The #1 Mistake Sales Reps Make When Prospecting Virtually

My opening premise for this topic may fall under the category of “hard pills to swallow,” but hear me out… 

As people, we are born self-centered; as salespeople, we take our “self-centered” ways into our attempts at prospecting and selling.  The purpose of this article is to reframe how sales reps should approach prospecting to improve their success rate. My hope is that this information will be beneficial to any and all reps who are struggling to fill their pipeline with potential new prospects

Before we jump in, if you prefer to listen to the info, check out sALES with ASLAN episode #21:



Reflect Before You Reach Out

Regardless of how you’re planning to reach out to your potential new customers, whether answering a call on the phone, smiling and dialing from your list, through LinkedIn or via a well-written email, your message starts with your Other-Centered® position

That’s where outreach starts: with crafting a position or OCP. 

Drafting your position starts with your answer to your prospect’s question:

Why should I give you my time?  

“Why meet?”

How you answer that question is really the key to it all. It’s the critical piece that so many sales reps are missing. The #1 mistake that reps are making is reaching out to prospects with a poorly crafted position (OCP), and not providing a sufficient answer to that question of “Why should I give you my time?”

For context, let’s go over some of the traditional prospecting methods that sales reps use when reaching out:


The “Show Up and Throw Up”

This method of outreach is solution centric or a “solution dump.” Basically the rep will show up and throw up a lot of information about their offering. This is the most common method we see in prospecting from reps across the board.

The problem here is the inclination to default to self. We all have our own whiteboard, the things we want to accomplish and sell, the numbers we want to hit, and these goals dominate our thinking. But this blocks us from being able to actually connect with a prospect. 

This “solution centric” approach works only if the prospect happens to be on the hunt for the exact solution that the rep is peddling. So even though it does work on occasion, it’s a relatively small percentage of the time – and has little to do with the rep and more to do with fortuitous timing. 

But this is what sales reps often do, they show up and give their company’s credentials to solve a problem that their prospect may or may not have. Statistics show that this approach via email has a 2-3% response/engagement rate and 0.3% success rate when cold calling on the phone.


The “Mystery” Person

These reps don’t give a whole lot of detail, or sometimes any detail, when reaching out to prospects. They might shoot off a message saying, 


Hey Scott, 

Call me! I think 

Talk soon, 

Name, Phone #


Or a call/voicemail saying:


Hey Scott, it’s [name] here with [company], and I’m looking for a brief opportunity to connect at your convenience. When you’ve got 2 or 3 minutes, feel free to give me a call back then.  My phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanks!


This may have worked at some point because our brain naturally wants to solve these “mysteries.” However, people are onto the “mystery call now” and it comes across as more of a ploy or even an irritating “salesy”  tactic. 

Some of these calls or emails are so conversational that they can give off the (false) impression of the rep and prospect having met before.  This can be a huge turn off, because people recognize gimmicks and will run the other way.

So this “mystery” approach, while popular, really doesn’t work either. 


Why Reps Hate Prospecting 

These methods are not working – which is why everyone hates prospecting. 

It comes down to this: these approaches aren’t working because they don’t activate the individual’s RAS (the Reticular Activating System). Located at the base of your spinal cord, the RAS is a collection of neurons that serve as a meeting point for signals from the outside world. It’s the automatic mechanism that brings relevant information to your attention, acting as a filter between your conscious and subconscious mind.


Only two types of messages make it through the RAS filter:


1. Something I know I need

This would be something that is already on the prospect’s whiteboard, a problem they know they need to solve, and is therefore already on the radar.  This is why the “Show Up and Throw Up” approach may occasionally work, simply due to alignment and timing, not necessarily on the rep’s ability to prospect or sell. 


2. Something I don’t understand

This is why the “mystery person” approach may have worked in the past, before it was recognized as a sales and prospecting tactic. If reps have information that the prospect may not know or understand, this is a crucial part in getting their attention through the prospecting process. 


Crafting Your Position

Let’s take it back to where outreach starts: with crafting a position that answers your prospect’s question:

Why should I give you my time?

What’s critical in getting through the RAS with your outreach and reaching the prospect is a well-crafted OtherCentered(R) position

When we think about developing an OtherCentered(R) position, as opposed to a solution centric position, there are really 2 key phrases that will help:


Start your sentence with “Because you…” 

Or phrased as a question, “Are you…?”


This will require you to do some research on your prospect. Basically, you lead with what’s on your prospects’s whiteboard. For example, open with:

“Because you are working to grow your sales organization from x to y…”

“Are you working…?”




“Because you just redesigned your website and are new to your position as VP of Marketing at [company]….”


The better you know your prospect, their role and their whiteboard, the more success you’ll have. Talk to them about them. Said another way, if you “show people a picture of themselves,” they will look at it. 

An OtherCentered position will naturally get through the prospect’s RAS, as compared to a solution centric approach, because it’s about them. 


What Next?

If you’ve found this information to be useful and want more, learn about our Virtual Selling Skills Program that helps teams improve. If you are an individual rep, check out our Other-Centered(R) Selling Online course.


As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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