Outside any ballgame or rock concert, you're sure to find a scalper or two hawking their wares. These folks make a living selling tickets to sold-out shows, and their method of operation is always the same: Hit up everyone that walks by, and if they're not interested, then move on to the next person.
For scalpers, this strategy is perfect. Unfortunately, there are many salespeople who use the same approach when they prospect for new business. When a call does not result in a sale, they banish the prospect, never to call again. Much like the scalper, they move on.
A study from Dartnell Corp. investigated the number of times a prospect was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag. Here is their data:
- 48 percent quit after the first contact
- 72 percent stop after the second contact
- 84 percent give up on a prospect after the third contact
- 90 percent wave the white flag after the fourth contact
As you can see, almost half of all salespeople quit after the first call. And the vast majority (90 percent) quit relatively soon after.
So why do 90 percent of salespeople quit so quickly? There are many reasons, and the simplest is that they let business and life get in the way. Some get caught up in busy work because it is easier than having to follow up. Others just lack the discipline to make those follow-up calls.
The fact is that 10 percent of salespeople make the fifth call, and studies show that 80 percent of sales are made after that fifth sales call. Which leads to the conclusion that 10 percent of salespeople win 80 percent of the business. Successful salespeople use their persistence and their stick-to-it mentality to win, and win big. In the same way that air gets thinner at higher altitudes, competition wanes after the first few calls. And the key ingredient that differentiates the average salesperson from the truly great ones is persistence: The persistence to make that first call and the discipline to make a half a dozen after that (without annoying the potential client, of course).
It's persistence that increases a client's confidence in a salesperson's ability. It's what makes a salesperson stand out from everyone else. And it's how salespeople stay top of mind when the client is ready to buy.
Successful salespeople don't expect to sell anything on that first call. They know that only a small percentage (1 to 2 percent) of people are looking to buy in a first call. They tend to be the people who are already familiar with what they need, and have already done extensive research. And if you happen to call at the right time, the business is yours.
But this is not the norm. Most buyers are not going to be ready to sign that purchase order when a salesperson calls. Most will not have time to talk, or will lack the resources or the authority to make a decision.
Rather than trying to make that sale, the goal for the first call should be to implement a follow-up strategy, a strategy that allows you to build a relationship and trust by engaging in an ongoing dialogue. Much like a relationship, you can't propose the first time you meet someone. Your goal on the first date is to make it to the second one. And your goal on the second date is to interest your prospect in a third date.
In building a relationship, you'll develop a much better understanding of the client's needs and wants. You'll get to understand their underlying problems, not just the superficial ones that appear obvious. And once the client knows that you understand them, they are yours. They won't go anywhere else anytime soon because the chances that another salesperson will come along that will be as committed is slim.
As a general rule, the more difficult a client is to get, the harder they are to lose, because stealing these kinds of clients requires persistence and discipline. And, remember: 90 percent of all salespeople don't have that.
The key to converting your pipeline into actual sales is the ability to hang in there when others have given up. It means being persistent with phone calls, emails or even a personal visit over several months. Because the longer you hang in there, the greater the chance that your competition has given up. Just remember to make that fifth, sixth and seventh call.
Anything less, and you're better off scalping tickets.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.