In the new world vocabulary, or at least in the new English vocab, the word "sick" doesn't relate to being physically ill. Rather, it means something that is totally incredible, unreal, awesome -- something really fantastic. Prospecting for new leads is different than it was "back in the day," whenever that day was. New software can put an insurance sales rep on the line with a list of qualified leads, dialing 10 numbers at once and automatically dumping nine of them when one gets an answer.
Prospecting has never been as touch-friendly as it is in today's high-tech world. But in media sales, it's not that easy. Economic buyers -- the people who actually make the decision to buy your multi-platform consortium/radio stations -- are getting more sophisticated with their screening, so they can filter you out. Unless, of course, you are one of the 5 percent that actually does some research before you pick up the phone to set up an appointment with a real decision-maker. Prospecting can get pretty "sick" for some people -- it can make you ill, and you'll face a high rate of rejection unless you prospect systematically and with a purpose.
I was recently out with a fresh new sales rep. We had just finished an appointment and we had some time before our next appointment. We were "zoned" into our nav/territory, so we had to stay in the same area. We noticed a collision repair company, a.k.a. a paint and body shop. Before we went in, we noticed how many bays the business had and the various cars and trucks they were working on. That's good intel before you walk into a business, and it can lead you to ask more important questions than just "Who makes the decisions here?"
We met the manager of this shop on walking in the door, and found out they had four locations in various cities across the metro. The manager was related to the main decision-maker and told us the chain is part of a "20 group" of other collision and repair companies across the country. He said they routinely use each other as sounding boards, especially when it comes to advertising, and made a special point to tell us they had tried radio once and it didn't work.
Regardless of the media you sell, you will hear this objection. In this case, it was real. When your competition sells something that has no expectations attached to it and is sold for the benefit of the station and not the client, the failure is real. The "tech" buyer in this situation -- not the decision maker, though he has influence -- told us several important things about the company: their history, how they use referrals, and how they target insurance agents, the source of 90 percent of their business.
After a good 10-minute conversation, he politely told us that in order to get any attention from him or anyone at corporate, we would have to have some firm testimonials, and even then, the likelihood that the decision-maker would set up an appointment would be slim to nil. But if we did have some collision companies that had success using radio, that it might make a difference.
So our work was cut out for us. The task was to get the appointment with the decision maker at another location. But we had some inside information about what it might take to get that appointment, and we knew this was a qualified business, with four locations doing several million dollars per location and with the average repair ticket coming in at $3,000.
We immediately called the RAB and had them send over success stories from other collision and repair companies across the country using radio, complete with the names of the owners and testimonials. The RAB sent the material over in less than four minutes. We downloaded the info on our smartphones, scrolled through the testimonials, and found two (of more than 50) that would be right on target for our prospect.
Using this information, our rep dialed in the decision-maker within 24 hours and got the appointment. And he got it because he did his research: walked the business, found out what's going on, then used the testimonials from the RAB. Dialing this decision-maker from a random list or finding him on yellow.com and trying to set up an appointment out of the blue would have been futile.
How many good prospects are we leaving on the table because we didn't do any research first? I would guess quite a few. The days of stacking up 20-30 businesses and trying to get appointments with no research are over. You need to be a little more sophisticated than that. Top-notch companies expect more than just a random prospecting call.
Timing Is Everything
There is never a bad time to prospect, and nothing bad ever happens when you're out in the field during prime selling hours -- usually 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., depending on the market. On a different call, with a different rep, the very next day, we again found ourselves between appointments. It was lunchtime, and we had on our list a fast food restaurant. But the rep saw the sign said the restaurant was "opening soon." We were going to blow it off and hit a couple of other prospects in the same mall, but then we thought, you never know until you try.
We walked over, and the franchise owner opened the door for us. He told us they weren't officially open yet, and they were doing a training test of their employees for the grand opening the next day. He said to come in, even though the test was mostly for employees' families. Meals were free for both of us, he said, so go ahead and order. Timing is everything: We met the two franchisees, who are opening up 23 more locations in the area. Nothing like eating with the family! Had we blown it off, we may never have ever met these two main decision-makers -- especially when they're operating 23 other stores!
Get out of the car and go prospect. If you don't, you'll never know what you missed. There are many prospecting techniques that work. Never be afraid to prospect, or you'll find yourself hanging out in the office -- and none of the other sales reps are going to buy media from you. Prospecting is a detailed-oriented, systematic process. There is an art to prospecting. Doors open when you open the door for yourself and allow yourself to not be afraid of the word no. After all, what's the worst thing that could happen to you? Maybe you'll get sick? Perhaps you should get sick prospecting.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.