Amy Auerbach and Jason Krebs recently wrote in “Call me Next Year” about the stand-off between the buyer who isn’t interested and the salesperson who calls repeatedly for the appointment. It’s a classic situation that defines the nature of sales and the need for salespeople who sell smart. The buyer thinks she knows what the salesperson is offering -- but, until the buyer has seen the pitch she really doesn’t know what she is rejecting. The salesperson thinks he knows the buyer would need his media, if she would only listen to a pitch.
Smart sellers gather sufficient information and understanding about a potential client’s needs so that they can make intelligent decisions about which potential customers have the greatest need for their as yet unknown service. Smart sellers then invest their time and resources in winning the appointment in direct proportion to the scale of the opportunity and their certainty that the need is there. Then, when a buyer notices the escalating economic investment in getting her attention, she does her own internal calculation: when the investment of time and effort, and perhaps funds, reaches a certain level, she determines it must be worth her time to learn about what might be an important opportunity for her client.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Salespeople should know that being annoying is not a great way to start a relationship. Sales executives should use creative means to signal importance to their prospects. Here are a couple of principles to apply to your efforts to win the appointment:
Calibrate Your Efforts to the Opportunity
Salespeople that treat all their accounts as if they are the same, applying the same sales pressure on each of their many accounts, are likely to be annoying but not effective. Smart salespeople will determine which of their accounts deserve more investment than others based on market knowledge and investigation. Then they calibrate their efforts accordingly.
Imagine a salesperson launching a new product with 100 prospective accounts to pitch. Forty of those accounts might get a call and email every week asking for an appointment. Thirty might be potentially bigger or more prestigious and get a personal hand-written letter to precede and/or follow up the phone and appeal for the appointment, 20 might be economically such high opportunity they get a gift basket with a request for an meeting. Ten might be so critical to a salesperson’s success, and to the successful launch of the new media product, that it is worth it to make a sign on a sandwich board and hire a person from a temp agency to picket outside the office of those prospects asking for attention for a couple of days.
Media companies have done a version of this for years, buying outdoor media like bus-shelter ads near buyer’s offices, while creative salespeople have had signs placed in windows of a building across the street from New York City ad agencies addressing a prospect by name, or suggesting a brand that should be interested in their media.
Readers, what are the best strategies you have used or seen to break through the “call me next year” barrier?