I’m almost embarrassed to use this sales tip, however, I keep running into sales people who really think they can make a large B2B sale with just one sales call. If you ever do run into someone who wants to buy a complex product or service on the first visit – well, you better start looking for the problem that is about to hit you in the face. I’ll bet you they can’t find anyone else to sell them anything due to lousy credit or something along those lines.
Here is the real story. When I first started in B2B sales, it would take a minimum of four touches to be successful. As time went on it moved to five touches and then seven became the magic number. Today, the magic number is somewhere around ten touches! So how do you manage making a minimum of ten calls to make one sale? (* point of reference here – we are talking about major sales to large accounts, we are not talking about a small personal item sale.)
Here is where knowing your sales process comes into play. You should have a clear understanding of your sales process – how long it take, what are the critical milestones in the process, and how many people on average get involved in the process, including the decision making process?
The answers to the above questions will give you an idea of how to manage your sales process. Here is the important key… “All the touches do not have to be face to face.” This is where an automated customer database system becomes you tool of choice. An automated system will take care of numerous customer or prospect touches. You can include such things as follow-up letters from actual visits, white papers on the industry or processes the prospect uses in their everyday business, inquiry papers or checklists for the prospect or customer to fill out, or any known special request that you routinely make of customers or prospects. These can be in the form of direct mail, emails or phone calls as well as visits with data in hand.
I was told once by an sales and marketing mentor of mine…
Voss, start paying attention after the fifth touch because some people move faster than others. If you have done an excellent job with your “copy” in letters and emails, trust and rapport are already beginning to build. Really begin watching for buying triggers after the eighth contact or touch.
That advise made all the sense in the world to me, and I watched for the trigger signals from new prospects and the existing clients can move much faster due to the positive experiences and performance in the past.
Okay, why is it taking so many touches with prospects today? Good question and there are multiple reasons for the longer sales cycle. Here are some of the reasons…
- To many commercials have made your prospects insensitive to your first attempts at contact.
- To many bad sales people have called on them making them uncertain in their dealings with new sales people. (Bad sales people is not a reference to “bad people” – it is a reference to poor sales skills and methods.)
- Little to no trust being built with the prospect before giving a sales presentation.
- Prospect has access to more information about products, services, forums discussing everything about your company, product performance, recommendations, etc. – They sometimes know more than you about your product or service.
- More choices, making the buying decisions more difficult or complex thereby slowing down the process.
- If the prospect has never purchased anything like what you are offering, then expect the process to go longer since the perceived risk is much higher.
These are just some of the reasons and there are additional factors that cause longer sales cycles. Your job is to understand your sales process, identify key milestones that have had favorable influences on past sale cycles, and attempt to automate as much of the routine steps as possible. This is called leveraging your time.