If you want to make more sales, you should be following up fewer people.
Wait! Hang on! I keep hearing that sales is a numbers game.
Let me share a story with you that may have you seeing the truth in the above.
One of my first sales roles was selling software over the phone. I started out a bit wobbly, it took me a full month to close my first sale. (The rule in that team was that if you didn’t produce a sale in your first month you were out. No excuses.) Fortunately, I worked out what I was doing and I cracked the top of the sales board in our team of 8, within 3 months of starting. I stayed in the top one or two spots until they promoted me and moved me to a different country (that’s a different story).
There was a lady named Sally in this sales team and she had been with the company for years and everyone liked her. No one made more calls or worked harder than Sally. Sally would fill her calendar with over 100 follow-up calls a day, every day of the week. Sally would be on the phone early and stay late, she was never off the phone. Everyone seemed to be in awe of her work ethic, however, she was only ever in the middle of the pack. I on the other hand usually only had about 20-30 calls to make and had plenty of time to spend time with clients on the phone talking about unrelated things (building rapport), having a coffee or going outside for a smoke break. (People still smoked 20 years ago).
But, as I passed Sally for the second month in a row I started to wonder how a person working so much harder than I was not closing more sales. Early in my career, I was also told that sales was a numbers game.
Learn from Everyone
So how did I pass Sally and the rest of the team and rise to the top of the board so quickly?
One thing I have always done is taking time to listen to and learn from my colleagues. Rarely will I invest that time without picking up a gem or two when they are presenting the product or following up with a prospect. Listening to your co-workers is a fantastic way to grow your knowledge.
What was Sally doing when following up her prospects?
A typical conversation Sally was having consisted of answering some questions relating to the product and then launching into a “pitch” that ended with the suggestion that Sally sends some more info. The call ended with Sally thinking that the client was interested and she sent the information in the post (I told you it was a long time ago). Sally, as a good salesperson does, continued following up the prospect. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the prospect had not received or read the info, Sally would offer to send it again and “follow up” in a few days’ time. This would often go on for weeks.
Time is the enemy of sales and the excitement would get drained out of the interaction.
So, what was Sally doing wrong?
- Qualification – Sally was happily sending information to everyone without understanding what may drive that particular prospect to buy.
- Opening with an irrelevant question. Unless you work for the post office and mail delivery is your KPI, asking about whether the mail had arrived is useless.
- Gaining no commitment – Sally was not making it the job of the prospect to read the information. This is a subtlety that most salespeople miss. Most will send out information or proposals and say to the client that they will follow-up. Making it the job of the salesperson to always be working and the prospect is a passive participant in the interaction.
On the other hand, the top salesperson (until I got there) always did these three things.
- Qualified as if his time was as valuable as the prospects time. In those days he called it the MAIN game Money, Authority, Interest, Need. If he did not hear these four, the info pack stayed in the mail room.
- Talking about what matters – He never asked about the mail arriving. He spent his time talking about the product and the benefits the prospect would derive from ownership.
- If information did get sent out, he asked for the clients’ commitment to call him back.
Side note – When following up with a client after sending information, open with “Hi, its Matthew from Velocity Selling. I am calling to continue the conversation about how you want to cross that $10 million in sales barrier”. This snaps them back into the mindset they had when they enquired with you. It reminds them of the outcome they will get from working with you or buying your product.
I moved to a new country and don’t know what happened to Sally, but the lessons I learned in that role have stuck with me over the years. Sales is not about your features and benefits statements, the mail, your proposal or even the numbers. It’s about a mutual exchange of value.