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Are You Losing Your Edge? Don't let fear or complacency get in the way of prospecting for new customers.

By Barry Farber

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Complacency, lack of qualified prospects and fear of rejection and discomfort are just a few of the reasons salespeople are reluctant to make new sales calls.

One of the main reasons call reluctance sets in is because we might have experienced months, or even years, of success without making new calls--and now our prospecting skills have diminished.

I see this all the time. Maybe the industry you're selling in has gone through tough times or more aggressive competitors started taking away your account base. Whatever the reason, a dry pipeline sounds a clear a wake-up call--it's time to prospect for new business.

Here are five ways to overcome call reluctance and make sure it doesn't sneak up on you again.

1. Go visit a satisfied account.
Your passion and positive attitude about your profession are critical when making new sales calls. When you listen to how and why your customers benefit from your products and services, it puts you in a positive frame of mind and allows you to transfer that enthusiasm to the next call.

It also allows you to collect ammunition to use against objections. So when that new prospect says, "It's not in our budget," you can respond;

I can appreciate that. I was with one of my customers today who said the same thing at first, and when they found out how much money we saved them in productivity, it made up for the initial investment. I'd like to see if we could do the same for you.

So not only can you use the success stories--but you can use the confidence you've built up as your efforts produce results.

2. Prepare your pitch and benefits statement.
I've always said that if someone asks you, "Can you give me three good reasons why I should do business with you?" those answers should be right on the tip of your tongue. So I ask you, what are the three biggest reasons someone should do business with you? What's in it for them and what added value can you bring to the table that the competition can't? This exercise will help you create an elevator pitch that you can use when someone wants to know what you do. Completing the first exercise, visiting a satisfied customer, should also help you with this pitch.

3. Always ask for referrals.
Sure, there are good times to ask for referrals, like when a customer tells you how much she loves your product and doesn't know how she ever lived without it. But we should always be asking for referrals, even if the person we're talking to doesn't need our services. Why? Because you never know who they know.

If you've built any type of rapport, the customer usually volunteers that information. If not, it should be asked in this manner: "If you were in my shoes, what three people would you call on who could benefit from our products and services?" (If you're asking this of a satisfied customer, just add "like you did" at the end.)

Nothing warms a cold call faster than being recommended by a person the prospect knows and respects.

4. Feed your brain.
You bring about what you think about. Whether it's from reading or the people and environment you surround yourself with, there is nothing more powerful than learning when it comes to motivating your spirit and maintaining enthusiasm for life.

Some people think they know it all and don't need to learn anything new, and that's when they get into trouble. It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts in life. New knowledge keeps you fresh and focused--and can provide new tools and new ideas to sell and live better.

5. Manage your fear.
Fear is a funny thing. It's what drives people and also drives some people crazy. I interviewed Teddy Atlas, a world-renowned boxing trainer, and he told me;

Fear is like fire. When it's controlled, it'll cook for you, it will heat your home, it will do a lot of good things. When it's not controlled, it will burn up everything around you--consume everything. Same with fear. When it's controlled, it will make you better. It will make you prepare [.] it will make you do what you have to do to survive. And if it's not controlled, it will consume you just like fire; it will destroy you. You have to understand fear is an ally, not an enemy.

Make the fear your ally. Allow it to motivate you, to challenge you and to push you--just don't let it stop you dead in your tracks.Many times people will say, "I don't need to call on new business anymore because I get lots of business from my current accounts" or "people always call me." Then their business goes through a tough time and they're in trouble, not just because they don't have any new opportunities, but also because their prospecting skills have gone stale. It is in doing what we fear most that we grow.

Are you reluctant to make new calls? Then go out and rent the movie Rudy or Invincible, and allow yourself to get swept away by these stories of little guys who surmounted insurmountable odds. Do whatever it takes to generate the fire within to pick up that phone and dial that prospect. It starts with one call.

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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