Persistence is a vital skill that every sales person needs. It's been said that most sales are made after eight contacts with a prospect. However, most people tend to give up after just three or four attempts. Let's explore the behind-the-scene dynamics involved in a typical scenario.
Meet Mrs. Executive. Her day is booked solid, scarcely allowing her to catch her breath between each meeting. Some meetings are internal. Others are with clients and customers. And a few are with current suppliers or business partners. She has a dozen balls in the air and focuses most of her time trying to juggle them all and keep them in the air. She has several major goals she wants to accomplish this year but progress is slow because the demands on her time are non-stop.
Fortunately, she has an extremely competent executive assistant. Ms. Gatekeeper knows what projects Mrs. Executive is working on and does what she can to help her boss achieve these goals. She is very proficient at protecting her boss's time and has become adept at warding off unwanted calls, especially from sales people. Today alone, she has warded off fourteen people and it isn't even noon yet.
Today is your first prospecting call to this company. You believe that your solution will benefit them and you want to meet with Mrs. Executive to demonstrate this. You pick up the telephone and when Ms. Gatekeeper answers, you recite your well-developed opening and capture her interest. After a brief conversation you manage to schedule a telephone meeting with Mrs. Executive a few days from now and are given her direct number.
Fast forward three days. Your call with Mrs. Executive flows beautifully. Your pre-call research paid off and through effective questions, you learned additional information that gives you better insight to present your solution. Mrs. Executive requests an overview of your solution and you promise to email it to her within twenty-four hours. You also agree to discuss it with her next week.
The following week, you call Mrs. Executive at the scheduled time only to end up with her voice mail. You leave a brief message and tell her you will follow up shortly. You call again the next day and receive her voice mail.again. After some debate you leave another message but as you hang up the phone thoughts of self-doubt creep into your mind leaving you wondering why Mrs. Executive has not returned your calls even though she displayed interest.
Meanwhile, back at the company, Mrs. Executive has been responding to several unexpected fires and critical issues. Shortly after these problems have been resolved, the CEO dumps two additional projects on her plate and clearly states that these new projects are of highest priority. The other projects go into a hold pattern while she takes care of the CEO's demands. A few days later she is shocked to receive a letter of resignation from her right-hand person, the Director. She now scrambles to put into place systems and processes that will help her manage and deal with this unexpected void. Plus, she needs to begin the recruiting process to fill the gap. She is still interested in your solution but she simply does not have the time or resources to even discuss it right now.
Here's the dilemma. Do you keep calling? Or, do you leave a final message and tell Mrs. Executive to call you when she's ready to talk about your solution? So far, you have made five contacts with her which means you will probably have to make at least three more connections before the sale moves forward.
It is critical to recognize that executives are exceptionally busy. And while they may want to discuss your solution, other priorities crop up all the time. If you stop now, there is a good chance that she will forget about you and your particular solution when she is ready to move forward. Your goal is to keep your name in the prospect's mind and develop a "stay-in-touch" campaign. This can include email, voice mail, letters, and cards. Each point of contact should offer something of value and MUST be brief. Respect the decision-maker's time. Recognize that they have multiple projects on the go at any given time. Like you, they can only work on a certain number of them at once.
Many sales people close sales long after the initial contact simply because they have been persistent and executed a solid strategy and keep-in-touch plan. While the standard number of contacts is eight, this number is not carved in stone. You can rest assured that if you give up after three or four attempts, a competitor who is more persistent will eventually get the business. Are you willing to give business away or are you prepared to persist until you succeed?
Copyright 2007 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.