Years’ ago my running coach taught me that when you’re running up a hill your eyes are down. Why? Because you don’t want to see the top of the hill and start panicking. When you’re looking down at the road, it looks just as flat as any other part. It helps to protect your attitude. Shielding ourselves from upcoming pain can work but often it’s better to be prepared and have a plan. Erm… childbirth anyone? Having a plan and knowing what to expect means you can catch yourself when all the dark and horrible thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’ flood into your mind.
Your best asset is a positive mindset. Let’s try our best to protect ourselves and chase away the seeds of doubt with a list of what to expect when you’re prospecting. Here are some things you might want to be aware of.
Your prospects will say no
Most of them will say no. You can increase your chances of them saying yes by getting a warm introduction. Do you have a connection with someone in the company you’re targeting? Does anyone in your network have a connection to the company? It’s always best to start to increase your chances. Even with a warm introduction though it’s best to expect a 50% rate of hearing no.
No, often doesn’t sound like no
If only people weren’t polite. I’m kidding that would be a terrible world to live in. People feel uncomfortable saying no and so they look for softer and nicer ways to say it. As a parent, I often say ‘let me think about’ so that it gets my kid off my back for a little while. Your prospects are no different – they’ll just use different lines like… the timing isn’t good for me… we already have our partnerships locked in… can you email me something to consider. All of these answers are no. You role is to work out why. Is your value proposition not strong enough? Have you tailored your approach? Have you clearly defined what’s in it for them to give up their precious time and meet with you?
Often it takes 2 – 3 goes to get a response
If you’ve had one of the answers above. Think about how you can change your communication to show how it will benefit the person you want to meet with. I mean a real benefit that they’ll think wow, yes this is directly relevant to my plans and goals. When making your initial contact expect that the first one will be ignored. Generally, by the third communication you will get a meeting, or a response. However, only if it’s tailored specifically to them, and demonstrates the benefit for them in meeting with you. Please don’t keep repeating your initial communication. Mix it up, make it personal and a sense of humour (especially on your 3rd go) goes a long way.
Generic emails don’t work
If you’re sending the same generic email out to a couple of hundred prospects, then I’d say your success rate is going to very close to zero. Please don’t do this. Why specifically do you want to meet with that person? What is it about them? What value do you have to offer to them and their company? What made you chose that company? The more personalised your approach (once you’ve completed your research this should be easy) the harder it will be for them to press delete or ignore you. Personalising shows you’ve taken to the time and effort to get to know them and what’s important to them. It takes time but will greatly increase your chances.
You might have more success with a different channel
How many emails do you receive daily? How many do you delete without even opening? Everybody’s email is flooded these days. Have you considered other channels to make the intro communication – especially if you don’t have a warm introduction? There are a variety of different channels and so if you want to stand out from your competitors then use a different channel. Connect via Twitter if they’re an active user. Approach them on LinkedIn if your value proposition is strong. Otherwise, send them a small gift and introduction in the mail. This really grabs people’s attention and shows you’ve invested time in them. It also activates the law of reciprocity, where the recipient feels an obligation to respond
Having a plan to acquire new partners is great. Having a plan to protect your attitude is just as useful. Prospecting can be a rollercoaster of emotions, especially when you’re first starting out. Being aware of what to expect will help you chase those seeds of doubt away.