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I used to say “Nothing happens until a Sale is made”, but I have since changed my position. I say the moment of truth has moved way upstream in the sales funnel. I submit to you that it is now “Nothing really happens these days until a prospect says show me how you can help me.”
In order to get a prospect to that point, you by default have to be doing prospecting. You know that effort of reaching out and having an engaging conversation with a prospective buyer. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – it’s all about inbound marketing, they’ll find you because they perform 70% of the sales process themselves….blah, blah, blah. Tell that to the sales rep who is behind on their quota and ask them if they are ok with just waiting for the inbound leads to pour in. I dare you.
So back to prospecting. Most executives in “management” have no idea how hard it is these days to do prospecting. Yes, some of the new challenges in prospecting are due to the fact that we all (our prospects included) do a lot more to educate ourselves online prior to wanting to talk to sales people. If all the great access to information via the internet weren’t enough of a reason to do that, our consumer experience with “sales associates” at our local Big-Box retailers have helped instill this new type of “self-service” buyer behavior into all of us in our day jobs too. But that doesn’t mean that prospecting is dead and isn’t a critical aspect of the B2B sales process. Quite the contrary. Ask most successful sales reps who consistently retire their assigned quota and they will tell you that making quota starts by consistently and deliberately putting new viable and qualified sales-ready leads into their pipeline. It is a job that is never ending.
So why are so many sales teams struggling with this. Well for starters, Insidesales.com has completed research that shows it can take an average of 8 outreach attempts to even get in contact with a prospect today. With the average sales rep putting in just over 2 attempts on average, you can start to see why there is such a gap in the prospecting phase. Why is this, and what can be done about it?
To help get prospecting back on track, progressive firms are realizing that prospecting is a critical bottleneck in their overall “sales supply-chain.” To remove these bottlenecks, many companies are hiring upstream lead development reps or LDRs. Just for clarity — NO, an LDR is not an Inside Sales Rep. It is such a new concept that firms are coming up with a lot of different titles for these roles; LDRs, SDRs, BDRs, etc. These new lead developers are specifically focused on the job of prospecting and putting forth the requisite prospecting effort that it takes to get connected with today’s elusive and hard-to-connect-with buyers. Think of them as upstream suppliers to quota-carrying sales reps, be they inside sales reps or field reps. But, since LDRs don’t have other responsibilities, they can focus all their effort and available time on this mission of prospecting. Of course, it isn’t just as easy as hiring LDRs. Truth be told they are in high demand and extremely hard to find these days. But beyond that, there are a lot of process changes required and frankly, a lot of enabling technologies that must be put in place to make these new LDRs productive. More on that in an upcoming blog post.
If your sales process still looks more like an “all-in-one” sales model (even if you have hired “inside sales reps”), you should seriously rethink the merits of continuing on with that strategy. Borrow a little “operational optimization logic” from your colleagues who manage your firm’s supply-chain and try and find the bottlenecks in your sales process. You may be shocked to find out how much effort it takes and how little time your current sales professionals are dedicating to this business of prospecting. If you would like some outside help in analyzing your prospecting efforts and associated lead flow gaps, we have a packaged assessment service that we call “Lead Flow Process Assessment” that we’d be happy to help you in identifying where and how big of a prospecting bottleneck your organization may be experiencing.
If you have an opinion or two about PROSPECTING that you would like to share, feel free to share your insights below. Trust me, there are a lot of people who are interested in this topic and all viewpoints are valuable!!