At the Fortune Magazine Scaling Up Conference in Atlanta, Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up, Founder of Gazelles and Entrepreneurs Organization called me to the stage.
He asked me to share a sales tip with the audience of 1000 growth-focused business leaders. As I took the microphone I considered which of my top tips would be most valuable for them. I could have gone with “sell something people will pay to have,” or “inbound marketing alone doesn’t always get you meetings with your wish list prospects but the right sales strategies layered on top of these marketing campaigns will get these meetings,” or “if you really want to get in the door with the right prospects, stop spending time on all the wrong ones.” I can go on. I opted to share a tip based on a recent trend amongst business leaders, their sellers and their prospects which is fast becoming one of the primary reasons why sales don’t close.
First the trend, then the tip.
Trend: There has been an elongation of the sales cycles in almost every industry I’ve observed within the last 6 months. Why this is occurring is not half as important as the corresponding reaction to it by many businesses. At the same time that it takes longer to get from initial meeting to closed sale, there has been a notable increased fatigue and heightened frustration amongst sellers AND management to stick with the sale and do the necessary steps to deepen prospect relationships to be the vendor chosen when prospects are ready to spend. This combination is an unfortunate recipe for lost sales as well as wasted investment in sellers and marketing campaigns. Some leaders even encourage their sellers to give up on prospects if they don’t close in the time period management feels is acceptable.
One technology business I know had an initial meeting with the CIO of one of the largest banks in North America. The CIO expressed interest and wanted follow up but because there wasn’t an immediate need, the business owner saw no value in the relationship. Mistake.
1. Decision Makers have reported that when sellers drop them like hot potatoes when they don’t immediately buy they find it so disrespectful that when they do have needs, they will NOT include the offending seller in the decision set.
2. Opening the discussion and creating interest paves the way for the competitor who IS willing to stick with the relationship and create a true partnership. Who do you think the CIO would rather work with when the time comes?
Recently, one of our Door Opener® clients, TeamPAR, a trusted NJ company for flooring and interiors closed a sale just north of $1MM from a prospect they met 3 years ago. The decision maker had needs but budget was dedicated to other business priorities. Karen Rossilli-Kiefer, TeamPAR President continued to stay in touch, providing value and showing partnership through the years. When the prospect was ready to spend, there was no RFP, no multiple bids. The entire sale went directly to TeamPAR.
Tip: Keep at it. Don’t let your best prospects forget about you. Make sure you are top of mind with prospects in meaningful ways so when they are ready to spend you will be there too. When you focus on the health and depth of your relationships with people, the money follows.