Increasing revenue depends on being able to quickly penetrate targeted accounts, get to the right decision maker fast, shrink sales cycles and close business more quickly. The question many sales managers are grappling with is how? And in the urgent rush to move leads into the sales opportunity pipeline, I see a tendency to look to the past and default to “what used to work” when times were better.
What got you here, won’t get you there.
Marshall Goldsmith’s book of the same name, clearly illustrates the pitfalls of thinking that whatever strategies worked in achieving past successes will still work now and into the future. In most cases (maybe in all cases), they don’t.
A case in point…
I know of a very large, highly successful company who sells B2B services to their clients. They sell to the business owner or CEO of mid-sized organizations and their services are designed to improve business performance. Like many companies, revenue has been stagnant or slightly declining, which led to senior management determining that something needed to be done. Their solution? Insist that their salespeople hits the streets to “knock on doors” on a weekly basis. These reps are required to visit at least 25 companies, which is followed by completing a form detailing exactly where they went and who they talked too.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is about as lame as it gets. What business owner or CEO is sitting around waiting for a stranger to barge into their office with something to sell?
Doesn’t it strike you as ironic that a company selling business performance improvement solutions is using a 1970’s approach to reaching new prospects?
You might be wondering, as I did, who actually believes this will lead to qualified leads and the right kinds of clients for this company. The answer is that senior management does. These folks are the people who started the company, and in its inception, they used tactics like knocking on doors and cold calling to build the business. Because it worked then, they still believe it works now.
Activity should never be confused with effectiveness.
It isn’t the number of doors that you knock on or the number of people that you talk to that leads to the creation of new sales opportunities. What leads to new opportunities is targeting the right type of client for your business and getting an audience with the person who can make the buying decision. Walking into a business office and talking to the receptionist (because I’m pretty sure the CEO isn’t going to take a meeting with a stranger) is activity and not necessarily an effective sales approach if your goal is to move lead to close fairly quickly.
There are 4 ways to gain access.
In an excellent sales book called “Selling to the C-Suite“, authors Bistritz and Read talk about the 4 ways to gain access into an organization and the decision maker you want to reach. They are:
- Overt – cold calling and knocking on doors falls here.
- Sponsor – someone credible in the company sponsors you in the door.
- Referral – a trusted 3rd party makes an introduction for you.
- Gatekeeper – you connect with the administrative assistant and hope that building a relationship with her or him will lead to that desired appointment.
“84% of executives say they will take a meeting with someone who has been sponsored into the company.”
Clearly, finding ways to be “sponsored” is the way to go. And, as it turns out, 44% also said that they’d meet with someone who had been referred to them by a trusted, credible source. Why then do so many salespeople remain fixated on using approach #1 and #4 to gain access? I believe the answer is that it is easier and creates a false impression that they are “doing something”, instead of focusing their attention on doing the right something.
Seriously, would you rather close a deal in 60-days or 6-months or more?
In the end, shrinking the sales cycle and closing business more quickly won’t happen with a perceived “quick fix”. Achieving this goal requires a little more leg work on the front-end, and the effort is well worth it!