Back in the 1970’s when I first started selling for a living, formalized sales training was not exactly in vogue.

I arrived at my first radio sales job at WCHV-WWWV in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 2, 1976.  I was handed a copy of the Yellow Pages and told “this is your account list.”

I banged my chin up against a lot of doors, until I got my big break. That break came when I figured out I had to record the announcements before I had a sale.

After that, I’d go to the prospect, tell them I had something I wanted their opinion on  and play them their custom announcement.

Things were cruising along for a 22 years old radio salesman, however my next big break came when my boss gave me a copy of  “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success In Selling” by Frank Bettger.

Aside from the classic sales advice in the book, one idea in particular, made total sense to me and changed my life in sales.

Bettger wrote, “…a professional salesperson needs to track his stats. He needs to know how many calls he has to make, on average, to make a sale.”

In the pre-computer age this took some work. But Betgger had been a professional baseball player. He understood that if a salesperson will keep track of his stats he turns himself into a professional.

I’m reprinting a copy of Gavin Ingram’s latest newsletter because I think he drives this point home in a way that is charming and powerful. Gavin is a smart guy and has a lot of great ideas on how to become better motivated in sales. I like his stuff.

Get Out Of Here & Get Prospecting. How to be better at prospecting, better at generating new business and more successful in sales, in business and in life!

by Gavin Ingam

I remember my first sales manager vividly. He was in his early 30’s, well over 6 feet tall, built with the body of an Olympic athlete, wore Saville Row suits and was the owner of a smile that could coax the birds out of the trees. He was also charismatic, charming, eloquent, intelligent, hard working, focused, success oriented and good with the ladies. He was the kind of person you would love to hate but you just could not help but love him.

He was also one of the best salespeople I have ever met and, not surprisingly, very successful in business and in life. He had a way of putting people at their ease, a way of seeing the opportunity in every situation and a way of turning on the light of new business no matter how many clouds of objection thundered in his direction.

People thought that things came easily to him. People thought that everything had just fallen into place for him. People thought that he was just one of those lucky people who was born at the end of a rainbow and who walked a charmed path in life where nothing could go wrong. But they couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Many of his friends and peers were criminals. Many of his family were unemployed. Much of his upbringing would have sent many spinning off the rails. But he had decided that he wanted something more for himself, something more for his family and something more for his life. Jake had worked hard for what he had achieved, he had learnt both his attitudes and his skills from the school of hard knocks and he had a lot of sales lessons to teach.

One rainy afternoon when I had been in sales for about 6 months, he called me into his office and the following conversation took place…

Jake: “Gavin. Would you like to earn 100k per year?”
Gavin: “Yes.”
Jake: “ Okay. So how much do you need to sell to make that amount of commission?”
Gavin: “I don’t know.”
Jake: “Get out!” (pointing his finger towards the door).

A bit harsh I thought and retreated to lick my wounds. But I was always a tenacious little tyke so about half an hour later I picked myself up and approached his door again…

Gavin: “Jake. To make 100k commission, I have to sell 1 million.”
Jake: “Good. (Pause). How many deals do you need to do to sell 1 million?”
Gavin: “I don’t know.”
Jake: “Get out!” (pointing his finger towards the door).

Feeling a bit stupid I went in search of a strong coffee and a donut but half an hour or so later I was excitedly back…

Gavin: “Jake. To sell 1 million, I’d have to make X number of deals.”
Jake: “Okay. (Pause). How many opportunities do you need to secure from clients to close that many deals?”Gavin: “I don’t know.”
Jake: “ Get out!” (pointing his finger towards the door).

This was getting silly. But as you can gather, I was not a quitter so I was quickly back…

Gavin: “Y Jake. I’d need to have Y opportunities.”
Jake nodded: “And how many prospects do you need to make sure that you get Y opportunities Gavin?”
Gavin: “I don’t know.”
Jake: “Get out!” (pointing his finger towards the door)

After a quick bit of calculation I decided to have one last try…

Gavin: “I need Q prospects Jake.”
Jake: “Okay Gavin. (Pause). And exactly what prospecting do you need to do this year to ensure that you have that many opportunities?”
Gavin: “Yes, yes… I know. Get out?!”
Jake nodded sagely.

As usual, Jake had hit the nail on the head.

On my travels as a speaker, I meet a lot of salespeople who would like to be successful, I meet a lot of salespeople who would like to be top salesperson and I meet a lot of salespeople who would like to earn big bucks. When I ask them, “What would you like to earn?” they happily tell me 50k or 100k or 250k or 1 million… but when I ask them, “What prospecting do you have to do this year to achieve those results?” few have little or any idea.

They might guess. They might tell me what their manager told them. They might try and work it out… but that’s not good enough.

If you want to be successful, if you want to be a sales superstar, if you want to make a difference… then you need to know what you want and, most importantly, you need to know what you are going to do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis to achieve it. And then you make it happen.

What most salespeople do is prospect until they have enough opportunities and then they get busy with other things and “forget” to prospect anymore. They tell themselves that they’re busy and that they don’t have the time but the moment you stop prospecting you guarantee one thing and one thing only… you will at some point in the future run out of opportunities.

Most salespeople only return to prospecting when they are short on opportunities and under pressure to find new ones… this isn’t good because it means that you’re desperate and needy. And no-one likes that!

The key to prospecting success is to work out what you need to do over a longer period of time and then schedule it into your diary and do it consistently, irrespective of whether sales are up or down. That way you know that you always have enough opportunities in the pipeline to hit your sales quotas and targets.

It’s okay wanting to be a success but it is your sales activities that will define you in the eyes of your peers, your managers, your clients and the world. What prospecting do you need to do consistently to ensure that you get the results that you want and deserve?

(Footnote: Many people when they read articles on prospecting only hear cold calling. Whilst cold calling may well be a part of your prospecting approach I call prospecting any activity which brings new prospects, clients and opportunities onto your radar. Everybody needs their own perfect prospecting balance of activities… but that’s for another day!)