How to find the line between persistence and harassment.
As a sales person, it’s just a fact that you do need to be a little bit aggressive. It’s an unavoidable reality that you will be hung up on, you will receive unsubscribe requests, and you may even receive a few angry emails and less than friendly reactions to your phone calls. But at what point does necessary persistence turn unprofessional, or even cross the line into harassment?
Even though most sales people would agree that persistence is key to success in the sales world, most also fall far short of the ideal number of follow-ups (or “touches”) per prospect. Almost half of all sales people give up after one follow-up and the many more after two, when the average number of touches it takes to actually close a deal is seven!
The hard to find sweet spot is figuring out how to be persistent enough to not let deals needlessly fall through the cracks, but not come across as annoying, agressive, or desperate.
In my humble opinion, the first, and most important step is to stop overthinking it. The most common mistake I see sales people make is to overthink how to best approach sales conversations. The most effective communication strategies are those that are natural and unforced. This applies to all interpersonal conversations, sales-related or not. So, before you even start diving down the rabbit hole of trying to iron out your communication strategy, whether it’s email, phone, or in-person, first let’s all take a deep breath and remember that sales conversations are not all that much different from everyday conversations with peers, coworkers, etc.
When your psyche is set to go and you’re ready to make a call or send an email, make sure you do your research (especially for phone calls). The key here, however, is to remember that you don’t need to have deep knowledge of every prospect’s business. Simply spending a little time browsing their website and maybe looking at their LinkedIn profile will give you a good idea of what sector they operate in and a little bit of their company culture. From social media you might glean a few conversation topics to keep in your back pocket. Maybe there’s something you have in common in your work histories, cities you’ve lived in, or topics you both follow. But don’t spend all day doing deep research into each prospect. Just prepare yourself for communications by finding key information that might be useful.
One of the most difficult things to master in sales conversations is tamping down your eagerness. People reflexively react negatively to salespeople that they perceive as “pushy”. If it seems like you’re trying too hard, the prospect is likely to feel like you have something to hide or you’re trying to coerce them into a bad purchase. Keep in mind that there are plenty of prospects out there for you. Be confident and calm. Present your wonderful offering to your prospect and then back off and let them make their own informed decision. Just be there to help them out with whatever they need to do so.
Remember that your goal when initially reaching out to prospects, even if you’ve begun a conversation with them already, is to get a response and have a conversation, not necessarily to get a sale. Remember not to jump the gun and just take things one step at a time. This also goes back to the point about being over-eager. If you keep small goals in mind, rather than trying to push the conversation to closing too quickly, you will put yourself and your prospects at ease, and everybody wins.
When in doubt, trust your common sense. Treat your prospects like people, not like sales goals. That will come through in your conduct with them, and it will be reflected in the relationships you build. Even if your prospect doesn’t buy right away, building a solid relationship is valuable to stay top of mind for the future, and you may even get some referrals out of it.