Are your sales calls missing these elephants in the room?

Are your sales calls missing these elephants in the room?


Are your sales calls missing these elephants in the room?

Two adjacent circles. John finished drawing them and stepped away from the whiteboard. He faced several pairs of of eager, curious eyes. Capping his marker, John explained “Think of these circles as influences at work in every sales call. Here,  the one on left is what you work on when you meet a Customer who you have sold to earlier. Then there is the other circle which stands for what you do while meeting new prospects” He paused for a quiet minute before he asked – “Can you guess what influences these could be?”

Wise, weather-beaten, with decades of selling to his credit, John was the quintessential sales guru. He had a reputation for his off-beat insights. But even by his standards this was perplexing. “Customer resistance and sales pitch?” ventured one tentative participant voice. John shook his head in disagreement. Smiling broadly, John challenged the group “Here is one final clue. The circles represent two excellent ways to approach the sale. They are obvious but often ignored. Imagine them to be elephants in the room. From all of your sales experience, what do you think they are?”  The participants went into a whispered huddle.

What was John getting at?

This guess doesn’t call for a prize. Here are two insights hidden in plain sight. In any sales call, you are doing one of two things – Creating conditions for selling or doing the sale. When selling to new customers a big share of your sales effort goes into creating conditions favorable for selling. What does the ‘new’ in new customer mean? It can be:

  • A Customer who has never bought from you
  • One who was buying but since long has stopped
  • A buyer who purchases way too little in relation to his purchase potential

Of course, selling to a new customer is a lot tougher than sales to existing clients. Keeping volumes constant, it costs 7 times more to get a new customer to buy than to make the same sale to an existing one, as generally accepted by most sales experts. While this may be stating the obvious, what is less understood is that the difficulty in selling to a new customer stems from not having the reservoir of confidence, good will and positive vibes that you can draw from, in dealing with an existing Customer

So, to secure a new Customer, you must first recognize the direction of your sales effort. When on a call with a new Customer, pause for a minute and ask yourself – “Am I trying to sell or am I working on creating conditions for a future sale?” (See graphic below)

If you are on the left half of the quadrant, it may take more than one visit to make a sale happen. Not seeing this difference is the root-cause of many failures to win a new customer. Never get into a pitch till you have created enough rapport and confidence

How can you create winning conditions for future sales? Below are some sure-fire tips:

  • Analyze the profile of the new Customer and map out a total strategy on how the Customer can be won. Your first sales visit must be aligned to that strategy
  • Make an effort to reach the highest possible contact in the Customer’s organization. That can open up maximum opportunities.
  • Resist the urge to push the Customer towards a quicker commitment in first visit or two. That might unsettle the equation and erode rapport
  • Research and collect all information you can access on your own without having to ask the Customer. The preparation will earn you Customer’s respect. What’s more he will be thankful to you for conserving his time
  • Aim to close the first visit with firm mutual understanding of the next steps

6 objectives for the first 20 minutes

You should be on the ball from the word go in a sales visit. The first 20 minutes with a new customer can set the tone for the meeting and even the quality of relationship. This time need not always have specific discussions around needs or products. The 6 objectives of the ‘golden minutes’ of a sales visit could be:

      1. Create a good contact climate
      2. Inspire confidence in the salesperson’s organization
      3. Generate trust you as a salesperson
      4. Enhance Customer’s appreciation of your company’s products
      5. Become well-informed about the customer
      6. Get the Customer interested in a specific product or service

In your eagerness to close sales, don’t miss the elephants in the room – sales facilitating efforts and selling efforts and what separates the two.