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Custom Growth Solutions, LLC | Sandler Training | Oklahoma City, OK

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Your time is valuable. So why are you wasting it when you're prospecting? Quit doing the wrong type of prospecting!

One of the concepts we help our clients understand is active prospecting versus passive prospecting. Based off the names alone, you probably already realize that passive prospecting takes less work but is also less effective. Conversely, active prospecting takes more work but is more effective.

Yet all too often, we fill all our time with passive prospecting activities simply because they’re easier! It's only when our pipeline is completely empty that we're willing to make the switch to active prospecting.

Yes, passive prospecting activities have a place. But it's pretty common for people to wait until their pipeline is completely empty to add active prospecting activities to the mix. If you want to keep your sales pipeline full, you need to keep a balance between active and passive prospecting.

Let's look at an example of passive versus active prospecting, what the real difference is, then I'll share some resources we have available.

Prospecting at trade shows

Trade shows can be a great example of how people waste tons of resources with passive prospecting. If you’re like many organizations, you go to a trade show, gather a list of names, then after the show that list sits in a drawer. Finally your pipeline starts to dry up, so you pull out the list and start emailing or calling people. For some reason, none of them are interested any longer.

Big surprise, right? If you wait too long to contact people on your trade show list, the opportunity will have passed for most of them! It may have been weeks or even months since the trade show, and those prospects have either found someone else to do business with or just aren't interested in your product or service any longer.

Talk about passive!

What if you made a plan to be active instead? Contact people before the trade show to arrange meetings, meals together, and other ways to connect during the event. Immediately send thank you cards before you even leave the event. Then after the trade show, follow up the very next week with clear next steps.

That’s completely different than how most organizations handle trade shows!

Active prospecting vs. passive prospecting

Just like the trade show example, really all prospecting activities fall into one of the two categories: active or passive. And some activities can fall into either category depending on how you actually do them!

Active prospecting includes activities over which you have control, you can measure, and you have results that you can track. This category might include cold calls, referrals, networking, talks and seminars, or targeted mailings.

Active prospecting has a lot in common with S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Result-oriented
  • Time-bound

Similarly, active prospecting should be measurable, have results you can track, and be activities you have control over.

Passive prospecting includes activities where you're waiting for someone else to react. Direct mail is a good example, because most direct mail pieces don't generate an immediate response. It's generally not cut-and-dried for a specific time frame or call to action, unless it's a time-sensitive coupon or an upcoming event. At the same time, networking and referrals can also be passive prospecting.

Change passive prospecting activities to active prospecting activities

Referrals are a great example of a passive prospecting activity that can be changed to something active.

How many times have you seen in someone's email signature, "The best compliment you could give me is a referral?"

What type of prospecting activity is that? Passive, of course!

That person is sending out his normal emails and waiting for someone to spot that line in the signature right when they happen to have a referral.

Instead, consider these activities that are more active:

  • Asking a client if they can introduce you to a specific person they're connected with on LinkedIn
  • Meeting with a referral partner to go over each other's connections in LinkedIn
  • Inviting referral partners to events you believe they would benefit from
  • Making a specific number of introductions via email each week

See the difference?

Of course, you also need to block time out for those activities, have a goal each week or month, and track the results.


Worried about the pitfalls and traps that catch a lot of salespeople off guard when prospecting? If so, I have great news! We have a white paper that can help you learn to navigate the terrain. It will help you learn how to maintain determination and drive when faced with challenges prospecting.

You can download your free copy here:

Finally, you may want us to help you or your team get better at prospecting in general. It is the life-blood of sales! We help our clients improve through a number of methods including a classroom environment, one-on-one coaching, and custom group training.

If you'd like to have a conversation about any of those options, give us a call at (405) 844-1700 or email me at


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