Timing is everything.
Timing is an important part of sales. Most people aren’t in ‘buying’ mode all of the time. In complex sales, usually the products or services being offered by a supplier is something that requires planning, consideration and focus. So because a prospective buyer organisation isn’t in the mode now, doesn’t mean they won’t be at some point. If someone is looking like an ideal customer then it isn’t a good idea to walk away completely.
Find the relevant people outside the sales process.
In the modern age, people work much more in teams and finding one single ‘decision maker’ is unusual. So a smart teams will establish their expertise and credibility as a supplier organisation while people are not in buying mode. They will turn people into evangelists within an organisation. So that when they are ready they are in a position to start a process with credibility and authority. They will use the stories, successes and expertise their organisation is providing to demonstrate knowledge and provide headline value.
Don’t give up.
Obviously there is a difference between persistent and being annoying – the contact has to have true value and show demonstrable expertise. Make sure the people in your team, supported by others around them keep intelligent persistence. There is no hard and fast rule but often people walk away when they should just keep going.
Try tracking when your company gives up and why – it is earlier than you think.
I was a salesperson for a company in telecoms. It sold technology the phone manufacturers embedded in their handsets enhancing the phones functionality. Pretty cool stuff and I knew if I got to the right people, there was at least a conversation to be had. Therefore, my targets were large manufacturers of these devices.
At the time the largest mobile-phone manufacturer in the world was firmly established in my Europe, Africa and Middle East territory, with headquarters in Finland and offices all over Europe.
So I set about getting to know their people. I took every opportunity to meet them and joined them at conferences, and so on. I became quite well networked into their organisation. What I found was they all had vague or spurious job titles which made it impossible to determine anyone’s real job role. They were also permanently restructuring. This meant people appeared to move job every month or so. The most senior people weren’t decision makers in any meaningful way – at least that is how it seemed.
I met a bunch of great guys from their company, travelled a lot and yet it seemed that I hadn’t made any progress. Then I landed a small deal with them. It was with a new product line they had; an experiment – not quite the massive deal we had wanted but we did it anyway. It took a long time to get through their legal process and negotiate a contract, but eventually we signed it.
Their experiment didn’t really work and we didn’t make much from it. It was quite frustrating, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. At least we had some sort of relationship with them. We repeated this process a couple of times, but still the numbers weren’t great for what we were providing to the largest potential customer in the business.
Then, two years in, I was suddenly called to a meeting at their Copenhagen office. I had been there before, but was confused as I thought any sizeable action happened in Finland. When I arrived, I met primarily with the guys I had met two years previously, who explained to me that they actually ran one of the largest divisions of the company on the consumer side, and always had.
They also explained that they never simply jumped into bed with suppliers they didn’t know very well, but expected to develop a relationship, so two years was roughly the minimum time they took to establish a relationship before they would think about doing a bigger deal.
From that moment on, I had a completely different relationship with the right people in the organisation.
This post is supports advice in Build Your Sales Tribe – Sales in the Information Age Book. If you own the book, thanks for visiting. If you don’t own the book, find out more here: www.salestribe.co.uk
Intelligent Persistence is Gold – Further Reading
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