5 Sales Lessons When Panning for Gold by Jae-ann Rock

Several years ago in July, my family and I took a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to do some SunStream imagegold panning for my birthday… We actually registered for a three-hour, organized class on “Prospecting for Gold.”

On the morning of the trip, we got up early, and left the house by 7 AM to drive two hours to meet up with the prospecting instructor at a beautiful, crystal clear stream in the White Mountain National Forest. Spending the day in the river would be welcome relief from the heat, and we were excited to find gold!

As the class began, the seven participants listened as the instructor taught us about the history of gold panning and several gold panning techniques. We were taught how to “pan out” the lighter sandy material, leaving only the heaviest smaller particles in the bottom of the pan – including the garnet, iron ore dust and, hopefully, GOLD. To pan properly, you must hold the pan at a steep angle down in the water, letting the water wash out the lighter material – but not too steep, or you’ll lose all the gold, too!

I was intrigued…Who knew there was so much to learn about gold panning?

Eventually, we each found a location in the river to begin our individual panning efforts. As instructed, I dug in the compacted soil areas of the river, filling my pan with debris. I sat down on a river rock and swished water around in my pan dozens of times to pan out the lighter material.

For the next two hours, I repeated this again, and again, and again, AND AGAIN. I found plenty of garnet and iron ore dust, but, alas, no gold.

Finally, I asked the instructor to show me an example of exactly WHAT I was looking for, so I’d know it when I saw it. He pulled out a small glass vile from his pocket. In it were four small flecks of gold colored material

“A day’s work”, he proudly told me.

Well, that was a shocker.

Feeling a little deflated, I decided to take a break and strolled back up the river to where our family friend, Harry, was working to improve his own panning technique. (Harry works a manufacturer’s sales rep. Like me, Harry has been in sales for many years…)

Harry saw me, sat up, and put his pan on his lap, looking exhausted.

“Well Harry, I guess it’s a numbers game.” I said. “Just like in sales, you have to sift through enough grains of sand to find the gold nuggets… Makes prospecting for sales look easy, huh?”

Harry chucked, “Well sales prospecting certainly yields a better result for your time than gold prospecting, that’s for sure.”

The class ended with instructions to check out a “big dig” operation going on downstream. There, people were bringing in motorized equipment to move large amounts of sand and debris through various sifters to locate the gold. We drove down to see the operation. It was a highly sophisticated, mechanized gold panning setup, including a flotation device, an actual river vacuum, some kind of motorized-spinning-gold-pan-contraption that automatically catches gold flecks in a cup at the bottom.

Turns out, the instructor had found his four gold flecks in one day using THAT complicated, mechanized setup. Hmmm…

The bottom line? Let’s just say that if you’re going gold panning in NH rivers, don’t expect it will make you rich. In the end, I had a fantastic day, but it was all about the experience of being out in nature with my family, not about the actual “find.”

This experience brought to mind an age old sales lesson – to be successful in sales prospecting (just like in gold prospecting), it’s still a number’s game. You have to sift through a lot of suspects to find the few gold nuggets – the qualified prospects. But there’s more to it than that…

Above all, don’t think you’re going to manually build a list of 20 or so targeted contacts, then market to them and find gold as a result. Just like with gold panning, pecking through small bits of prospecting material will yield small (if any) result. Think of the slow, ineffective process of pecking through LinkedIn as one form of prospecting. Looking for the “right” contacts in a specific industry, researching certain titles and job descriptions, identifying a common connection who MAY be willing introduce you to them…

Come on. REALLY? How far do you think you’re going to get doing that?

Do you honestly think that’s going to result in many sales? Using that process to find qualified decision-makers in your target market is the equivalent of manually panning for gold in a NH stream.

  • Little material sifted = little result. That’s no way to prospect if you want to strike it rich in sales.

Alternatively, consider moving a large number of decision-maker contacts (IN YOUR INDUSTRY) through your marketing/sales process. That’s like using a mechanized gold prospecting operation to find gold – but it will likely yield even better results! The more “material” you put into the top of the funnel (or marketing process), the more result it will yield. It’s as simple as that.

Partner with a high quality list company to eliminate all the time spent hunting, pecking, and researching to locate the people you NEED TO connect with. Doing so will effectively eliminate the first ten steps of the gold panning process for you. Instead, all you have to do is sort through the cup that has collected all the gold at the bottom!

So, the question remains: Did I find any gold nuggets during my excursion? YES, I did, but not where I thought I would.

Here are the gold nuggets I (re)discovered — Lessons Learned from Gold Panning:

1.)    Don’t quit your day job for gold panning!

2.)    If you want to feel better about prospecting for sales leads, try panning for gold.

3.)    In sales (and gold panning), it’s still a number’s game! –

You have to market and sell to enough qualified leads to find the gold nuggets – the qualified buyers with a present need.

Using a larger list will always yield better results that using a smaller list.

Don’t waste time pecking around to locate a small group of prospects.

For this reason, be sure to find a resource that can provide you with a large, accurate list of the decision-makers you seek!

4.)    You get what you pay for!

Using an inexpensive gold pan will not likely yield good results. Investing in “heavier equipment” is required to more effectively pan for gold.

Similarly, buying an inexpensive list of contacts will yield poor results. Investing in a high quality list in your target market will always yield better results.

To get the best ROI, work with a partner company that specializes in locating the decision-maker contacts you seek.

5.)    Your success is directly proportional to your effort.

You’ll get out of the process what you put into it.

Even if working with good “material,” gold doesn’t just jump into your pan. You have to sift through the material to find gold. You must work for it.

Likewise, even if you’re using a qualified list, sales opportunities don’t just jump into your pipeline. You still have to WORK the list.

Therefore, you must market to the list, call on the list, filter out the qualified buyers. Identify who may have a clear and present need for your services NOW, and nurture the rest.

Need Help?

If you need some help through the process, give us a call. We’re here to assist with your sales and marketing planning and execution, from strategy to results.

Let us help you get the results you WANT and NEED.

Call 888-887-0556 or email Jae-ann directly at: jrock@sunstreamgroup.com