Often, we're just too close to our businesses to clearly see glaring opportunities for growth. That's likely why so many sales teams churn through perfectly good prospects, which are not in infinite supply, entirely too fast. More often than not, that churn is simply due to a lack of sales tenacity, resulting in the loss of significant business.
Did you know that on average only about two percent of sales are closed after a first meeting? Typically, those two percent are comprised of inbound leads, already leaning toward purchase when they called. For the rest, you must build rapport and trust before a sale can occur. Too many salespeople lose interest too soon, resulting in either lack of regular follow-up with the prospect or in contrast, an aggressive attempt to use old-school closing tactics to bring the sale to an unnaturally premature close. Both of these blunders can result in a high "burn rate" of perfectly good prospects that will likely never buy from your company.
In 2011, the National Sales Executive Association reported that 80 percent of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact with a prospect. This same report indicates that nearly 50 percent of salespeople quit after just the first contact -- never making a second contact -- and only 10 percent make more than three contacts with a prospect. That means that 90 percent of sales reps are working entirely too hard.
Either sales people don't know they should be following up in this manner, don't feel that they have the time, or simply don't have a system in place to do so.
Righting the ship begins with awareness of this opportunity and the establishment of a protocol and tracking process for prospect follow-up. Your sales team should vary the ways in which they reach out based on the needs and preferences of that prospect, but the point is to continue to build the relationship even when you don't earn an early yes. After all, it takes time to build trust.
The key is to ensure you're adding value at every point of contact versus just calling to "check in," and that you mix up your forms of contact. Send your prospect an article about an interesting trend in their industry, offer to refer a prospective customer to them, send a copy of a book you think they'll find interesting, wish them a happy birthday, congratulate them on positive press earned, or encourage someone they respect to send a testimonial on your behalf. The options are endless. The point is to stick with it. Be tenacious but don't pressure. Offer value but don't pester.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).