B2B Sales Prospecting: When to Persist (& When to Move On)
In this episode, Florin from Loopio asks How many "no's” are you willing to get from different people within an account before you give up on the account? I know this depends on who the "no" is coming from (i.e. ultimate decision maker) but at what point are you doing more damage than potential good?
Well, that's a great question and one that I think we've all run into. How persistent should you be? Can you be too persistent? And how many "Nos" should you accept before you move on to the next opportunity?
I think we've all heard that and research suggests most people may say "No" four times to get to that "Yes," or there are a lot of training programs that say, "You have to hear a “No” three times before you move on."
I think the question is why are we getting that no? In other words, is it that we're trying to meet with them and it's bad timing? Maybe we're trying to meet with the wrong person, and it's not that useful. Or maybe we're offering the wrong solution, and it's not a good fit.
So, I think the idea of whether we're being too persistent boils down to where is the "No" coming from and can we understand what's behind it? Maybe we're just catching him on a bad day or bad timing. And we should ask the question, is there a better time to follow up? Is there somebody else in the organization that would be more appropriate to meet with? Or is there something else that you have on your agenda, that's a priority for you, that we might be able to assist with.
I think another question to consider is, how strategic is this account to obtaining your objectives for the quarter, or for the year? In other words, if you have a long list and unlimited accounts to go after, you may accept that "No" as, "This isn't the right timing. I'll follow up again." But you move on to the next in the list.
But if your target account list is only twenty strategic accounts, well then, we better be careful, focused, and strategic about how we approach those. We may get a "No" from one place, but we're asking those questions that might lead us elsewhere in the organization, might help us map the account, maybe we can develop a coach along the way that can be useful for us.
So, we're going to accept that "No," but we're going to learn from it, and we're going to use that in other ways. I think it's important for us to understand what's going on in that organization before we make the call, do our pre-call planning and our research, find out what the business issues are, and come into those questions with some sort of compelling reason for them to meet with us.
I think often we get a "No" because we catch them off-guard. It's not their job to take your meeting or to call you back. So why should they meet with you?
You better give them an important reason that's going to look like saving them money, improving their productivity, selling more of their product, improving their relationships with their customers. Or some business driver that's going to help move them forward that gets their attention and say, "You know what? I'll give you 10 minutes. Let's do that. Or better yet, why don't you call me back at a specified time."
Those are some of the considerations we should look regarding how many "Nos" we should take. How important is that account to us? Who are we talking to, what are we offering? And what are our other options if we do receive that "No?"
More than anything, we want to be very cordial and polite, and think about this as a longer-term relationship. "No" today, may very well turn into a "Yes" three, six, nine months from now.
When B2B sales prospecting, continuing to ask until they say "Yes" is likely not going to get you there, and in fact, is probably going to do more damage and perhaps get you locked out of that account for good.
To recap, I think we need to be polite and persistent, but we also need to consider those other options and see where else we may be able to go.
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About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.