In the book Selling to Zebras, Koser and Koser noted that the most competitive company in an industry closes only around 15% of its forecasted sales, while its competitors close another 15%. This means a whopping 70% of prospects in an industry will never buy from anyone!
Now, upon hearing this, most salespeople will try to double down on their efforts and try to convince these prospects to buy. With this attitude, is it any wonder that salespeople are classified as pushy?
Sales teams are tasked with coming up with better prospecting scripts in a bid to convince these prospects, 70% of who won't even buy.
But why do we waste time and effort on tasks that won't produce a desired result?
One reason stems from the mantra that all new salespeople are taught to work harder. For those trying to improve their sales, they are handed the work smarter version. But is either way on its own the right answer?
Think about it, if you are making 200 calls a day but not closing any, should you really be looking for ways to make even more calls? What are the odds that your prospects will stop rejecting you? When will you accept that chasing 1,000 leads haphazardly is neither working smarter or harder?
As important as both styles are, it's more important to find the intersection between working hard and working smart.
Does your sales funnel look anything like this?
- Talk to 100 prospects,
- Get 25 appointments,
- Let's say you qualify half of them (12.5), and land another half of those in proposals.
- That's 6.25 possible proposals from a list of 100 leads.
When you pursue every opportunity, you exhaust limited resources and become ill-prepared when ideal opportunities present themselves.
There was a time when working harder and doing as much activity as you could produce great results. If 8 hours of worked produced X results, then surely 9 hours of work would produce X + 12.5%.
But too much has changed in the world of sales since then. You have more competitors, your prospects have better access to information, and frankly, every salesperson using the same recycled pitch sounds the same to them.
Modern sales is no longer simply a numbers game. If your prospecting style is based on targeting leads based on sheer volume, you'll only record a commensurate amount of rejection. Going all out to contact as many leads as possible isn't enough to make you stand out in today's hyper-competitive industry.
Salespeople often like to quote golf legend, Gary Player, saying “Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get”. This came after a comment was made after he scored a hole in one, which was something that statistically happened far more often to him than any of his contemporaries. Sadly, too many people take this advice literally and interpret it as “keep pounding down their doors, they'll come round eventually”.
However, this is a huge mistake. The keyword here is practising: instead of constantly chasing quantity, take a step back and analyse the quality of your prospecting campaign. (Oh, and it's often a really good idea to get some outside opinion. Others can help with things that you may not pick up yourself, especially if they're professionals in that field themselves.)
- What are the common objections you have received?
- What are the common threads of these rejections?
- Are you speaking to qualified prospects?
- Are you focused on closing from the initial call?
These are just some of the questions that you need to be asking yourself. The more you question how you do things and the results obtained, the more you are likely to find the solution that will bring better results.
By simply slowing down your prospecting rate and accepting that some prospects may not be receptive to your offer, you will be working smarter. Taking the time to figure out why they are not buying will put the average salesperson in the top 5% of their team.
But this almost never happens as sales people think working hard and working smart are mutually exclusive. In reality, however, they aren't, and to get ahead in any endeavour, you need to work smart as well as hard. You can be working hard AS you work smart!
In today's sales environment, you can work smarter by using the available tools to research your prospects. You can then work hard by taking the accumulated data and getting those calls made.
If you find yourself in this position, you must be smart about the activities you spend time on; they must be those activities that are most likely to have an impact for you. Persistence does pay off, but only if you are observing and learning as you progress.
So let's look at some ways that you can observe yourself, and learn.
1. Keep StatisticsIf you are working in sales, and not tracking your own statistics, you can never know where to improve. You need to have numbers for everything that you do, and it should be separate.
You should have numbers for prospecting (such as how many people you actually contact, what portion of your time is spent on this etc), numbers for closing (what is your overall closing percentage - for various things, such as from proposal stage, from presentations given and more), numbers on which of your products you sell (almost every salesperson I know will sell some products better than others) and other areas too.
2. Use A/B TestingIn marketing, and some other industries, A/B testing is when you do the same thing, but in two different ways, and measure both to see which gets you better results.
Imagine you want to send an email to 100 different clients about the same thing, perhaps an invitation to attend a free seminar. You could write two templates, and send 50 of the people version 1, and 50 of the people version 2. Then see if either obtained better results than the other. If so, what can you learn from the wording etc that you used?
Any A/B testing you do then simply falls into bullet point 1, more statistics for you to keep. But these statistics are specifically about what did work!
3. Recording YourselfThis can be scary, but do you ever record wither video or audio of yourself, and work through it afterwards? An old colleague of mine told me about the first time they ever saw a video of themselves presenting. They were absolutely horrified! Firstly, your voice sounds different to others as it does to yourself, and he was staggered that what other people heard was actually at a much higher pitch than he thought.
Secondly, if you interact with prospects and clients face to face, what are you doing with your body language? Again, my colleague had been horrified. Not enough making eye contact, too much twiddling of thumbs, the list was significant.
These days, you could record your presentation on your phone even, so why not ask your client if they would mind you recording your presentation to them, as you are committed to improving yourself. While some may say no, even the odd couple you do manage will be revealing.
So, that's three specific ways that you can start working smart, then whatever you learn, work hard to implement that. And then you'll definitely see your sales figures start to grow.