As many sales professionals know, setting appointments with new potential customers is the life blood of building new business. Their constant goal is being in as many selling situations as possible however many times, sales professionals get bogged down constantly chasing prospects and never moving anything forward. For this most part, this isn’t the fault of the prospect. This is due to faulty training, where numbers become more important then strategy.
We have all heard the following approach:
“Selling is a numbers game. The more cold calls you make, the more contacts you have. The more contacts you have, the more phone calls you can make. The more phone calls, the more likely someone will answer. The more people who answer, the more chances you have to set an appointment. The more appointments, the more likely you are to close the deal!”
Now, this approach isn’t entirely wrong. The more contact you make with prospects, the greater the chance you have to set a meeting and close the deal. This approach however isn’t at all strategic. In today’s sales arena, sales professionals have other duties other then just making phone calls. Some might manage a current book of business while some, who focus solely on new business, might have different projects they are moving through the selling process. With this being the case, this “shotgun” approach to new business development isn’t conducive.
Sales professionals will have a list of 50 or so targets that they are wanting to attempt to qualify as a potential fit for their companies. Their main goal is to try and set a meeting. They will take that list, and try and call as many contacts as they can. Once they call the first 5-10 contacts, other duties surface and the call sheet is moved back into the folder. A few days later, when the sales professional has time, they get the sheet back out and move on to the next group. This cycle continues as they make it though their list of 50. Where’s the problem right?
The problem is that the numbers game, that is trained by so many companies, isn’t effective because each contact is only being touched once every few weeks. The likelihood of someone actually making contact with a prospect, when calling every few weeks, is unrealistic. At this point, the number of contacts you touch isn’t as valuable as the quality of the touches. The lack of success had using this approach causes sales professionals to dislike the process of cold calling, which then results in stalling sales growth in companies.
If we want to continue with the mindset that sales is a numbers game, then why don’t we focus our efforts in a different area. The more phone calls we make, the more chances we have to get an appointment, right? Well what if we take 10 accounts and focus our efforts on them for the two weeks we would have used to call the 50 on our list?
For two weeks, take the 10 targets you want to pursue the most. Make a “laser” focused effort to touch those contacts in any way possible. You have more of an ability to call 10 targets multiple times a day then 50. You could call each target 2-3 times. Then the next day, if in the area of a certain target, take a hand written note. After that, email each target. Then call again. Keep repeating this cycle as often as you can each day during the two week period until the target moves forward is some way.
Once you have spent the last two weeks with a “laser” focus on your 10 targets, review the list. Do you have any appointments? Did you determine that a few aren’t a fit for your services? Did any of the 10 move forward in any way? If they did, they stay on the list for the next two weeks. If not, you remove the 2,3,4 or however many off of the list and replace those targets with however many more gets your list back to 10. Now you have targets that are moving forward in the sales process somehow, and new targets you can begin to “laser” focus on for the next two weeks. After the two weeks, repeat the review.
The mindset behind this is simple. We are still focusing on the number game so many love, it’s just that our number game is more focused and strategic. This process also allows even the busiest of sales professionals to have some sort of plan for developing new business within their territory. You are also less likely to get bogged down and discouraged with this process, allowing you to focus on the small victories. (See No Guts, No Glory: How tough sales people push through tough times)
If all you do is new business development, this strategy will work for you as well. You might increase your list to 20 (probably should not go above that) and focus on those 20 for 3-4 weeks. You are able to increase your list because you aren’t having to manage any of the new business you are acquiring however, you might have projects to work on for your new potential customers and any more than 20 would not get the “laser” focuse needed. After the 3-4 week period, you would review your list, remove, add or keep, and begin the process again.
Sales is still a numbers game, but the game has changed. Changing your “shotgun” approach to a “laser” focus will help you set more appointments, close more business and help you stay motivated during the new business development process.
Don’t just be a sales professional. Be a professional at sales. Take control and win!