George felt that cold, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. For the past six months, his salespeople had been coming back to the office reporting that one long-term contact after another had been laid-off or had changed jobs. He knew what it was like to have an account where the contact seemed to be there forever and then one day was gone.
“I’m sorry,” the sweet voice at the switchboard would say, “but Beth is no longer with the company. Is there someone else I can connect you with?”
Yes, thought George, that’s when the knot starts forming. Now it was happening to his salespeople. In fact, according to what he had been reading lately in the business press, this was going to become more and more common. Now that he thought about it, his own company had changed their purchasing director twice in the past two years.
What to do? Well, he continued thinking, there is the old “get-to-know-the-new-contact” rigamarole. “Hi, this is George from ABC, Inc. I’d like to set up a meeting with you to discuss our past relationship.”
As he played that line in his mind, he felt it was lame. Really lame.
Watching the second hand going around on the desk clock, now 8:34pm, he had a thought and wondered if it would work. “Take the position of that new person,” he said outloud. He either got hired from the outside or promoted. Either way, it’s a new job with new responsibilities . . . and new fears. What if I can’t handle this? What if I screw up?
The following morning, at the weekly sales meeting, George explained what he thought would be a good starting point with new contacts.
“Okay, most of you have been faced with the unpleasant fact that long-term contacts in many companies have moved on.”
“Amen to that,” came a salesperson’s lament.
“What I want you to do is look at the new contacts as new prospects. Think of what their pain is right now. Fear that they will screw up in the new job. How do we handle new prospects who are in pain?”
George remembered one important fact in selling to another company; you don’t sell the company, you sell to the person at the company. New person, new prospect.
Nobody likes starting over again, which is precisely how many salespeople feel when their contact moves on to somewhere else. The first thought that flashes in their mind is that “just when I get her on-track, just when I can depend on steady purchases, zap. Gone. Why did she have to disappear?”
Some salespeople get addicted to a routine. Their contacts buy on a regular basis with little selling needed. The salesperson gets lulled into the belief that this happy relationship will last forever. Then the axe falls, and “salesperson panic” sets in.
From all business indicators over the past 10 to 15 years, it is an established fact that if you are still with the company where you started out, you are a statistical rarity. Currently, a person will switch jobs about 10 to 12 times during his working career.
If salespeople and sales managers don’t have a plan in place to deal with this reality, sales are most likely going to go in one direction, and it won’t be up.
It is disruptive to the salesperson when the old contact is replaced with a new one. However, the salesperson, instead of focusing on his frustration at this turn of events, must remember that it is an event completely beyond his control. If he can’t control the event, there is no point in dwelling on it. It’s a done deal, and it’s over.
First, the salespeople have to be helped out of their own personal frustration to the point where they see the new contact as a new prospect and treat him accordingly.
Second, the salesperson must understand that future purchases from this company could be subject to change. Their fear is that future purchases may decrease or become non-existent. However, there is an equal possibility that future purchases may increase.
Third, since an increase in purchases has an equal chance of happening, what does the salesperson have to do? The only thing he can control is his relationship with the new contact. A new contact is a new prospect who will have new pain. Learn what the new pain is, and help the new prospect solve it.
A new prospect/contact may buy more than the previous contact. Find the new pain.