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The Sales Review

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Prospecting: The Lost Art

Posted by Jamie Shanks on Sep 30, 2019 9:10:00 AM

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prospecting- The Lost Art

I’m noticing a big disruption in “the Force” – and it’s a disturbing trend. Maybe I’m getting older, or becoming more aware, or turning cynical – but the disruption in the Force that I’m seeing is that year by year, more and more sales professionals – whether they’re account executives, customer success leaders, or business development reps – seem to be losing the skill and art of prospecting.

Let’s unpack this. There’s a sense of urgency from sales leaders to help sales pros bridge a gap between the leads and opportunities they’re working on with existing customers – these leads might be part of an upsell or cross-sell opportunities, as well as leads being fueled by marketing coming in with inbound leads – with leads that they’re required to find on their own, i.e., net new customers or existing customers. But there’s always a gap, and sometimes it’s quite large. For so many sellers, prospecting is a focus at the beginning of their sales careers. Some sales pros start in customer success, and their mandate is to renew customers, and maybe do a bit ofupselling.

I remember at the beginning of my sales career in the early 2000s, the number one mandate was to create net new opportunities, and that meant cold calling, face-to-face meetings, door knocking – anything we could do to generate leads and opportunities for the business. However, more and more, the role of the sales pro has been delineated down to specific functions, while technology has accelerated capabilities for each seller – assumingly to fuel more yield and throughput per seller.

But over the years, it appears the sellers are losing that innate skill to hunt. And there’s an alarming trend that goes along with this. In 2011, CSO Insights and The Alexander Group did a study that showed that 63% of sellers were making their quota. Fast-forward to the present, and now that number is 50-50.

That means that 50% of sellers aren’t making their quota! There are a million factors that go along with this number, which could be fueled by pressure from private equity firms, or venture capital firms, but the end result is that sellers aren’t making their quota. I believe that one of the main contributing factors is that sellers are losing their skill set and ability to create their own destiny and pipeline.

Another 2018 study by TOPO Research showed that of the 50% of sellers that didn’t make quota, 83.4% of those sellers believe the main rationale for not making quota is poor time management. And again, these sellers didn’t know what to do, when to do it, or how to do it.

This purpose of this blog isn’t to give you solutions, but is intended to get you thinking. Here we are in September 2019 – we’re only a few months away from the 2020s! The 2020s are the beginning of the dawn of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, which will hyper-accelerate the yield and throughput per seller. We’ve already been in the dawn of the Information Age, where the modern, digital seller is outperforming the traditional, analog seller.

Leaders, you need to look at the next decade and find solutions for your sales team. More than 50% of your sales team will be from the millennial generation, which generally tends to have less investment in prospecting delivered to them. There are only a few major sales methodologies on this planet that have been rooted in prospecting; most sellers are strong at account management and account planning skills – but prospecting is just not a skill that sellers are refining repeatedly. And that’s something you as a leader need to think carefully about.

Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks

About the Author

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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