Two Reasons Bad News Belongs in Prospecting

prospecting financial sales

At any given time, the majority of prospects won’t be interested in your products or services. Nowhere is this truer than in financial and professional services. Whatever combination of channels you use― from phone, email or social media to seminars, direct mail or trade shows— it’s a fact of business.

To underscore what market developers are up against, consider this: “After examining more than one million b-to-b telemarketing calls logged, Telenet found that the average number of calls required for a completed conversation to take place was 5.07 and the average number of calls that can be placed to a lead before the daily production rate drops was 7.2 attempts. If the target market is comprised of C-level executives, those statistics nearly double.”1

Of course, everyone cringes about cold calling, but unless your referral system radiates lava flow activity, at some point, you may need to prospect cold contacts to keep the pipeline oiled.

So, how do you start the prospect conversation if he’s not interested to begin with? How do you get the appointment? Here’s some field-perfected strategies to turn prospects into new client relationships:

First, the focus of the first contact must be on the prospect, not you. Many advisors or consultants fail to get past a first contact. Indeed, 53 percent of sales organizations report less than half of first meetings result in a second meeting, states CSO Insights.

Weary Old Playbook

The research cites poor preparation and failure to focus on prospect issues, which claim a heavy toll, especially when you pitch your product or service too soon in the conversation. That’s not what they want to hear, see, or experience. Prospects want to solve issues. Consider that the prestigious Harvard Business Review led its July-August edition with this headline: “The End of Solution Selling.” Even the word “solution” numbs the brain from overuse.

I have built first meeting presentations to increase my closing ratio from one out of ten to seven out of ten. These presentations not only improve your chances of a second meeting, but they position you in front of higher quality prospects.

Here’s an example. One of my clients sells retirement plans to companies. When his consultants called prospects they said, “We would like to come out and discuss what we are doing to help improve the performance of our client’s 401(k) plans.” Sounds okay?

Reason One

Remember, the majority of companies aren’t shopping for your products or services. So, the consultants heard the handy dismissive, “We are happy with our current broker.”

To change outcomes, we developed a content-rich report called “The Five Dangers Facing Employers and How Knowing What Those Dangers are Can Dramatically Reduce Costs and Increase Profits,” and they used it to open doors. Despite its long title, the report not only landed new appointments under favorable conditions, it improved overall sales.

With a value-generating report, you can launch your first contact sharing report highlights, as well as the impact your data poses to the company and its industry. The most effective presentations or sales approaches begin with sharing actionable information (from prospect point of view), and adds something new to his or her knowledge bank.

Your report should hit hard on a key issues or trends of measurable value to prospect companies or their competitors―not your products or services. Offer a variety of alternative solutions in the report, and bake in your message to allow the reader to naturally self-discover your process to overcome the issue.

Reason Two

Be sure to focus your report on what your prospect would consider as bad news. Skeptical? Don’t be, because bad news and major issues are what grabs the attention of companies first; they need to know the danger zones ahead to prepare responses or preemptive strikes.

There’s not a senior executive in the world that doesn’t worry about the high cost of doing business, flat revenues, fierce competition, new regulations, employee turnover, finding qualified people. Sadly, there’s no lack of bad news these days.

With my bad news bumps-on-the-head, prospects more quickly recognize issues and proceed to quantify their own value gap. Do remember, though, only discuss possible alternatives. Then aim to schedule that next meeting to recommend your process to surmount their issues.

Your bad news report works like a jump shot or a lay-up right into the prospect’s left brain. It sets up buying criteria and leads him closer toward to your answer. Prospects prefer this approach to an outright dunk.

One More Tip

Dr. James Oldroyd from the Kellogg School of Management recently examined the electronic logs of more than a million cold calls, made by thousands of sales professionals inside around 50 companies. He then applied statistical measurements to extract patterns of success and failure.

He discovered that Thursday is the best day to contact a lead in order to qualify that lead—20 percent better than Friday, the worst day. All the other days fall somewhere in between, as reported by Geoffrey James in CBS Money Watch.

Pretty soon, your prospecting efforts will become almost effortless.

See you on the upside,


1 “Hewlett-Packard Division Use Outbound Telemarketing for Lead Generation,” (Telenet Marketing Solutions statistic), BtoB Magazine, January 18, 2010

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