I began my B2B selling career back in 1977 when I went to work for a national company and I was assigned a geographic territory in Los Angeles where I was expected to make 30 in-person cold-calls each day. We were offering business calculators that averaged $500 each although we also provided specialized and accounting systems that could land for over $10,000.
My goal was to place at least 5 of these calculators, each week, in offices on a trial basis. The classic “puppy dog close”. If I placed 5 calculators on trial during the week, I could expect to make at least one sale and each sale could be multiple units. Our most popular model listed for $479.00 and I could make up to $145.80 on each of these. My comp program was straight commission.
We made all of these calls for the simple reason that it was the only way that we could determine the potential of each and every business, in our territory, to purchase our products. We also learned that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover as sometimes even the most dilapidated buildings disguised sales gold.
The numbers did work …
- 30 calls yielded 6 face-to-face meetings per day
- 6 meetings = 1 trial placement
- 1 out of every 5 trials would result in a sale
- Each sale averaged $2,000
- I made an average of $400 on each sale
Once you had your ratios figured out, you could even work them backwards if you wanted to make more money. You could make more calls, improve your ratios, or find bigger and better accounts. Increasing your call counts could be very difficult to do as there were only 8 customer-facing hours in the day and you still had to do demos, follow-up, schedule appointments, and close business.
We rarely used the phone for prospecting and our internet was the old newspaper racks that were found at the library. Manual record keeping and reports were done after hours. Still, sales goals today have not changed. We continue to attempt to discover the right prospect and then attempt to convert them into a paying customer.
Our selling strategies were limited whereas they are much more abundant now. If sales was a numbers game, is that still the case today? Well … yes and no. Let’s start with this. Who in their right mind would want to make those 30 daily calls? For that matter, is pounding the pavement the most cost-effective and best use of a salesperson’s time? Numbers is numbers but…
Any numbskull, including me, can knock on 30 doors that are lined up in a row, collect a business card, and write a note on it. However, our new metrics can be much more complex and they require a substantially higher level of planning, collecting, and analysis. Now we might talk about connections, shares, link clicks, retweets, targeted messaging, A/B testing, and much more.
Ringing doorbells has largely been replaced by social media’s reach. There are also probably 100’s of selling tools that are vying to assist us in these efforts. This means that … your challenges have just been compounded by choice, the sheer volume (inbound and outbound), and the noise (stuff that you don’t want, or need, to hear) that comes with technology.
If knowledge is still power. It’s, many of those old-school activities that required shoe leather, can now be largely accomplished with calloused fingertips. Communication channels have also vastly improved. My two cans and a string have been replaced by smartphones, instant messaging, email, and chatting on every social network.
This highlights the need to be able to target accounts. When we place ourselves closer to the bulls-eye, a tight shot grouping becomes that more attainable. Although marketing may be very good at messaging the masses, hoping that a certain percentage of it sticks (spurs a prospect to act). While they are getting better at targeting, their conversion rates can still be pretty skinny.
Now then, let’s assume that marketing knows what they are doing and that they are achieving their desired results. I am a salesperson who knows next to nothing about marketing. Yet I want to attempt to create and perform marketing strategies and activities? I’d have to be an idiot to do so. It’s not even in my job description. Read this if you think that it is in yours.
On the other hand, if I can target my connections and build relationships with those through progressive and highly-personalized engagements that lead to conversions … not only do the numbers work, they are also manageable. Better yet, I am able to augment my time-tested selling skills with social selling goals and techniques in order to achieve these desired results.
There must be 4 elements in place for this strategy to be successful …
- You must have a well-defined buyer persona and your target list needs to be filled with folks who match this. These are the people who have the highest likelihood of doing business with you and/or of doing more business with you.
- Your touches with these folks must be regular and consistent. This is driven by the age-old sales axiom that it takes at least 7 “No’s” to get to a “Yes”.
- Touches must be highly-personalized. Otherwise, they are little more than that high-value (at least in Hawaii) sandwich meat … spam.
- Progressive touches not only include moving from taps to more direct engagements. They also move from cyberspace, to real-life, to a relationship, and only then to a converted customer.
Therefore, at the end of the day, selling is still a number game. That digit is the number of quality touches that I can make, am willing to make, with folks who match my buyer persona. Simple. Agree or disagree? All of us would love your take on this topic!