Prospecting is a process, not an event. Let me explain. A game is an event–a one-time, tactical activity. But winning is a process. It includes a full season of practice, conditioning, games, analysis, and improvement over time.

For example, a client with a ten-person sales team recently decided to make a significant shift in their sales approach. Two years ago, their business development process hinged on referrals and limited professional networking. In short, it was reactive, which was all it had to be. When their sales world turned upside down, they had to brush up on long-forgotten prospecting skills and learn new ones because many of the old ones no longer worked. Most of the sales reps approached new introductions through email and phone as standalone, one-time events.

Signs You’re Treating Prospecting as an Event

  • Working ferociously and tirelessly to craft just the right words for an email introduction. Although it’s important to have a clear, relevant message, there is a law of diminishing returns. If you’re approaching this as a discrete, one-and-done activity, it will come across in your message.
  • Continual frustration about not generating enough responses. Sending one email or leaving one voicemail doesn’t constitute a process. A process is a planned string of actions and events—multiple touchpoints leveraged over time to connect with someone and build a relationship.
  • Inability to identify prospects for outreach.
  • No way of knowing who will be on your radar screen in the coming months.
  • Inconsistent outreach over the past year and the need to kick-start effort and skills.

Why Sales Pros Treat Prospecting as an Event

  • Events fulfill most people’s need for immediate gratification.
  • They don’t require long-term investments.
  • Events are concrete and they have a beginning and end, so it’s easier to get a handle on results.
  • Events can be successful despite mistakes.
  • Processes take more time and energy.
  • With processes, the payoff can take time—you don’t always see immediate results.

How Sales Leaders Contribute to Event-Centric Behavior

Another dynamic driving event-centric behavior is the impact of the overzealous corporate sales boss. Management feels the pressure to improve on the previous year’s results. They send strong messages down the sales food chain about activity and sales funnel, and the pressure then gets channeled into event-driven objectives. Each sales rep needs to show immediate results on prospecting activity, which is easier to communicate back up the food chain. This shapes the sales team’s attitude, techniques, and efforts, and influences who, how, and why they call.

Take a hard look at your most recent one-on-ones with your sales reps. What message did you send regarding the funnel? Was it:

  • “You have to fill the funnel.”
  • “When will you set time aside to make those calls?”
  • “Do you have a list to call?”
  • “How many calls did you make?”

If you, as the sales leader, look at prospecting as an event, so will your sales team. The better question for sales reps is, “What’s your process to fill the funnel?”

Build A Consistent Process

Set aside time each week to send out email introductions and make phone calls. This is part of the heavy lifting that will get you started.

Create touchpoints to support your introductions. These would be items of value that you can share with your prospects over time. You can do this by creating a simple blog or e-newsletter.

Let’s say you make some intro calls this week. Maybe 50% of the people you connect with tell you to call back in the second quarter. What do you do next? Register them into your sales database and tag them for a call in four to six months?

  • Event-Based Approach:

    Sure, they’ll remember you just as easily as you’ll remember them. That second call will be just as powerful as the first. “Hey Mr. Prospect, you may or may not recall, but we spoke briefly late last year and you suggested that I call you in the second quarter.” Not very compelling.

  • Touchpoint-Based Approach:

    “It sounds like meeting right now isn’t a priority, so how about I call you in a few months? In the meantime, why don’t I register you for our company blog. This will give you a chance to review the value that we create for our clients, but at your own discretion. When I call you next time, you’ll have a little better flavor for how I might help. Does this sound fair?”

Creating touchpoints builds awareness and value in between your first call and your follow-up—which is certainly better than crossing your fingers and hoping your prospect remembers you next time.

You may be saying to yourself, “But, that’s a lot of work.” Or “What would I write about?” First, it’s not a lot of work. Second, if you have nothing to write about that would bring value to the prospect’s business, then why are you making the call in the first place?

Once you’ve created touchpoints and eliminate the “one-and-done” prospecting approach that plagues sales these days, you’re well on your way to changing your sales outcomes next year. If you don’t build a process for prospecting, you will be left behind.