Yes, I said it: “Selling is the easy part.” What separates successful originators from sub-par performers is that top producers continually prospect and others simply work their pipeline. In my view, there is no question that getting in front of potential prospects amid today’s extensive filtering systems is more difficult than ever.
When you think about the dramatic transformation of selling in the past few years, prospecting is a new ball game with a set of unique rules. Traditional approaches such as dropping by a local real estate office or cold calling are no longer effective because referral sources rarely work at an office (most work from home) and Caller ID filters unwanted calls. Even direct mail and email fail to generate appointments with prospects. It is clear that originators must change the way they prospect if they are to cultivate long-term success.
In a great book by Chris Carlson, Prospecting through Positioning, he makes the point that although people receive thousands of marketing messages a day, research shows that some messages do get through. The common denominator is that these messages come from credible sources. Carlson observes that “maybe it is a source that has helped you in the past; maybe it is a source referred to you by a friend; or maybe it is a source that you read about and admire.” The point is that the bar has been raised in prospecting and all salespeople must establish their personal credibility in the marketplace and not depend on their lenders. Carlson further notes that salespeople must rise above the line of credibility to be noticed. According to Carlson, achieving this level of credibility centers on being a master of three things: publishing, speaking and introductions.
Today, I want to focus on introductions. In my experience, all originators know the importance of introductions but being great in obtaining them is another story. Many originators fall short in this area because they have no system or process to continually ask for and receive introductions. Carlson outlines a multi-step program to obtain introductions:
- Set a Goal. Success in receiving a constant flow of introductions starts with putting a number to this activity. Hoping for introductions will not translate into the number an originator needs. Setting a goal is part of an effective activity matrix similar to knowing how many calls are needed to get appointments.
- Identify Centers of Influence (COIs). Creating a list of people that could introduce you to great prospects is critical. A good starting place is to look at current customers who are already familiar with your work. The first step is to determine how you can bring value to the COIs who can serve as an introducer for you. It is time to use your imagination on what is of value to your COIs.
- Weekly planning. Spend time each week implementing an outreach program to obtain introductions. If you don’t make it part of your weekly activities, you will never obtain your goal.
Finally, the most important thing about having a consistent introduction program is that before you know it, an originator has a full pipeline and the worry and stress of poor production becomes a thing of the past. Start today.