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Help! My Sales Process Sucks!

Nothing can kill sales success faster than a lousy sales process. As evidence of this, here's a cry for help from a Sales Machine reader who has a process that seems almost as if it's designed to fail. What's worse is that this kind of sales process is not all rare, so I'm going explain how to fix it. First, the email:

I've just started selling several HR products such as human development, leadership, coaching, and so forth. I'm not doing very well, though, and could use your help.
Here is our sales process:
1. I pick from a database of 9000 business contacts a "relevant" prospect, usually a General Manager.
2. I send a letter to the prospect presenting the firm and announcing that I will call to discuss our products.
3. My assistant calls to check if the mail was received and to try to get an appointment with the GM by talking to the GM's assistant.

Unfortunately, the assistants won't give us appointments and frequently say that the boss is not in town, is too busy, and so forth. Do you have any advice?
Yes, I do. Your sales process doesn't work because it is built on numerous incorrect assumptions.

First, you're assuming that the GM will read what is essentially a piece of unsolicited junk mail. That's unlikely.

Second, you're assuming that the GM will be intrigued by its contents and immediately see that he needs your offerings.

Third, you're assuming he will tell his assistant to make sure that the follow-up call results in an appointment in his calendar. That's even more unlikely.

Fourth, you're assuming that the job of the assistant is to fill up the GM's calendar with meetings with sales reps, when in fact, the assistant's job is to keep people from bothing the GM.

Fifth, you're assuming that your assistant is the right person to be making the cold call, when in fact you should be making the cold call.

Finally, you're assuming that the "selling" will take place after you've gotten the face-to-face meeting, when in fact it needs to take place from the very first moment of contact.

In short, you're treating the situation as if it were an appointment making exercise between two executives who have already agreed to meet. No wonder you're not having any success.

I recommend that you completely change your business model.

First, rather than picking a "relevant" prospect, pick out a few prospects in a particular industry. Do some research (like examine their financial reports) and find some specific elements of their business where you can help.

Second, write a personal letter - no product boilerplate - saying that you've been doing research into that industry in order to build up your client base and notice that the GM's company is having problem "X". (E.g. high turnover rate.) Tell him that you have experience dealing with that problem and may be able to help come up with some solutions. Point out that even if he doesn't hire your firm, it's always a good idea to get an outside perspective from a knowledgeable source.

Send two copies of the letter: one to the GM and another to the GM's assistant. Add a note to the letter to the GM's assistant that you are sending her this copy in order to keep her in the loop from the very start.

Make the follow-up call yourself. When you get the assistant do NOT try to get the appointment for a face-to-face discussion. Instead, just try to get an appointment for a five minute telephone conversation. Work with the admin to find the right time for this short call.

When you get on the line with the GM, do NOT try to sell your product. Instead, sell the value of the GM putting aside twenty minutes (or whatever) to speak with you personally. Base this on your ability to provide a unique perspective on the challenges that the GM faces.

I guarantee you that you'll have a much higher conversion rate of leads into prospects. The posts below can help you with the tactical parts of that new process.

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