How much time should you spend prospecting? Nearly any sales trainer you ask will answer, "More than you are now." And they're right. But in a quantifiable number, what does that mean?
[first published April 9, 2014]
Two approaches spring to mind. One is more scientific than the other, but they'll both work.
An Easy Approach To Answering How Much Time Should You Spend Prospecting
First, an easy-to-apply system of dividing up your time depending on the maturity of your business. Prospecting is the act of picking up the phone or going to networking events or doing anything that can directly get you into a qualifying conversation with a prospect. Fulfilling is doing the work you promised to do so you can earn your revenue. Marketing is writing free reports, setting up autoresponder systems, sending direct mail, and anything else that is passive in its approach to attracting prospects to you.
|New (0-12 months)
|Established (12-24 months)
|Mature (24 months+)
Surprising? Consider: in the beginning, no one knows you exist. You have yet to develop the reputation as "The person to talk to about X." No referrals will be coming in.But 12 months into the business, should you survive, the situation will have started to turn. People you have never directly spoken to will have been sent to you by someone who heard about your business from a past customer. You will get some orders more easily; it won't be necessary to spend as much of your time prospecting.
However, you can never, ever, cut prospecting activities out entirely. You must always be talking to new people.
And in the beginning, what else do you have to do? Don't stop just because you got an order.
Keep filling the funnel.
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The Precise Method for Determining How Much Time Should You Spend Prospecting
Second, we can determine the number of dials we must make to reach our revenue target. And it will always be more than we had vaguely thought. A lot more. But that number will come down as we move forward. We'll become more competent, and sales will come in from referrals, direct marketing, talks and other lead generation methods.
We covered the exact method for figuring this out in How To Succeed In Sales.
You'll be shocked to learn that hitting your revenue target will likely require 5 hours of your day at the beginning. Again, though, what else are you doing? You don't have projects. Marketing is passive and slow. It won't get you the conversations you need to make sales and earn that revenue. Waiting around will only produce month-end panic and, sooner or later, failure.
How much time should you spend prospecting is based on the maturity of your business. If you are well-known, have great brand awareness in your marketplace leading to a ton of inbound leads, are receiving a bunch of referrals every month, and have money in the bank to cover upcoming expenses, then you can afford to ease back on the prospecting gas pedal. Otherwise, slam that pedal to the floor and it's Full Speed Ahead!
2021 Update on How Much Time You Should Spend Prospecting
Reality hasn't changed for prospecting activity in the seven years since this post was first published. Whether you're a business founder or salesperson, you must commit to finding and developing your own leads. You cannot rely on magic thinking or the company to do it for you. Not taking responsibility for prospecting will lead to an empty funnel. And failure to focus enough time to it, which is always more than you think or would rather be doing, will result in the long term failure of your business or role.
Many people believe their employer will provide enough leads. But we have seen over many years the constant mismatch of prospect leads provided by the marketing department with the requirements of the sales department for what makes a qualified lead. Frankly, we have discovered marketing leads hidden under the keyboards of salespeople at their desks: not a fit, and pushed away.
The salesperson is running a mini business-within-a-business, a founder of their own destiny just as the founder of an entire business is. You cannot leave lead generation and filling your funnel to chance. Set enough time aside for prospecting starting today.
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