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Visualize a stack of 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper 4 inches tall. This is what I think of when I begin to reach out to a group of "suspects" to see if I can turn them into a prospect. My goal with this stack of suspects is to move them from the 4-inch suspect pile into 2 smaller piles - the yes pile or no prospect pile.

When you begin to outbound prospect, I say that everyone is a suspect and I refer to your prospecting list as the "maybe pile." Maybe they are a fit. Maybe they will be interested in what you sell. Maybe they will even buy. But at this point those are all unknowns, and they are just a suspect, not yet a prospect. It's your job to play amateur detective and uncover clues to help you determine if they are masquerading as a suspect but are really a prospect in disguise.

The way they get into the yes pile is easy - you connect with them and they agree to learn more and meet with you again. Thus, begins their journey through your sales cycle, more about that later.

The way they get into the 'no' pile has 2 paths. The first path is you connect with them and they tell you no. The second way to earn your way onto the no pile is to do nothing. They never answer the phone when you call, never reply to an email you send, and never accept a LinkedIn request or InMail. In short, they ghost you.

Let's take a bit of a deeper dive into the no pile. I usually suggest reps think of the no pile as really the Not Right Now or NRN pile. If you're fortunate enough to actually get a “no” over the phone, in person, or in an email reply be grateful. Remember, your goal is always to move 'em forward or move 'em out and your 2nd favorite word is actually no.

Even though you're grateful to not be wasting your time if they're not interested, I do recommend you make every effort to understand the why behind the “no” to help you determine if they are really a fit for what you sell (ICP). Is the no being driven by budget issues, bad timing, or not enough pain currently to justify spending money? If this is the case and they do fit your ICP, but the timing isn't right, then think of them as an NRN instead of a no. The reason is we want to handle NRNs differently. NRNs need to be nurtured and treated as future buyers instead of thrown away like last year's fruit cake. If they really don't fit your ICP or there is another compelling reason they will never buy, then wish them the best and move 'em out.

NRNs, most likely, just aren't ready to enter into the buyer's journey, but when they're ready you want to make sure that it's you, they call.

Make sure that you have a formal strategy for how you'll handle the Yes, the Nos and the NRNs.

The more process driven your prospecting process is, the more efficient you'll be.