Why keep going, even when you are not making progress?

Ever spend a few hours prospecting with only disappointing results to show for your efforts? Ever have a few days like that in a row? It’s tempting to recall Albert Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I take the opposite point of view, though.

Let’s consider Thomas Edison: When inventing the electric lightbulb, he encountered setback after setback. He said, “I have not failed; I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison said something even more relevant to those of us who prospect for business, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

How does that apply to prospecting? A financial advisor once told me, “You can chop down a tree with a hammer.” His point was that you will get results if you keep at it long enough.

Here’s where advisors get into trouble: They start on a prospecting strategy. They bring it to the point when it’s about to yield results then say, “This isn’t working.” And they stop. Then they adopt another strategy and repeat the process. They put a series of failed strategies into place when they could have achieved success by simply sticking with one and fine-tuning it along the way.

Here are some observations regarding prospecting strategies:

Follow the instructions. If it has worked for others because they did it a certain way, try to replicate the circumstances as closely as possible. Do not add your own interpretation because then it’s a different strategy.

Stick to the strategy. Suppose you like seminars. You plan one and get no prospects. Suddenly you don’t like seminars anymore. You need to plan several seminars, one per month. Then market to your prospects month after month. Prospects who didn’t attend the first two seminars might attend seminar three.

Fine-tune. This is an old term meaning to make small adjustments. Suppose your strategy was to call business owners. Day after day, you called at 10 a.m. Each time, though, your calls don’t go through because they were screened by someone. Maybe you are calling at the wrong time. Make a small change. Call at 7:30 or 8 a.m. before the screener gets into work and hope the saying “A business owner will never let a ringing phone go unanswered” is true.

You are planting seeds. Sales would be easy if getting 500 clients meant making 500 calls. You presented, they said yes and bought. Then everyone would be in sales! You know it’s much harder. The phone calls, emails, seminar invitations and social media posts are all like ingredients going into a soup. You are creating an image in people’s minds. They may not be ready to buy now, but when they are, they will call you. Those unreturned calls or unanswered email messages serve a purpose of getting your name out there as a qualified professional. Haven’t you ever had a new client tell you, “I get your stuff. It’s very good.”

Prospecting is like roulette. Ten calls and no connections, only voicemail. You sent out 50 personalized emails. No one responded. You implemented your strategy four days this week. You skip Friday because it won’t work on the fifth day either. Every time you pick up a phone or send an email, it’s a new iteration (activity) that’s unrelated to the previous one. You could get lucky because you stuck to it.

Look and listen for clues. You might use a script. Why? Because it makes sense. Shakespearean actors don’t improvise during performances. During a call, you might notice the prospect has an interest in a different area. If you are in a position to help them, go off script. Draw them out.

You might think a strategy isn’t working. It may be working fine but the timing isn’t right. Think of your “unsuccessful” prospecting efforts as planting seeds.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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