Is consistency the secret missing from your sales success?

Take a look at the statistics behind how sales are made to uncover a shocking secret! – One that could be your secret sales weapon for success.

We have all seen the amazing moment when a sports team comes from behind just before the final whistle to score the winning goal. ‘Keep on keeping on’ is a sporting motto, but often it doesn’t happen as often as it should. This concept also applies in business but here it happens much less often.

One of the key elements of good selling is keeping on nurturing and developing relationships. The final whistle is only when the prospect says, “I definitely don’t want your product or service so please stop contacting me.” Until then there is always an opportunity to do business together and for you to provide value. However, many businesspeople in every sector make the classic mistake of giving up too early.

If you look at the statistics produced by the National Sales Executive Association in the U.S they make scary reading for any of us responsible for sales and in particular Sales Management; who may find their hair standing on end.

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect after the first business meeting;
  • 25% of sales people never make a second contact;
  • 12% of sales people only make up to 3 contacts and then stop;
  • 10% of sales people make more than 3 contacts;

To put it mildly, this is evidence of a huge waste of time, money and effort. If you have targeted potential customers properly and then spent half an hour (or probably more a lot more) with them, failure to follow through is like throwing money away.

Now if we contrast this fact with figures based on sales success, we get a very interesting story.

  • 2% of sales are achieved on the first contact;
  • 3% of sales are achieved on the second contact;
  • 5% of sales are achieved on the third contact;
  • 10% of sales are achieved on the fourth contact;
  • 80% of sales are achieved on the fifth to twelfth contact.

“Contact” covers meetings, letters, emails, phone calls – the works. The statistics are mainly based on sales to businesses but also include sales to the consumer.

Also, highly enlightening are the reasons why people stop buying from you;

  • 1% die;
  • 3% relocate;
  • 5% follow recommendations;
  • 9% find an alternative supplier whose products or service they perceive as better quality or value;
  • 14% are dissatisfied with the product or service;
  • 68% stop buying because of their supplier’s indifference: they take their business elsewhere because they feel undervalued.

In one sense those figures are scary, but on the other hand they represent an amazing opportunity. Because what is required to put this right is not difficult. Indeed, a big part of the reason why follow-up is done so badly is because people don’t realise, they are doing it badly.

Every person I have shared those figures with – in the sales and marketing world – has been amazed.

So, one key point to take away is: making lots of contacts delivers the goods – it doesn’t look pushy or, worse, desperate. In some business sectors from first contact to first contract may take a year and often more. But still people stop making those contacts.

If 68% of buyers move to a new supplier because they feel undervalued, you can reasonably suppose that a similar proportion don’t buy in the first place for the same reason. Staying on the case is tough, but it produces the results.

All too often salespeople are wasteful with leads, they will quickly move on always chasing the low hanging fruit. The perceived easy sale goes to the top of the pile regardless of the overall potential value of other better contacts. The result is that opportunities are wasted. Most sales managers spend half the day trying to get their guys to focus on realistic and achievable deals rather than running down the road to the next guy who might just have a budget with lots of zeros.

Business research has shown that many corporate projects simply drop down the priority agenda. The initially enthusiastic meeting, which doesn’t result in an order, doesn’t necessarily mean “no”; it could mean simply “not now”.

One client told me she never switches supplier till they have been chasing her for six months – “I want to know they are really serious” she said. So how many of your contacts may be adopting a similar approach?

An important point is to know is, how long does it normally take you from first contact to first order? If you don’t know find out, it’s worth discussing with colleagues and suppliers.

But how do you do the follow-up without turning yourself into a pesky stalker? This is very important because it is where most of the problem lies. Maybe you can’t think of anything fresh to say by phone or email, so you don’t bother. Because they are cheap and easy most people’s follow-ups are just calls or emails to keep in touch. But that is not enough, and this is where people go wrong.

Just like the best sports teams have lots of different ways of getting the ball in the back of the net so should you in business. I use and recommend to clients they write an old-fashioned personal letter. If you see a relevant industry article that would be of interest share it with them. You could also create a range of postcards as part of your communication arsenal to keep you top of mind. Why not attend industry events and meet up with them there, or invite them for demonstrations at your office? Offer to take them for a drink or spot of lunch. If you do corporate or charity events invite them along. You and your contacts need variety to keep things fresh and receptive to your message. Above all look to make your communication relevant, interesting and value driven. Focus your efforts on sharing fresh ideas and perspectives as this is the best way to demonstrate your value and create interest.

Then record what works.

Do you faithfully record what process of communication and contact works? If not, I strongly recommend that you start to.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was:

Ask why you got the order.

If you track your performance faithfully you will have a ready-made business structure which you can use time and time again.

One of the benefits of knowing these figures is that it helps justify your persistence. If you look back through your database its extremely likely that you will come across a number or prospective clients whom you didn’t follow up with properly. Contact them and apologise for that. You might quote some of the statistics mentioned here to justify re-starting your conversation! – you could find they are now ready to buy.

If a customer buys your service or products regularly or only from time to time, we need to remember that their business needs often change over time. Last year’s information may well be out of date and if you don’t maintain contact, you won’t know and could miss a valuable opportunity!

Peter Holland

Linear Structure Ltd

© 2019

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