Prospecting is the most important step in selling. Yet many salespeople will complain when it is done for them. When you are handed a portfolio of existing customers to grow, celebrate. Yet, many sellers complain-especially if they are customer service agents. Celebrate because the most important part and difficult step in selling is done for you.

What does prospecting mean in sales? Prospecting is, getting the right person to sell your product or service to. The B2C (business to customer or personal) sales cycle is broken down into these steps: prospecting, interviewing, presenting, validating, negotiation, closing and asking for referrals. Contrary to popular belief, it is the first, not closing that is the most important step. In fact, so important is prospecting that the last step in the cycle is prospecting. Yes, asking for referrals is an example of prospecting.

Don’t complain, adapt

Another, way sellers complain about a blessing in disguise happened with a client that sells wines. With a change in ownership the product range and their territories (bars they had to visit) tripled. As if that was not enough the product range was just a blanket addition. It came with instructions that they sell both quantity and quality. Meaning, they had targets for volumes sold (of mass market and comparatively cheaper wines and spirits), and targets for value (premium brands sold to a niche market).

Now, the knee jerk reaction to these changes is to complain, and so they did. ‘How are we supposed to cover that big a territory?’ and ‘It’s too much work for one person.’ was grumbled about in varied ways. Yet, what were they really complaining about? That, ‘You are giving is too many prospects.’ Duh! Looked at this way, the savvy ones adapted and started working from their targets backwards, reach be damned.

most important step in selling

Admittedly, this is the problem employers’ face when the reach is genuinely humanly impossible to meaningfully cover. You see, whereas generally sellers engage in self-preservation when it comes to selling (selling only what they must), a scenario like the one mentioned drives this survival attitude into high gear. And so it was that covering territory was not what they focused on – selling the right amount of volume and value (irrespective of how few bars they had to cover) was what they ended up doing.

Prospecting is the most important step in selling, but is not the sale

Prospecting via digital marketing and lead generation forms are 21st century sales tools that are rapidly gaining currency. Having interacted with a seller’s content (post, advert, video, song etc.) the prospective buyer clicks on the link provided to state that he or she is interested. Right there, the most important step in selling has been done for you. Prospecting. However, this does not exempt you from going through the other six steps, which many assume it does, to their detriment. You still have to first qualify the prospect and proceed to interview all the way to (hopefully) closing. And the point here is that, thought rarely covered in most sales training, prospecting is the most important step in selling but is not the sale itself.

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