By Ken Edmundson
That’s a headline straight out of sales training boot camp, but it’s true.
There is a question most people want answered when they go to a sales training program or read one of the many sales how-to books; that question sounds like this, “Is there really one secret weapon or magic formula to make me better and increase my sales?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find one … so would winning the lottery, but not many do it.
Here’s a question for salespeople that I suggest is far more profitable for them to answer: “Am I doing everything necessary to ensure that my attitude, behavior and technique are sufficiently trained and adequately reinforced so I am able to identify a truly qualified prospect and close them in the most efficient and effective manner?” Yes, that’s quite a long question. But what you’ll realize is that it gets you to focus on what you, as the salesperson, can control. Yet there is still an issue: we’re all human, and as much preparation as you can go through, you’ll still have to battle your own emotions.
The biggest challenge I see with salespeople not giving themselves a real chance to be more successful lies in my comments below … and, yes, there is something that the top 25% of salespeople do that is not widely shared or discussed, but drastically affects their results!
Take a quick test; which of the following do you think is more challenging for a salesperson?
- Developing consistent work ethics.
- Personality skills that allow for building rapport with all types of prospects.
- Emotional strength to withstand rejection.
- Understanding how to qualify prospects and set effective meetings.
- Learning the real reason a prospect is buying from you.
- Dealing with the budget and money issues in a sale.
- Getting to decision makers and understanding the decision making process from the prospect’s point of view.
If you chose #3, you’re right. While all seven are critical skills and strengths to learn, #3 is overwhelmingly the single biggest challenge for salespeople if they are to be the best. Fear of rejection in a salesperson is caused by a “high need for approval,” and it keeps salespeople from meeting or exceeding their capability more often than anything else. It almost single handedly eliminates an important but risky move such as prospecting – a behavior critical to a salesperson’s success, not to mention all the other things a high need for approval will impact. When fixed, it will improve a salesperson’s effectiveness and consistency as much as 50%.
Here’s an example of how it affects salespeople. Research has shown it takes an average of 12 touches for a new prospect to become a client or customer. That is not 12 irritating voicemail messages; that is on average 12 strategic and tactical touches with the prospect. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more, but on average it is 12, and great salespeople have strategies and tactics to make each and every one of those 12 touches meaningful. A salesperson with high need for approval will rarely ever make it to five touches and never to 12 or more.
80% of salespeople bail out by the third or fourth call, yet research shows that 80% of all business is done with new clients by the salespeople who are able to effectively manage past that fourth, fifth or sixth call to a prospect. Why is it that salespeople cannot typically get past that third, four or fifth attempt?
Well, back to “need for approval”; it weakens a salesperson’s ego, pride and bravery and causes them to retreat from the very activities needed to be more effective. Need for approval is fed by a salesperson’s own belief system that sounds like this, “If I had not returned a salesperson’s phone call or made an effort to respond to someone after three or four attempts, it would be my signal that I am not interested and that’s the signal I am getting from my prospect so I’ll not call any more, and besides this is beginning to feel like rejection and I want more approval than I do a sale” … do you see this vicious cycle? A prospect’s failure to respond to your efforts just simply means that you have not run the necessary route yet, your strategy and tactics are not right, and you need to keep trying.
It is the secret of the best salespeople in the world when it comes to not allowing ego and pride to create a high need for approval: they treat every phone call, every single contact and every single touch, regardless of how many came before, as if it is the very first one.
If you listen to a top professional salesperson, they will never make a prospect feel they’ve been difficult to get a hold of or they have been in pursuit of them for a long time and are finally glad to have run them down. This type of comment immediately breaks rapport with a prospect when, after repeated attempts to reach them, you’re finally successful and the first thing you say to them is “Wow, you are hard to get a hold of!”
The mindset of the top professional salesperson is that every contact, every touch is treated emotionally the same as the first one. In their mind, there is never a call back or a repeat phone call or a second, third or fourth attempt; they make 12 or 14 first calls, and every attempt has the same enthusiasm, the same excitement, and the same motivation as the very first one.
If you want to improve your performance, begin treating every contact, even if it is the 12th or 14th, as your first one! Your need for approval will go down, and your results will go up.
Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.
Illustration by Rob Green