Many times, your sales prospecting success is largely determined before you make your first call, send your first email or mail your first letter. Simply stated, when you invest your efforts outside of your “zone of probability,” you get poor results.
Here is a suggestion to sharpen your prospecting targets in 2019 and increase your sales results. This short exercise may very well have more impact on 2019 results than anything else you do.
Pull a list of your 2018 buyers.
Rank them by revenue.
Do some quick calculations.
Example, top 10% of accounts generated XX% of revenue.
Top 20% of accounts generated YY% of revenue.
What is the average account size?
Now with that info in black and white in front of you think through the purchasing scenarios of those accounts that contributed the most to your revenue.
Who made the decision? How did they become aware of you? Did you initiate contact or did they? How did the sales process progress for those accounts typically? How long did it take, what was the process of interaction like, etc.?
Let me share with you the results of my review and how it made certain things crystal clear as to where I needed to focus.
My 2018 Buyer Review
When I reviewed my list, a small percentage of accounts generated 68% of my revenue. The next small percentage of accounts (the next clump so to speak) generated 16% of my revenue. In virtually every instance the decision-maker was the CEO or Owner. There were a couple of exceptions to this where VP’s hired me, but in those instances, they had profit and loss responsibilities of a distinct business unit.
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Among the larger buyers, in virtually all instances, they called me. Now I got on their radar due to direct outreach/calling, cold emailing, referral or they read one of my books, but the initial interaction did not result in a project. They called me when the time was right. There were a few exceptions where timing was perfect, and the first interaction resulted in a quick project, but that was not typical.
So How Will This Sharpen My Approach
The first thing that really stood out to me, which I “know” and have known for a long time, is that direct contact and interaction with the CEO/Owner results in the vast majority of my revenue. Interaction with VP’s, unless they have profit and loss responsibilities and control a budget for a distinct business unit, rarely converts to a sale. In those few instances where a VP had to seek approval from a higher-up, typically the CEO/Owner, those projects tended to be smaller and of shorter duration.
So my take-away is that all the time following up and keeping in touch with VP’s or anyone that cannot authorize an investment is wasted. The few exceptions to this rule are not worth the effort. So all the inquiries from Directors or Titles that are not VP’s, bye-bye. No more follow-up calls or emails, postcards or letters from me. Not a good investment. I will keep them on my bulk email list, and they might call me, that makes economic sense. But more than that is throwing money away on this group.
You Want To Work Probabilities, Not Possibilities
The other thing this little exercise brings into focus is the importance of follow-up. As anyone that offers a service that is not purchased regularly or where existing vendor relationships last for years, the odds of bumping into someone at exactly the right time is not good. So if you have an interaction, a conversation, sales call or reply from someone that fits your profile, (in my case a CEO of a company of a certain size whose sales process involves multiple steps and a first meeting or discovery call,) it is important that you “touch” them regularly, remind them that you exist, reinforce a positive impression of you.
In my case, in 2018 we really stepped up our offline follow-ups. Postcards, letters, special reports mailed to our higher value and probability list. I feel strongly that a number of large accounts and referrals were made as a result of these follow-up touches. We will continue this and improve it. We will make sure all those within our dominant buying profile are touched regularly. We will be proactive and aggressive in deleting or significantly downgrading time and effort spent following up on those outside that profile.
This Clarifies the Dominant Buying Path
When you look at your list of buyers, you can clarify in your mind the typical buying path of your good accounts. If your buyers tend to be in certain industries, in companies of a certain size, with particular titles that tend to pull the buying trigger, and participate in your sales process in a certain way, guess what? Your highest odds of success are with prospects that fit within those parameters.
The farther away you move from your dominant buying path, the less likely it is you will make a sale. If you are not dealing with a company that fits your profile at the right authority level the odds of success plummet. When you are dealing when the right kind of company and the right person within, the more that interaction varies from how a typical account closes, again, the odds of success plummet.
Work probabilities, not possibilities
Many make the mistake of investing far too much time and money chasing opportunities too far outside of their dominant buying path. Maybe the company is in an industry or of size outside of your norm, maybe the person you are dealing with is too many levels below someone that can authorize a check. Maybe your prospect is acting far outside of how the vast majority of your accounts closed. If they can’t decide within a certain time, don’t answer your questions or won’t participate in your process, ask for referrals, insist on a proposal too early, endlessly ask for more details, if their behaviors are typically far outside of the norm as to how most of your accounts close, the odds of you closing plummet.
Reviewing your list of 2018 buyers can clarify these things in your mind. It will sharpen your definition on who buys and how so that you can allocate more time and attention to them.
Maybe even more importantly, it clarifies to you in black and white and provides proof of targets and activities that just don’t produce for you and must be either eliminated or investment sharply downgraded. Looking at your list of buyers should give you more confidence in eliminating that which is not producing.
Hope these thoughts help.