Sidney C. Walker
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The following article appeared in GAMA NEWS JOURNAL

MAKE PROSPECTING AN ADVENTURE
by Sidney C. Walker

 


Do you think
Joe Montana, Chris Everett-Lloyd or Michael Jordan would perform in a major sports event without warming up first? Of course not! And it certainly isn't because they need the practice; they practice all the time. So why do they warm-up? Because they are not loose and fluid. Did you know that to do anything physical, one set of muscles has to tighten up and another set of muscles has to relax. The warm-up gives all those muscles a chance to get the feel for what they need to do to produce the best possible results and avoid injury. It's a very similar process when we prospect for new business. If we don't warm up before we make our calls, we will perform at a level far below our capability and we could even get a bruised ego.

The main reason so many salespeople have call reluctance and, in general, avoid prospecting is that they are most comfortable taking a highly analytical approach to problem solving. For example, the problem is that we need to talk to people so we can tell them about our products and services which will ideally lead to a sale. The way the analytical mind works is in a finite linear fashion which is very "black or white " and very little gray. For example, if you add a column of numbers there is only one correct answer and all other answers are wrong. Or if the copy machine breaks down, there is a logical explanation of how to fix it. Even if there is more than one way to fix the copy machine, there is only one correct answer as to what is wrong with it. So to the analytical mind there is only one correct answer to a problem and all other answers have to be a wrong answer.

Now let's ask our analytical mind how it would like to approach prospecting for new business. It wants a list of people to call who will all be there when you call them, and who will all say they want to meet with you. I'm sure you'll agree that finding such a list is highly unlikely. But interestingly enough, this is not an unreasonable assumption for the analytical mind because it believes there is a correct prospecting approach that will produce the correct answer from the prospect every time. To the analytical mind, the reality of the perfect approach is totally logical and it will never stop looking for it.

So why doesn't the analytical perspective work with prospecting? Why isn't there a perfect approach? The main problem is that there are so many variables when dealing with people. Every person is different in many ways. They have different backgrounds, training, experience, education, and personalities. Every prospect is in a little different situation at the moment we contact them. So the number of variables that we would have to accommodate in order to get a "yes" response from a every prospect is beyond our reach. However, even with the knowledge that coming up with the perfect approach is impossible, the analytical mind will not be discouraged. It will continue the quest for the perfect approach because to its way of thinking, it has to be there.

What happens when we combine the analytical minds relentless desire to find the perfect approach with the reality that there are too many variables when dealing with people for there to be a perfect approach? Internal conflict. We keep trying to use our proven analytical skills to solve the problem of what to say when we are prospecting and we continue to find that there is no approach that will work every time. What is the result of this internal conflict? Call reluctance and prospecting avoidance. In a highly analytical frame of mind, we will quickly tire of getting the "wrong answer" from the prospects we call. You can end up feeling like a child in school that gives the wrong answer each time he is called on several times in a row. If this happens enough times the child will stop raising his hand.

What is the way out of this situation? We have to balance the narrow focus of our analytical mind with a perspective big enough to include all the variables needed to effectively interact with people. Basically, the perspective has to be big enough to deal with the unknown, which is of course too big for the analytical perspective by itself. I like to call this bigger perspective, the adventurer mentality. The adventurer doesn't need to know how things are going to work out before he takes action. The adventurer isn't worried about what he is going to say to the next person he meets. The adventurer isn't trying to "do it right" every time. The adventurer has a perspective that is big enough to include the unknown elements of dealing with people and with life in general. He or she will interact with each new situation as it happens and make an appropriate response by trusting past experience and intuitive instinct. The following description of the Adventurer Mentality is taken from my book Trust Your Gut - How to Overcome the Obstacles to Greater Success and Self-fulfillment:

The Adventurer Mentality

1. Has an ability to continually see the bigger picture. Is not overly concerned with any one aspect, circumstance or event along the path to achieving the goal. Views the sales process, as well as life, as an ever-changing adventure rather than a predictable technical procedure. Knows, accepts and enjoys the reality that there is always an unknown element when working with people.

2. Has a tireless ability to maintain a positive vision no matter what happens, and keeps his eye on his long-term goal. Furthermore, with a positive vision and goals that feel intuitively right, he knows his visions will somehow become a reality with good for all concerned.

