The Cure for PAB: Prospecting Avoidance Behavior

“There are dozens of books about prospecting. They’re all the same book, and they never work. This is the how-to-not-stop-prospecting book it’s taken me forty years to write.” Nick Murray in The Game of Numbers

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You may be a rookie or you may be a 20-year+ veteran in your business. Whatever stage you’re at, I’m sure at some point you’ve experienced an inability to make contact with enough prospects to keep your sales pipeline full. And you’ve rationalized your lack of prospecting with, “There are more important things I need to do.” Like:

• Answering emails and voicemails

• Sending out seminar invitations

• Working on your newsletter

• Preparing for reviews with clients

• Sitting in staff meetings

• Doing market analysis

• Training support staff

• Posting updates on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

• Etc.

All of the above fall into categories of marketing, customer service, research and/or training. Important? Yes, to varying degrees. But none are true business-building activities. If you indulge in them, welcome to the most common of all maladies in a personal services business: “PAB” – Prospecting Avoidance Behavior. You were hoping that you were so good that you could just “build it and they will come.” I hate to break it to you, but that’s the storyline from the movie Field of Dreams – for you, it’s an idea out of left field. Either you’re prospecting or you’re circling the drain.

So what’s the cure? Call in the “PAB Doctor,” Nick Murray.  His most recent book The Game of Numbers has been highly recommended by four of my clients, all of who are busy facing down this career killer. You can get it from At forty bucks, you may balk at paying so much for such a slim volume – don’t. 

Although Murray has geared his comments to Financial Advisors I think every sales professional would benefit from reading it. Let’s start with Murray’s definition of what behavior you must engage in: “A prospecting approach is a genuine attempt to start a conversation with another human being about your ultimately becoming his/her financial advisor.” Do you see how the activities I listed above all dance around this? Good – that’s base camp.

The Game of Numbers is divided into four parts, in sequence, with short, sweet chapters woven throughout. The descriptions below are taken from Nick Murray’s web site, as he can say it better than I:


Our ability to persist in a long-term, high-volume prospecting effort is primarily a function of the experience we believe we are having. Most of us unconsciously believe that when we prospect someone who says “no,” we experience the “pain” of “rejection.” Because there is so much “no” in high-volume prospecting, most advisors get taken out by the perceived pain.

This first section of TGON argues that this experience is entirely generated in our own minds: that “no” not only doesn’t hurt, but that it is in no objective sense rejection. It suggests that we can desensitize ourselves to this imagined pain by seeing that it is a result of our own anxiety. We can then reduce and ultimately eliminate prospecting anxiety by replacing it with a new belief system, based on prospecting from our most authentic self.


Belief dictates behavior. Just as a belief in the “pain” of “rejection” must cause its victims to stop prospecting, a belief in the power of prospecting with your own authentic self, combined with an unwavering faith in the efficacy of the law of large numbers, must lead to long-term success. It is a mathematical certainty.

This section of the book argues that it doesn’t matter how you prospect, whom you prospect, or what you say. It matters only that you prospect, and that you do not stop. Readers will finish this section completely liberated from all anxiety about prospecting method.


This section of TGON lays out a daily prospecting program based on the training program of an endurance athlete. In this methodology, you discover the basic level of prospecting your anxiety will allow you to complete. You standardize this into a daily program. Then, as you get stronger, you expand your capacity slowly but consistently – as a runner or a swimmer does – training, but not straining. 

This section also gives you specific methods of falling back to pre-established endurance levels, on those occasions when you find that you’ve tried to bring yourself along too quickly. Along the way, it develops a reward system in which you get instant gratification for the act of prospecting itself, rather than from the outcome.


This last section of the book develops a series of specific skills, including a variety of very low-key conversation-opening scripts, non-threatening offers that get appointments, and thought-provoking ways to handle Q&A/objections.

BUT WAIT, as Ron Popeil would say – there’s MORE! Murray covers a host of ideas that can help you ward off PAB, including:

Personal responsibility  If you don’t have enough clients, or the right kind of clients, the problem is not your industry, or your firm, or the economy. It’s YOU. Other people have made it under the same conditions you have – quit whining and pick up the phone.

Courage  You made the bold decision to forego a salary and be paid on effort. So be courageous enough to face down your fear by regularly seeking out people with whom you can share your offering.

Activity  Business is about doing, not about knowing. Got a lot of high-falutin’ letters after your name on your business card? They don’t mean squat to prospects. You can always find plenty of people/resources to answer questions you can’t – no one but you can close a deal.

Rejection  It doesn’t exist, except in your mind. Other people simply say “no.” The myth about successful people is they get less “no” responses – the truth is they are willing to get more because they don’t attach any meaning to them.

Exercise  Inspired by his triathlete daughter, Murray encourages you to work out in the morning so you can let the endorphins battle the PAB monster when you get to the office.

Gratitude  Nick Murray shares his grateful attitude for the many life blessings he’s had, encourages you to do so as well, if nothing more than sending off hand written thank you notes to people. Along the same line, he encourages you to tip service workers generously, along with kind words of praise – does wonders for your attitude.

Faith  Murray doesn’t stoop to bible thumping but does confess a bias to believing in The Great Whatever. Couldn’t hurt – believe it if you need it …

Nick Murray claims this book is a “love letter” to those who are either first starting, or who are “re-starting” (in the case of those who have succumbed to a plateau of mediocrity) their prospecting effort. He’s a distinguished industry veteran who is willing to share the naked truth about how you will ultimately succeed or fail, as if a kindly father figure took you by your business hand and showed you the way. Not only will this book inspire you to action, it is both a fun and funny read — I gotta love a guy who cites Napoleon Hill, Aristotle, Casey Stengel, the movie Jaws, Dick Vitale (“Dickie V. Baby!”) AND the Grateful Dead (???), think you will too.

Let me go on record: The Game of Numbers is the first book (after Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich) you need to read if you intend to have a thriving personal services business. It will now sit forever on my desk as a trusty sledgehammer for all of my clients who are “PABbing it.” (Not to mention the guy I see in the mirror …)

Take my word — if you follow the PAB Doctor’s prescription, you’ll never again let this career-killing disease paralyze you. Do yourself a favor and pick it up – you’ll thank Nick Murray later.

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