How to Survive a "Prospecting Blitz"

Last Updated Apr 2, 2009 10:47 AM EDT

Every so often a sales manager gets the bright idea to do a prospecting blitz. He hands out a gargantuan list of sales leads and tells everyone to get callin'. Such activities, however, are usually a waste of time because so many of the leads turn out to be dead ends. So what to do? If you're confronted with a blitz, you need to do some hands-on research. It only takes a few minutes, but it can vastly increase your ability to convert those leads into customers...


Prospecting blitzes typically fall flat because nobody has done the necessary research to determine whether the list of potential customers contains real prospects. This is not only non-productive in terms of generating sales, it's a real morale killer.

When you encounter "prospect" after "prospect" without making a sale, it's all too easy to start questioning whether you're a skilled sales professional or whether the product or service you're selling is up to snuff. Let's face it, the emotional grind of failure after failure is why most sales reps hate calling prospects.

Ironically, prospecting can be a positive experience, but only you start thinking about prospecting as a process of elimination. Lists of "prospects" are, in most cases, lists of "suspects" some small percentage of whom might possibly be prospects. Of those prospects, a small percentage are customers who will actually buy.

According to According to Tom Roth, president of Wilson Learning, "prospect lists" on average have a 10 to 1 ratio of "suspects" to actual prospects, and that, on average, of those prospects, only 1 in 3 will buy. This means that the average sales rep, in the average prospecting blitz, will need to contact 30 "suspects." Ugh.

However, if you better target your leads, it's possible to tune a "prospect list" so that the ratio of "suspects" to prospects is 7 to 1 or even 5 to 1, and increase the hit rate of the sales effort to 1 in 2, rather than 1 in 3. In this case, you need merely call on ten "suspects" before landing an actual customer.

Advanced preparation can thus make the sales reps in a prospecting blitz three times more productive. Just as importantly, the higher hit rate greatly reduces the adverse emotion impact of repeated failure. Because there are more wins, the you feels more like a winner, which in turn creates more success for the individual and the team.

The trick to increasing your hit rate is to notice and measure which groups of leads convert easily from suspects into prospects and from prospects into customers. To do this, you look at your records (either in your CRM system or in the notebook where you track your leads) to find characteristics of the leads that correspond to higher conversion rate.

For example, if you notice that leads from industry #1 tend to convert more easily than industry #2, then want to call on leads from industry #1 before you call on leads from industry #2.

Similarly, if you notice that leads with the title "director" convert more easily than leads with the title "vice president", you want to call on the "directors" on your list before you call on the "vice presidents."

Of course, the BEST leads in this case, are probably going to be "directors" who work in industry #1.

There are, of course, computer programs (and marketing services) that will do this "searching for the sweet spots" automatically, but all of it boils down to what I've described here.

READERS: How do you measure your leads? Do you measure them at all?