3. Trusts his ability to succeed and is not concerned with how so long as it is done with integrity and for the good of all concerned (the win-win approach).

4. Trusts the power of his intuition to creatively guide him along the most effective and efficient path to achieving his goal.

5. Has no fear of making mistakes since he sees mistakes as required events and lessons on the path to reaching his goals.

6. Has no fear of failure because he views failure as merely a negative judgment about how things have turned out thus far. His perspective says the only way to fail is to quit before it feels intuitively right to do so.

7. Does not need to know how things will turn out before taking action. He simply trusts that if he does what feels intuitively right with a positive vision, he will succeed in one of two ways. He will either get the result he wanted or get a lesson required to achieve the result. He knows in his heart and soul he can't lose.

8. Has fun meeting and getting to know new people. He enjoys being warm, friendly, spontaneous and "winging it" with people. He has a sense of humor and a sensitivity to what others are feeling.

9. Gives each call 100% of his creativity, skill and sensitivity. He treats each call as if it were a totally new experience, being ready to sense the subtle differences in people.

10. He doesn't care who buys and who doesn't. He is looking for the right people to work with based on the right "chemistry" rather than trying to "sell" a relationship to people who don't want one.

How do we get into the adventure mentality? This is the part of you that needs to warm up before you walk onto the prospecting playing field. This is especially true if you have been doing anything that requires a highly analytical focus like balancing your checkbook or putting together proposals for upcoming presentations. The best way I know to warm up for prospecting is to create a series of statements that get me focused on the bigger perspective of the adventurer mentality. The following "warm-up statements" are taken in part from my CD-ROM series The Prospecting Mentality - How to Overcome Call Reluctance, Procrastination and Sleepless Nights.

1. I accept the reality of prospecting and realize that no matter how skilled I am or how wonderful my products are, some people are going to be interested and some are not.

2. I accept that I don't know which of the people I call on are going to be interested and accept the certainty that if I continue to make calls, there will be people who are interested in what I'm offering. It's like rolling dice, it's guaranteed that some rolls are going to be winners and I never know for sure which ones are going to be winners until after I have rolled the dice.

3. I accept that there are plenty of people for me to work with, and if someone isn't interested in what I'm offering, it may simply be that the timing isn't right for us to have a business relationship.

4. I accept the "chemistry and timing" formula that says I'm going to hit it off with some of the people I meet and that some of those people are going to be ready for what I'm offering. And for the most part, the elements of chemistry and timing are out of my control, so I shouldn't get overly involved in trying to make things happen that don't seem to want to happen.

5. I accept the reality that it's my responsibility to regularly initiate prospecting activity. It's as much a part of life as it's part of my job to regularly go fishing for people who are interested in what I have to offer. I accept the unknown elements of prospecting and realize it is an ever changing art rather than a predictable science. The only way I'm going to know who might be interested is to make the call.

6. I accept that the only way I can lose at prospecting is not to do it. And that I have everything to gain with the smallest of efforts in the right direction. The key is to maintain a momentum by regularly asking people if they might have an interest in what I am offering.

7. My mission is to help people and since I am in sales, part of my mission is to find the people who want my help. The real work of prospecting is in two parts: a.) to consistently contact as many people as possible each day without regard or concern for how they react to whatever I am offering, and b.) to quiet the impatient, demanding, negative chatter of my analytical mind while I am making calls. There is a part of my mind that thinks it can control the results of each call, but the only real control I have is to accept the results of each call as I make it and choose to make another.

8. If I am putting positive energy into trying to find people who want and need my help, I will be rewarded. For in life, as in physics, as in prospecting; for every action there is a reaction. For every call I make with the proper attitude there is a creative energy building in my favor that I cannot see and I cannot know exactly how it will manifest, but it is there. What I must trust is that I will be rewarded if I make the calls. I must trust that the numbers will work in my favor if I give them a chance.

Learning to shift into the adventure mentality before you prospect will reduce your call reluctance and your prospecting avoidance in general. Your discomfort with prospecting may not go away over night, but you will find that it will get easier each time you motivate yourself to take action with the adventurer mentality. If you will muster up enough courage to jump into a prospecting session and discover what it feels like with the adventurer mentality instead of the analytical mentality, you will be pleasantly surprised. You will experience little breakthroughs that will keep you going after new levels of insight and development. Remember, if professional athletes warm up, so should professional insurance agents. You will find that the peace of mind and the ability to consistently make prospecting calls that comes from warming up the adventurer mentality will be well worth the time and effort.

