Remember when we said that salespeople have to stay positive or GTFO? Yeah, here’s why:
Eighty percent of prospects say no four times before they say yes.
Eighty percent. Four times. Translation: you need to have bullet proof Rambo-style grit in this business. The stat comes from a great blog post by Matt Tuscon, a fellow sales guy who laid out some interesting figures that will make you think. He said you need to have some thick skin in this business – yeah, no kidding!
I had an experience years ago that taught me the importance of keeping my chin up despite really shitty odds. Years ago, my team and I were working on a bid for Sun Microsystems, one of the biggest tech companies in the world at the time. We were the underdogs, fighting an incumbent vendor to win their business.
We researched the account, built relationships with executives, and focused on the goals and objectives of their business to make sure we had an airtight value proposition. We did all the right things and wound up flying out to Denver to do a presentation for the exec team as part of the final step in the proposal.
Everyone that was short-listed for consideration was going to be there. We practiced all evening because we knew five of the biggest heavy hitters at Sun were going to be at the meeting. In the morning, to our disappointment, only three of the five key people for Sun showed up. It felt like we weren’t being taken seriously.
Ultimately, we didn’t win the deal.
Yeah, we were disappointed, but instead of being sore losers and saying “the hell with these guys,” we came up with a simple plan to stay in their good graces until the next opportunity arose.
We figured out through our friendly contacts at Sun when they were going to start working with the other vendor. We timed it so that we sent a gift basket at the start of the contract reminding them of our strengths. The result was, two years later, when there was another op with them, we became a favorite and won the next bit of business.
Keep Reminding Them What You Bring to The Table
We could have easily sulked around feeling bad for ourselves when we spent so much time on the Sun proposal and didn’t get it. But that would have gotten us nowhere.
There are times when salespeople need to keep pushing past “no” and times when they should move on to greener pastures. Maybe there’s something in your value proposition that you haven’t communicated the right way or maybe you’re not talking to the right person.
In the case that the buyer isn’t educated enough to make the right decision, it’s your job to take him or her to school. For example, if you’re in logistics sales and you know you can save the buyer 20 percent, it’s almost like you have an obligation to because it’s in their interest.
If they’re still giving you push back, maybe you need to call somebody else in from their organization such as a supervisor or other department head who will better understand the value you can provide. Don’t stop until you feel you and your product have been seriously vetted.
Stay on Their Mind
Maybe if we sold Sun a $10k starter something just to be an approved vendor, instead of going straight for the $3M big enchilada we would have been better off. But hindsight’s always 20/20.
One way to stay on a prospect’s mind while you wait for an opportunity is to use the reciprocity principle – a little psychological trick that plays on our basic social expectations.
This is how it works: Most people want to return favors, repay debts and cultivate general goodwill with their fellow man (or woman). According to Robert Cialdini (he only wrote one of the most famous social selling books of all time), the psychological principle of reciprocity is directly tied to influence because people cringe a little bit on the inside when they don’t or can’t return a favor.
You have to have a thick skin in sales – there’s no two ways about it. You’re going to lose more times than you’re going to win, but if you focus on the right deals and do the right things to stay on your client’s mind, you’ll be in the money in no time.