No really! Stop trying to win the war in different ways on a daily basis. You know what it takes, and constantly reinventing the wheel is not the way forward.

I was talking to a retailer friend of mine the other day, and he said this to me;

‘The difference between you and me, you see, is that I’ll try 10 different things this week, and 1 or even none of them will come off. Whereas, you’ll try 10 different things and 7 or 8 of them might come off’.

He was feeling a bit sorry for himself its fair to say, fair enough, times are tough.

I was flabbergasted that a sensible ‘grown up’ retailer would have such a thought.

‘It’s exactly the opposite’ I said, to his complete consternation.

‘I spend all my time, trying to do the same thing over and over, but the trick is making it fresh for my teams’.

I’m still not sure he believes me! And I can see why it’s difficult to accept. Lets be clear though, I am not talking about not being creative and innovative. I’ll come back to that in a later blog. I’m talking about not re inventing the things we do that make us successful. Or more accurately, that have made us successful, time after time, yet now feel like they won’t work for some reason.

I have sold advertising, or managed teams in advertising sales for the last 20 years. I pretty quickly established what I needed to do to be successful, and what my teams need to do to be succesful. I established what I think of as my own personal sales process. I am able to measure my current level of effectiveness, and even compare it to previous levels or forecast for the future. But it’s not complicated at all. In fact, the idea is to break it down to as simple a process as possible. For example

  • Dials : Contacts (The first part of the process, and hardest part to control. Because it’s just Its luck. This is the number of times you ring someone v. the number of times you contact them)
  • Contact : Appointment (The number of contacts you convert to an appointment)
  • Appointment : Fact Find (The number of people who are appropriate for us to carry on ‘selling’ to)
  • Fact Find : Presentation (The number of people who are suitable to buy the product – sometimes these two steps are the same)
  • Presentation : Sale (The classic conversion ratio)

So that’s it, the sales process reduced to a series of steps, each of which is measurable and therefore manageable. There is no part that is magic, or unintelligible, subject to fate, or the direction of the wind, or any of the other arcane arts some people credit to selling.

And no part that needs reinventing. There aren’t any other ways for a face to face seller to operate. All you have to do as a sales manager of whatever description, is ensure your teams are across each step. And are trained and mentored to get better at each step. With one exception. Step One!

Step one is about luck, there is no (or little) skill involved here, the number of people you call is not an accident, but the amount of people you’ll get through to is luck. And this is why so many sales people feel like it’s so hard to make appointments. They aren’t in control of this part, and they intuitively feel that’s the case. That’s what makes it so hard.

But ‘Feel’ is not the same as ‘Real’. And unless you measure these steps and work out where you are ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and where you are ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’, you’ll never have a true picture of how effective your sales effort is. All you’ll have to go on, is how it feels. Not the same thing.

Consequently, the majority of sales people simply FAIL TO MAKE enough dials in the first place. They feel like its hard, and they avoid doing it, and the whole process grinds to a halt. You cannot make presentations without first putting the calls in. It’s as simple as that

In fact there isn’t a single thing you can do that will have more impact on the amount you sell, than simply making more dials in the first place. Measure all your ratios, and know how effective you are at each step. Focus on weaknesses by all means. Become a better fact finder, and a better presenter. But don’t strangle your sales effort before it even starts. Put more into the top of the process and get more out of the bottom – Simple.

And it doesn’t need reinventing. In fact, it needs a laser like focus to stay on the plan. Because a million things will try to take you away from the plan. A million different ideas to try, a million different approaches. A million ways to distract you away from doing the things you know you need to be doing.

Stay on the plan. Make more calls.

  1. Caz Parker
    Caz Parker says:

    I followed Tony’s advice and starting measuring my cold calling sessions and found out I wasn’t as bad as I thought which inspired me to do more of it as it then didn’t seem so horrible….