Persistence Over Pressure
When do your salespeople give up on a prospect? Recent studies indicate that 50% stop trying after the first call. That percentage increases to 65% after the second call and to 80% after the third call. A whopping 90% of all salespeople throw in the towel after four calls.
Now here is the real difficulty with these percentages: professional relationships don’t normally begin to grow until you’ve communicated at least six times with a potential customer. In many instances, prospects decide to talk to you only after 10 or even 12 contacts have taken place.
So what can you do? Forcing sales people to make more calls isn’t the answer. And for staffing firms, increasing call volumes may actually be counter-productive-by irritating potential customers and frustrating sales reps.
For staffing firms, sales success results from carefully nurturing prospect relationships, which takes a well-crafted blend of persistence and gentle persuasion.
Pressure Won’t Work
As we begin the 21st century, stress has become a dominant attribute of most corporate cultures. People are busier than ever-constantly being asked to do more with fewer resources. Time has become our most precious commodity. And for sales professionals, this represents a significant challenge.
Despite the explosion of new communications products, people are harder to reach, especially prospects. And even when you manage to get hold of a prospective customer, he or she rarely has the time for a meaningful conversation.
So what happens instead? Sales people spend their time leaving voice mail messages. Sales cycles lengthen. And prospective customers settle for current suppliers rather than investing the time to find new ones.
For staffing firms, the implications are obvious. Increasing the “numbers” won’t work. Aggressive sales tactics may even back-fire, causing prospects to raise their defenses and discredit the salesperson’s message. There’s an old saying that people love to buy, but they hate to be sold.
Staffing firms must discover new ways to break through the clutter and get the attention and interest of prospective clients. The tactics you use must create the perception that you’re an ally-a resource to help get things done and make life easier. You must make people want to do business with you. You have to take the pressure off!
Persistence Wins the Race
Who are your best customers? The ones who demand the lowest price? Of course not. Your best customers are the ones who view you as a valued and dependable partner. They don’t haggle about price; they rely on you to deliver great results. Your best customers are also most likely the ones with whom you’ve built the strongest relationships.
Your challenge is to create more relationships with more customers. It’s not about selling, it’s about nurturing. It’s about gently and persistently demonstrating the value you can offer. It’s about developing trust.
To develop trust, say little, but do a lot. In today’s overly stressed and overly competitive market, staffing buyers are being overwhelmed. Every day they’re bombarded by calls from staffing sales reps. They’re hearing unending claims of service excellence. It’s getting to the point where buyers won’t believe anything you say.
But they will still believe what you do. Only your actions can demonstrate that you are worthy of someone’s respect and trust. By consistently doing the right things, you will build relationships.
Characteristics of a Persistent Effort
There’s a difference between being professionally persistent and irritatingly pesky. That line becomes especially difficult to walk when you have to communicate 10 or 12 times with a typical prospect just to begin a relationship.
To avoid being pushy, keep the following guidelines in mind:
Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Respect people’s time. Forget the unannounced drop-ins and time-wasting cold calls. Instead, focus on communicating in a more professional and courteous manner. Personal letters, e-mail, and even voice mail can all be powerful ways to grab attention and position your business while demonstrating respect for someone’s time.
Every time you communicate with someone, you’re interrupting his or her day. Make the interruptions worthwhile by sharing information the recipient will value. People want to be more successful. They want their lives to be easier. Show them how you can help accomplish these goals.
The best information to share may have little to do with your services. But it should have a great deal to do with the problems, challenges, and interests of your prospective customers. For example, you know that recruiting and retention are significant challenges in today’s market, so share ideas to help people retain their employees. While this type of information doesn’t directly sell staffing, it does illustrate your caring, your concern, and your understanding of the issues that are most relevant to employers.
When you talk about your services, focus on the problems you can solve and the benefits you can deliver. For example, describing your temporary employee training capabilities probably means little to a prospect (no matter how terrific that training is). On the other hand, explaining how trained temporary employees can decrease the learning curve and increase productivity will almost certainly pique a company’s interest. Selling results keeps the focus of your conversation on the customer-right where it should be!
Make it Personal
People do business with people. Make your communications appear personal. Address people by name. Provide information that is relevant. Sign your letters. Get to know your prospects and their businesses, and use that knowledge in your communications.
The more you know about your prospects, the more common ground you’ll discover, and the easier it will become to develop relationships. By building rapport, you build bridges to new customers.
Nurture Over the Long Term
Staffing will never be a business of one-call closes. Relationships get developed through continuous effort. Communicate with prospects and clients on a regular basis (but remember to do it in a way that adds value and shows respect). Your communications can have many goals, such as:
- Positioning your company
- Teaching people how to use staffing
- Building credibility (proving your ability to deliver)
- Adding value
- Obtaining feedback
Ideally, you should develop a program of regular contact-one that adds value, differentiates you, and keeps you top-of-mind. Over 90% of all companies use staffing services. And while many companies may be satisfied with their current vendors, you know that at some point, those suppliers will make a mistake. It’s at that moment when you want to ensure your organization is the first one that comes to mind.
When 5% Equals 25%
A CEO once challenged his marketing manager to be just 5% more persistent in her dealings with potential clients. At the end of the year, that increase in persistence translated into a 25% increase in the company’s bottom line.
Not every business sees such dramatic results, but it is nonetheless clear that persistence is a vital component in the sales and marketing process. Consistently trying to prove to prospects that you are helpful and trustworthy builds credibility. And over time, communication channels with many of those prospects will open, opportunities will arise, and your sales will increase.