I read a book the other day that said that you have to make at least eleven contacts with a company before they become a customer. Eleven contacts? No wonder so many people don’t make it in sales. Eleven contacts is about eight more tries than most people I know attempt before they get discouraged and move on.
There are many reasons for moving on or stopping after two or three contacts. You don’t want to be a pest or have the target start hating you for your stubborn consistency. Most of us are pretty polite folks and we feel that we know the difference between being a conscientious salesperson and a pain in the neck. However, I have spoken to many buyers who will tell me things like, “He called me so many times that I had to give him a try after a while,” or, “I’m not sure about sales people today. It used to be that they would keep calling me, but now most of them stop after three times. That’s a shame because by the time I need them and their products, they are gone and miss the chance to do business with me.”
Let’s be clear. These contacts don’t have to all be phone calls or live customer visits—they just have to be contacts, or what I call “touches,” with the customer. Here are some examples of eleven “touches” you can give a potential customer. For these examples, let’s use a target customer you get from a directory who does not know who you are or what you do:
- The first touch will be an email. Send the target a well-written email explaining who you are and what your company does. This mass email can be sent to everyone on your target list too.
- The second touch will be a value-added newsletter about your company focused on how you can help the target.
- The third touch will be an actual phone call with the goal of setting up a face-to-face appointment. You will most likely get their voicemail a number of times before you actually talk to the person. Make sure you leave a cheerful, polite, and intriguing message. Chances are good that the buyer will never call you back, but rest assured, they are getting your messages and know who you are.
- The fourth touch is when you finally get the person to answer the phone. This could happen by sheer luck of timing or the buyer could have answered on purpose. During this touch, try to engage the person in a conversation and keep it focused on their needs. Remember, it is always better to listen than to talk. If this call is done correctly, you should be able to start developing your strategy for winning this account. Also remember to ask for an in-person meeting.
- The fifth touch is the actual meeting. Notice that it took four touches to get to the first face-to-face meeting, and the meeting is just the start of the next phase. Make sure you have a goal for that meeting. What do you want to accomplish during the meeting and how will you accomplish that goal? If you do a good job, you will walk away with the promise of an RFQ.
- The sixth touch is the follow-up. Send a thank you and summary email where you list the things you talked about and add a gentle reminder of the quote package you were promised.
- The seventh touch will be a week or so later when you have not heard from that buyer. Make a phone call to leave a message reminding the buyer of your meeting and the promise of a quote package.
- The eighth touch will be when it is time to pick up that quote package. The buyer will either call you or send you the package. You are getting warmer and closer to success!
- The ninth touch will be if you have questions about the package. Make sure you ask good questions.
- The tenth touch will be delivering the quote package. Try to make this exchange in person so you can ask about your chances of winning the package.
- The eleventh touch will be to follow-up with your quote to see if you won it or not. If you did not win it, then you need to find out what it will take to win it next time. If you did win it, congratulations! You are an overnight success after only eleven touches over about six months.
The thing to remember is to keep trying, but there are a couple of things to consider as well. First, make sure the account you are targeting is a worthwhile target. Have they fit into your ideal customer profile? If they do, great, but if not, move on. Second, make sure you are getting somewhere. If after eleven touches you are no further along than you were at touch two, move on. There are other targets out there and you can better spend your time pursuing them. Remember what Willie Sutton said about why he robbed banks: “That’s where the money is.”
It’s only common sense.