Networking vs Prospecting: Making One Work For The Other
I had a startling revelation last week. What I’m about to share is something I don’t often admit out loud, but it lives and breathes and is a strong force within me.
My name is Maegan Kopka. I am a 15 year sales veteran, and I HATE prospecting!
Ok, so I did not burst into a ball of flames like I previously thought may happen if I admitted that horrid truth. However, in a meeting last week with Sales Consultant Cindy Littlefield of The Bridge Group, I felt myself having a bit of an outer body experience. Our teams were discussing the art of prospecting and the absolute need, in 2013, to be good at it. Cindy really struck a cord with me when she said, “There are those who are great networkers, but that doesn’t make them good prospectors. There is a big difference.” Wait. I stopped, self-reflected, and realized Cindy just described ME. Dammit.
I don’t think I’m alone in my feeling towards prospecting. Listen, I’ve done it, I’ve pushed through it, but it makes me cringe and tongue-tied. Prospecting (in the form of phone calls) is by far the task in my sales career that I’d gladly have a root canal in trade. And it is for this reason, that I have nothing but praise and respect for those who love prospecting, or at least are really good at it. This is not an easy thing for me to admit. For crying out loud, I am employed by a Sales and Marketing Firm that specializes in prospecting!
My sales people keep a dirty little secret, and we know about the dirty secret many sales people keep: We hate the act of prospecting and cold-calling and we will do everything in our power to NOT do it! Yet, it is absolutely essential.
While we are forever searching for that key person that will help drive our business forward, the question is, what do you do when you find them? Will you pick up the phone and dial? Do you email or send them a LinkedIn invite? Do you persist with a contact methodology that will get you to that quality conversation(s) that move your business forward? Or are you sheepish in your attempt, waiting for the heavens to open so you can be lead to the green pastures of spoon-fed quality prospects and pipeline?
Networking is important, and it is a talent that deserves credit. In sales, what is MORE important is to take your networking skill to the next level by prospecting and converting that network into customers. Here are 4 ways to help turn your network into prospects:
Push out of your comfort zone- My New Year’s Resolution is to reach out to 5 prospects within my network (above and beyond my normal activity), per week, asking them a specific question that will start the qualification process. Be selective about who you prospect and push through your resistance to outbound calling.
Broaden the base- “Birds of a feather flock together.” Your network likely consists of people who are in similar positions and related fields, current and past customers, along with friends and acquaintances. Those in sales positions tend to be a bit more forgiving when being prospected, but understanding how to prospect into your network’s network along with your own is crucial.
Be strategic and smart with social media- Take the time to organize your profiles and messaging so that everyone knows how you can help make their lives’ easier! We have used social sites for our own gain, describing what’s great about ourselves and what we can offer others. But have you thought about how your skills or offerings solve the pain of your prospects?
Change your event attendance tactic- Don’t waste your time going to events that target sales and marketing people in your industry, unless you want to network with a bunch of other sales people just like you. Instead, find out where your target titles in your chosen industry go every year. What are the “Must See” events for CFO’s, VP’s of Marketing, and CIO’s? Go where the decision makers go, make connections and paint the vision.
I took a big step today admitting my distaste for prospecting publicly, but I also realize we can’t run from our fears or what we’re not good at. So let’s all take the opportunity, and the start of a New Year, to try and make ourselves better by accepting the challenge of increasing our prospecting activities. You already have invested the time to build your network, now let’s focus on prospecting for new revenue.