Who Are You Talking To?
Grow faster by double and triple checking if your people are talking to buyers.
From hero to zero
Years ago, I worked an inside sales job where I logged into my terminal and contacted the companies that showed up on my screen. It was easy money because the list was filled with past customers and the sales cycle was short. I enjoyed multiple sales a day, month after month of success, and big commission checks. The chart on the wall confirmed that I was a top performer and I got to ring the sales bell multiple times a day. Some days, just to be dramatic, I wouldn’t log my sales until the afternoon, holding them until I could step up and ding that bell four or five times in a row. It was great.
Until I went into a slump.
Weeks of no sales. It was depressing. The others in my area were up ringing the bell every few minutes and the sales board was lighting up. After a few days of not seeing me at the bell, co-workers asked if I was okay. The team leader huddled with me twice a day, making sure my call numbers stayed high. The general manager gave me pep talks when I arrived and told me to hang in there when I left.
I was at a loss. I knew the product. I had previous success. I made the calls. The list was good. My results were terrible.
Working hard or hardly working?
I doubled down and got to work earlier, made more calls, sent more faxes, ran my own sales promotions, and pressed but it didn’t make a difference.
Three weeks in, on a Saturday, I went in early and just scrolled through my database. Our system was an old mainframe/terminal green screen setup and you could move to the next record in your list by hitting F3 on the keyboard. I sat there in a fog just hitting F3 over and over again.
That’s when I saw it.
At the bottom of each record there was 15 lines of notes below the contact information and purchase history. The notes were dated on the left and the text showed to the right. What I noticed as I scrolled through each record was that my notes all said the same thing. “Msg” I scrolled through my past weeks of activity and that 3 letter note was in almost all of my records. I started making tick marks on a legal pad when I saw anything suggesting a real conversation, and there weren’t many. Most of my conversations were service calls to previous buyers.
That was my insight. I was busy making calls, busy installing the product, busy moving through the marketplace, but I wasn’t busy having new sales conversations. New sales was how I made money. Over the years I’ve been continuously amazed at how clueless I was the month before, and this was no exception.
The right focus
Armed with this new insight, I began tracking actual prospecting conversations and results were back to normal within days. Within weeks, I was back at the top of the leader board, and within months my commissions were higher than ever because I had a new focus beyond the number of calls I made. I was only interested in the number of buyers I talked to.
And that made all the difference.
I tell this story because it continues to influence the first questions I ask when working with new clients. How many people does your team talk to each day? How many of those people are involved in decisions about your products and services? How many new product and service discussions are happening each day?
What you can do
The focus on these particular buyer conversations applies to all sales cycles at any level of complexity. It applies to marketing efforts at any organization. You need to know how often your team talks to people that can make a decision about your products and services. Whether you’re selling jet engines, consulting, or mapping software, understand how many discussions your people are having and who they are having them with. If it’s one a week now, or 52 a year, get it to 57. If it’s 5000, get it to 5500.
Here’s how you do it. Ask, “Who are you talking to?” That question, asked consistently, will increase the number of discussions your team has with the right people and the magic will happen.