The difficulty of sales prospecting in a pandemic.

I read a lot of blogs to keep my finger on the pulse of the marketplace and over the last 4-6 months, there has been one prominent recurring theme: the challenge of prospecting in a pandemic. This is fascinating to me because we are a sales prospecting company and have seen an increase in prospecting results in recent months. In fact, we are currently above pre-pandemic productivity! How is this possible, you ask? Read on.

What is responsible for sales prospecting success or failure?

It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats. For example, in the world of sales, “revenue” always has a way of hiding warts and deficiencies. When things are going well, we often want to credit our own proclivities and skill sets. When things don’t go well, we like to blame things like “the market”, “the economy” or in this case, “the pandemic”.

Why does “the economy” get blamed when things are bad, but not get the credit when things go well?

And why are there reps who seem to succeed regardless of the market?  What do they do that others don’t?

The Golf Analogy

On every hole you have a choice of tools (clubs) and you evaluate the risks, choose the strategies and it is up to you to execute. In addition to the decisions YOU must make, other elements (such as the wind or the slope of the green) impact the outcome – but are beyond your control.

With all these variables, you may hit the ball really well, yet it lands in a bad spot. Whose fault is that? Yours? The slope? Maybe the wind?

Of course, the reverse can happen. You can make a poor swing, hit a mediocre shot and end up in a great spot. No golfer will give ‘credit’ to the fortuitous ‘Golf Gods’ when this happens. (They more likely pretend that they meant to do that!).

How does this relate to the sales process?

You can do all the right things and still not get that all-important first conversation. Conversely, you can approach a prospect the absolute wrong way and still secure a conversation. The ‘rising tide’ of a good economy or a hot market space can carry even a lousy outreach effort into a second call. But since that’s a much rarer occurrence, the focus must always be on proper execution.

Golf, Prospecting & The Pandemic  

The best golfers I have ever played with weren’t flashy. In fact, they were focused, consistent and boring.  After making a good shot, they focused on doing the same swing “again”.

So this leads me to why we are having such great success in this market.  When the shutdowns began in March, we didn’t change a thing.  We remained “in market” with our clients and their accounts. Sure, productivity plummeted 50-60% while most others say they experienced 90-100% decreases.  We understood the impact had mostly to do with our prospects getting used to their upheaval.  All of a sudden, people not only found themselves working from home, but they were dealing with layoffs and changing business models.  Above all, many personal lives were turned upside down with spouses getting furloughed and/or kids now having to go to school from home.  But we remained “in market” and we kept focusing on making good golf swings (or in our case, perfect prospecting calls).

We resisted this urge to talk about “these unprecedented times” and go all COVID, all the time. Or try slick ways to catch their attention. Instead we remained focused on the core value that our clients’ solutions provide and the business problems that they solve.

We didn’t try to make the next sales prospecting call better, we just tried to make a great prospecting call again and again.

After about 4-6 weeks, we saw a steady increase in successful outreaches.  By June, we were back to 85-90% productivity. We weren’t flashy  – we focused on technique.  In the same way the wind can make a bad golf shot worse, we didn’t want the headwinds of the pandemic to make our prospecting less effective.

Prospecting is like a golf swing.

To succeed, you must:

  • Focus on the fundamentals
  • Execute flawlessly
  • Do it consistently

Our efforts have paid off.  By making one solid prospecting outreach after, we are seeing outcomes that are 110-115% better than before the shut-down. And we can point to one simple reason: “Technique”.

Stay focused on the fundamentals

We have doubled down on our focus to avoid being swayed by what we call the “shiny objects”.  Sales engagement tools, video, social selling, LinkedIn etc. These are all good tools but make no mistake; successful sales prospecting is less about the medium and all about the message and “how” the messenger delivers that message.

At FRONTLINE, we always deliver an honest, forthright message, in a respectful,  authoritative & professional way.  Most importantly, every touch point, regardless of medium or cadence, is delivered perfectly and consistently.

Great golfers don’t change their golf swings.  In fact, when situations are most challenging, the great ones focus even more on the fundamentals.

Like golf, sales prospecting is hard but honestly, it’s no more difficult now than it was in January. It just requires reps to be laser-focused on mastering technique and consistency.

Our success has demonstrated that the phone plays a critical role in prospecting, even during this time where fewer people are in-office. Check out this article for the top 4 reasons the phone is still your best sales tool. (#3 is probably the most enlightening!)