The hard truth about sales is very few prospects are going
to tell you no directly. It is human nature, most of us do not like
confrontation and we don't like telling people no. We want people to like us,
and telling people no conflicts with that desire.
Unfortunately, for sales people this translates into wasted time, effort and money spent on prospects who never plan to buy. If you want to turn your prospects into customers, then you have to know when to walk away. In other words, you need to learn to manage your sales efforts so you focus on those prospects with the highest probability of buying from you. Not everyone is going to buy from you.
I work with a large firm in South Carolina, coaching and training their sales team. When I started two years ago, we had several sales professionals who were struggling to close deals. John, one of my favorite's there, had one client he had been working on for over a year. We sat down to talk about why he felt the prospect wasn't buying and what his options were. When we took the time to analyze the situation, what we found was John had been selling to a customer that had little if no probability of ever buying his product. Why? First, his prospect had been using a competitor's product for years and had had consistent positive results. Second, his sales representative had been calling on him for more than 20 years and they not only did business together, they played golf together on a monthly basis. Third, the prospect had been recognized and rewarded by the competitor company, being featured in testimonial ads and given special discounts. When John and I stepped back to look at this, take in all the information together, it was pretty obvious this prospect should not be on the top of John's prospect list. Sure this prospect had huge potential in terms of financial gain. He bought a lot of product and spent a lot of money. However, John could have called on, developed relationships with, and moved four or five smaller prospects in the amount of time he spent calling on this one. In other words, by knowing when to walk away from one prospect, he could have called on four or five others.
While that example is pretty obvious, it amazes me that many sales people never step back and really analyze why a prospect is not buying. Instead they keep trying to convince the prospect to move their business, and they wind up frustrated, unmotivated and burned out.
So how do you know when to walk away? How do you strike the balance between persistence and knowing when to walk away? You need to establish your sales criteria, basically your guidelines of where, when and how you determine the likelihood this prospect will buy.
While these guidelines need to be developed by you for you. Here are some ideas and some criteria I use.
1. Does the prospect understand they have a need?
2. How is that need currently being met (or not met) and how solid is that relationship?
3. Am I calling on the person who has the power to make a decision or what is the probability I can call on this person?
4. Do I feel my prospect is engaged?
5. How hard is it to get follow-up appointments for second, third or fourth calls. Does the person seem interested in meeting with me?
6. Does my prospect do what they need to do to move the sales process forward (i.e. provide me with information, give me access to people I need to talk with, review information I provide them with, etc.)
7. How often does this prospect change providers? (Too often and I know they are price sensitive, vs. never, I want to investigate how loyal they are to the current provider)
7. Are there any obstacles in my way, that are beyond my control? Example, brother-in-law is currently providing the service, decisions are made at the corporate level which is based in another country, current service provider is doing a good job and taking care of the prospect.
Understand, knowing when to walk away does not mean you will never do business with this prospect, or that you should not continue to stay in contact with them. It just means, for the little amount of time and energy you have, you need to move on to work with other prospects that have a higher probability of buying your product and closing the deal.
If you want to turn your prospects into customers then learn when to walk away!