March 16, 2009

The importance of Keep in Touch Mindset

Sales champions adopt a keep in touch mindset for all their valued leads and contacts, nurturing them to sales readiness and increasing their chances of success where a future sales opportunity does arise.

Occasionally you will strike gold

Sometimes you will leave a sales meeting on a high. The customer has a problem, is looking for a solution and yours seems to fit the bill.

Your timing has been perfect. A next meeting has been arranged and that will focus on a detailed examination of needs and requirements. All of a sudden your pipeline is one opportunity richer. Great!

But, most sales meetings don't result in an immediate sale

However, most sales meetings do not present immediate sales opportunities. At best they offer the vague promise of a future distant need, or perhaps no promise at all.

The company wanted to meet, and met the prequalification criteria applied to all your sales leads, but the result of the meeting is a kick back.

They buyer has said 'this is not a priority for us', 'we don't have a problem', or 'we already have a solution'. Perhaps there is a competitor already entrenched, or no available budget. Even more frustrating, maybe you know they need your solution, but they just can't yet see it (at least not yet).

Bottom line, you are going to leave lots of sales meetings knowing that the prospect is not ready, willing, or able to buy. Maybe they will never be - you just have had one meeting it is just too early to tell.

Maybe the next meeting will result in an order

Most sales people, although disappointed, pick themselves up and move on enthusiastically to the next sales meeting. Maybe that will be the one that uncovers a real sales opportunity.

If not, then perhaps it will be the one after that. As salespeople we turn to the law of averages for comfort, it tells us that if they meet enough prospects, be that 5, 10, or 15, we will stumble upon the one who is ready and in the buying zone.

As salespeople, that keeps us going and it also keeps us busy, but it often results in the neglect of furtive relationships as salespeople fail to keep in touch with the scores of managers once met and quickly forgotten about.

The 'Close the customer down, or move on' Mindset

Most sales people have an aversion to meeting 'tire-kickers', and are anxious to avoid wasting time on companies that are not really in the market for a solution. Their managers expert them to be converting sales meetings into orders won and expect them to 'close the customer down, or move on''.

But, just because the company is not ready to buy from you today does not mean that he/she won't ever be. Situations change - new businesses needs emerge, managers come and go, priorities change and so to budgets. But are you going to be around when that happens? Are you going to be there when 'the light goes on' and suddenly the customer is in the market for a solution.

'Nobody Gets Left Behind' Mindset

High performing sales people adopt the US marine's policy that 'nobody gets left behind'. They keep in touch with the entirety of their contact base, with the level and frequency of contact determined by a rating scale that reflects the potential associatated with each company and contact in their sales system, or database. For example:
  • They just send an occasional email newsletter, article, or information piece to those that represent 'long shots'.
  • They diary a periodic telephone call, be that every 6 weeks, 3 months as appropriate.
Good intentions are not enough. A CRM system is required to schedule the periodic ongoing contact, making it easy to administer and ensuring that it does not rely on the vagrancies of memory.

To avoid follow-on contact falling into the nuisance category ensure that the communication has a real value. For example, sending:
  • an article, or whitepaper that might be of interest,
  • a note regarding a move by one of their competitors,
  • a link to a website containing useful information, etc.

Nurturing to Sales Readiness

Nurturing companies and relationships over time to sales readiness is essential to long term sales effectiveness. It recognises that in most situations needs are latent and await discovery. That discovery may take weeks, months or years.

Sales meetings and sales leads are simply too expensive to be discarded because they don't produce an immediate opportunity. If the company in question qualifies for your target list, then you will want to keep in touch, helping to generate awareness of the need overtime and being there when the light goes on.

Even if the result of all the nurturing is not a sales opportunity, then it can still be worthwhile. That relationship can be a source of useful information, referral or introduction to others, etc.

Keeping-in-touch will at least double your sales success

The reality for most salespeople is that a keep-in-touch mindset, or approach, has the potential to double, if not triple sales success in the long term. A first pass of a target list in terms of leads generated and meetings held will result in a certain number of sales opportunities and ultimately sales wins.

However, a programme of progressive contact with the same target list will over time deliver twice or three time the results of a once off campaign. That is why business development requires a strategic approach.

Being there before requirements are set increases sales success

Those sales people who have been involved with the prospect, before a active buying decision is made have a head start on those other who may be called to tender. Being involved at the early stages in terms of identifying the need and the definition of requirements, means the salesperson has a unique advantage in terms of being able to influence the buying decision.

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