One of the best examples of endurance I can think of is the most successful international golfer of all time; South African Gary Player. He is the only golfer to win the British Open in three different decades and the oldest player to make the cut at The Masters (1998 at age 63).
One day at a tournament a man came up to him and said he would give anything if he could hit a ball like Player. Usually a very polite person, Player glared at the man and said;
“No, you wouldn’t. You’d give anything to hit a golf ball like me if it were easy. To be able to hit golf balls like I hit them you’ve got to get up at five o’clock in the morning, go to the course and hit one thousand golf balls. Your hands will bleed, so you’ll have to walk to the clubhouse, wash the blood off, slap on a bandage, and go out and hit another thousand golf balls. That’s what it takes to hit a golf ball like me.”
Just reading Player’s declaration causes the hair on my arm to stand up. It’s scary to realize the level of commitment necessary to accomplish something magnificent.
Every salesperson knows that following up on unsold proposals is critical, but somehow these call lists always seems to get longer rather than shorter. Reps invent other activities they think are more important, and the follow up calls and visits rarely get completed.
Since so few sales are closed on the first visit, why not start today making phone follow-up’s part of your thousand golf balls? Here are some ideas that might help:
Project a positive attitude – Beginning a calling session under protest is not the best mindset for making follow-up calls. To get mentally prepared have a pep rally in your head or do whatever it takes to adopt a positive attitude toward making the calls.
Bunch calls together into campaigns, remembering you can easily make 15 calls in 40 minutes. Work at it like a job…because it is.
Stand up when you talk on the phone as you will sound more energetic and pleasant. Keep a mirror nearby to glance into to ensure you project a pleasant demeanor. Believe it or not you can hear a smile over the phone, and the mirror will remind you to project one.
Point to your purpose – Although it’s a lousy reason, reps often make follow-up calls simply because they are on a To Do list.
To establish your purpose, review the notes from your last meeting with this prospect prior to dialing, so you will know where you left off. Remind yourself of any agreed upon next steps. Then begin the follow up call by bridging back to the prior contact and reviewing commitments and promises with your buyer, before fast-forwarding into the present and resuming your selling.
Persevere – Liken your phone call to a game of tennis. When you speak, conclude your statements with open questions. As your buyer answers, listen for where you think the “ball” is going. Return that “shot” with another declaration and question, or simply a freestanding question. Make sure you continue listening actively, or soon you will “miss the volley,” “lose the point,” and eventually it will be “game-set-match,” but not in your favor.
Proceed genuinely – Remember that the person you are calling puts their pants on just like you; one leg at a time. They have responsibilities, they face issues, and confront problems, in the course of pursuing their goals and dreams. If you keep that in mind as you speak, you will improve your chances of making a personal connection, and eventually building a strong relationship. On the other hand, if you grandstand and act like a plastic fantastic, the invisible wall will go up and your prospects will quickly begin to get defensive.
Plan for a next step – Before ending the call, ensure you both agree what is to happen next. If you don’t, how will you know what to do and how to prepare in order to be of service?
Stuff happens, and things change, meaning that the commercial buyer that was not interested last quarter now has a new budget and may be ready to buy. A homeowner, who had to postpone her purchase because of a temporary cut back at work, is now back to full-time employment and wants the work completed.
The point here is that if the salesperson is not eyeball to eyeball with buyers when they are prepared to buy, the business goes elsewhere. That’s why constant touching is so important to successful selling.
I’m often asked when salespeople should stop following up and throw in the towel. I’ll let you be the judge of when, based on the following statistics:
- 48% of sales people never follow up with prospects
- 25% of sellers make a second contact and stop
- 17% of sales people make three contacts and stop
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on the third contact
- 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
- 80% of all sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact, which means that 90% of salespeople give up before 80% of the sales are ever made!
It appears that most sales people, like golfers, quit way too soon, way too often.
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