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What to Do When Prospecting Fails

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This article refers to three different resource pages on my website. You may need one or all: The Good Way to Sell has resources on the sales process. At Cold Calling, there are lots of tools to help debug a cold call campaign. If you are doing seminars, please visit Success Zone.

There are all kinds of places the wheels can fall off of your prospecting machine. Normally, it’s only one or two wheels that fall off. To fix it, you have to know which wheel, and why.

You can fix most any campaign by an understanding of these tools: the basic mistakes; best practices for your type of campaign; variables for your campaign.

So let’s dig in so we can dig ourselves out.

The Basic Mistakes

These are nasty. I have written about them extensively. But not in a while.

1. Find a bad idea and stick to it. This most often afflicts rookies who are cold calling, but can affect anyone who is doing any kind of organized prospecting.

Rookies, typically, get started on some tired, worn-out scripts such as “I’m just calling to introduce myself.” When it doesn’t work, they try harder. Finally after weeks or even months, they conclude they are just not cut out for a career in financial services and go sell cars or something. Very sad. Because all they needed to do was get a good script. But getting a rookie pried loose from a bad idea is nearly impossible.

If you have been working on something for a while and it is not working, you are committing Basic Mistake No. 1. Knock it off. Change something and do it quickly.

The sales pipeline can be months long, sometimes a year or more. So you have to be able to measure and respond to early indications that your prospecting campaign is a woofer.

You have to have benchmarks for each phase of the prospecting process. These benchmarks enable you to make changes early in what will otherwise be a failing process.

Here are some benchmarks: 15% of your clients provide a referral every year, and 60% of those close. You generate 2–3 cherries per hour in cold calling. One in 10 of these produces an initial appointment. If your early numbers are far off of this, there are not enough hours in the day to produce enough leads that will produce the sales down the road.

Your seminar mailings produce an 0.8–1% response, 80% of those show up, 30–40% set appointments, most of those appointments stick, 30% open an account within three months and another 20% will open within two years, providing you have a good drip system.

Since this is what can be done, if you are not doing it then you are doing something wrong. Or not doing something right. You have a bad idea. Change it.

2. Find a good idea and change it. This one is insidious. You did something and it worked. And now you’ve stopped doing it, or you are trying to “improve it.”

You might be generating 2–3 cherries per hour and cold calling. You might be getting the required number of appointments. But it’s taking a long time to get the sale closed. Instead of focusing on the real problem, sales procedure, you make changes in the prospecting process and out goes the baby with the dirty bathwater.

3. Find a good idea and don’t do it enough. I spoke with an advisor recently who had produced a very successful seminar. My question was, “When is the next one?” His response, “I thought I would do one a quarter.” To which I replied, “Right now, your topic, invitation, lists, location, and everything is right. Tomorrow they might tear down that restaurant. The market might go in the tank. And you want to wait?”

4. Don’t prospect. A very large number of people in this industry at this time could be compared to a big old catfish laying in a warm pool hoping a food particle drifts by. Clients are aging, then dying, and then assets take flight. The book of business these advisors hope to sell gets less valuable year after year. In this industry, there is no such thing as “being done.” There is only growth or death.

The Variables

Another set of tools you need to debug a failing campaign is a knowledge, and appreciation, of “the variables.”

In my dictionary, a variable is “anything over which you have control that can change the outcome of a direct response marketing campaign.”

You cannot do anything about the market. You can do something about how many calls you make, how many invitations you send, etc. So let’s do a summary of the “variables” in seminars and cold calling.

Cold Calling Variables

Today, they are the same as they were 30 years ago, or even 300 years ago when old-time peddlers pulled a wagon from one village to the other.

1. Your philosophy and beliefs about cold calling. This most certainly constitutes a variable in the sense I have defined the term. Change from “The Old Way” to “The Good Way” and results will instantaneously change.

I would thoroughly explore “The Good Way” on my cold calling resource page. Download “all Bill Good articles on cold calling” there.

2. How you sound. Get this wrong and nothing else matters. Record yourself. Listen. Do you sound like you are sucking a lemon? Stand up. Smile. Project vitality.

3. Make enough calls. Dawdle along at 20 calls per hour, and starve to death. To survive, you need to make 50–60 calls per hour!

4. Time of day you call. Sometimes, when everything else is right, adjusting this one item can make the difference between success and failure.

5. What you say (your message). This is your advertisement. It’s delivered to one person at a time. What you say is vital. Every word counts.

Imagine changing just one word of these great advertising slogans:

We try harder — Avis

Reach out and touch someone — AT&T

Just Do It Something — Nike

The ultimate driving machine conveyance — BMW

You need a good script. You will find 16 scripts on my resource page.

6. List (who you call). Suppose you are baking a chocolate cake, which is more important? Butter? Flower? Sugar? Eggs? Milk? Chocolate? Okay, so maybe it’s the chocolate.

Well today, the list of people you call is the chocolate in your recipe.

So how do you use this information to debug a failing cold calling campaign? Make sure every variable is up to standard. Are you making enough calls? Are you pit polishing? Do you sound like you’re sucking a lemon? Are you calling an old tired list from two years ago? Is your script some tired variation of “I’m just calling to introduce myself?”

Keep changing these variables one at a time. If you can’t get it right in a relatively short period of time, it’s a bad idea. Chuck it. And start over.

Seminar Variables

Like cold calling, like any prospecting campaign, seminars also have a list of variables. It is:

  1. Invitation

  2. List

  3. Location

  4. Confirmation procedure

  5. Food choice

  6. Seating arrangement

  7. Seminar handouts

  8. Post seminar appointment procedure

Two or three years ago, I pleaded with an advisor not to send out a particular pre-approved invitation. It fell into a category of invitation I refer to as “wimpy.” He sent 3,500 invitations, had four people accept, and he canceled the event.

Please. Visit my seminar success zone page. Download the white paper. Study it. You can fix almost any failing seminar with that one document.

— More by Bill Good: