In my more than 30 years of guiding sales professionals, I find the ones who are the most successful are pleasantly persistent. It’s an approach that complements their sales techniques, enabling them to control their dealings with prospects and customers in a positive, professional manner. And the nice thing about being pleasantly persistently is that it can work in just about any industry, profession and not-for-profit institution that sells a product, offers a service or seeks financial support.
It applies directly to pursuing a sales prospect, setting up a sales visit, following up on a sales presentation and, finally, making a close.
Remember: Before someone sells something to someone, the chances are a buyer will have told a seller “no” a minimum of three to five times.
When someone begins a career in sales, there’s a natural tendency to avoid becoming pushy. After all, an aggressive salesperson fits a well-worn stereotype. For this reason, many young sales professionals are reluctant to actively reach out to a prospect or follow up a sales communication.
They often wait for a target to make a move, having made a “one and done” sales call. Fearing rejection is human nature.
Someone who is less assertive will give up after initial resistance and won’t get in front of as many prospects as necessary.
Problem is, these days salespeople face a formidable array of electronic “gatekeepers” – from voicemail to caller I.D. These tend to work to a buyer’s, not a seller’s, advantage, since a buyer can pick and choose when to respond, if at all.
“I see so-and-so is calling me. Who is he? Why should I talk to him?” Or, “I recognize that name. What does she want now?”
In sales, a prospect can now avoid someone indefinitely. How simple it was not so many years ago when all a salesperson had to do was wait for a prospect, or someone in the prospect’s office, to answer the phone that kept ringing and ringing.
Delay also works to a seller’s disadvantage. As I like to tell people, “Time kills the deal.” Delay is deadly.
So here’s where I believe the value of being pleasantly persistent can come into play: It has to do with avoiding that “one and done” trap of giving up on a sales call after one attempt or one rejection during a close.
Being pleasantly persistent is a sales game-changer. It enables a salesperson to stop assuming a prospect has no interest in a product or service. It encourages self-confidence. And it can turn a sales call into what it really should be: an invitation for a prospect to learn about a product or service’s direct benefit, and for a salesperson to find out if a prospect really has a need for what is being discussed.
Get in the door
For starters, it might require some creativity to get in position to make a sales call.
A bank I know, for example, mailed 50 large security deposit bags to 50 prospects. To claim an enclosed gift, the recipient had to call the bank’s branch manager. That enabled the manager to visit the caller with the key to unlock the bank. The bank was pleased with the response.
Another way to get around a “gatekeeper” could be a clue in a magazine, newspaper or blog. There, a story might publicize an event honoring a prospect. That venue could be an opportunity to introduce oneself.
Prepare for resistance
Being pleasantly persistent is crucial in making a sale, too.
In sales, I have found, six obstacles can block a successful close:
1) It’s too expensive.
2) For whatever reason, a buyer puts off making a decision.
3) Perhaps there is an issue with the product or service under discussion.
4) Some personality issue surfaces between both parties.
5) The competition might be perceived to have something better or cheaper.
6) Or the buyer has suddenly been replaced by someone else following the initial sales call.
Because of these dynamics, a salesperson must properly prepare and practice. His approach should be to find out a customer’s need and then to provide a solution.
After all, in sales a salesperson really is providing a solution – not just a product or service. And he should anticipate at least three to five rejections before successfully getting an order.
Maybe I’m different. But I consider rejection as a “buying signal,” another opportunity. In other words, if a salesperson, for whatever reason, cannot close the first time, it’s crucial he does so at the next opportunity. Invariably, a buyer will never say “no, just not now.”
That means being pleasantly persistent by setting a specific date to follow-up – either in person, by email or telephone – and getting specific email addresses and telephone numbers to “cut to the chase,” to “win fast or lose fast.”
Setting deadlines minimizes ambiguity and indecision, allowing the salesperson to control the timetable. Doing so in a pleasantly persistent manner can dramatically increase success, leading to what I call the three “R’s” – repeat business, referrals and requests for additional products or services.
So “don’t wait for your ship to come in; plunge into the water and swim out to it first!”
Marvin E. Montgomery, author of “Practice Makes Perfect, The Professional’s Guide to Sales Success,” is a nationally acclaimed sales trainer and speaker. For more than 30 years, his “Marvinizing” has benefited tens of thousands of sales and customer-service professionals across the country. Visit www.marvinmontgomery.com.