Have you ever thought to yourself that you have the hardest sales job in the world?
Perhaps you are selling a product that is either the same or maybe even worse than that of your competitors. Maybe you sell in a hyper-competitive market where it is hard to get buyers' attention. If either of these are true, I suspect you have caught yourself asking questions like, "why can't marketing do a better job of positioning our product?" or worse, "I don't think it's possible to make a living selling this product. It's time to find a new job."
At some point in our sales career, most of us have found ourselves in this position. However, very few have cracked the magic code for sales success, regardless of the differentiation of the product or the level of competition. So let me share what I've learned.
It all comes down to a very boring word called "process." Over the past decade I have studied hundreds of sales teams in many different settings and regardless of what is being sold and the level of competition, the sales people who win are those who follow an impeccable sales process.
In fact, according to a study called The Sales Organization Performance Gap, 50% of participants from high-performing sales organizations responded that they had sales processes that were closely monitored, strictly enforced, or automated, compared to just 28 percent from underperforming sales organizations. So what does an impeccable sales process consist of and why is it important? There are really three golden rules.
Rule #1 - Follow up Fast
The most important rule of sales process, regardless of what you are selling, is to respond to your buyer quickly. This is exceptionally important when it comes to relatively undifferentiated products in a competitive market. You want to be the first to respond to the buyer.
Take gas for instance, if I pull into a gas station in an urban area and there is a sign that reads "Out for lunch. Come back in 30 minutes for gas." I can guarantee you I am driving to the next gas station down the road. However, it never fails to surprise me that sales organizations in hyper-competitive markets think it's acceptable to call a prospect that has registered interest online hours or even days after the fact. Especially when two-thirds of online buyers expect to buy from the first company that contacts them, according to a recent study on Online Buyer Expectations by Zogby Analytics. The truth is that in sales, the optimal time to call an interested buyer is right now.
Mike Eshelman, the VP of Marketing at First Direct Lending, and a Velocify client, explained that if his company isn't the first to reach a prospect, their contact and conversion rate drops dramatically. "Once a buyer talks with one or two lenders, they don't want to invest additional time with other companies, even if they could get better rates," said Eshelman. "That's why our loan consultants must get there in the shortest time possible." Currently, at First Direct Lending, speed-to-contact is just six seconds.
Rule #2 - Be Appropriately Persistent
The second golden rule of sales process is to be appropriately persistent. What I mean by this is if at first you don't succeed [to contact a buyer] try, try again... just not so often that it's annoying.
According to industry research the "right" number of times to try to contact an unresponsive buyer is between six and eight. As important as a quick first call is, more than half of all prospects that eventually convert are actually reached sometime after the first call attempt. Shockingly, however, 50% of leads are never called a second time.
On the flip side, by the ninth call attempt, most buyers that will eventually convert have already been contacted and they also begin to feel negatively towards the brand. So be careful to not be too persistent.
Rule #3 - Leverage a Multi-Channel Contact Strategy
The third rule is engage with your buyer through multiple channels. In business-to-business sales there is an epidemic of email-only prospecting, this has become a highly counterproductive strategy. Similarly in consumer sales, traditionally, many companies have relied solely upon phone calls.
To first contact and then really engage with a buyer you need to be using as many channels as you can until you discover their preferred medium (which can often depend on the time of day and how the prospect is feeling). Really successful sales people embrace phone, voicemail, email, text, and even social media in their one-on-one contact strategies. If you are selling in a competitive space, a multi-channel contact strategy, tailored to the buyer preference is even more critical to stand out.
I know process is boring but winning isn't. If you are struggling to sell an undifferentiated product or are selling against insanely fierce competition, don't lose hope. Rather dig in to refine your sales approach. I can guarantee you will be positively surprised by the results.