The number one reason for failure in sales is an empty pipeline. The number one reason for an empty pipeline is the failure to prospect every day, every day, every day. This is the truth. A brutal, universal, and undeniable truth. But, of course, the truth, as the saying goes, is like poetry and everyone effing hates poetry. A few weeks back, my 24-year-old son was delivering a telephone prospecting workshop to a group of sales development reps (SDRs) who were all about his age. Early in the training, one of the reps pointed out that my mega-bestselling book Fanatical Prospecting, “Was written a while back.” And asked, “Is it even relevant anymore?” The young, always eager for the next bright, shiny thing and ready to chunk any ideas perceived to be “old.” That’s always been true from one generation to the other. ANY EXCUSE NOT TO PROSPECT What is also true though is that sales reps of all generations, for at least the past 125 years, have been willing to make any excuse, and I mean any excuse, to avoid the grind and pain of prospecting. And that’s exactly what this young man was seeking to do. He wanted my son to let him off the hook. To say that prospecting was old-school, that the marketing department should deliver hot leads on a silver platter and that he could while away the sales day sending asynchronous, automated email spam to prospects on his company’s sales engagement platform and call that prospecting. Mostly, he wanted validation that “that the telephone didn’t work anymore” and he could avoid talking to people. My son responded, “What do you think has changed in the past six years?” The young SRD shot back, “Well, nobody answers the phone anymore.” At that, my son pulled up his prospecting list for the day, showed it to the group, and said, “Ok, let’s test your hypothesis.” Then, he began dialing, right in front of the SDRs. In the first fifteen dials, he spoke to four decision makers and set two appointments. Then turned to the group and asked, “Any more questions?” Cased closed. As Elvis Presley said so aptly, “The truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” YOU CANNOT BE DELUSIONAL AND SUCCESSFUL AT THE SAME TIME Of course, there are loud voices, mostly on social media outlets, who shout that cold calling is dead, the telephone is dead, sales is dead, and one form or another of prospecting is dead – depending on which way the wind is blowing that day. Still others shout loudly from their “holier than thou” mountain top that robots and AI should take the place of people for sales prospecting activity. They argue that allowing these bots to spam stupid humans via email, text, and direct messaging is the secret to all present and future sales success. It isn’t. People hate robots and spammers. Put these two annoyances together and it only serves to turn prospects off and teach them to ignore generic, mindless robot messages. “Being loud,” says Mark Homer, in Uncommon Sense, “doesn’t increase the value or validity of their opinion. In fact, often by the very nature of being the loudest, those opinions are typically the furthest from reality.” The young sales rep in the story above is among the multitudes of sales professionals who are susceptible to these messages that pander to their fear and discomfort with interrupting strangers with prospecting activity. On a perpetual trip to delusionville and burdened by confirmation bias, sales professionals who believe that they can avoid prospecting seek out any information or excuse that contravenes the truth and gives them an easy way out. But you cannot be delusional and successful in sales at the same time. The results are predictable. Sales professionals who avoid prospecting spend their days at the Feast or Famine Amusement Park riding the desperation roller coaster. Abandon prospecting. Hide behind excuses. Complain that the leads are weak. Suffer with a thin pipeline. Sell from a place of desperation. Miss quota consistently. Get fired. Move on to the next sales job. Rinse and repeat the same loser behaviors. SALES SUCCESS IS PAID FOR IN ADVANCE WITH PROSPECTING The truth is: The more people you talk with, the larger your pipeline will grow and the more you will sell. And talking with people means you need to engage both strangers and existing accounts in conversations. If you don’t consistently prospect you will sub-optimize your income, fail and get fired. Prospecting is hard work. It is long stretches of pain and grind, interrupted by a few brief moments of elation. Prospecting is not blissful, fun, easy or an activity that you are likely to look forward to. It sucks and nothing will make it suck less. There is no easy button for prospecting. In Sales, success is paid for in advance with prospecting, and the rent is due every single day. Therefore, you must face the truth and make a choice for success or failure. Ultra-High Performance or mediocrity. Losing or winning. Some salespeople get offended when I confront them with these binary and brutal choices. I get it. The truth hurts and feels offensive when you are lying to yourself. Cognitive dissonance is a painful emotion. But the lies will cripple you. Never forget that the number one reason for failure in sales is an empty pipeline. The number one reason for an empty pipeline is the failure to prospect every day, every day, every day.