Skiing uphill is no fun. Gravity becomes a huge issue. I am not a skier, uphill or downhill, mostly because it is cold in those places, but nonetheless, skiing uphill is the worst. In selling, we ski uphill when spending inordinate amounts of time with prospects that cannot see the forest through the trees. These are the people that see no value in what you represent and think they know more than you about what you sell and how you sell it. Yet in the back of our minds, we map these scenarios by which we can convince the unconvincible they need what we sell and what we sell, and eventually they will see it our way. Entrepreneur and online personality Gary Vaynerchuk, or Gary V, will tell you this, “Don’t try to convert the un-convertible.” This is the biggest time-waster in sales: trying the convert those that are not already on the path to want or need what you sell. Living in this fantasy land where we think if we just spend enough time with someone, they will finally see it our way.
The better approach is to find the best matches for your product or service. These are the people that fit the profile of your ideal customer and reach out to as many of those as possible. You are not trying to convert them all. In fact, you are not trying to convert any of them. You are mining for interest. Those that are interested are worth pursuing as they have self-selected as businesses or persons of interest. They are predisposed to want or need what you sell. You put one hundred prospects in a room and asked, “Who wants to buy what I sell?” Ten people raised their hands. Who do you think you spend much of your time with? The ninety who didn’t raise their hands or the ten that did? Here’s a hint, you would waste inordinate amounts of time with the other ninety.
In a recent one-on-one meeting, a seller told me a story about a prospect. The prospect was not interested in anything at this time, but the seller told me, “If we could come up with the right offer, just for them, I think they will come on board.” This is a huge red flag. This potential customer is self-identifying as a complete waste of time. Yet, sellers all over the planet and running around like chickens without heads to try appeasing this request to potentially do business with you. But if and only if, we can fit a square peg into a round hole. You could run one hundred offers at this person and you would never sell any of them. This action is a vague put-off, not a buying sign. And the difference between the two can be misread by even the most seasoned of sellers.
W. Clement Stone American businessman and self-help author stated, “Sales are contingent on the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.” And to a degree that is true. Attitude is everything, but your attitude will improve greatly if you are dealing with well-matched prospects. Seek out those people in the room that have self-selected as interested, rather than wasting your time on the uninterested. This will mean making more calls than anyone else, dealing with more rejection than anyone else, and qualifying your people within an inch of their life to make sure you have the best prospects you can call on – the ones that give you the best chance at success. And then spending all your time concentrating on those that are already inclined to work with you. American bestselling author Daniel Pink writes, “selling is helping people to do what they are already inclined to do.”
If we take the opposite approach and try to work on those that have no interest, that is where we begin skiing uphill. To make this approach work for you, become a master of business development. Look for those prospects and potential customers who not only have raised their hand in interest but can grow with you and buy depth of assortment from you and your organization. There are many in sales who make the mistake of selling one product to a customer and never asking them to buy something else. We could learn a lot from the McDonald’s drive-thru operator who is trained to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” Or Amazon.com suggests people who bought this also bought this. The simple power of suggestion to move people from high center and deliver the depth of assortment of your product offering – this is a real business development strategy.
In any average American city, there are approximately 10,000 businesses. That of course could scale up or down based on the size of the city. Let’s assume for easy math that the ten thousand number is right. That doesn’t mean there are that many prospects. Let’s assume that half these are working out of their houses and therefore not good prospects. So, we will take them off the table. So that is 5,000. Let’s discount that by 50% for people who are not good customers and would probably not be able to pay you at the end of the day. That is approximately 2,500 businesses that could be good prospects at the end of the day. When I look at our business, I see about 250-300 contracts per month. Based on that math, we have roughly ten percent of the viable businesses doing business with us on a regular basis. And the gene pool of available prospects is the other ninety percent.
From that base, we should be able to find the next 10 percent that is well-matched, ideal profile prospects that have a chance of becoming our next batch of great customers. Not everyone is a prospect. Many show themselves to be terrible prospects and worse clients by their behavior. We don’t have to have everyone to be successful, just the right ones. People that embrace the opportunities presented by our offerings and want to harness the power we place at their fingertips. If someone doesn’t believe that you can deliver for them, don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to convince them you are right, and they are wrong. It will be a much better use of your time to cut bait and move on to the next person with their hands in the air. Otherwise, you are skiing uphill. Don’t do that!