Prospecting: The Devil You Know . . .

Posted by Mike Scher

Feb 20, 2015 10:20:00 AM

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My father used to always say, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I recently thought about that age-old saying when it comes to new business development and prospecting, and wondered if it applied to leads.

While leads come from many sources, there are really only two types in the world (besides “good” leads and “bad” leads – wise guy!).  There are those that have expressed an interest in you such as website hits, whitepaper/ebook downloads, hand raisers etc. These leads are the devil you know because they gave you information and should be more familiar with your content.  Then there are those leads that you have expressed an interest in selling to — your Ideal Client Profile (ICP)/target accounts. These leads are the devil you don’t know.

Whether you are a full-time business development rep spending 8 hours a day on lead generation or a field sales executive who may only have an hour or two a day, a couple of days a week to spend prospecting; you face choices every day.  If you have a marketing “lead” in hand, is it always the highest and best use of your time? Maybe so, and maybe not.

Of course all leads aren’t good (there’s a news flash!).  On the other hand, all leads aren’t bad either.  If you have done this for any period of time, you probably have a good sense of what a good and bad lead looks like.  So what do you do?  Will you forsake the devil you know (a lead perhaps with a lower level title) for the devil you don’t know (a cold call into the vast unknown of a high value, targeted account)?

Intellectually, you know that time spent with a bad lead is time you cannot spend getting into a good account. Unfortunately, too many sales people, regardless of experience level, will gravitate to any and all leads.  Why? Because sales people feel more comfortable with the devil they know.  Even if they know it isn’t the best lead, they feel like they have something to talk about and the conversation will be warmer.

What if you could become more comfortable with the devil you don’t know?  I think every sales person can.  The first step is to have the discipline to make the right choice.

My father had a lot of sayings that always seemed to apply.  This one may be an exception.


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