Preparing to Prospect and ‘The Art of War’

Preparing to prospect may seem as an unnecessary, redundant step in the selling process.  Read on to learn why it is just the opposite.

When Sun Tzu wrote his Art of War, I am sure that he wasn’t thinking about selling in the twenty-first century. However, I believe that many of his sayings can be applied to getting things accomplished in your selling world today. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”

“Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.”

In writing a new series of posts on the topic of “accomplishing,” I decided to start with the idea that you can’t generally accomplish much without being properly prepared, and I think that this is especially true when it comes to prospecting for new business.

Someone I know also used to say that “The only way you can fail at prospecting is to fail to prospect.” Many people misunderstood him, thinking that what he meant was to take a “just do it” attitude. What he really meant was to do it after you have finished preparing to prospect.

Preparing to Prospect:

  1. Set a weekly goal for how many prospecting activities I will perform. These include phone calls, emails, and in-person networking events. For example, I declared a goal of twenty activities for this week. I track these in my CRM system so they appear on a report that we run weekly to see how many prospecting activities were performed individually, as well as for the entire company.
  2. Set aside specific time to prospect in my Outlook calendar. Prospecting events are color coded (as green) so that I can quickly identify if I have allocated enough time during the week for prospecting activity.
  3. Build my lists. I use my CRM system to create a database of people that I have to talk to. They fall into several categories, including people that are currently on my radar screen to call from the last time I was prospecting, people that I met at events, people from a “friends of CFS” group tagged in our system for frequent calls, as well as people who expressed an interest in our company on our website. I also look through my email and my Facebook and Linked In networks for people to contact.
  4. Determine my purpose. Before speaking with anyone, I determine what I am going to call them about and what the desired outcome is. I’m not always looking to close a sales training opportunity. I may be speaking about attending our next event, asking for a referral, asking someone to put in a call to nudge a prospect to return a phone call, or simply calling to stay in touch and to discuss ideas for generating new business.
  5. Keep track. I record as much communication as possible and keep notes. This allows me to go back and pick up from where I left off if I need to continue a conversation with this person, as well as to share information about this contact with others in my firm.

If I am suitably prepared, I can visualize prospects inviting me in to meet with them, wanting to do business with me and my company, and viewing me as a professional who will add value to them. In essence, I am seeing victory before I begin!

Do you have any ideas on the idea of preparing to prospect? Let us know in the comments!

By | 2016-10-17T16:41:22+00:00 November 20th, 2009|Sales Success|0 Comments

About the Author:

Charles Bernard is the CEO at Criteria for Success. He writes about sales, sales leadership, social selling best practices, time management, and anything related to helping others make sales success a habit.

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