by Cory Koch

While much has already been written about prospecting, I hope this article presents new light on the importance of gaining access to decision-makers for you. Despite what you may have heard in the past, most prospecting is a waste of time. You may be shocked to hear this, but you have to keep in mind that your sales force needs to be in front of qualified decision-makers to sell your organization’s solutions. Until they reach that position, they are wasting valuable time and energy talking to the wrong people.

John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register, wrote about “prospecting” as early as 1873 and, since that time, it has become a time-honored approach to gaining access to decision-makers. Prospecting turns out to be a waste of time, however, because the sales day is limited. Your sales force has only eight hours a day to prospect for new business while at the same time trying to serve their existing customer base.

You might describe prospecting as searching for someone to sell to. Most of us, however, don’t start prospecting until sales are low and business is down. A more effective way of gaining access to new business is to make a constant effort to establish relationships with all potential and desirable suspects in all markets – all the time, even when times are good. This is where Whittaker Associates can assist you in setting up systems that make consistent, effective prospecting easier.

Ineffective prospecting is almost certainly a waste of time because of the low return on the time and effort invested. No matter how much time your executives spend chasing down sales leads and making cold calls, they know their odds of actually getting through to somebody immediately are slim, at best.

A better way to get the attention of potential customers is to use a combination of permission marketing, database management, and tele-contacting activity.

Note that I refer to the activity of using the phone to develop new business as tele-contacting, not telemarketing. Telemarketing is another approach to business development that produces neither consistent nor predictable results. Tele-contacting, on the other hand, is the method of qualifying prospective customers by using a compiled and detailed profile of their companies and trying to identify their current and future needs.

Once you have profiled an account and qualified the opportunity as a prospect, you should consider launching an automated process of maintaining contact with those decision-makers. This is where I would suggest taking a look at our interactive system named WALT.

Once you eliminate the need for your sales force to prospect, your organization will begin to benefit in many ways. First, morale will improve dramatically. Second, the combination of consistent tele-contacting activity and database profiling will provide your company with a very powerful and strategic weapon: the ability to compete for business opportunities as the company’s “status” changes.

Look at the amount of time your sales force spends prospecting, and calculate how much every hour of sales time is worth, not only to them but also to your entire organization. Once you’ve determined the value of their selling time, the cost of traditional prospecting will be obvious – it is expensive and ineffective. Despite the fact that it hasn’t changed much in more than 120 years, prospecting is vital to any business. At the same time, your salespeople need to spend their days in more valuable and productive ways than traditional prospecting. Regardless of what happens to our local and national economies, success in these changing times depends on predictable help and profitable results. Whether you obtain your targeted profile information in-house or from a research company, continually maintaining top-of-mind awareness with all desirable decision-makers is the first step toward ensuring your success.