Gone are the days when the best prospects were storefront businesses lined up along Main Street. Back then, a salesperson could simply wander in, looking a little like a shopper, and have reasonable hope of engaging in a productive conversation with the proprietor. Today’s prospects look almost entirely different, ranging from less-accessible big-box and chain retailers to exclusively Web-based businesses to insurance providers, educational institutions, investment offerings, group medical practices, personal technology devices, and more—none of which can be approached casually.
And, just as you can no longer simply drop in, so too have the email and voicemail paths to the prospect become hellishly difficult to penetrate. Between the human gatekeepers and the electronic ones, today’s prospects are very well insulated. Some screen salespeople out simply because there are too darn many of them, a multitude of people selling advertising this and marketing that. But others do so because experience tells them that most of these salespeople are a colossal waste of time: Given how easily prospects can access product information online, information that’s often more accurate and useful than what they get from salespeople, why would any prospect take a meeting with a salesperson?