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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 12, 2011 • Issue 11:12:01

Discipline and persistence pay off

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

I was visiting one of my clients recently to discuss a major sales and marketing initiative when a poster in his office caught my attention. It was one of those business posters you often see in corporate environments that are meant to inspire. Interestingly, as we talked about the poster's information and ramifications, it ended up guiding our planning session and has significantly impacted the initiative we are now embarking on together.

The poster's message has important and widespread value and serves as the topic of my marketing article this month. The poster listed a number of interesting sales statistics. Here's a recap:

    Follow-up statistics

  • 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect.
  • 25 percent of salespeople make a second contact and then stop.
  • 12 percent of salespeople make only three contacts and stop.
  • Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts.

    Closing statistics

  • 2 percent of sales are made on the first contact.
  • 3 percent of sales are made on the second contact.
  • 5 percent of sales are made on the third contact.
  • 10 percent of sales are made on the fourth contact.
  • 80 percent of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.

My client doesn't know the source of the statistics poster. I tried to validate its content by searching the Internet - to no avail. Although I see many posts of similar information attributed to a study by Dartnell Corp. and The McGraw-Hill Cos., as well as a study conducted by the Sales and Marketing Executive Club of Los Angeles, I cannot verify actual study results from these sources.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

While we're not sure of the accuracy of the poster's statistics, the message is clear. Most sales are made only after repeated contact.

However, most salespeople typically give up before sales are ready to be made. While keeping up with prospects is strategically important and imperative to making sales, it unfortunately often doesn't happen.

Following up is the most neglected and misunderstood part of the sales and marketing process. Follow-up comes into play immediately after you make contact with a prospect and requires patience, tenacity and persistence over what can be a lengthy time.

Contrary to misperceptions, following up is not about making the sale; it's all about nurturing relationships and creating credibility to prepare for making the sale at some later point in time.

Overcoming fear and getting disciplined

Salespeople quit following up on sales opportunities for many reasons. Sometimes fear holds them back - fear of rejection, of being too pushy or of being annoying. Sometimes salespeople quit following up because they're just plain lazy.

But the main reason salespeople quit following up on sales opportunities is lack of discipline and persistence.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, discipline is an orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. Persistence is the quality that allows someone to continue doing or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people. Discipline, in this case, means employing lead-nurturing techniques to build relationships by following up.

Lead nurturing uses an informative dialogue, combined with a specific, defined process on qualified prospects that are not yet ready to buy. The goal is to earn merchants' business when they are ready.

Nurturing a relationship

The discipline of lead nurturing builds a stronger connection with buyers by providing the information they want, need and value, with the appropriate amount of contact at each point in the buying cycle. Lead-nurturing discipline produces stronger sales pipelines, higher close ratios, shorter sales cycles, increased sales amounts, greater sales productivity, and enhanced brand recognition, image and reputation.

For more information on following up using lead-nurturing techniques, see my article entitled, "Leads, leads, leads - Part 3: Lead nurturing," The Green Sheet, April 11, 2011, issue 11:04:01.

The memory of persistence

Persistence is the ability to hang in there after most others have given up. It means sticking to the job until it's done - for example, staying with a qualified lead all the way through the lead-nurturing process until the prospect buys or the opportunity dies. Persistence doesn't mean wasting time with a nonqualified prospect, nor does it mean being a pest.

So be disciplined and persistent. The older a sales lead becomes, the less competition you'll have. Most other salespeople will have given up, while you've been providing value and building trust and credibility.

The longer you hang in there with lead-nurturing activities, the better your chances are of closing the sale. The odds are in favor of a disciplined, persistent sales and marketing effort. So although it's easy to give up, discipline and persistence pay off in the long run.

They pay off big in terms of more sales for those who stick with lead nurturing and follow-up throughout the entire sales and marketing process. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payment companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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