When I started selling, one of the first things my manager shared was that ‘selling is a numbers game’. He further explained that if I was diligent about making 30 calls daily, striving for 4-5 face-to-face appointments per day, based on their averages I would realize 3-5 sales per week. He then asked me to choose either A-K or L-Z, handed me the phone book and said ‘good luck’.
For my training, he assigned me to a desk next to their top-billing seller affectionately known as ‘the bulldog’ and suggested that I listen, watch and learn from him. Following are the three biggest lessons I learned that first year, how they hold true today and how they’ve changed the numbers game.
Here’s what the veteran (name and station changed) would say when making calls: “Hi this is Carl from WEEE and since I’m going to be in your area next Tuesday I was hoping we could meet to see if we can make some money together.” He would begin each day repeating that same language 20+ times, day in and day out. Since most prospects hung up on him, I vowed to use a different tactic. The ‘aha!’ moment: it wasn’t enough to represent a respected brand, the prospect had to believe they would benefit by speaking to and and/or meeting with us.
To gain their perspective and learn about their business, I would have to ask questions. New questions would lead to new perspectives. No more one-sheets or statements about how far our signal reached, or how many people were listening unless those facts were important to the prospect. If they might ask ‘so what?’ then I wouldn’t make the statement. Another ‘aha!’: prospects always interpret our value propositions as sales propaganda.
Although I began to get more appointments, and prospects appreciated being in the spotlight, there was still something missing. The ‘numbers game’ wasn’t working.
Days filled by appointments with the wrong people weren’t bringing sales success. The third ‘aha’: greater focus was needed, our ‘ideal’ prospect had to be identified; we were meeting with people who had no intention of buying from us. What a waste of time, energy and resources!
Fast forward several years, add in technological advances, social media and a mobile target customer and, guess what? These three lessons still hold true. It’s still all about the prospect, not us; the prospect doesn’t really care about our claims to fame with other companies, they need to know how we’ll help them improve; now more than ever having a defined ‘ideal target’ is critical, focusing on fewer, pre-qualified prospects is better than filling your pipeline with suspects yet to be vetted.
Selling is now a whole new numbers game. Our business development behaviors must be more precise. Prospects are on the move today, so several different methods of communication must be used to reach them. We need specific plans for how we’ll reach out to them, with what medium, in what order, how often and with what message.
Prospects today are savvy. Before your first face-to-face meeting, they’ve checked you out on-line and formed an opinion as to whether you’re a thought leader in your space, or their best option. . If you’re not familiar to them, you’ll have to add several components to your marketing and business development processes to gain their attention and create interest.
Because anything and everything can be instantly researched, today’s purchaser expects you to know something about their lives, business needs and buying patterns before you approach them. Gone are the days when business owners will take the time to educate you about their business. Remove yourself, your company, your product/service from the conversation; make it all about them as it should be. Reading from a script and treating every prospect the same was never really acceptable, today it’s not tolerated. If business owners would find fewer, more targeted messages in their inboxes, they’d likely be inclined to return more phone calls and e-mails.
It’s time to re-think the sales numbers game you’re playing.
As you write your 2013 sales play book, consider creating three separate business development plans. One each for ‘touching’ prospects you’ve met and those you haven’t; a third to uncover opportunities for lift from current customers. With each, define when you’ll call it quits.
Once outlined, written and communicated, you’ll likely find that being precise about and measuring specific activities will lead you to greater productivity, referrals and sales.
This article was published in Greenville Business Magazine December, 2012.