You don’t get to choose your results. You choose your habits, and they determine your results.
Rather than jumping straight into my ideas on this topic, let’s start with a few bigger-picture questions:
- What is the most important result for a salesperson to achieve? (To make a sale, it’s right there in the job title.)
- What must happen for them to have a chance at closing a deal? (They must have a potential buyer, a prospect.)
- What is the primary behavior that creates those opportunities? (Prospecting 🤷♂.️ Plain and simple).
Okay, now let’s get a bit more personal with the questions:
- Are you satisfied with your new business production year-to-date?
- Are you confident in the current state of your prospect pipeline?
- Do you feel good about your prospecting habits?
Your destination matters
I’m starting with these questions, and asking them in the order I did, very intentionally. When you start with the end in mind (making a sale, producing new business) and back into the habits and behaviors necessary to deliver the results, you can't deny how critically important healthy prospecting habits are to your success.
However, too often, instead of staying focused on that “end in mind,” salespeople make decisions about prospecting activities from where they are today. They weigh those prospecting activities against the other things vying for their attention – servicing existing clients, responding to emails, searching for a new Zoom background, ANYTHING other than picking up the phone.
The decision they come to is usually to kick the prospecting can down the street. But, and I’m being honest here, most salespeople are looking for a reason, any reason, to kick the can.
Something needs to change
Now, back to the personal questions above. More specifically, back to your answers to those questions. Do your current prospecting habits have you on track to hit your new business goal?
If not, you have three options:
- Change your goals.
- Change your behaviors.
- Change your attitude if you feel Option 1 is a legitimate option.
That being said, you should (re)evaluate how you set your goals in the first place. The way most producers set goals is a big part of why healthy habits don't follow.
When setting their annual new business goal, most will do nothing more than pick a round number, let’s say $100,000 or maybe to grow by 10%, and claim it as their goal. Because they just “made up the number,” it never feels real. Because it doesn’t feel real, there is no sense of urgency. With no sense of urgency, the can gets kicked.
I can see clearly now
Let’s try a different approach to goal setting. We call this approach “Gold, Silver, and Bronze (GSB) Goal Setting.”
I know, not an overly creative name, but trust me—the exercise works.
Let's start with Gold. What is the largest revenue account you can see yourself writing over the next 12 months? Answer based on:
- Accounts you've written in the past
- The market in which you compete
- Resources at your disposal
This won’t be an easy sale, but if you can get in front of three or four of these types of opportunities, you believe in your ability to close at least one.
Now, Silver. Following the same thought process above, based on accounts you’ve written in the past, the market you compete in, and the resources at your disposal, what is the size of account you could see yourself writing once a quarter?
Finally, Bronze. What is the size of account you know you can write on an every-other-month basis in addition to the Gold and Silver accounts from above?
After you do the exercise, look at your results. Let’s say you took a conservative approach and identified:
- One Gold account at $50,000
- Four Silver accounts at $15,000 each
- Six Bronze accounts at $5,000 each
That adds up to $140,000 of new business by only writing 11 new accounts, less than one a month. Because of the clarity of the target opportunities, most producers following this approach see the goal as way more attainable even though it is a larger total goal than their previous “made-up goal.”
Weekly behaviors drive annual results
While I do believe most producers' new business goals should be larger than they are, that’s not what I’m encouraging with the goal-setting exercise above. I am telling you to take your current goal and identify the specific sizes of accounts you will write to hit the goal. In other words, break your goal down into the GSB structure.
Now that you have your goal broken down into GSB, let’s translate it to quarterly prospecting goals. The translation is simple: set a quarterly prospecting goal that mirrors the GSB breakdown of your annual revenue goal.
In other words, commit to adding one Gold, four Silver, and six Bronze opportunities to your pipeline each quarter. This is a total of 11 new prospects each quarter, less than one per week. Not necessarily easy, but more than doable for a motivated and committed producer.
Setting a goal you believe in and breaking it down into what needs to happen each week makes it more obvious what habits need to be created to drive that weekly result. Of course, healthy habits are not easy to develop.
Build the habit
We all know how difficult breaking a bad habit or building a good one can be. If you haven’t yet, read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. As the subtitle of the book states, he does an excellent job of laying out "an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones."
If you don’t have healthy prospecting habits, you need to build your way into them. Borrowing from ideas in the book, let’s look at the healthy habit of going to the gym.
If you haven’t been working out, it is unrealistic to think you will suddenly be in the gym busting your ass for an hour at a time five days a week. Start ridiculously small, so small there are ZERO legitimate reasons not to get started.
Step One - Get in the car, drive to the gym, turn around and leave. See, I told you this was small and easy. Now you are someone who "goes to the gym." Going to the gym has become part of your identity; it's a habit.
Step Two - After you establish the habit of going to the gym, start parking the car once you get there, go inside, and work out for five minutes. Part of your identity and habits is that you are now someone who “works out.”
Step Three - Will this get you the result you need? Of course not! But you can't improve a habit that doesn't exist. You must establish the habit and then build it into the activity level necessary to drive the results you need. You can now start increasing the frequency and length of your workouts (expand and improve your habit) until they start producing your desired results.
What would it look like for you to take this approach to prospecting habits?
Step One – Start by identifying one potential prospect per day. That’s it. You are now someone who searches for new opportunities.
Step Two – After you’ve identified your prospect (don’t wait too long though), make one single phone call a day. You have now established you’re a salesperson who calls and reaches out to people.
It won’t be long until prospecting becomes part of your identity and you have a foundation on which to build it into the level of habit it needs to be.
No, it still isn’t easy
Perhaps James Clear’s claim of offering an "easy" way promises a bit too much. While it may not be easy to establish the proper habits, there are predictable paths to get you there. If you want to reach your potential and predictably hit your goals, you have no choice but to follow that path.
We say it all the time: Selling is a difficult and scary job. For many salespeople, prospecting is the most difficult and scariest part of that difficult and scary job. However, it is a primary responsibility of those who sign on for the sales job.
You can make excuses, or you can make shit happen. It’s ironic which of those stinks. 😳
Photo by gustavofrazao.