The Story of Frank Bettger
Sales is primarily a numbers game, and if you ever needed to be convinced of that, the story of Frank Bettger (How I Multiplied My Income and Happiness in Selling) is one of the best!
Frank had been an American pro baseballer until a shoulder injury forced him suddenly from the game, with no business training and no experience. Eventually, after struggling financially and with a wife and baby to support, Frank got himself into the life assurance business as a sales professional.
After only 10 months in the business, Frank, like around 100,000 life assurance sales people that year, dropped out as a failure. In fact, his company dumped him even though he was on commission only! Frank just couldn’t make it. (And this level of failure is common even today. In Australia, for example, up until recent legislation to ban commission-only employment, the average commission sales person earned less than social security benefits, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics!)
Still unable to find a job, even the lousy one he’d had before selling (collecting time payments on bicycle!) he called into his office one day to collect some things he’d left behind. Fate really smiled on Frank that day, because he was lucky enough to overhear a meeting being addressed by company president Walter Le Mar Talbot. What Walter said in just one sentence catapulted Frank back into business:
Gentlemen, (sorry ladies, they were all “gentlemen” in those days) after all, this business of selling narrows down to one thing --- just one thing …. Seeing the people! Show me a man of ordinary ability who will go out and earnestly tell his story to four or five people every day, and I will show you a man who just can’t help making good!”
And in the next 10 weeks Frank sold more life insurance than he’d sold the previous 10 months! Frank had been inspired to get out and see the people.
So why did he start to fail again?
In Frank’s words, using a baseball saying, “you can’t hit ‘em if you don’t see ‘em”! Frank had stopped making the calls and his appointments naturally slowed to a trickle.
After locking himself in his office for a session of soul-searching, Frank finally realised that he had to plan and he had to keep records. He had to plan and prioritise, and track his activity, or his business would keep slumping and he would never be as successful as he could.
Frank proceeded to plan and prioritise his schedule, keeping meticulous records (much like his old baseball stats) so that he could see on a daily basis how he was doing and thereby set and achieve just about any income goal he chose! Even in a depression, Frank was able to earn whatever he chose, just by attending to his stats!
If you read Frank’s book, you’ll see he also developed an exquisite ability to see the world through his clients’ eyes. That, combined with his disciplined prospecting/referral strategy, is what put him amongst the star performers.
These days every sales professional should know that if you don’t schedule, track and analyse activity, the activity fails to happen adequately, and results spiral. We knew this over 50 years ago, in Frank Bettger’s time, so there’s no excuse in this day and age to neglect something so crucial not just to success, but to our very survival!
If you are going to sell anything, you need to have prospects, people whom you can actually put yourself in front of in order to determine their need for your product or service.
Just about any sales person needs different kinds of prospects: fresh ones, and “warm” ones, including people you’ve already visited, past clients, and referrals. Depending on the nature of your business and your clients’ buying habits, you may need different proportions of fresh versus “warm”. This is something your records should tell you. How many times do you need to contact a potential client before they buy? If most clients buy the first time they see you (when they’re “fresh”) then most of your time should be spent with this group! However if most of your clients buy the fifth time they see you, then the “warm” prospects are the people you should be spending most of your time with.
Be warned: you need to ensure you never run out of prospects of both kinds. If you don’t keep getting fresh ones, you’ll soon run out of warm ones! No prospects = no sales!
These are the activities you absolutely must do in order to keep up an easy and endless flow of prospects:
• Cold call 7 new names every day (you might make 14 phone calls to get 7 contacts, but in any case this will take only 30 minutes of your time each day). If you’ve got 7 new people calling you every day, you’ve successfully eliminated the need to cold call. Congratulations!
• Call at least 7 “warm” prospects every day.
• Develop and use referral strategies.
• Use on-line sources of referrals by working with your on-line business community (My Speed Business Network!) Collect quality referrals for other sales professionals and let them know the type of client you’re looking for as well. Educate each other about your preferred client types.
• Wherever possible, when you are referring to others, deliver those referrals warm. This means that you will telephone or write first, introducing the person you’re referring and expressing confidence in his/her ability to be of service. Of course, you will not do that unless you do have utmost confidence because that would not only be an affront to your own integrity, but would rebound on you if the person did not do the right thing.
• Be honest about admitting to any nerves, fear or reluctance about these activities and eliminate them using the easy techniques now available. You no longer have to walk over broken glass in order to quickly dump cold calling anxiety, for example.
• Schedule these activities into your planner or diary so that NOTHING interferes with them.
• Consistently, persistently and conscientiously keep records that demonstrate you have properly executed these activities!
Special Note: A cold call should NOT be to ask for something but to offer something which you are very confident that your listener actually wants. Take a look at our free forum section on scripting to make sure you get this right!
To gain confidence to predict revenue in the short, medium and long term, you need to know that the building blocks to those appointments are being consistently “stacked”! Sure appointments are important, but even more important are the activities that lead to the appointments. These are what you need to be assured are happening. That way, you can track activity on a daily basis for every sales person, and if even one day “slips up” you can readily rectify that the next day, absolutely ensuring that you get your sales targets.
If you’re waiting until appointment time to start measuring activity, depending upon lead time before those appointments, you could be heading for disaster and not even know it!
Of course you still want to know how many appointments are being made as a result of prospecting, and what the success ratio is for appointments. The main reason for that is to identify both exceptional and disappointing performances. The exceptional performers should be examined minutely, and the findings of that review used to benefit the whole team, especially focussing on fulfilling the huge untapped potential of those with disappointing performances!
You Must Track Daily
As you saw from Frank Bettger’s example, the moment he stopped keeping his statistics was the moment he began to fail. Each sales person absolutely must keep their stats. As the sales manager, you’re entitled to have absolute confidence in reaching any sales target you set, and to assure that, you must track daily statistics for every one of your sales people.
We have developed a reporting/tracking system so simple that you can effectively manage your sales team even while on holiday. Every one of your sales people should be filling this sheet out on a daily basis and faxing or emailing it through to their line manager. In this way you can see at a glance whether anyone is failing to do their job professionally, whether that is due to procrastination or lack of organisation, or whether they may need assistance or further training.
You can respond quickly, even that very day, to get the team to make up these stats so that you can absolutely count on hitting the sales goal you’ve set, regardless!
When you have a system like this in place, you will always get your sales goal because you don’t have to wait until after the fact to notice sales are down. You can predict a slump the very day you see the statistics falter and insist on that activity being made up for the very next business day.
This is the part that sales people often hate. They see it as an imposition instead of as a cast-iron guarantee of increased commissions. But of course without such data, the sales person is saying that he/she is flying blind, and wants you to let them stay invisible. This isn’t good enough, it isn’t acceptable, and it will let the team down again and again.
Plus, by comparing “conversion” rates on various pre-appointment activities, you can see who is performing best at converting calls into appointments, and appointments into sales. You can now see where the real expertise lies within your team, and after examining that higher performance, share it with the rest of the team. Likewise, you can more accurately and precisely determine who needs help with what. No more guessing.
Statistics that Matter to Every Business Person
The Story of Frank Bettger