Moral of the Story

So what did we really learn from this situation?

1.     Prior to the session, the team did not know how to develop leads on a 1-to-1 executive basis or on a 1-to-many story-selling basis. By diving into a live calling blitz where we focused on pairing the right messages with a lot of outbound activity and momentum, the sales professionals became more adept at prospecting by getting over their fear of the phone and having a lot more conversations.

2.     It’s critical to make the sales leaders accountable for all results. We ended up running a 2-day lead development session with the entire team and a 1.5 day sales management session to work on leading the initiatives and coaching the reps. With additional reinforcement via the Sales Gauge eLearning modules, they are also now able to provide refreshers to keep the techniques at the forefront and also onboard new sales team members.

Do you have a prospecting plan in place for your team? And how are you holding your sales professionals accountable for their prospecting activity? We’d love to hear your thoughts and would be happy to offer up advice to get you started down the right path. Reach out to us at: