Blog Cover Image 1

How to stop avoiding your prospecting tasks

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/27/22 12:42 PM


Did you know that according to data from Hubspot, on over 100 companies, salespeople sent out 151% more emails since the pandemic started and got a 38% lower response rate? 

What makes this even more crippling is that 31% of salespeople still struggle to prospect - whether by email or phone. Worse still is that 75% of salespeople are also struggling to use social media for prospecting, according to sales assessment data from Objective Management Group. 

(See how your salespeople compare to your competitors for free with this sales performance assessment tool.)

As a sales leader or business owner, have you thought about how much that will increase your cost of sale and customer acquisition costs? 

Salespeople, managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs, will admit that prospecting is necessary, and we should be doing it often. Then why do we put it off? There are several reasons.

First, we put things off because of our present bias' because we desire to satisfy immediate needs and worry about tomorrow later. It is why we don't save enough or take better care of ourselves. 

One way to help reduce your present bias, have reminders of your personally meaningful goal around you.

And no- that isn't your quota. It's the future state of your success. So whether it is a family trip, the pride of being the best, or like me- new home renovations- keep reminders of those future things around you.

We Procrastinate our prospecting tasks to push away unwanted feelings they bring up.

Prospecting can feel like dating, full of the fear of rejection, the pressure to make a perfect first impression, and the uncertainty that the right person is out there. As business owners and sellers, this intimidation can make us avoid it and wait for people to come to us. 

Very few people in the world don't have "Call Reluctance." I mean, who likes to get hung up on?

I've coached Business Development Reps and Sales Development Reps whose job is to cold call all day long and have been called explicit words, been hung up on, and felt like a horrible person. I can also tell you that their world didn't end, their dogs still love them, and someone out there needs your help- even if they don't know it yet.

You see, when we don't take into account that the task we are about to do might be uncomfortable, then it is- it is easier to quit or put it off. We overestimate our willpower to make it happen, no matter the obstacle- even our discomfort.

Here's the thing about procrastination: Our negative emotions towards prospecting tasks don't go away when we avoid them. Those emotions feed on themselves and grow fast.

Say you put off prospecting. You want to get it right, but you are worried you will turn people off.

Of course, the more you delay, the less time you have to do it. As the end of the month approaches, you don't just doubt your ability to prospect- you also feel overwhelmed about the amount of work involved, and you're stressed at the thought of not getting it done in time.

You know you've created a sticky situation for yourself, but you care more about the temporary peace of mind that avoiding prospecting gives. It's this fleeting peace that generally reinforces the procrastination loop.

But do you feel better? Probably not. You've likely noticed an undercurrent of anxiety rippling through your waking (maybe even your sleeping) thoughts. I know when I procrastinate because it will cause me to have my recurring anxiety dream when I am the only person working in a restaurant full of hungry people and have to figure out how to cook, bartend, and serve all at the same time. And therein lies the rub.

Procrastination is like a harmful drug that's difficult to escape.

The temporary reward of putting something off reinforces your desire to do it again — even though it creates further problems.

To break the cycle- stop beating yourself up over the fact that you pushed it off to begin with. Accept that you'll probably have some uncomfortableness involved in the task you're about to do.

You are probably going to say the wrong thing at some point. You will stumble over your words. It is going to be messy. And that's ok, which brings us to the last thing that causes us to procrastinate prospecting:  


Hi, my name is Carole, and yes, I am a perfectionist. At least according to nearly everyone around me. I think I am detail oriented and constantly looking for ways to improve. Good enough is never enough.

Perfectionism is a sneaky little bugger, let me tell you. It whispers in our ears that it has to be perfect or won't work. It tells us that if we slow down and do it just right- it will be worth it. It compares our failures to others' successes and says, "See? You aren't good enough yet. Get it right before you make a fool of yourself."

I know those voices all too well. I have allowed them to get in my way of finishing my damn book for five years now.  

To put your perfectionism in its proper place and prevent procrastinating your prospecting tasks, try out one or a few of these daily strategies:
Stop the comparison game.

Whether on Instagram or TikTok, Facebook or TV ads, even your neighbors, relatives, and friends. Stop looking at their accomplishments as something you could be or should be doing. Their path is not your path. Their goals are not your goals. No one ever won a race looking sideways. You are more likely to lose because you ran into a tree.

Whenever I read a book on sales that I liked, I would think I needed to do the same or better. I compared my book to theirs and, as a result- never finished mine because whatever progress I made wasn't good enough compared to theirs.

Be kind to yourself.

Tell that voice in your head to start changing its tune. Find the bright spots in your work, the places where things went well. Embrace the imperfect things because those are the things that make you- you. How bored (and boring) would you be if you were perfect? Learning to do something new that stretches you (like writing a book) will likely manifest those voices telling us what we are not and aren't enough.

The things I would say to myself while trying to write this book are things I wouldn't say out loud to anyone. So why am I telling them to myself? When I recognized the thoughts as the trolls they were, I replaced them with some kinder ones. 

Slow it all down.

Meditating was one thing I had neither time nor patience to practice. How does sitting around and breathing help me get something that I need to accomplish? No one ever accomplished anything by sitting around! It wasn't until I started practicing mindfulness, yoga, and meditation that I began to see that it wasn't about achieving perfection as some future state but seeing and accepting the present moment as perfect. 

Give yourself deadlines.

I know it seems counterintuitive to the previous point, but by giving yourself a deadline on a project or task- you must have a stopping point. You can't keep obsessing over the details for all eternity. It may never be perfect, but it can be good enough to turn it in or get started and then allow it to evolve from there. By giving yourself a deadline, you are opening your mindset to the idea that everything is an experiment. And by doing so, not only do you keep your perfectionism in check, but you also feed a growth mindset.

Setting a deadline with my publisher is the best thing I could have done for myself. Otherwise, I would still be obsessing over this chapter. A deadline with someone else is a commitment device that you can use to limit how much time you spend obsessing over the details. 

Play outside your box.

This one comes straight from my therapist, who told me to read about Breene Brown's research on perfectionism. When you are a child at play, you aren't worried about getting it right or what other people think- you are just in your little world playing to your tune. As adults, when we step outside our usual boxes and play imperfectly, it opens our minds to the inner child again- the one who had fun and didn't care what people think.

For me, it was taking horseback riding lessons. I hadn't been around horses in over 20 years, so when my son started, I joined him. Flopping around a horse like a rag doll the first few times and laughing didn't give me time to worry about how I looked or how well I was doing. I was trying to figure out how to stand and post while at a trot. 

Do not expect to eliminate your perfectionism and procrastination.

That would just be feeding into it. Instead, expect and accept that there will be times when it happens. When it does, be brave, dig deep, and don't hide from your task. Brave people struggle too. They don't hide from things- they take them head-on. And isn't that what procrastination is: Hiding from the things that scare us? 

You can either be too strong to fail or too weak to try. The choice is always yours. 

Which of these procrastination prevention practices will you try out? Do you have a method you use to prevent procrastination? Comment below. If you found this helpful, subscribe to get updates and share them with those around you. 

Until next time, keep learning and sharing out there. 

join me, Carole Mahoney, author of the upcoming book "Buyer First: How to Sell The Way People Buy," on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at Noon ET & ask me anything about how to:

  • Shift our mindsets
  • Develop the skillsets
  • And align how we sell with buyers

Details & REgistration info

Topics: sales performance, prospecting, productivity