My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Monday 18 February 2013

Goldilocks, The Three Bears and Sales

We all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  You know the story.

"This one is too small"
"This one is too big"
"This one is jusssttt right!!!"

Well you probably didn't know that Goldilocks was in professional sales when she wasn't breaking into houses.

When you are approaching a new prospect how much contact is appropriate?

If you are selling something commodity then the answer is very different than to something highly specialist with a long sales cycle.

Too much contact, too often and you may  start to look like a stalker. You are on their radar as  a problem - they will avoid your calls  and turn into a big grumpy bear.

Too little infrequent contact and any recollection of who you are will fade and like a goldfish, every time you approach your prospect it will be like the film 50 first dates.

Where this level of contact is jusssttt right it is possible to move  the sale forward the build a relationship with the prospect.

This is in the very early stages of the relationship when they don't know who you are, what you want or why they should speak with you.  You may be cold calling them or contacting via email in order to get that critical first conversation going.

Based on my experiences of cold emailing people that I've researched and targetted, I get about 20% of people replying to my first email. It is far easier to get hold of someone's email address than their mobile number.  It can take between 5 minutes and 2 weeks to get a reply from them and I would estimate about 50% of the 20% reply within 3 days. It just shows how much people can get behind in email!

So if I sent 100 emails I get 20 people replying within 2 weeks and 10 of these people I hear from within 5 minutes to 2 weeks however I still have 80 people with no response.

So there needs to be some follow-up with the 80 people. I have after all spent time researching these people so want to give it my best shot to help them. Based on the fact that I still get replies 3 working days later and I still get some stragglers from my first 20%, potentially weeks later,  I leave a 1-2 week gap between sending a follow-up email.  I get similar results from the follow-up email with about15-20 people replying usually within 1day - 1week. So I still have 60 people who haven't responded.  On my third follow-up I might get 2-5 people replying and beyond the third reply I rarely get any more respondents - maybe 1 or 2. On occasions I have done as many as 6 follow-ups and I get some respondents however these people have been politely ignoring me hoping I will go away rather than telling me to sod off. There have been occasions when I've met them and  I have found them to be more confrontational so although persistence is a good thing it has been at the expenses of being viewed as a pest.

This is an area I am still experimenting with.  My experience is from first unsolicited approach via email or my phone call goes to voicemail, then under normal circumstances a gap of 1-2 weeks is acceptable. With voicemail I am more likely to leave the gap as 2-5 days.

If there is a compelling event that I am contacting them about which is important to them then a shorter gap would be appropriate. For example if their factory burnt down and  I can offer a solution to their disaster then every few hours would be an acceptable level of contact to reach the person I need to get hold of.  Leaving a 1-2 week gap will mean their own disaster plans would be in execution and the opportunity would have disappeared.

Leaving long gaps of over 6 weeks seems to be way too long unless there is something like Christmas in between.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences and thoughts on this. I suspect what is appropriate may vary by industry.

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