TALKING SALES 72: “Developing Sales Prospecting Skills”

Prospecting 700x400“How to prospect for new customers” –  Interview by John Smibert



Wayne BerryIn this interview the Top Gun sales coach Wayne Berry states that prospecting is the most overlooked sales skill and yet one of the most important.

Wayne emphasises that we need to target the right prospects.  And in our approach our discussion has to be “nothing to do with our product but everything to do with the benefit to the client”. To help achieve this he promotes the use of a script even for the most experienced salespeople.  He uses a case study to explain why.

See the full interview below.


Wayne Berry is the Top Gun Sales Guru and Coach and has authored 5 best selling books on selling.



John: Again I’m with Wayne Berry, Australia’s top gun sales coach. Is that right?

Wayne: It hasn’t changed since the last time – absolutely.

John: Okay! [laughter] Wayne, in the last discussion we had you talked about what the top-performing salespeople did, the characteristics of top-performing salespeople, and you mentioned a few things, and one was prospecting.

Wayne: Yes.

John: It’s really part of what I believe a lot of salespeople forget to do, or don’t develop a good skill in. Tell me what you mean by prospecting, and what salespeople should focus on?

Wayne: It’s kind of interesting. I often brainstorm ‘the skills which all top salespeople have’ with groups of salespeople. They give me a list and we put it up on the board, and the one that is left out so frequently is ‘prospecting’. I did it again just with a group this morning that I was with, a group of salespeople, and I’ve done it with groups up to 5,000 people in an audience, and we wrote it up on the board, and the one they leave out is prospecting. Why is that?

Most salespeople do not like to prospect because they fear rejection. That takes me back to my early days of prospecting. As a young salesperson I had to fill out daily reports every day, and I use to write on these daily reports all of the address details and so forth: not interested, not interested, not interested. And my sales manager, who was a wise man, said to me “Wayne, there seems to be a lot of people out there not interested.” and I said “Well, that’s just the way it is – they’re just not interested!” He said “Has it ever occurred to you that what you’re saying is not interesting, it doesn’t get them interested enough?” Never thought of that!

He said “Well, it could be what you’re saying. Can I share with you a script, which you might care to take out and use?” In fact, he went one step further and said “You must take it out and” and I did. I was young, naïve; whatever he said what to do, I would do. I was 17 years of age when I got started in sales with the NCR Corporation – you know, a very great opportunity. A very wise man, and had I not met that sales manager, my view on selling and my career in selling might have gone in an entirely different direction, which is an important leadership lesson for another interview perhaps.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of salespeople say “Well, a script. Hmm, that’s not me.” and I say “Well, tell me about you? How successful are you with your prospecting, making new contacts?” and they say “I’m not really good at it.” “Well, I suggest stop being you. It’s not working, right?” And they kind of get their point there.

Like, when people say “I don’t like your script.” I’m sorry, you’re already using a script; it’s a really bad one, and it comes off the top of your head. The fact of the matter is that people who understand how to prospect they work to a script, a formula, and it works.

John: But they are adaptable and flexible.

Wayne: They’re adaptable and flexible, and you have to zero in on what’s important to the person that you’re calling on the telephone, that you’re approaching. These leads could come from social media, they could come from radio advertising, any form of advertising; they may come to you as an inquiry, but it’s still prospecting. When you have to make contact with them by phone they’re not necessarily ready to make an appointment with you, you very often have to give them enough good reasons. We talk about three hot buttons to share on the phone, which has nothing to do with your product but everything to do with the benefit to the client, in terms of how it would benefit the client.

And if the client says to you “Well, gee – that sounds really good! Could you tell me about it on the phone?” you really know that you’ve done it the right way. And then, of course, you don’t tell them about it on the phone, you explain that the best way is face to face. “I have something to show you, and it will only take seven minutes – or 13 minutes or 23 minutes – of your time.” Now, the reason we have these odd times… Well, we teach this. [laughs] It’s got to do with the fact that if you say 10 minutes, your experience of someone who says “I need 10 minutes, it’ll only take 10 minutes.” they’re going to be there for half an hour, right? If somebody says it’s going to take 30 minutes, what’s your experience? Well, they’re going to be there for an hour at least. If somebody says “Listen, it’ll only take an hour!” How long are they going to be there? They’re going to be there all day! [laughs] It’s a strategy.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that high-performing salespeople make their own luck. They don’t wait for the phone to ring, they don’t wait for the social media to work, which works well, and I know you and I know how to do it extremely well, and you’ve got some really good lessons for salespeople there about how to engage with a prospect. But, in the end we still need to talk to the prospect.

John: You need to engage.

Wayne: Yes, and make an appointment, rather than handle it over the telephone. It is still the best way, face to face, if you can possibly be there. Or, if they’re at a distance then a video conference does work really well today.

John: Yes. So, the bottom line for prospecting, for our audience is?

Wayne: Use a script, be strategic, target the ones that you want to speak to, and do it! And the script that we use, and this technique that we use… Make 10 calls, get five appointments. It’s called “one in two” – that’s pretty good.

John: Yes.

Wayne: Most salespeople don’t get a ratio anything like that.

John: So, you need to do it strategically, effectively, scripted, and you need to do it consistently.

Wayne: Yes.

John: Yes. The problem I come up with salespeople, they’ll do a whole lot of prospecting, build some prospects, and forget about prospecting for a couple of months… Suddenly they’re in trouble two to three months down the track.

Wayne: Yes. The first one that you need to make is with yourself every single week I suggest, to get on the phone and make those calls every week.

John: Yes, put it in your diary; lock it in.

Wayne: Absolutely. It’s a commitment – do it!

John: I like the whole subject. Prospecting is—I’ve got say, it’s always been in my sales world hard to do but essential, and the successful salespeople are the ones that prospect well.

Wayne: Indeed.

John: Thank you very much, Wayne!


More interviews with Wayne Berry:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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