Salespeople across all industries and experience levels ask me this question: What is the best time to
prospect? The reason they ask is because they are trying to avoid making the calls so they as use the
best time as the excuse.
The best time to make a call is any time you will actually make the call!
Prospecting is the most important activity in sales. It is also frustrating and uncomfortable. No matter
how much you wish it to be different, the vast majority of your calls will go to voice mail, you will deal
with rude gatekeepers, and you will often catch prospects at the worst possible time in their day. That is
life in the sales world. And despite the ongoing fantasy that there is some magical time when prospects
will welcome your call with a kind voice and an open mind, nothing will change this fact.
One way to follow up with senior-level decision makers is to call either quite early in the morning (say
around 7:30am) or late in the day (after 5pm), without leaving a message if I don't get a person. By
calling at these times, the decision makers are often alone in the office without a gatekeeper, and
therefore more likely to pick up calls themselves.
Phone a Friend!
Being a business development sales rep can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming. When you
need an encouraging word to stick it out and stay in the game (you can't play or win if you're not in the
game) have a friend or colleague you trust give you a reality check or pep talk. Sometimes we need to
"phone a friend" that understands the complexities of a relationship sales career. It is crucial that we
surround ourselves with strong mentors and supportive colleagues!
How about a bagel, donut or coffee delivery to help build relationships? We have all been in
environments where there are snacks and everyone comes to that area to enjoy a treat. Use this to
celebrate a small holiday celebration, thank a client, meet new contacts, and at the same time you
can leave a snappy, relevant sample or compelling case study. Make the effort to go see your clients
in person! Many clients don't have time for lunch these days....so how about bringing in lunch that will
result in a low key way to have an effective meeting? You will discover that folks will come out of their
offices to enjoy the food you bring. One of my clients has a favorite gourmet sandwich shop that he told
a client all about in advance of his scheduled group presentation. He ordered their sandwiches and then
picked them up prior to the meeting. It was a big hit for them and the sales rep!
Getting Ready or Getting Busy?!
In sales, there are getting-ready activities, and there are getting-busy activities. Unfortunately, too many salespeople (one in four) are getting ready to get ready. There is a time to get ready and a time to get busy. Getting ready is planning, preparation, and rehearsal. Too much getting ready and you're procrastinating, which is really avoidance behavior. These are the people who stare down the gun sight of life but rarely pull the trigger. Getting ready is important, but getting busy is imperative to your success. You have to be willing to pick up the phone, go out and visit a client and continue to build relationships.
46. Spend your time with people who won't waste your time.
In real estate circles, we've all heard of the Looky-Lou, a
seeming potential buyer who is either unwilling or unable
to actually purchase a property. Other business settings
have their Paper Tigers who act as if they have the
authority to deal but don't. But the reality is the same for
the sales people who encounter either: Usually a complete
waste of time.
Some prospects require more time to close than others.
For example, I called on a large bank for two years before
the buyer gave me my first order. I had to spend more
and more time with her and build up her trust in me until
she had the confidence to give me a chance.
Conversely, try to identify real decision-makers in companies,
families and other settings as soon as possible.
Tom and I have heard war stories about salespeople who
wasted hundreds of hours with clients who were not prepared
or able to consummate the deal. When it happens
to you, and it will, simply cut your losses and move on to
the next qualified buyer.
Unfortunately, there is no way to categorically know
someone is not going to deliver. So I advise my clients to
set a limit in their minds in terms of time and energy.
When they reach that limit, my clients find a professional
way to either terminate their efforts or "close the deal."
This latter option can be a delicate process; we'll discuss
examples in later chapters that dissect the sales process.
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