The Importance of Prospecting

Barry Goldwater once said, “American Business has just forgotten the importance of selling“.  Senator Goldwater could easily have been talking about the Equipment Financing industry.

Those who know me know that I like to keep things really simple.  To that end, I tell every Business Development Representative in our company that they have one, and only one, primary objective: Find deals we can fund.  What could be more important?  And notice I’m not talking about just any deals but rather deals we can fund and as a result, get paid. We’re not in business to turn people down.

Finding or Identifying? What’s the difference?

So, what does that have to do with the importance of prospecting?  In my 30 year sales career and in the 18 years I’ve been in the Equipment Financing industry, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of training has more to so with how to identify a qualified customer, and less with how to find a qualified customer.  Let me explain.

How to identify qualified customers has more to do with knowing and understanding credit criteria: A Credits, B Credits, knowing the appetite and approval guidelines of funding sources, etc.  These are very important aspects of getting deals funded (and hence getting paid) and I don’t want to minimize their importance.  These things are important and vital to success in this industry.  But identifying and finding are very different things.

Finding new, qualified customers is something different. It includes all things related to the early stages of the sales process. Things like Prospecting, Qualifying, and getting early agreements to move forward. It’s been my experience that these sales related skills don’t get the attention they need and deserve in today’s marketplace.

The Role of Prospecting

Prospecting is the first step in creating a list of potential clients. It doesn’t matter if your business comes from direct outreach to potential lessees, from Vendors, from existing clients or from anywhere else–chances are that the deal you’re working on right now, the one you hope to fund soon, is on your desk because somebody somewhere made an initial contact with that customer. There was an initial contact and that contact occurred because of prospecting.  

Credit to Jose Martin Ramirez

It’s been said that nothing happens until a sale is made. And a sale can’t be completed, a deal can’t get funded, until an initial contact is made, and that initial contact happens as a result of Prospecting!  

Countless books have been written over the years about prospecting, the frame of mind to have and ways to do it effectively. It’s beyond the scope of this article to dive in too deeply but I’ll give you two big ideas:

  1. Prospecting is important. If you’re not keeping up with best practices and training your team accordingly, you’re losing business to companies that do.
  2. Prospecting is a person-to-person process and requires person-to-person skills. Think in terms of a Guided Conversation. Start by gaining positive attention, ask appropriate qualifying questions and get an agreement to move forward (or not).

Sounds simple enough, right? But here’s the challenge. Remember when I said prospecting is a person-to-person process? That process involves people and people, by their very nature, are not simple. Prospecting may be simple to do (just do it!) but it’s not so simple to do well.  Prospecting requires skills, training and a repeatable process.  It’s way too important to try to just wing it.  Make sure you have a plan, a process, and a commitment to prospect on a daily basis.

Lessons from an old Politician

So, what’s a politician like Barry Goldwater doing talking about sales?  Before he was a US Senator and a presidential candidate, young Barry Goldwater ran his family’s department store.  Goldwater’s Department Stores can trace its roots back to a small store that opened in the 1860s in Gila, Arizona.  After his service in WWII, he found it difficult to go back and decided instead on a career in politics, but he never forgot the lessons he learned in the family business, lessons about selling. 

And I’m sure we can all agree; a good politician knows a few things about selling.

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