When Prospecting, Have a Strong Process in Place

Whether you're prospecting or job hunting, this systematic approach is the key to success.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #555

Today I’ll show you how to do prospecting by using a structured approach to get money. Beautiful, green, tasty money.

Prospecting. If you’re in business for yourself, you simply have to do it. It’s the most common goal of people who have joined my Get-it-Done Groups. They want more business, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get it.

What it takes isn’t that hard to accomplish. It’s a numbers game. You need to find the person or company for whom you’re the answer to their problems. But that’s not quite enough. You need to find them right when you have time in your schedule for them, and they want what you have to offer. What are the odds you'll succeed? Low.

This strategy applies even if you’re an individual looking for a job. 85 percent of jobs are found through networking, not a public listing. You need to find the employer you’re a good fit for, at the moment they’re ready to hire. This is a pretty tall order.

Plan for Repeated contact

You need to do outreach. A lot of outreach. When I was building my coaching practice, I met the amazing C.J. Hayden, author of the superb book, Get Clients Now. I mentioned how hard it was to get clients. I’d come home from a conference with a dozen leads, and none would pan out. I’d call them as many as three times apiece and …

She interrupted. “Three times?”

“Yes. Why?”

Then she told me the secret to everything. “For my business,” she said, “it takes around seven contacts before someone will buy. If you have a hundred prospects and contact each one three times, you’ll make 300 calls and get zero clients. But if you have 20 prospects and contact each one seven times, you’ll make 140 calls and get 20 clients. That’s less than half the work for a completely full practice.”

It takes around seven contacts before someone will buy.

Mind. Blown.

Calibrate close rates

Of course, you won’t close every sale. Indeed, depending on your product and how cold your leads are, a good close rate could be as low as 2 percent. It really depends on your situation. But this is really important. A lot of people expect every sales call to lead to a sale. That’s wrong. Sales is really a numbers game.

Let’s say you want to make $100,000 a year as your gross income. That’s your income before deducting any expenses. If you sell a $2,000 product, you’ll have to sell 50 of them to make your income goals. 50 x $2,000 = $100,000.

If you’re cold-calling and you have a close rate of 15 percent, then you need to contact 334 (50/.15) prospects to reach your goal of 50 customers. If your sales cycle requires, on average, seven touches per prospect to convert them to customers, that’s 334 * 7 or 2,338 contact attempts you’ll need in a given year.

Use a spreadsheet for tracking

That’s a lot of contact! And you’ll need to track those hundreds of prospects, and where you are in the sales cycle for each one. Since prospecting is all about numbers, a spreadsheet can save the day. But you won’t be using it to do calculations; you’ll use it for tracking.

Label the columns: Name, Last Contact, Next Contact, Next Steps, Notes, Why and Introducer.

Here’s how you’ll use each column:

  • Name. The name of your prospect. You might also want to track their company name as well.

  • Last Contact. The date you and this person last had contact. It doesn’t matter if you reached out to them or they reached out to you.

  • Next Contact. If there’s a specific date you should contact them, put it in the Next Contact column. If someone tells you they’re on vacation until June 31, you’d enter June 31 in this column.

  • Next Steps. What’s the very next thing that needs to happen with this contact. I’ll discuss this in more detail later in this episode.

  • Notes. The notes column is where you add any freeform notes you wish. You can summarize the calls you’ve had, and so on. If the notes field gets too full, create a Google doc for that prospect and put the link to that Google doc in the notes field. Then just click the link when it’s time to record more notes for that prospect.

  • Why. Fill in the “why” column when you add a new prospect to your list. Jot down why you think this is a prospect worth pursuing. When you’re going after 334 prospects, you’ll have to decide where to spend your time. Will Smith is on your list because your parental unit really thinks you’re going to look great in black. How sweet. By noting that in the “why” category, you can decide how high a priority Mr. Smith should actually be … especially given the whole unfortunate Marinara Sauce incident.

  • Introducer. Keep track of who introduced you to this person. Later, you’ll call the introducer and let them know where their introduction led.

Establish a prospecting routine

Now that you have a prospect tracking sheet, establish a routine for regular prospecting once or twice a week. During that time block, you’ll handle everything in your spreadsheet that needs to be handled:

  1. Review the Next Steps column. If someone has responded to your outreach, and you’re in the middle of scheduling an appointment, follow up if the scheduling process seems stalled.

  2. Review the Next Contact Dates column. For everyone whose next contact date has passed, take whatever action you needed to take on that date. Delete the date in that column.

  3. Review everyone who’s Last Contact Date was more than a week or 10 days ago. Reach back out to them again. Record what you sent them in your Notes. In the Next Steps column, make a note of what you should send them next time if they don’t respond this time.

  4. Put today’s date in the Last Contact Date whenever you reach out to someone.

Using the Next Steps column

I use a shorthand for the Next Steps column. If I’m waiting for someone to respond or send me something, I enter a less-than-sign (<) followed by what they’re supposed to send me. For example, “< the date we should meet for lunch.” I start with a greater-than sign if I’m supposed to send them something. For example, “> send marketing brochure.”

Train yourself to update the sheet

Whenever you email, call, text, or contact a prospect, make sure to update the Last Contact Date for them. When they contact you, make sure to update that date. If you make this a habit, your tracking spreadsheet will let you keep up with 300 people effortlessly.

Add new prospects regularly

At least a couple of times a week, add new prospects to your tracking sheet. You’ll cycle them right into your system that guarantees you’ll do your sales followup regularly.

Prospecting gets money in the door, so do it rigorously.

When you’re in business, you need to treat it like … a business. Prospecting gets money in the door, so do it rigorously. Track who you contact, when, and why. You’ll build a system and habits that, taken together, will help you reach out to your hundreds of prospects however many times it takes to land their business.

And feel free to pay me a 10% commission when this episode quintuples your income.


Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re an executive, entrepreneur, or sales professional and you want to get better at any aspect of your job, talk to me about coaching. Learn more at SteverRobbins.com. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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