One of the greatest predictors of sales success is the number of contacts made with prospective customers or clients.
I discovered this principle years ago – when I noticed that the guys who asked out more girls were most likely to get a date. Success needs only one “Yes”…irrespective of the number of “Noes” that have gone before. Who’s counting! I rediscovered this principle during my time at Procter & Gamble, where the greatest sales success came to those of us who had the most frequent contact with our customers.
When testing a theory, my preference is to take it to extremes: if we don’t contact our prospects at all, then there will certainly be no sales. If we contact them all the time – as long as we have good reason to – then they wouldn’t have a minute to speak to our competitors and buy anywhere else! Yes, it makes sense.
In Australia, the U.S. and the UK, we spend millions of dollars on sales training every year. Yet, how much do we encourage, measure and reward the crucial customer facing work done by our sales team; e.g. number of contacts, face to face calls, emails, telephone conversations, meetings with decision makers etc.? It’s common today for sales teams to get caught up in internal work – projecting, tracking, justifying, persuading budget holders and management – all at the expense of the important customer facing work – building relationships, understanding customer needs, creating joint plans and most importantly, asking for the business.
Without positive intervention, the internal work can become the excuse for avoiding difficult customer conversations or making that tricky sales call. Before long, we are paying our field sales team to stay home and fill out reports and write internal proposals.
Individual and team coaching can be a very powerful method for identifying the individual barriers and company processes and measures that get in the way of frequent, productive customer contact. Working with sales people to identify and thwart unhelpful habits and beliefs so they can get on with the job of selling should lead to “Yes” more often from customers and to increased sales.