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“I Can’t Get Customers To See Me!”

by David Brock on November 11th, 2009

When I speak to sales people, this is the second biggest complaint I hear.  Sales people have trouble getting meetings.  This isn’t just with prospects, but also with customers we know well.  Let’s face it, everyone is time-poor.  Everyone has more on their plates than they can possibly deal with, and the pile just gets bigger. 

In  the face of customers being time-poor, in order to get a meeting, we have to have a compelling reason for them to invest their precious time in us.  This probably bears repeating with emphasis:

In order to get a meeting, we have to have a compelling reason for them to invest their precious time in us!

“Thanks Dave for pointing out the obvious, but you don’t understand,” is a typical response I get.  They go in, “Our products are really important for them to understand.  I really need to get in and pitch them our products, but I can’t get that opportunity!  How will I ever sell anything if the customer won’t see me?”

Well, you probably know where I’m headed with this, so I might just as well go there directly.  Well almost, I got on this soapbox when I had the opportunity to preview a great little eBook by Tibor Shanto, Six Ways To Get More Sales Appointments.  He has some great ideas and provided a good excuse for me to get onto another soapbox, so here goes.

As a profession, we’ve conditioned our customers remarkably well.  They know, based on what sales people do all the time, that we’re just in there to pitch them on our products.  The better among us, will ask the few obligatory questions  (because we’re told we have to), but really it’s telling them about our wonderful products!

Customers get that, that’s why they won’t meet!  They don’t care or don’t know they should care about what we want to pitch.  They care about achieving their own goals and objectives.  They want sanity in their own lives and jobs.  Until we focus the conversation on What’s In It For The Customer, we’ll never get them to invest their time on us.

So how do we come up with the compelling reason?  Sales people have to do their homework, before we even try to approach them, we have to understand who they are, what are they likely to be concerned about and why, how are they likely to be measured, what’s going on in their company that’s likely to impact them, what’s going on with their customers that’s likely to impact them, what’s going on in their industry, and the list goes on.  This research gives us insight into the compelling reason.  With the availability of information on virtually everything and everyone on the Internet, it is not difficult to get enough insight into what makes them tick. 

One of my greatest introductory calls was on my now good friend Jerry Johnson.  When Jerry was a senior executive at Kodak, I called him.  I had barely gotten my name out of my mouth, when Jerry calmly stated, “I don’t talk to consultants, you have 30 seconds to tell me why I should invest my time in you.”  Fortunately, I had anticipated that, my preparation helped me understand that would be Jerry’s likely response, and my response earned me another 5 minutes, then another 25 minutes.  It was the start of a long and mutually profitable business relationship and a valued friendship.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t prepared and done my homework.

Sales people don’t like it when I say this.  It’s so much easier for us to shoot from the lip, after all, we’re smart, glib and fast on our feet.  We can talk our way into and out of anything.  Plus, we don’t have the time to do it—don’t forget we are time poor too!

I’ve become very impatient with the “I don’t have time to plan” excuse.  Sales people can find the time to try all sorts of different approaches, to nag people terribly on the phone, to make sales call after sales call to dig themselves out of problems created because they weren’t prepared.  Sales people have time to do all those things, but they don’t have the time to plan and do things right in the first place.  Well, it’s just flat wrong and an excuse.  Time spent in planning and preparing will always shorten sales cycles and maximize impact on the customer.

So, we’re back to planning and preparation.  There is just no getting around it.  But do it well, and you will have the compelling reason for customers to invest the time.  One thing, before you pick up the phone and make that call to get a meeting, test yourself—can you state the compelling reason in terms that are meaningful from the customer’s perspective.  If you can’t, you’re not ready.

Well, I’ve said my piece.  Tibor Shanto has some other great tips in getting customers to see us.  Even better, he’s making them available for free in an eBook at SalesMarks.  The book, Six Ways To Get More Sales Appointments, provides sound advice.  Take the time to read it!.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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