Prospecting Doesn’t Have to Feel Gross

I’ve always believed in the value of prospecting.

Of reaching out directly to the people I’m looking to serve, instead of waiting around for them to discover me on social media, my podcast, or my blog.

Relying completely on inbound tactics leaves too many good options off the table. Being able to reach out and start conversations opens up nearly endless opportunities to proactively build your business.

That said, for most of my career, I hated actually doing direct outreach and prospecting. Just the thought of cold-calling or cold-emailing strangers would send me spiraling into a dark hole of anxiety and shame.

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Anxiety because I tended to picture the worst case scenario—I would call or email lots of people, they would all reject me, and my business would fail.

And shame because I wasn’t able to take the consistent action that I knew I was capable of.

At the time, I assumed that the reason for my resistance to prospecting was my fear of rejection and failure. As I worked to let go of those fears, I got much better at putting myself in front of prospects—at one point making over 2,000 cold-calls that resulted in a ton of new client work. I continued to lean into the discomfort of rejection and failure until it finally lost its grip over me.

But something was still off. It turned out that the deeper cause of my resistance to cold outreach was far more fundamental than fear of rejection.

The Authenticity Gap

Despite my attempts to connect with potential clients in an authentic and personalized way, my actual approach—what I wrote in my emails and said at the beginning of calls—felt a bit generic and spammy.

This wasn’t intentional. It was the inevitable result of following sales “best practices” that are all about techniques. Tricks that marketers and salespeople employ in order to hypnotize prospects into compliance.

Tricking them to open the email.

Tricking them to take the call.

Tricking them to listen to the pitch.

Keep in mind that my intentions for reaching out were pure. Selling at its best is completely in integrity with my values. I love “selling as service,” being curious, asking good questions, and truly understanding what matters to people so I can help them get it. I never feel fake when in a conversation with a prospect or client, and I don’t believe in using manipulative techniques to try to force things to happen.

But for some reason, when it came to cold outreach, I hadn’t yet figured out how to do it in a way that was in alignment with who I am as a person, and that matched my intention to help people solve problems.

The Impact of Inauthentic Outreach

It Creates a Bottleneck in Your Business’s Growth

The more uncomfortable it is to do outreach, the less likely it is that you’ll do it and the fewer customers you’ll end up serving.

It Turns Selling into Something “Bad”

We’re surrounded by examples of “tricky” prospecting. Not only do each of us typically receive a ton of it as spam in our email inbox, but a lot of sales advice online focuses on hacks and techniques to get prospects’ attention.

This immersion in the worst aspects of selling can create an unconscious belief that engaging in it is somehow inherently manipulative and wrong.

It Triggers Other Limiting Beliefs and Fears

If you’re already afraid of rejection, or feel like selling makes you a pest, then inauthentic outreach will only exacerbate those feelings. You’ll naturally expect to be rejected and treated like a pest—creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of actually being rejected and treated like a pest.

It Diminishes Your Perception of Your Work’s Value

Relying on techniques implies that you don’t believe that your work is worthy of a conversation. That people wouldn’t otherwise see the value in your offering unless you first hypnotize them with sophisticated marketing language. That we can’t simply reach out to people and connect with them in an honest, authentic way, talk about their problem, and how we might help them solve it.

Think about how quickly that perspective will undermine and erode your sense of the value of your work.

It Creates an Expectation of Resistance

If you’re assuming that you have to trick prospects into engaging with you, then you’re also unconsciously assuming that they don’t want what you have to offer.

Likewise, if you’re resistant to connecting with prospects because you’re uncomfortable with your approach, you’re also going to unconsciously assume that they’ll be uncomfortable with your approach as well—creating another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Align Your Approach Around Your Values

It is possible to build your entire outreach and selling approach in a way that’s 100% in integrity with the kind of person you really want to be.

When prospecting is no longer about techniques, your intention can simply be to spark conversations with people for whom you may be a good fit. You’re no longer wasting energy trying to overcome the resistance to doing things that are out of alignment with your values.

Prospecting with integrity:

  • Is about the intention behind your actions, and whether that intention is in alignment with how you’re presenting yourself.
  • Is focused on fundamental principles of influence like asking good questions, not techniques like clickbaity email subject lines.
  • Isn’t tricky or fake. It comes from an authentic, straightforward, honest, and sincere place—your curiosity about a prospect’s goals or challenges, and your desire to help them. Those issues could be explicitly stated on their social media or company website, or it could be something that you infer based on your experience with others in a similar position.
  • Acknowledges up front that you may not be a good fit for what someone needs. Being in integrity doesn’t mean that everyone will want to receive your emails or calls, that nobody will ever be annoyed that you reached out to them, or that you won’t be rejected.

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