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Ten Commandments of Prospecting

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Paul S. Goldner

Prospecting can be much like going to the health club. Its something that you know is good for you and will produce excellent and predictable results, yet is something that most sales people always seem to avoid. The Ten Commandments of Prospecting is a proven success formula for prospecting and selling success. The Ten Commandments of Prospecting are:

Commandment I: Make an appointment with yourself for one hour each day to prospect.

Prospecting, like anything else, requires discipline. Prospecting can always be put off until a later day when the circumstances will be better. I can assure you that the time to prospect will never be exactly right. Make an appointment with yourself each day to prospect.

Commandment II: Make as many calls as possible.

Before prospecting, you should always take the time to properly define your target market. If you do this, you will only call the best prospects in the market. If you only call the best prospects in the market, every call will be a quality call since we will only call those prospects who are most likely to buy large quantities of our product or service. Make as many calls as possible during the hour. Since every call is a quality call, more is always preferred to less.

Commandment III: Make your calls brief.

The objective of the prospecting call is to get the appointment. You cannot sell a complex product or service over the phone and you certainly don't want to get into a debate of some sort. Your prospecting call should last approximately two to three minutes and should be focused on introducing yourself, your product, briefly understanding the prospects needs so that you can provide them with a very good reason to spend some of their valuable time with you, and most importantly, getting the appointment.

Commandment IV: Be prepared with a list of names before you call.

Not being prepared with a list of names will force you to devote much, if not all of your prospecting hour, to finding the names you need. You will have been busy, you will feel as though you worked hard, but you will have made no calls. I recommend having at least a one month supply of names on hand at all times.

Commandment V: Work without interruption.

I recommend that you not take calls and not entertain meetings during your prospecting time. Take full advantage of the prospecting learning curve. As with any repetitive task, the more often you repeat the task during a contiguous block of time, the better you become. Prospecting is no exception to the rule. Your second call will be better than your first, your third better than you second, and so on. In sports, they call this getting in the groove. You will find that your prospecting technique actually improves over the course of your prospecting hour.

Commandment VI: Consider prospecting during off peak hours when conventional prospecting times don't work.

Conventional cold calling hours are between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Set aside one hour each day during this period to prospect. When conventional cold calling hours are not working for you, consider switching or supplementing your prospecting time by prospecting during off peak hours. Some of your best work will be done between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM, between 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM, and between 5:00 PM and 6:30 PM.

Commandment VII: Vary your call times.

We are all creatures of habit. So are your prospects. In all likelihood, they are attending the same meeting each Monday at 10:00 AM. If you cannot get through at this time, learn from your lack of success and call this particular prospect at other times during the day or, on other days. You'll be amazed at the results. If you are wondering just how you might track your calls, let alone your call times, look towards our next commandment, Commandment VIII.

Commandment VIII: Be organized.

I use a computerized contact management system. I strongly suggest that you use a computerized system as well. The contact management system you choose should allow you to record a follow up call three years from tomorrow with no more difficulty than it would be to record one for tomorrow.

Commandment IX: See the end before you begin.

Steven Covey, in his book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" tells us to see the end before you begin. Dr. Covey is, in effect, telling us to establish a goal and then develop a plan to work towards that goal. This sage advice works well in prospecting and business development. Your goal is to get the appointment and your plan, your cold call script, should be designed to achieve your goal.

Commandment X: Don't stop.

Persistence is one of the key virtues in selling success. I have often read that most sales are made after the fifth call and most sales people quit after the first.


Paul S. Goldner is both a noted author and an accomplished speaker. He is the author of Red Hot Cold Call Selling, Prospecting Techniques That Pay Off! (AMACOM, 1995). Red Hot Cold Call Selling was selected by Executive Book Summaries as one of the best business publications of 1995. The Ten Commandments of Prospecting have been summarized from the book and reprinted by permission of the publisher. Paul's second book, Red Hot Customers, How to Get Them and Keep Them For Life! (Chandler House Press) has been endorsed by Selling Power Magazine and every major professional selling organization.

Copyright (c) 1995-2013, All Rights Reserved.

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