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Overcoming Obstacles to Prospecting

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In a recent post regarding making referrals part of your prospecting, we highlighted the importance of overcoming obstacles. The point was that, while seeking referrals is one of the best ways to secure warm leads, too many sales reps fail to pursue them due to real or perceived obstacles in their way.

Overcoming those obstacles will undoubtedly lead to greater success, so let’s take a deeper look at prospecting obstacles and ways to manage or avoid them.

Most Obstacles to Prospecting Are Behavioural

There are several reasons for obstacles that stand in sales reps’ way when prospecting. As you examine the list below, you’ll realise that these aren’t physical barriers; rather, they are mental and behavioural challenges to be faced.

  • Too busy/no time (other tasks have greater urgency, are too time-consuming, not at a good time, etc.)
  • Lack of network
  • Fear of rejection
  • Feeling of imposing/intruding
  • Outside of comfort zone
  • Lack of success
  • Frustration
  • Lack of a process, discipline
  • Bad experiences (just finished a “bad” call; not up to the next one)
While some excuses may be valid, sales reps too often succumb to them and fail to grow beyond their comfort zone. It’s up to sales managers and leaders to instigate change.

Three Critical Success Factors to Overcoming Obstacles: Skill, Knowledge, and Will

Concerns of time and process can be mitigated with attention. Sales reps need to develop sufficient confidence in themselves and what they’re selling to get over most other hurdles. This can be achieved by mastering the requisite skill, knowledge, and will to prospect beyond their comfort zone.

  • Build confidence by ensuring that sales reps have the necessary skills to do their jobs. There may be industry- or product-specific skills to develop to help sales reps relate to their buyers, but efforts should also focus on basic selling skills like presence, questioning, positioning, checking, and negotiating (as well as overcoming obstacles).
Be prepared to practise and struggle a bit. It’s no different from getting better at shooting free-throws in basketball or performing surgery — developing any skill requires practise. It’s cliché, but you get out of it what you put into it. With practise and meaningful attempts, sales reps will gain invaluable experience and enhance their selling technique.

  • Possessing knowledge is table stakes — if you’re not acquiring the necessary knowledge to stay on top (or ahead) of industry and business trends, then you’re going to fail. Sales reps must know what’s relevant and how it applies to their prospects’ businesses.
  • Having the will to tackle fears, do what’s right, practise, and the courage to trudge on is critical. Sales reps must be persistent, possess a positive “I can do this” attitude, and maintain perspective. At the end of the day, you’re just making a phone call (for example), not scaling Mt. Everest; your life isn’t in danger. But, if you don’t try, you’re never going to succeed.

Managers: Coach Your Reps

If you want your sales reps to challenge themselves, raise their game, and overcome obstacles that inhibit their sales prospecting, then make it part of your culture. Everybody talks about it, but too few take action. Overcoming obstacles should be driven by the sales leader from the top down. Lead by example, measure and inspect, and hold your people accountable.

It gets back to the importance of coaching. Leaders don’t do it enough or do it right. For many, overcoming obstacles is a mindset and behaviour change that requires time, as well as frequent dialogue with and support of, their managers. Don’t be a barrier to your sales team’s success — lead the charge to change!

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