When a productive salesperson falls into a serious slump, it can be very perplexing. Often times it’s a matter of call reluctance. This is like a disease that, if not treated promptly, will continually get worse. Sometimes it becomes a fatal disease (in terms of the sales person’s career). While the symptoms are always the same, the causes are varied.
When a sales person works for several months to close a very large sale, once closed, there’s somewhat of a let down. Perhaps the large sale made most of the sales person’s annual quota, and relieves any pressure to run right back out into the field. Sometimes we forget that it takes a minimum of three months to fill the funnel with active and qualified prospects. I have always encouraged those I work with directly to have one or two large prospects in the mix. However, I also insist that they need another 12 to 15 small and medium prospects simultaneously. Once a large one is landed, the sales person is at the top of their game. They should let the thrill of victory and enthusiasm carry over with new opportunities.
As a full time salesman a number of decades ago, I was occasionally sent to the home office for three weeks of training. When I got back to my territory, it took a very long time to get the sales rolling in.
Another common cause for call reluctance is when a sales person has an unusually high number of turn downs in close proximity. I view the selling process in three segments: setting appointments, first calls and final presentations. Repetitive failures can occur in any of the three.
When a salesperson sits down to make phone presentations to acquire appointments and strikes out for the first 20 calls, their effectiveness drops off for subsequent calls. Failure attributes to more failure. When this occurs, I suggest that the salesperson start recording their phone calls. (yes it is legal, as long as one of the phone participants knows that the recording is taking place.)
I view the selling process in three segments: setting appointments, first calls and final presentations. Repetitive failures can occur in any of the three.
Dry spells can happen on the first call as well. I suggest to sales personnel that they should make between eight and 10 first calls each week. When they reach the end of a week that has produced no active prospects, it will carry over to the next week. Once again creating a spiraling effect that is very predictable. I like to start each day with an easy call. For example, a PR call or a follow up call from a previous day or week. This almost always creates some positive dialogue that will also carry over to the first calls the rest of the day. When this starts repeating, I suggest that a manager or even another salesperson ride along to see if they can determine what’s going wrong. The odd one out in a sales interview will always see things that the lead sales person won’t. When we find ourselves in this situation we should start reviewing the calls and ask some prudent questions. “Did I have the right person?” “Did I qualify the suspect enough while on the phone?” “Did I use the proper selling tools and visual aids?” This process should take place after two and no more than three losing attempts.
A losing streak of final presentations is probably the most disheartening, since the sales person has already invested considerable time and a number of site visits to get to this segment of the selling cycle. These failures should be addressed in the office at the conference room table. I’m still a huge proponent of role playing. The management team, other sales personnel and clerical workers can play the customers. After all, school boards, hospital boards and church boards are made up of people from all walks of life. At the end of the presentation, each person in the room should critique the presentation. Review which selling tools were used and how effective the cost justification was. Also give feed back as to how the presenter fielded questions and objections.
Occasionally sales people will simply start leaving out portions of their presentation and not realize they’re doing so. Much of this is due to the repetitive nature of the job. When the same presentation is delivered hundreds of times it tends to get monotonous to the salesperson.
We should all be reminded that, even though we have heard and delivered this message hundreds of times and to the point of tedium, it’s the first time the prospect has heard it. Don’t they deserve to have the best presentation before them?
Earl King is the founder of King Productions International, a commercial HVAC contracting sales consulting firm based in Texas. He speaks to associations and HVAC trade groups, and consults with commercial contractors across the country. E-mail Earl at: [email protected] or call him at 515/321-2426.