Ed. Today, Claire Waggoner is going to talk about old school selling, about relationships and trust, and building them with persistence and patience. This is at the very core of relationship-focused selling and the selling skills you must practice to handle all of the different environments that you encounter.
It’s tricky to know when to push on with a potential customer who is not available or responsive, and when to let it drop. In our current environment, it seems that metrics are applied to figure this out for you. Make 8.4 phone calls without a connection and give up, or three scripted voicemails over six days without a return call and move on, or whatever your theory of prospecting is.
High velocity selling, they call it. And I guess it must work for some people and situations because it seems to be the sales process du jour.
I’ve never used that approach, so I can’t really comment on it. I’ve had it used on me, and I didn’t really like it. If it works for you, great. If you’re doing it because someone told you it works, maybe look at your goals and results to see if that is true. I will say there is not just one formula for this. Your business intuition and style have a great deal to do with success.
In my various sales roles, I could always define my market, and, with effort and research, identify potential buyers and their contact information. They were not specifically qualified leads, they were targets, customers who were getting competitive products and services from someone else. But I knew my product, and I knew their business (generally), and I knew the two would fit. I figured at the very least they should have my name and number, delivered personally, when it came time to make decisions affecting that.
Your own expectations in this regard are very important. If you expect immediate returns, then high-velocity might work for you. If you expect to develop long-term relationships with your customers, then their first impression of you will be very important. If that impression is impatience and greed, then the possibility for future results is greatly diminished.
Our own expectations are important to manage. I didn’t continue to call people month after month expecting them to necessarily buy something that month or quarter or even year. I called them to find out what was going on so when they did need to buy something, I was at top of their mind. And when they didn’t answer initially, I kept at it, politely and patiently. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been complimented by customers who finally did connect with me. They appreciated that they were valuable to me, not just the next name on my list.
I have always erred on the side of being too thorough rather than letting someone slip through the cracks. I ALWAYS maintained some kind of very thorough customer database, even when it was just a Daytimer. It’s much easier now with all the tools at our disposal and the ability to interact with e-mail, etc., so there is really no excuse for not being persistent – your computer/tablet/smartphone will remind you, and even dial the number.
The biggest buy I ever got came when an ad agency who had never done business with me before lost it biggest customer (HUGE LOSS!) and had to book all of the ad budget for the following year by the end of December instead of spreading it out over the next three quarters. I had called them religiously every quarter for years when it came time to book ad space, and every quarter they bought from my competition. When the crunch happened and they needed a known outlet, guess who they called?
That single buy was twice my total budget for all sales for the year. And that buy got me on the radar of the new ad agency and they became one of my biggest customers.
Persistance – it pays off.