Imagine this conversation between a sales manager and his rep:
Sales Manager: So tell me, what’s the biggest challenge you have when you’re looking for new business?
Rep: (listen for the whine in their voice) No one calls me back. I send emails, I leave messages and all I get is dead air. It’s very frustrating.
SM: How many times do you reach out and how often?
Rep: I’ll usually call once or twice and send an email or two and if I haven’t heard back by then I say screw it. I’ll call or email them every day, sometimes once in the morning and again in the afternoon when I haven’t heard back.
SM: So you try three of four times before you give up?
Rep: Yep. There’s lots of fish in the sea so I move on after a few tries, but ironically the same thing seems to be happening over and over.
Imagine that, the same thing keeps happening over and over again. Ever heard the definition of crazy? Doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Sales is not a walk-in-the-park, no matter what anyone might tell you. And finding people with the right mindset to be successful isn’t always easy. If you don’t believe me, check out these stats from a conglomeration of sources:
- 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
- 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
- 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
- Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on the third contact
- 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
- 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact
The question then is what can you do to increase your odds of connecting with prospects long enough to engage them? Here are things I’ve done over the years that helped me get to the right people:
- Variety is the spice of life so mix up your tactics. Use the phone, email, snail mail and carrier pigeons. If you start with an email, follow up with a call, then perhaps lumpy mail (a bulky envelope or package the recipient feels compelled to open that may have a promotional product and handwritten note inside), another call, reach out on social media, email, rinse and repeat. Always connect the dots by referring to one of your previous calls or the promo product you sent or an email to help them remember who you are.
- Don’t stalk or harass potential customers and wait at least two to three days between each contact, but no more than a week giving them time to respond since you probably aren’t at the top of their priority list.
- Don’t whine. Prospects don’t care you have a spouse and three hungry mouths to feed. You’re an interruption in their life and if you can’t solve a problem, don’t expect a return call.
- Research your prospects. Know enough to be dangerous and show the value you bring to their organization and why they should meet with you. And never, ever, ever talk price on initial contacts. If the only way you can sell is to offer the cheapest prices on your product or service, success will be ever elusive.
- Use social media. Linkedin is a fantastic way to find people in your network who can offer valuable insight into a prospect. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Periscope all can be used as selling tools to gather information or comment on something posted. And this might be an appropriate time to mention how important it is not to post stupid stuff on the social media accounts you use for business. Political and religious comments are verboten along with pictures that might not be flattering. If you don’t think prospects are researching you as well, you’re delusional.
- Patience is a virtue and based on the stats above, most sales people have the patience of a gnat. Understand you might get the occasional prospect on the phone the first time, but that will be an anomaly. When you start the process (which should be ongoing by the way) it may take two or three weeks to make an initial contact and perhaps a few more weeks before an actual meeting takes place. So hang in there and know that good things come to those who wait.
- Most of all be professional. Keep emails and voice mails short and to the point, always check your spelling, say please and thank you, find commonalities and follow-up.
Prospecting is tough and the hardest part might be the persistence it takes to get through to a potential prospect. “Energy and persistence conquer all things” according to Benjamin Franklin while Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” So if you show up and are persistent according to Ben and Woody, you’ll be well on your way to finding new customers who will keep your spouse and three hungry kids well fed and happy.