I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
As sales professionals, you know more often than not you are going to have to wait on many of your deals to close. Today’s clients take longer to make a decision, prolonging the sales cycle and increasing our stress. The new economy may have brought new opportunity, but it has also brought a new set of challenges. Why? Because this new economy is what is known in the industry as a shifting economy; and a shifting economy is an uncertain economy. Meaning as bankers and as consumers we have no idea or control over whether it goes up or it goes down, or what outside forces of factors will impact the economy at any given moment. The result: selling and building relationships becomes a challenge because our clients are distracted, they are busy, they are worried, and they are fickle; all of which negatively impacts your ability to close the deal.
How are we supposed to stay in the game, keep our energy up and continue to stay in front of our clients without being annoying, rude and downright pushy? Two of the biggest mistakes you can make in today’s economy is to try and force the close before a client is ready, or give up before a client is ready. Both will cost you big time in terms of client relationships, reputation and your ability to achieve your goals and help your organization to grow.
So what is the solution? As a financial professional you need to be following these five simple strategies to ensure you and your team are in the best sales shape of your lives, and you have what it takes to go the distance.
Embrace reality– You have zero power over when the deals in your sales pipeline will close. You can influence your clients, try to create a sense of urgency, and ensure they have everything they need to make an informed decision, but at the end of the day, when, where and how that sale is going to close is 100 percent up to them, not you. This is a trust and value economy, one that requires a skill of pulling not pushing. Your products and services are a commodity, so your relationship with your prospects and clients, how they connect, feel and how much they trust you are going to determine whether that sale happens. So both pushing them to make a decision or abandoning them before they are ready to do business will send a loud and clear message that you are not the person they want to do business with.
Overfill your sales funnel– so OK, you’ve embraced reality, you understand you are not in control, but that still leaves the problem of your needing to meet goals, expand relationships and care for your clients. You can’t just sit there all day hoping that one of the people you called on decides to close the deal. Or can you? In today’s economy, the trust and value economy, patience is a virtue and the need for instant gratification a curse. You need to overfill your sales funnel, you need to have more potential prospects coming through your pipeline than you actually need to close to meet your numbers and expand your business. Why? Because of Murphy’s Law, the moment you need a sale to close, is exactly the moment the sale won’t close. In a shifting economy, you need to sell from a place of power not from a place of need. The only way you are going to hang in there as your prospects “him and haw” about when the deal will close, is if you are okay waiting for a deal to close. The only way to be okay with waiting for a deal to close is to have another deal or two waiting in the wings to close.
Redesign your follow-up system– We have all heard these statistics, it takes on average seven to eight sales calls to close a deal, and the average sales person gives up in three. Why do we give up, because as sales professionals we hate to follow-up. We love the adrenaline rush of the first few calls, but after that it gets uncomfortable. We assume that people are not interested, and we don’t want to be irritating. Well, if you are using a traditional follow-up system, I have news for you, you are pushing the prospect to the point where they are not interested, and quite frankly you are irritating. You need to redesign your follow-up system. What you don’t have one? OK, start there. You need to design your follow-up system, then redesign it, so it is more about adding value, then just checking in to see if the prospect is ready to buy. Follow-up has one purpose, to continue to enhance the relationship.
Make it easy– Do you ever need a little something to get you through the day? A pick me up? Something that gives you the energy to make it to the end of whatever it is you are working on. Why not add that to your sales process? If you want to make to the finish line, if you want to have what it takes to wait out your prospects, you are going to need a little something just to get you through the day. You need to be calling on your existing clients, those people who already love you, want to do business with you, and probably have some opportunity for you. Your weekly sales calls need to include at least one or two “fun” calls, calls in which you are visiting, talking with and reengaging with your existing client base. Best case scenario you walk away with some new business, worst you get recharged remembering why you love what you do.
Do it anyway– Years ago, I heard an interview in which professional volleyball player Gabrielle Reece was asked about how she stayed in such amazing shape – where she found the dedication and discipline, now that her volleyball career had ended, to continue to work out, eat right and be such an amazing role model. Her answer was simple. She said that she had learned early on from one of her coaches that they look for one thing when they are identifying winners: they look for those athletes who do it anyway. That no matter how they feel in that moment, they get out of bed and do the workout anyway. They understand that some days they will be good, some days they won’t, but not matter what, they do it anyway. Crossing the finish line is more about consistency then about skill. Now don’t get me wrong, you have to be good at what you do, but there are plenty of great athletes and sales professionals who never cross the finish line, because on those days when they don’t feel like it, they don’t do what needs to be done anyway.
Building relationships is not always easy in this economy, and it takes more than a little stamina to stay in the game. But with a few adjustments to your approach and your workout routine, you can build your sales stamina and make it to the finish line a winner.
Meridith Elliott Powell is an internationally certified coach, speaker and business development expert. Founder and owner of MotionFirst, she helps executives and business owners build cultures that make sales fun, easy and incredibly productive. She blogs at MotionFirst First Insights.