Years ago, I was on a sales call with a prospect. We had a very nice conversation, and he had some interest in one of our services. Even better, he had a few of the characteristics of a qualified buyer.
However, I recognized that some of the premium qualifiers were lacking. It didn't take me long to realize that, despite his interest, he wasn't ready to buy. Yet.
So, I put him on my email distribution list and sent him my newsletter every month. Like the Ronco commercials say, "Set it and forget it!" I just went about prospecting and selling like always. Honestly, I didn't give him much more thought.
Three years later.
Yes, three years later. That's when my phone rang, and the voice on on the other end of the line said, "Do you remember me?" I quickly looked him up in my database (Goldmine at the time). "Yes," I replied, "It's been a while." He agreed and responded with, "I've been getting your stuff every month, and I'm finally calling you back."
Now, he was ready to buy. And he did. He was my customer for years.
I dust this story off every time a salesperson asks me how long they should follow up with a prospect before they give up. And they ask often. "I don't want to be a pest," they tell me.
Then I follow up with a question of my own, "Why would you give up on a legitimate sales opportunity?" To their inevitable response of, "I wouldn't." I follow-up again, "Then why are you asking me this if it's a legitimate opportunity?"
You see the problem? A lack of clarity has led to ambiguity about the prospect's status, and to an optimistic sales rep, ambiguity means that hope of a sale exists. Either the rep doesn't have a good sales process, or they aren't executing it properly.
Bring clarity to your sales process by fully qualifying your prospects. There are only three possibilities:
- YES - Your buyer is a 'yes'. Not yes, they'll buy, but yes, they want to move on to the next step in the process.
- NO - Your buyer is a 'no'. No doesn't mean never--it means not right now.
- MAYBE - Your buyer is a 'maybe'. This is not the hope that many salespeople try to make it out to be. It's ambiguity--you haven't finished qualifying them.
If you get a yes, you know what to do. If you get a maybe, you need to keep qualifying. If you get a no, but there's some alignment between the prospect's needs and your solutions, that's when you ask a key question, "What is the best way for me to communicate with you so we can take up this conversation again when it's appropriate?"
The secret to selling is to be top of consciousness when the need arises for a particular buyer. You have to determine the best medium to communicate your follow-up to make that happen.
That's when you'll begin to focus more on following the process and not on empty hope.
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