How do clients want to buy from you?

(Repost: article originally written in February, 2007)

Recently, Michael gave a keynote for the Sales Excellence event hosted by Target Learn.  It was quite a prestigious event.  He shared the stage with Brian Tracy, Steve Lundin as well as a panel of experts in the sales world, including Sam Reese, the CEO of Miller Heiman.  In case you were wondering, Michael gave a very powerful and engaging keynote on how to apply the Costanza Principle to our sales cycle and to our sales efforts - a fresh, alternative way to approach selling.

During the program that day, there was a lot of talk about sales cycles, prospecting, presentations, closing techniques, and follow up - many traditional elements of the sales cycle and the established selling paradigm.  I am quite familiar with these concepts, both in theory and in practice.

Before I started my coaching business, I learned the traditional selling process while working in recruiting and sales for a national consulting firm.  To say that I am familiar with prospecting would be an understatement.  While working there, I burned up the phone lines each day, constantly dialing the phone in search of potential clients.  The headset became a permanent fixture on my head as I “smiled and dialed” for dollars and for fresh prospects.

On an average day, I made around 100 phone calls and spent at least 3 hours actually on the phone (time spent dialing the phone or taking a break in between calls didn’t count towards my daily activity goal).  As part of that routine, I left multitudes of messages, dialed hundreds of wrong numbers and heard the phone slammed down in my ear - all in search of the next prospect, that potential candidate who was ready to hear my shtick about new “practice opportunities.”

A good day meant that I actually connected with 5-6 physicians, meaning that we had an real conversation about their desire to find a new job opportunity and a new medical practice to call home.  A bad day…well, that meant that conversations with a live person (as opposed to a answering machine or curt spouse on the other end of the phone) were few and far between.

Aside from reaching a certain activity goal each day, the purpose of my incessant dialing of the phone was clear.  I was on the hunt for a certain number of prospects that could possibly fill the practice oportunities (jobs) our team represented.  For any given job, I hoped to find at least 4-5 prospects in hopes that one of them would work out and actually take the job.  If not, then I was back to the drawing board, since my compensation was directly tied to the number of interviews and number of placements (jobs filled) that I could help make happen.

Many days, I often wondered how our firm could do things differently - to better reach the prospects and potential clients in our target market.  I knew there had to be a better, more effective (and efficient) way to build relationships with our potential clients.  To establish trust and credibility, so that they contacted us when they were ready for our services, instead of us hounding them until they either cried “uncle” or changed their phone number.

Many of us on the team had ideas on how we could improve our sales cycle and produce even better results. No such luck.  These suggestions fell on deaf ears, as “management” was not interested in changing the process.  Based on their responses, it seemed that the executive team had no interest
in actually developing relationships with our candidates and clients.  They were focused on the short term - finding as many deals to increase profits today, regardless of the negative backlash it created both within the company and among potential candidates.  But that’s another story for
another time…

So, all the buzz at the Sales Excellence event about sales cycles and sales process reminded of my days of smiling and dialing.  Not to mention the marked differences between selling inside a large corporation and selling your services as a small business owner and entrerpreneur.

It also reminded me of what selling is really all about.

While I do believe that process and structure can help your sales efforts - especially if you are a corporation or larger company - it’s not all about the numbers.  For example, you can design and build the very best sales cycle on paper, meet your numbers and still fail to turn prospects into
paying customers.

Never mind the lost opportunities around building meaningful and lasting relationships.

Metrics do give you a place to start and a way to evaluate your efforts.  But, if those efforts are not aligned with the right intentions, then you may spend thousands of dollars and hours of time in vain, without really doing much to effectively build relationships, trust and credibility so that prospects actually want to buy from you.

So, are your sales where you want them to be?  Are you attracting all the clients you can handle?  If not, a better sales cycle (or something like that) may be exactly what you need.

Or, maybe it’s more simple than that.

What if we really looked at how our customers and clients want to buy from us? How would that change our marketing efforts and overall sales strategy if when knew the what, when, where, who and why around what moves our prospects to buy from us?

It certainly might change our sales and marketing strategy.  And, it would shine a spotlight the inefficient and ineffective actions that are not helping us make a difference with our clients and prospects.

What difference would that make for you and your clients?

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