Sales professionals tend to build their careers the old-fashioned way—start at the bottom and work their way up. Besides the occasional book or seminar, most don’t have a formal sales education—we learn as we go.
Unfortunately, the self-taught approach can lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions. And these myths could be holding your business back!
I’ve worked with thousands of salespeople as a sales coach and consultant. Most of the myths and misconceptions I’ve heard from sales professionals seem to be about prospecting. Here are the top ten:
- Cold calling doesn’t work.
- Calling at the wrong time will ruin everything.
- Dialing doesn’t work—just email.
- You must send an email before dialing.
- If you’re not prepared, you shouldn’t answer.
- The timing must be perfect.
- Don’t call ideal prospects until you’re ready.
- If they said “no” today, they’re a “no” forever.
- Dial tomorrow when your head’s in the game.
- Don’t bother dialing if you have already missed your goal.
Why does sales prospecting seem to be so misunderstood? Let’s take a closer look at these myths and find out.
1. Cold Calling Doesn’t Work
This is, by far, the number one myth regarding prospecting. It makes me crazy when people say cold calling doesn’t work! Cold calling is never going away.
Thankfully, I’ve invested enough time and energy into my business relationships that my sales funnel stays full without cold calling. But I built my entire business on cold calling. If you believe in your products and services enough, your prospect will too. Cold calling works!!
2. Calling At The Wrong Time Will Ruin Everything
Many salespeople believe calling at the wrong time will interrupt their prospect and make them mad or make a bad impression.
The truth is, there is no perfect time to call. That means the best time to call is now!
If your prospect answers their phone when they’re in a meeting, that’s not your fault. They chose to be interrupted—that’s on them! Don’t worry about whether or not they answer the phone. Just dial.
3. Dialing Doesn’t Work—Just Email
I’ve met salespeople who refuse to pick up the phone and dial. They feel like everyone ignores phone calls anyway, so why bother? Just send an email instead.
The truth is people still pick up their phones. Even if they don’t, they will listen to the voicemail you leave. Sure, your prospect is busy—but when you’re busy, an email is much easier to ignore than a voicemail notification or a missed call.
4. You Must Send An Email Before Dialing
No, you don’t need to give your prospect a heads-up before you call. You can send an email after you dial, or you can send it before—either way is fine.
Personally, I send emails after calls. In my voicemail message, I’ll say, “I’m going to send a follow-up email with my contact info, so it’s at the top of your inbox.” It works!
If you’re dead set on sending a heads-up email first, ask yourself—are you just using the email as an excuse to put off dialing? And now that you have that guilty feeling in your stomach, you should pick up the phone and call.
5. If You’re Not Prepared, You Shouldn’t Answer
Many salespeople tell me they can’t always answer their phone when a prospect calls them back. Usually, it’s an excuse like, “What if I’m not prepared?” Lame!
This might be the only opportunity you get to talk to this prospect. You could have been reaching out for months until they finally called you back—or you might be trying to reach them for months after this. Answer your phone.
I had a client who was on vacation at Disney World when a prospect called him back. He tried to find a quiet corner in the park and answered his phone. He explained, “Sorry about the noise; I’m at Disney World—but I didn’t want to miss your call.”
Of course, the prospect told him to enjoy his vacation—but they set up a time to talk the following week. Isn’t setting an appointment worth the slight inconvenience of answering your phone?
6. The Timing Must Be Perfect
There’s never going to be a perfect time for prospecting.
Whether it’s the beginning of the month, end of the month, start of the first quarter, end of the year, 9 in the morning, or 4 in the afternoon, no time is perfect.
Of course, most business owners and executives are the first ones in the office. If you want to catch someone at their desk before their assistant is there, call them at 7:50 AM, and there’s a good chance they’ll answer.
However, the important thing to remember is: the perfect time to dial is now.
7. Don’t Call Ideal Prospects Until You’re Ready
“I’ll call my ideal prospects when I’m really good.” No!
This is a lame excuse that new sales professionals use all the time to put off dialing. They’ll call “when I know my products really well,” or “when I get good enough.”
The longer you keep using excuses starting with “I will call this prospect when…,” the less likely they are to be there when you call. How will you feel when you’re finally “ready” and call a prospect, only to find they signed a deal with your competitor a week ago?
Again, the best time to call is right now.
8. If They Said No Today, They’re A No Forever
A “no” can feel like a crushing blow. But don’t take it to heart—and definitely don’t turn it into an excuse! A “no” today is just a “no” for now.
One of the prospecting methods I teach is called a territory rework—and part of this process is going back through your past “no’s” and finding out if any prospects have changed their mind.
Time changes everything, even a “no.” Your prospect may have gone with a competitor they’re now unhappy with. Or, they could have been locked into a contract that has now expired.
Don’t let a “no for now” turn into a “no forever.” Work them back onto your list (unless it’s someone you don’t want to do business with).
9. I’ll Dial Tomorrow When My Head’s In The Game
We put so much pressure on ourselves by believing there’s a perfect attitude, time, or reason to pick up the phone and prospect.
If your head’s not in the game, there are so many things you can do—right now—to reset your attitude and ditch this lame excuse. Take a break and go for a walk, have a brainstorming session [is your prospect list too short?], meditate, do some positive affirmations, or do anything else to increase your positivity.
One of my favorite ways to keep my head in the game is to use my husband, Shane, as a prospecting accountability partner. In the morning, I tell him what I aim to accomplish and tell him to ask me about it at the end of the day.
10. Don’t Bother Dialing If You Already Missed Your Goal
Have you ever felt like there’s no point in dialing today because you’ve already missed your goal for the week?
One of the goals that I held in my business for many years was to be five strong every week—holding or setting at least five client meetings. One Friday morning several years ago, I was zero strong for the week. I told Shane I just wasn’t in the mood to prospect. I had gotten nowhere all week, and just wanted it to be over.
He said, “Remember that clutch at Nordstrom you really liked? If you finish five strong today, let’s go get that clutch tonight.” That’s some motivation! I promptly went up to my desk, made some sticky notes numbered 1-5, and started dialing. From 9 AM to 4 PM, I set 5 appointments and finished my week five strong. And for date night we went shopping for a new clutch at Nordstrom!
It was a great way to celebrate—and a great way to motivate myself.
Don’t Fall For These Prospecting Myths
I hope this helped you avoid some of the most common prospecting pitfalls. Did you notice the one thing they all have in common? They’re all just lame excuses not to dial your prospecting list!
Until next time—go sell some stuff!