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Is Your Follow-up Communication Guilty of Prospecticide?

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Like Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote,” I run into cases of murder everywhere I go. Unlike Lansbury who faced cunning villains who intentionally murdered, the cases I come across are unintentional, but with the same deadly results. Lansbury’s villains used guns, knives, and other assorted weapons; the killers I come across use words. She dealt with homicide; I deal with prospecticide, the killing of prospects.

Are you guilty? Are you one of the millions of salespeople who have committed one of the worst of sales crimes? Worse, are you a serial prospecticider?

Most typically, prospecticide isn’t a one-time crime. It becomes so ingrained in the perpetrator that they don’t even realize they are committing the crime. And just as with Lansbury’s villains, the prospecticider faces stiff penalties in the form of lower income, more difficult sales, and, possibly even the sales equivalent of the death penalty–having to find another occupation.

How do you commit this heinous crime? You commit prospecticide when you kill your prospects through communications with them that train them to avoid you because you’re focused on your needs not theirs. Your phone calls, your e-mails, your voice mail messages, and other communications are designed to advance your cause, not theirs.

Every communication you have with a prospect trains them either to pay attention to you because you bring value to them or to avoid you because all you do is waste their time.

Particularly in a long sales cycle, your communication with your prospect is crucial. Each time you send something, call, or leave a voice message, you are telling your prospect what you think their time and attention is worth. You’re telling them whether you’re concerned about them—or about yourself.

In addition, you’re telling them a great deal about you and your business. You’re telling them what your time is worth, what you think is important, and, most importantly, whether or not you have anything of value to say. You’re telling your prospect how professional you are—or how shallow.

Your communications, no matter what form they take, are you. Your letter, your e-mail, your voice message, your thank you card are all you, just without you physically being in front of the prospect. They are you and your business to the prospect. The message they send is just as important as any message you would deliver in person.

Before sending anything, before picking up the phone, and before leaving the voice message, ask yourself a few questions: • Would I want to hear from me? • Would I want to receive this? • Does this represent me well? • Does this add value to our relationship? • Is this designed to benefit the prospect—or me?

If your answer doesn’t indicate that the communication is prospect centered and adds value for the prospect, why are you delivering it?

Most salespeople seldom think about the content of the communications they deliver to their prospects. The object, they figure, is to keep their name in front of the prospect and to let the prospect know they are interested in acquiring the prospect’s business.

The issue isn’t with the salesperson’s objective, but with the way they do it.

Typical follow-up communications are • the “how ya doin’?” call • the “is there anything I can do for ya?” call • the “did ya get my package?” call • the “I couldn’t reach you, but I wanted to see if you need anything” e-mail • and the “here’s my information again just in case you misplaced it” package.

As most often made, these communications are time wasters for the prospect. If they had made a decision or if there were anything they needed, they would have called. These communications teach the prospect to avoid the salesperson because they’ve learned the salesperson will do nothing but waste their time. The next thing the salesperson knows, their calls are screened and their messages not returned.

Prospects don’t have their calls screened, ignore voice mail messages and e-mails, and throw written correspondence in the trash without reading it to be rude. They do these things because they have been taught by salespeople that answering and returning calls and reading the material salespeople send have no value. Salespeople have taught them to avoid salespeople at all costs.

Does that mean you can’t communicate with your prospects?

Certainly, you can. However, your first job is to teach your prospect that you, unlike other salespeople, value of their time; and that when you call, when you send an e-mail, when you request a return call, when you send a letter or package, it adds value for the prospect and that spending a few minutes speaking with you or reading your communications is worth the time spent.

What can you communicate that will add value for your prospect? There are a myriad of possibilities.

  • Articles relating to aspects of the prospect’s company or industry that may impact the their business. These articles must come from a source the prospect is not likely to have read.
  • Changes in your product or service that enhance your ability to meet your prospect’s needs
  • Articles or reports about micro or macro economic issues that may make it advantageous for the prospect to make a decision now instead of later.
  • Announcements of awards your company has won for its products or about new product enhancements or releases
  • Possibly the prospect or his/her company has recently received awards or press coverage or sponsored events you can congratulate them on
  • Articles relating to an interest outside of work you know the prospect has. Again, these articles should come from sources the prospect isn’t likely to discover on their own.
  • Special discounts, upgrades, or arrangements you can offer the prospect that are outside your company’s normal procedures.


These are just a small sampling of the items that can add value for your prospect. The more timely and pertinent the message, the more value it adds. The more value you add, the more valuable you become. The more valuable you become, the more you ease competition out of the way and the less price is an issue.

On the other hand, the less value you bring, the less valuable you are. The less valuable you are, the more difficult it is to reach your prospect. The more difficult to reach your prospect, the less likely a sale and the more likely you just committed prospecticide.

If you’re a serial prospecticider, there is hope. You can be rehabilitated. Yes, there is a chance for recidivism, but once you become aware that every communication you have with a prospect is just as important as your first, and once you see the payoff of becoming a respected and valued source of information, the less likely it is you’ll go back to your old murderous ways.

Do you want to be able to reach your prospect anytime you want? Do you want your calls returned? Do you want to move your competition out of the way? Do you want to eliminate price as a primary issue? Then stop teaching your prospects to ignore you and begin teaching them that you are the one salesperson they need. If they determine they need you and that you add value to them and their business, you’ll have no difficulty in gaining their attention anytime you want it.

Categories: General
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