How to Fail at Prospecting

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In last week’s article, What’s a “Gatekeeper” and Why Do I Need to “Get Past” Them?, I outlined a strategy designed to enlist the gatekeeper’s cooperation and get you to the decision-maker. It goes like this:

Since gatekeepers can’t make marketing decisions, but they can say “no” to those selling it, give them something to which they can’t say “no”—such as more customers and increased revenue— or reveal a problem they didn’t know existed, in order to get them thinking: “Perhaps my boss needs to know about this …”

One commentator (“a gatekeeper”) said my example wouldn’t work on them—and proceeded to explain why. Yet, in reality, if I’d walked into that person’s business the day before, there’s a 60 percent chance it would have worked. Why am I so sure? Because one “Big Box” SEO company actually measured a number of different approaches to determine which was most effective. Their research revealed that this one in particular landed an appointment with the decision-maker six out of ten times.

One sure way to fail at prospecting is to believe anecdotal evidence as fact. Anecdotal evidence can come in the form of one person’s opinion—as in the example above—or as your own. Just because you think a particular approach will work or not doesn’t mean it will.

Regardless of how effective an approach is, no “technique” is 100 percent successful. Yet, we’d all like to think we’re the exception, that we’re not as readily persuaded or manipulated as the next guy (or gal). In his book, Influence: Science and Practice, psychology professor Robert Cialdini discovered there’s a huge disconnect between how people say they would react when someone was attempting to influence their behavior, and how people actually react.

For example, one control group was asked if they’d allow someone who requested to cut in front of them in line to do so simply based on their looks. Overwhelming, people denied that they’d make a decision on the other person’s attractiveness, or lack thereof.

But in a blind study using people of average looks and ones with “super model” good looks, the super models were allowed to cut far more often than the average-looking individuals. Other similar studies have shown that good-looking individuals obtained help more readily than the average-looking men and women. Clearly, the majority of people aren’t even aware of the factors that influence and persuade them. The truth is, each of us is more susceptible to being persuaded or manipulated than we’d like to believe.

People will always offer anecdotal evidence why a particular prospecting method doesn’t work. There’s even an entire industry that’s sprung up around the myth that “cold-calling is dead.” Yet, most of these voices have either a bias or an agenda. (And what better way to sell your “new and improved” prospecting sales program than to convince your audience that the “old way” no longer works.)

The only way to know what truly does and doesn’t work is by obtaining objective proof. And that requires testing your approach enough times to demonstrate whether it’s successful or not. There are many who scoff at tried-and-true sales and prospecting methods. But as one of the wiser members of SitePoint’s forums recently said, “Trivialize the value of sales at your own risk.”

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John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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