Take some time to write out your own prospecting "warm-up" statements. Use the statements I have given you here if they feel right to you. If any part of a statement doesn't sound right to you, change it so it does. Then get a cassette tape recorder and record these statements in your own voice leaving a few seconds in between each statement to let it sink in. You can now plug in your prospecting "warm up" tape before you get on the telephone in the office, or in your car before you walk into see a prospect. Try it, you'll like it!

One final way to bring out the adventurer in you is to act like an adventurer. Search for any activity that feels adventurous to you. The following ideas and exercises will get you started but by no means cover all the possibilities.

  • A very effective way I've found to get back in touch with the adventurer in me is to go watch adventurers in action. There are some great movies (videos) that consistently get me back in touch with the spirit of adventure. I get the most positive and lasting inspiration from movies that have a generally positive feeling to them and a happy ending. You will have to experiment to find which movies have the greatest impact on you. A few of my favorites are: Top Gun, both Crocodile Dundee's, The Natural, Red October, Mosquito Coast and The Abyss. When you watch these movies, pay close attention to the positive feelings the adventurous hero stirs up in you. Memorize those feelings so you can take them back to the office.
  • Create visual images of yourself as a true adventurer in your profession. What would you be like? How would you act? How would you dress? How would you talk? What would you talk about? How successful would you be? What would your day be like? What would your clients be like? What would you do after work? What would you do when you take a day off? Really get into it and mock it up! Dale Carnegie said it years ago and it's still true today: "Act as if it is true and it starts to become true." Part of being an adventurer is to risk letting some of that creativity out! Risk a little spontaneity! People are starving for some playfulness!
  • Review your mission statement and the visual images that you have created about it. Daily get back in touch with the feeling of being at your best and doing what you love to do the most in your work.
  • Envision your favorite clients. What would it be like to set a goal for twenty more just like them, and not to waste your time with anyone else? Sure, you might have to talk to a lot of people but wouldn't it be worth the effort? For most salespeople, 80% of their business comes from 20% of their clients. Would you be willing to trust that there are plenty of prospective clients who want to work with you if you contact enough people? And would you be willing to stop spending time and energy with people who you don't feel some chemistry with fairly quickly? Imagine what it's like to interact with people you admire and respect, and who genuinely appreciate you and what you are doing for them.
  • Look for examples in nature of the spirit of adventurers. I have an attractive eagle that sits on my desk to remind me of the adventurer in the eagle. I saw a spectacular cable television program on eagles one time that gave me an important perspective. Eagles primarily eat fish if they are near water. They soar in circles high above the water watching for fish to come near the surface. Once they spot a target, they dive at incredible speed and at the last minute, just before they hit the water, they pull up out of the dive so that their talons drag open through the water and hopefully latch onto a big trout. Can you guess the number of dives it can take for an eagle to catch a fish? Up to nine or ten! Sure sometimes they get a fish on the first dive, but that is the exception. And do you suppose that the eagle feels like turning in his wings if he misses on a dive? Of course not! A majority of misses are just part of a successful day's prospecting for the eagle.
  • What would it feel like if you knew you couldn't lose no matter what happened? Imagine yourself with the following characteristics: an alert sense of calm, the ability to create a positive result with every person you meet, smiling and laughing often, having a playful sense about you, being confident, warm, friendly, inviting, unshakable, patient, easy-going, powerful yet sensitive, well-wishing, looking for those people you are thrilled to have as clients. When you imagine and feel these characteristics within yourself, you can't lose!

One of my favorite one-liners is from the popular movie Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. After being beaten up, shot at, robbed of his priceless archaeological possessions and left in the middle of the desert with no transportation, one of his sidekicks says to him, "Well, Indy, what do we do now?" Indiana says in a disgruntled tone: "I don't know, I'm just making this up as I go along." This is good advice for anyone who prospects for a living. Warm up by getting into the adventurer mentality and then make it up as you go along! Shift to the bigger perspective of the adventurer mentality and trust yourself. You will know what to do.

 

 


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