This economy is nothing if not challenging. Sure, our economic climate is full of opportunity, clients and customers who want to do business, but sometimes it feels like getting a foot in the door and getting that first meetings takes so much time and energy that you have nothing left to pull you through the long wait before the deal closes. The truth, as any sales professional knows, is that there will be a wait time for sales to close.
Today’s sales cycle is longer and more agonizing than we have seen in years past. The new economy has brought new opportunity but with it a new set of challenges. Why? Because the new economy is what is known in the industry as a shifting economy, meaning it is uncertain. Consumers have no insight into or control over whether or when it will go up, and whether or when it will go down. The result is that selling becomes a challenge because our clients are distracted, busy, worried, and fickle, all of which negatively impact our ability to close the sale.
So what is a sales professional to do? How are we to stay in the game, keep our energy up, and continue to stay in front of our customers without being annoying, rude and downright pushy? We have goals to meet, bills to pay and businesses to build, and sometimes it is all we can do not to get frustrated that our prospects and customers won’t just make a decision. But believe me: the two biggest mistakes you can make in sales today are trying to force the close or give up. Both will cost you big time in terms of client relationships, reputation and your ability to positively impact your bottom line.
So what is the solution? Today’s sales professionals need to follow these six simple strategies to ensure they are in the best sales shape of their lives and have what it takes to go the distance.
- Embrace Reality – Listen and listen to it closely: you are not in control. You have zero and I mean zero power over when the sales in your pipeline will close. You can influence your clients, try to create a sense of urgency, and ensure they have everything they need to make an informed decision, but at the end of the day, when, where and how the sale will close is one-hundred percent up to the client, not you. Remember, this is a trust and value economy; your products and services are a commodity. Your relationship with your prospects and clients, as well as how they connect, feel and how much they trust you, is going to determine whether the sale happens. Pushing a decision or abandoning the client before they are ready to do business will send a loud and clear message that you are not the person they want to do business with.
- Overfill Your Sales Funnel – OK, you’ve embraced reality: you understand you are not in control. But you still need to meet goals, pay the bills, and grow your business. You can’t just sit there all day hoping that one of the people you called on decides to close the deal–or can you? In today’s trust and value economy, patience is a virtue and the need for instant gratification a curse. You need to overfill your sales funnel, having more potential prospects in your pipeline than you actually need to close to meet your numbers and expand your business. Why? Because of Murphy’s Law: the moment you need a sale to close, is exactly the moment the sale won’t close. In a shifting economy, you need to sell from a place of power and not from a place of need. The only way you are going to hang in there as your prospects “hem and haw” about when the deal will close is if you are okay waiting for a deal to close. The only way to be okay with waiting for a deal to close is by having other deals waiting in the wings to close.
- Redesign Your Follow-up System – We have all heard the statistics: it takes on average seven to eight sales calls to close a deal, and the average sales person gives up after three. Why do we give up? Because as sales professionals we hate to follow-up. We love the adrenaline rush of the first few calls, but after that it gets uncomfortable. We assume that people are not interested, and we don’t want to be irritating. If you are using a traditional follow-up system, you are pushing the prospect to the point where they are not interested, and quite frankly you are irritating. You need to redesign your follow-up system or create one if you don’t have a system. Your follow-up system needs to focus on adding value rather than simply checking in to see if the prospect is ready to buy. Follow-up has one purpose: to continue enhancing the relationship.
- Make It Easy – Do you ever need a little something to get you through the day or the project you’re working on? A pick me up? Your sales process can benefit from a pick me up, too. Call on on your existing clients, the ones who already love you, want to do business with you, and probably have some opportunity for you. Your weekly sales calls should include at least one or two “fun” calls, calls in which you are visiting, talking with and reengaging your existing client base. At best, you walk away with some new business, at worst you are recharged, remembering why you love what you do.
- Do It Anyway – Years ago, I heard an interview where Professional Volleyball player Gabrielle Reece was asked how she stayed in such amazing shape–where she found the dedication and discipline, now that her volleyball career had ended, to continue exercising, eating right, and serving as an amazing role model. Her answer was simple: she had learned early on from a coach that there is one mark of success that identifies winners. Coaches look for athletes that “do it anyway”. Even if they wake up feeling rotten, they get out of bed and workout anyway. They understand that some days will be good, some days won’t, but no matter what they do it anyway. Crossing the finish line is more about consistency than skill. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be good at what you do, but there are plenty of great athletes and sales professionals who never cross the finish line because on the days when they don’t feel like it, they don’t do what needs to be done.
Selling is not always easy in this economy, and it takes more than a little stamina to stay in the game. But with a few adjustments to your approach and your follow-up routine, you can boost your sales stamina and make it to the finish line a winner.