Three Ways Your Salespeople Blow New Opportunities

Okay, while I may not suggest you shoot yourself out of a cannon to grab the attention of a prospect, I do want you to dust off your thinking about how to open new sales opportunities.

At a recent private equity firm conference where I spoke, a partner in attendance asked me:

“How do you respond to a prospect who flat out tells you he’s not interested?”

In my 40-plus years of selling, I have learned most people respond to a sales call with a knee-jerk reaction. “Oh, here he goes, trying to sell me something,” they think.

They say they’re not interested because they want to stay in control. People don’t like to be sold. They believe a no-interest response will stop your advance.

Do you stand there dumbfounded? Do you give up, walk away, change the subject?

Of course, not. You find out the real objection.

Better to begin your conversation differently to avoid the no-interest response altogether.

Ask what your prospect is doing, using, or buying in a certain area. Ask how he’s dealing with a problem you already know he’s experiencing (assuming you’ve done your homework).

Look for triggering events then use them to set up a high-level appointment under favorable conditions. If you lead in with a valid reason for the meeting, or whatever approach you take, you render the no-interest response unnecessary because you’ve generated interest.

Back to the conference, everyone kept asking questions about new business development. They wanted to know how to break down barriers facing salespeople when working to open new sales opportunities. I thought about it and shared some research.

In the Richardson 2016 Sales Challenges Study, three challenges topped the list on why salespeople experience difficulty opening new sales opportunities:

1. How to Identify Signals or Triggers

Ongoing changes in B2B-buyer patterns continue to affect prospecting, as many buyers identify potential selling partners through online search engines, referrals, and social research.

Today, buyers are more informed about potential solutions and company services capable of solving business issues or spurring growth. Buyers are far clearer about what they want to purchase, which makes it difficult for sales professionals to identify sales signals that reveal issues to resolve.

Triggering events happen both inside and outside of your prospect’s organization. Inside events might be the announcement of new initiatives, lower earnings this quarter, new management changes, acquisitions, or new product line announcements.

Outside the company, the trigger event can be the arrival of a new competitor, legislative changes, gas prices, the weather, events outside the control of the company.

Either way, match your message to that event because it will be top of mind for your prospect.

2. How to Identify Target Accounts

Identifying target accounts, the second challenge, nearly doubled in reported responses compared with the prior year. The inability to target accounts directly affects the ability to identify buyer signals; if sales professionals do not know whom to target anymore, they’ll never get to a buyer to see signals.

Because it is more difficult to reach buyers overall in the digital era, even when a salesperson breaks through, he or she encounters fewer points of connection and sees fewer distinct signals.

Account-based marketing (ABM) has risen in popularity because it changes the focus of lead generation efforts to more targeted, personalized opportunities, which are more likely to succeed. Gone are the days of expecting sales professionals to chase down as many individual leads as possible. With ABM, instead of pursuing more leads, you narrow your focus to the right leads.

Simply take a single named account and assign it to an individual marketing or sales rep. Seems simple enough right? No, you need to do more.

With ABM, you design your campaigns to resonate with each buying influence, key decision maker, or champion/coach at a target company. For example, if you’re trying to sell your perfect solution to ABC Company, you might want to pursue the CEO, the CFO, and the director of the geographic area where the greatest need for your product exists.

In your research, find out who stands to gain the biggest win from your solution. Let’s say a company announces its quarterly earnings and states profits are down. If your product can increase revenues or reduce cost, you may want to focus your attention on the CFO or the CEO or the business unit head who can benefit from your solution. To open their door under favorable conditions, use the CAVP formula we discuss in our eBook on setting appointments under favorable conditions.

Recognize that a single-named account can contain several leads within it. Your named accounts, and the leads buried within them, become the building blocks of your marketing and sales efforts. Once you  identify overall and specific company needs, you can be more confident in selling to pain points and buying motivations of company individuals. And, avoid no-interest responses.

3. How to Qualify Prospect Business

The ability to qualify prospects, the third most-cited challenge, doubled from five percent in 2015 to ten percent in 2016. More and more, sales representatives find it difficult to evoke any response from prospects. No response, no qualifying.

Even the ambitious communicators among us who nurture leads, send e-mails, leave phone messages, and create LinkedIn InMails may not land a return response. These invisible hurdles block our ability to enter the buyer’s journey.


Remember our partner’s question at the opening of this post?

How many times have you pitched a prospect or presented a proposal only to here,

“Thanks, we’ll think about it and get back to you.”

Was it the right prospect in the first place?


On a recent engagement to boost revenue growth, I spent time with the client to profile his ideal customer. He needed a framework and strategy to qualify the prospect upfront. We then went into his sales funnel, analyzed every opportunity against the ideal customer framework, and what we found stunned us.

Many pipeline leads wouldn’t have produced a win-win relationship, even with a sale. They were not capable of sustainable revenue. We ended up removing 36 percent of prospects from his funnel and, in time, with higher quality prospects, his sales team improved closing ratios by an astounding 86 percent.

Hubspot put out an excellent guide devoted to this subject: The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification.

What’s Next?

For years now, buyers have been shutting out inbound communications. Instead, they turn to trusted networks for information.

When you do create an opportunity for conversation with a new prospect, you must offer meaningful insights during those initial and brief encounters.

I leave you with paraphrased words of wisdom from Stu Heinecke, a hall of fame-nominated author, marketer and Wall St. Journal cartoonist:

Always deliver something of value

Anything that recognizes your prospect’s desire to do his job more effectively or enhance his business works. A research study. A white paper.

Offer something of further value

Once you’ve made the connection, keep adding value with other professional courtesies. An introduction. An invitation to a must-attend event.

Secure the meeting or the call

Coordinating busy schedules is no easy task. Use one of many productivity tools on the market or trust a professional executive assistant (virtual or otherwise) to handle details impeccably.

Connect, don’t pitch

Take an exploratory stance in your conversation. Research news stories, social media references or share cases where you’ve helped companies in their industry improve revenue growth. “Never start the meeting assuming your offer is right for them. Be human, explore, and have a conversation.”

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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