Ups and downs, strikes and gutters—it's the world of sales. All reps struggle with the opposite poles of trying to find new clients while trying to take care of the ones they have. Many times, sales reps stop prospecting because (they say) they're too busy doing account management. The consequences can be brutal and leave the sales rep in violent peaks and valleys. Since customer attrition is inevitable, if the lead pipeline dries up, it’s only a matter of time before sales follow suit.
Here are several of the top reasons why prospecting comes to a grinding halt.
Prospecting is difficult and time consuming.
Like all people, sales reps may resort to looking for shortcuts, or simply cross their fingers and hope a big prospect falls into their lap. But once the habit of hard work is broken, it’s hard to get back; prospecting efforts are difficult to revive when reps start looking for shortcuts.
The task leads to little recognition.
Sales reps hear a lot of “no’s” and have to deal with rejection constantly. Sales is psychologically demanding; when reps encounter rejection, they often look for “safe places” where they get positive reinforcement. Instead of prospecting, reps spend more and more time revisiting their best customers — perhaps with no real business purpose in mind.
Reps must handle existing customers, so prospecting becomes a lower priority.
Given the grinding nature of prospecting work, reps are all the more likely to give higher priority to anything else on their plate. It’s always easy to justify spending time working with current clients — sometimes the need truly exists, but other times, as we noted above, it’s a distraction or excuse. They need to let go and delegate.
Reps fail to budget time on their calendar. Prospecting is not only hard work and depressing work, it is systematic work. Sales professionals are not always the most organized and regimented of employees, so they need a lot of help and coaching to develop time management skills that enable them to keep prospecting top-of-mind and top-of-calendar.
Lack of the latest tools and technology.
Prospecting tools not only help deal with the poor organization mentioned above, but also bring greater speed and accuracy to the prospecting workflow. Sales reps relying on paper tracking systems, Outlook reminders, and Post-it notes will let great opportunities slip through the cracks due to slow, haphazard and off-the-mark follow-up. Working with better tools will make it easier to create effective and engaging sales presentations that speak to prospects.
Frustration with inconvenient CRM software or cumbersome Excel prospecting lists.
The flip side of the previous problem — not using technology — is using technology that is too complex. Great CRM platforms and other prospecting tools have one thing in common: they all deliver a great user experience. Unfortunately, some organizations select software based more on functionality than usability. The decision looks good on paper, but doesn’t work out so well in the real world of selling.
Companies provide little direction.
Some leadership teams don’t give much direction regarding what type of prospect to go after, or what their expectations are for prospecting. Sales reps may think they can sell anything to anybody. Left to their own devices, sales reps will not naturally or magically zero in on the most promising prospects or the ones that best fit the organization’s business model. If reps continually bring in prospects the company is lukewarm about, they will eventually lose interest and stop prospecting altogether.
The “fat and happy” syndrome.
When reps score a streak of big deals, they become complacent and think they don’t need to prospect anymore. On one hand, this is a good problem for an organization to have, but let’s recall a point made at the beginning of this discussion: once the habit of prospecting is broken, it is hard to revive. If not careful, many sales reps peak early and become victims of their own success by not focusing on both existing and potential customers.
Prospecting is essential not only for a full pipeline of leads, but also to help reps keep their pitches sharp and to think on their feet. If efforts have fallen flat, reps must breathe new life into their regimen. Explore our resource library for more information about generating leads and improving your business’ sales!