By Scott Gordon, The Chief Revenue Officer
It never ceases to amaze me how many salespeople I meet that see their role in the sales process as one dimensional. All many of them want to do pitch and close.
Yet there’s so much more to professional selling than closing business. Don’t get me wrong, closing business is by far the most important thing a salesperson can do both for their own self interest (income & job security) and your company, yet it’s only one very small part of the job, and top sales professionals know this - which is one of the reasons why they are such consistent high performers.
Sales is a Marathon.
So, what else should a truly professional salesperson be doing other than closing deals? Well the short list is:
Like I just wrote above – Sales is a Marathon.
Take this graphic for example. It’s widely circulated on the internet, and in my personal experience of over 20 years selling and managing sales teams, it’s pretty darn accurate:
Even outside my selling experience and management experience, I relate to this slide as a consumer. I can recall several sales presentations over the years, where I was doing a home improvement and collecting multiple bids. Three that come to mind are: Window treatments, Garage remodel, and pool remodel.
In all cases, at least one of the bidding companies sent a salesperson who was charming, had the appearance of being knowledgeable about their product/offering, and presented me with a professional proposal. Several worked the ‘one call close’ angle hard, and in almost every case, the hardest closers had the worst follow-up. In fact, most had no follow up skills whatsoever.
After the initial pleasantries and presentations, at least half of them never bothered to follow-up with me again.
When I say never, I mean: not a phone call, not an email, not a text message – nothing.
As a professional sales manager, I want to call all of their bosses and advise them to never, ever waste another expensive lead on these people again. As a customer, I’m baffled. After all, they’re salespeople, right? Don’t they want the deal?
In the case of the Window Treatments project, our first visit was from a women who worked for a very large company that promises delivery of blinds and such in just a few days (oops, did I say too much?). She was knowledgeable and affable, and after she spent 90 minutes measuring all our windows, she informed us that she didn’t ‘high pressure close’ and would work up bid that she would email to my wife and me in a couple of days.
Okay, like many, I appreciate a consultative sale and rue the crushing one call close, so we amicably parted ways. A week or so passed, and we never received a bid. Did we call her to check on the status and whereabouts of the alleged bid? Heck, no. We called another company.
This is where it gets good. The salesperson from the other company arrived to present and take measurements. Not long into the meeting, my wife said, “We had this lady come from XYZ blinds last week. She seemed nice, but she dropped off the face of the earth.”
You know what the sales woman’s responses was? “I hear that all the time. I get most of my customers following her around. I don’t know what she does, but I wouldn’t change a thing.” (see my blog on Advertising for your Competitors)
Just as the graphic above illustrates, I (like most people) rarely buy anything on the first call. Yet most sales training (particularly in home improvement) is laser focused on one call closing.
It takes 3-4 follow-ups before I choose a company to go with. In my experience, if I get four bids, only one salesperson will stick with me through 3 contacts. 100% of the time, that’s the company I go with. The rest? Well, they just vanish.
For me, a salesperson’s ability to follow up tells me a great deal about how involved they’ll be with my project after the ink hits the paper.
My perspective as a customer is: If you become a ghost after the first presentation, I’d bet the farm that you’ll be a ghost after ink.
My perspective as a sales manager is: If you become a ghost after ink, I’ll end up dealing with your customer and any issues that arise later. Forget about what I think about pitching, missing, and bailing. Why in the world would I ever waste another lead on you? Coffee is for – well you know the rest.
How does your sales organization treat follow-up with prospects? Is it institutionalized? Is it tracked? If so, how?
I’m admittedly a poor one call closer, and I’m okay with that. My personal methodology dictates that I will systematically and professionally follow up with any and all qualified prospects until they tell me no, and even then, I assume it’s ‘no, for now.’
Most of my deals are won because I was the most knowledgeable, asked the most questions, and, most importantly, was the only one to complete the entire sales process – e.g. marathon.
I know I’ve lost deals to slick one call closers, but that number is dwarfed by the thousands I’ve closed by staying the course and outrunning them all. For me, it’s quite simple, 73% of my competitors never get past a second contact and 85% never pass a third. I may not be built for speed, but I am built for distance. You team should be, too.
Can your sales team go the distance? Sales is a marathon. It’s time to let your sprinters know that you know that there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Follow-up. The race starts… now!