It's Time to Normalize Prospecting as a Routine Business Activity

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

You are sitting at the doctor's office in a glamorous hospital gown getting a routine physical. Everything seems to be going fine and you can sense the appointment is wrapping up. All of a sudden you feel uncomfortable when you notice the doctor's eyes dart away to avoid making eye contact. You can feel his energy becoming tense and nervous. As a result, you're becoming tense and nervous.

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Appearing reluctant, he says, "I'd like to do some routine labs to test your cholesterol."

You sink in your chair with your stomach doing flips, wondering what could possibly be wrong. You think, don’t physicians order labs all the time? I wonder if something is off?

"What's wrong?" you blurt out awkwardly, hoping to get relief from the thick tension.

The doctor winces and clears his throat. "Um, well, our phlebotomists in the lab are feeling very squeamish today about needles. I feel reluctant to send you for labs because everyone in the lab is so uncomfortable about drawing blood.

Can you imagine a more ridiculous thing to happen at the doctor's office!? You may not have thought of it this way before, but this is how you have set up prospecting to feel for your clients and prospective clients. They rely on you, the leader of the meeting and the professional, to set the tone and to guide them through the process in a normal and comfortable way.

When you are in Sales School you are trained to prospect as an everyday, standard business activity. Everyone is taught this. In no way are you a freakish outlier asking for Qualified Suspects under the cover of darkness!

So, why are you acting like the physician this imaginary scenario? You, too, are internally wincing, squeamish, nervous, tense and uncomfortable when you prospect. Your client simply mirrors your energy.

Since the year 1857 Northwestern Mutual has been built on prospecting. Referrals have been the primary marketing vehicle. In fact, the company slogan used to be “The Quiet Company.” This fantastic company is most known through having been shared from one person to another (and amongst sports fans, of course, from the many sponsorships in recent years). There are thousands of advisors who have gone before you. They have prospected and lived to tell the tale!

It's time to normalize prospecting!!!

Imagine that you start the client relationship in the first meeting by explaining how your practice works. “Our company has been around since 1857. It is built on word-of-mouth, not expensive advertising. We rely on our clients to introduce us to other people. Every time you and I meet, I will always ask you if you have thought of anyone I should talk to. Sometimes you will think of people, other times you may not.”

Or, what if you create a standard agenda for every type of meeting that you hold that always includes prospecting? You announce that it will occur during the meeting. People who need time to think before answering questions will have more time to ponder your question. It is presented as a standard part of every meeting, just like all of the other parts of your meetings when you act perfectly normal. In fact, it’s hard to think of a profession that asks so many questions about death, loss, aging, disability, financial fears and other scary topics. The irony is that Financial Representatives are usually fearless when asking those tough questions, but turn into a quivering wreck when asking for an introduction!

Should anyone object, ask yourself:

If you are managing your own energy and emotions, normalizing the process, including your client in the steps so they feel a sense of control, practicing your technique by always asking and making prospecting feel as normal as drinking water, I’m guessing it will go just fine. We have only to look at the thousands of Financial Representatives that have gone before you for proof.

Coaching Tip If you have all kinds of head trash about asking for referrals, that may explain why you turn into a ball of nerves when it’s time to ask. Here are some of the most common thoughts that stop FRs from asking: “Prospecting will ruin the client relationship.” “I may lose a case if I prospect.” "Prospecting makes people feel uncomfortable." “I haven’t earned the right to ask yet.” “Once I prove myself I will ask.” “I don’t like to ask for help.” “Asking for help is weak and selfish.” “I may have to face rejection if I ask and I hate conflict.” “I always run out of time.” “I often forget to ask.” “I will ask next time.” Working through any of these thoughts (and others that you may be experiencing) is the key to clearing up the discomfort. You can do that using many of the tools in this blog or by seeking out coaching for help.