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Why Prospecting for Sales, is no Different from Prospecting for GOLD

By Percy Chong, 6th October 2014

Gold is often mined in minute quantities per ton of dirt. There are some profitable goldmines that extract less than 2grams of gold from a ton of dirt. Now that’s a lot of dirt for that speck of gold. It would explain why, there is such a huge premium place on gold.

Sales prospecting is somewhat the same. But instead of mining for gold, you are mining for cash, or a sale. Unlike gold mining, you plough through a sea of people instead of dirt, to locate the rare few prospects who will give you the sale.

So, what lessons or experience can we draw from gold mining industry that can help increase our profitability in sales?

Lesson 1: Know Thy Market, Know Thy Self

It is important for you to recognize your market before making random approaches to prospect for sales. Even the gold miners have made geological assessment before embarking on their expensive digging explorations. Clearly, it is also necessary for you to identify the market that offers the greatest chance for success.

Operating in the right market will yield not only greater results, but it also is a route of lesser resistance. Your market is typically characterized by groups of “unique” individuals who will appreciate you for who you are. These “uniqueness” is essentially the common demographic qualities shared within the group.

Here is an example of sales person operating in the retail market. Some sales persons will find that they are more effective with the white collar professionals. Common age group of these professional range from 25-40, and they are typically family man, who are married with young kids. Somehow, they seem to appeal more to man and especially the family type. And perhaps it’s in the way they carry themselves and speak that connects better with these professionals. And there are other sales persons that may be more effective with the blue collar female production operator’s market, age between 18-29. They too, will have their own “uniqueness” to give them an edge in their market.

For reasons not entirely clear to us, our personal preference plays a huge part in us choosing who we want to do business with. Having said that, there will be some exceptions to this norm. There will be some stray business that will come from markets outside of your core ones. But the general rule is to focus on the predominant majority (of the market) and not the exceptional few.

So, how can you find your market?

Your market is directly affected by your “brand”. It is the visible, as well as invisible signature that you carry on a daily basis. It will also impact your effective range. Imagine you are a pistol, your effective firing range is probably around 150-200metres; however, if you are a rifle, your range could be well over 400-600metres. In the perspective of selling, your market is only limited by your brand (and capabilities). So, before you start rushing to meet with every senior management decision maker you know, or any high net worth individuals, know where you stand. It’s never about how you see yourself, but how others perceive you that matters in effective selling.

It is important to know your own brand…to know thy self. Try not to venture too far outside of your market and risk getting lukewarm response. The key is to be the authority of your ‘own’ market.

There are times, when your product also plays a part in shaping or steering you towards a particular market. But you need to be mindful that the underpinning factor is still going to be your brand.

Lesson 2: Draw Up Your Operational Plan

Before you start diving into your market, you need to draw up your game plan. Too many sales people have missed this integral part of their role. Many seem to think that it is too administrative and even more loathe doing it because the very reason why they chose a selling career is to avoid doing all these.

Even with the market identified, there are still a couple details that need consideration.
  1. Operation Method– Where are you going to find them (offices, conventions etc)? Where do they hang out (country clubs, golf courses, charity events etc)? How are you going approach them? How can I have access to them (by telephone, face-to-face)? Who can help lead you in (centre of influence, friends, gate-keeper etc)? 
  2. Operation Cost– Different operational method will incur different cost. Example, if you choose to approach your prospect through lifestyle prospecting route (ie. through golfing, charity events etc), you can expect to incur a higher operation cost. Similarly with prospecting of a high net worth individual.
  3. Operation Schedules – Draw out your sales activities schedules; set goals and benchmark, and track these activities against the benchmark for effectiveness review.
  4. Operational Effectiveness– Develop a monitor and review process to optimize sales performance. Identify who can help you monitor your activity progress, as well as offer you a push, when you have slacken.

Your operational plan needs to be carefully considered. Don’t be foolhardy and go guns blazing into the marketplace. Remember the familiar saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

We are certain that all the gold miners would have done likewise, when it comes to drawing up their game plans.

Lesson 3: Activity, Activity, Activity

With your market identified and your game plan drawn up, you only need to ‘dig’, ‘dig’, ‘dig’ until you find ‘gold’!

The sales person’s biggest challenge has always been inactivity. With all the preparation done, all that is required is the commitment to see the plans through.

Sales industry and the gold mining industry have so much in common. But the closest similarity has got to be their anchored beliefs in the law of large numbers. It’s about the number game for the sales person and the tonnage of dirt for the gold miners. So, put on your “heart” hat and keep selling away!

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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