I’m too busy. Prospecting doesn’t work. No one replies. The market is not responsive right now. The competitors have better products. The dog ate my phone. Aliens kidnapped me.

We’ve heard all the reasons sales reps aren’t prospecting before and unfortunately there is a firm belief behind these statements in many cases. That doesn’t make them any less ridiculous, yet they keep thriving. 

Sales is a tough job; emotionally, it can quickly destroy a professional, causing a so-called burnout. 

Nevertheless, sales is also one of the world’s most rewarding jobs, not just financially. There’s no company in most companies without a sales team; we have to pay for everyone else’s wage, and the responsibility is phenomenal.

40% of salespeople think that prospecting is the most challenging part of their job (Hubspot), yet as sales leaders, we know that prospecting is the most predictable revenue generator.

In the modern sales world, cracking the whip doesn’t get the results we would hope. Management theory is straightforward: first, find out WHY your team is not performing a task and then try to fix it.

When sales reps aren’t prospecting, the simplest solution to is often the correct one. I combined my past nine years of sales and sales management experience with a lot of literature on the subject of prospecting. The results are the following four reasons which account for 99% of why your salespeople are not picking up the phone (or sending emails).

  1. They don’t have a clear why.

It may sound ridiculous. All salespeople know why they should prospect. But do they actually? Prospecting is a task, and like many other tasks, it can be ignored, deprioritised, or postponed. Over the years, I have experienced over and over intentional blindness from sales reps. They do not seem to connect that if you make X amount of outreaches, you will only get X amount of meetings. Any type of outbound sales implies rejection, and as humans, we are hardwired to avoid nos; they hurt our egos. Therefore, when possible, our brains will trick us. 

Do your salespeople truly understand the vitality of prospecting? Can they see the correlation between the amount of proactive selling they do and their performance? You will find that your top performers do, while the rest doesn’t.

The clearer the why, the less likely your reps will shy away from prospecting.

2. They don’t know how.

It may still sound ridiculous to you, but it is the most underlooked out of the 4 points. Why do your top performers do so much prospecting? Because they excel at it. 

A staggering 46% of salespeople didn’t intend to get into sales (Hubspot), a large chunk staying for the money. They’re unlikely to be self-learners who fix their issues. 

Consistent training and coaching increase revenue and retention, creating a more performing and stable team. How would your future look if as little as 20% of your underperformers doubled their sales?

The ROI on Sales training sits at 353% (TaskDrive), which means if you give me 100, I will pay you back 453. It would be almost like buying Bitcoin a few years back.

3. The sales process works against them.

The sales process is another underlooked point which frustrates the reps endlessly. I knew a very successful salesman for a big tech company, and he had to complete five steps each time he would make a cold call. FIVE STEPS! In another case, the division of the target list was so complicated that every rep would have to double-check it before each call to not get in trouble. Most salespeople are taught to get the deal done and often have to circumvent the process entirely. These same people are unlikely to be very process-driven, so keep it simple!

Would your mum understand your sales process? Does it help the big picture? 

These are essential questions not just for you but also for your team.

4. They don’t want to.

That’s the answer you’ve been waiting for, right? It’s all their fault. In some cases, yes, we cannot deny the personal responsibility of individuals. Sometimes, people don’t want to work, and you can’t help the situation. At the same time, if you can’t deny their responsibility, the same goes for you. As sales leaders, we must motivate our teams to achieve success. 

I’ve worked a lot in my career with demotivated salespeople, and often they’re simply stuck. Who doesn’t want to be successful? And once you get them out of the rut, they will be the most loyal and hard-working ones. 

How can you motivate your staff? Usually, the answer is in one of the previous points. However, I am not an advocate for endless patience either. Just as often, sales teams should face a simple reality that they have not worked hard enough.

If your sales reps aren’t prospecting, the above four points are crucial to go over to improve the amount of prospecting happening in your team. It’s very likely all four points contribute to some extent; the trick is to find the most urgent issue and focus on that first. When you address one of these macro areas, you will also improve other problems within the sales team.

HubSpot Research found that 72% of companies with less than 50 new opportunities per month didn’t achieve their revenue goals, compared to 15% with 51 to 100 new opportunities and just 4% for companies with 101 to 200 new opportunities. 

The above research shows the influence of prospecting and getting new leads on reaching sales targets.

The first step in solving an issue is realising you have one. Audit your outbound activities carefully and then analyse which of these points apply to you. Even in the best case, this will be a fruitful exercise to see where you stand and boost your performance.

Don’t forget prospecting is the lifeblood of your business, don’t let it drain out.

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