(And how to get past them)
Once upon a time, a client project put me between a rock and a very hard place. My commitment was to advise on federal sales. Partway in, the project goals were clarified, and I was told that I needed to make to make federal sales calls for them.
Please understand, dear readers:
This is not my core competence. It's not on my web site. You cannot hire me to do this. But I needed the work.
I was suddenly in the throes of The Six Stages of Sales Grief:
- Shock: "What? Me? Make sales calls?"
- Anger: "I'm a subject matter expert. I don't sell for you."
- Denial: "No. I'm not going to do this."
- Fear: "I have no experience with this. What if I fail?"
- Bargaining: "Look, I gave you the tools. Calling is your job."
- Acceptance: "Okay. I will call until I meet the goal of ten leads for you."
For me, fear was the worst part: fear of failure, and, underneath that, fear of rejection. I have never failed a client. Never. And I wasn't going to this time. But I was scared. I couldn't sleep. I knew I had to wake up in the morning and Make More Calls. I had good training. I had the tools. Now I just had to buck up and do the job.
Much later, I can say that a lot of good came out of that experience.
First, I am now fearless. I will call anyone to ask for what I want. Some of them will say no. So I call more to find ones who say yes.
Second, and probably more important, I'm now my own best reference. You see, to make those calls, I had to use the very same tools that I prepare for my clients in our Lightning Launch service. So I can tell you that these tools work. Even for someone who can only make calls for a couple hours a week, or has to pick up and put down business development to handle other tasks. Every time I opened up the file, I was instantly productive and focused on my best prospects. I could see how my calls were progressing: I watched the patterns of who said yes, and focused my efforts more on where the best prospects were.
Third, based on that experience, I know what it takes to succeed. Studies show that it can take between eight and 12 instances of contact to close a sale. And many of the people you call say no before that point. A dedicated sales professional breaking into a new market niche can expect to make 600 calls a month, consistently, when she's starting out. That's 150 calls a week. 30 calls a day. Oh, say, that's only four or five calls an hour. That's not so bad.
Clearly, the person that makes 600 calls a month is going to be more successful than the one who makes 35. I've learned how much I can accomplish in an hour, and in a day, and what kind of results a client can achieve with the right message and focus. But before I could get to that starting point, I had to go through all the angst, and all the stages, of "I don't do sales."
If your company long on subject matter experts and short on sales professionals, you may need to groom some who have the most potential to leverage their technical experience by reaching out to prospects. When you need to coax someone out of the cubicle, don't be surprised if it takes time. Be patient...but more than that, give them the tools and training and support they need to succeed.