You cannot ask your most successful competitors their secrets of business development prospecting. So, I have done it for you by interviewing hundreds of successful new business prospectors.
“New business is the lifeblood” of a successful business development career, says author Connie Kadansky. Regardless of product, price, or market, very few trusted advisors hit their targets without a consistent pipeline of potential clients.
“Even seasoned pros admit that only 30% of their touches will ever become clients, making prospecting a critical part of the success equation,” says Kadansky.
Kadansky is an expert in business development productivity. She has worked with corporate and institutional clients for more than 25 years.
For trusted advisors who struggle with keeping their pipelines filled with valid prospects, simply knowing they need to fill their pipelines is not enough. “For them, setting appointments is a bore, a chore or even a fierce repelling force,” says Kadansky.
So, what do they do to combat this force? Many are intellectually willing but emotionally unable to embrace prospecting as a core, critical activity. Some potential high producers have been stopped in their tracks, held hostage to fears of what might happen when they pick up the phone, send an email or reach out on LinkedIn.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Kadansky. “Negative attitudes about prospecting are learned. When you respond to prospecting with excuses, distractions or procrastination, you feel the relief of escaping a stressful situation. And sadly, every time you avoid prospecting, you’re wiring your brain to avoid it in the future. It then becomes harder, not easier.”
If prospecting is part of your job, but your attitude toward prospecting is based on this elusive fear, doubt, or even contempt for the business development process, you may be cultivating an internal conflict that could ultimately even derail your career.
If you want to attract high-paying clients, you need to know the difference between an attraction-phase conversation and a meaningful-conversation-phase conversation. The attraction phase is all about prospecting.
Based on our hundreds of interviews with top professionals, these conversations are especially critical for those who serve in roles such as chief executive officer, general manager, principal, partner, or head of an office, business unit, or practice for professional service firms, especially in the fields of accounting, dental consulting, financial services, management consulting, marketing and advertising, executive search services, software development, technology services, and law firm management.
These professionals think of these attraction-phase prospecting conversations, as one professional put it, “as starting to dance with the prospect to see if romance develops.”
“A toxic relationship with prospecting is costly, but don’t despair,” says Kadansky. “Just like any successful relationships you have already developed, this one is capable of growing and evolving.” Here are prospecting tips from Kadansky:
Don’t give yourself excuses to avoid making cold calls. “Have your prospects’ contact information ready the day before you make the calls. You’ll be more likely to jump right in.”
Practice appointment prospecting. “Have a set time to make your calls. The best practice is to call from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in your prospects’ time zone and then again from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.”
Smile at your prospecting list. “When you smile, you change the biochemistry in your body. It can trick your brain into happiness, spurring a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier.”
Prospecting is the preliminary conversations you want to have before the real conversation. The objective of attraction-phase prospecting conversations is to get the prospect to ask to go to the next phase, and that is a meaningful conversation about their situation and how you might help them.