Effective Selling (rather than the Busy Fool’s approach)

Effective Selling (rather than the busy fool’s approach)

I am sure that we have all (on many occasions) found ourselves in a meeting with a salesperson who has been very busy telling us all about the wonderful products and services which they can offer, but for which we perceive absolutely no need, and have no intention of ever buying.

What a tremendous waste, not only of their precious time, but of ours as well. “Ah,” we say to ourselves, “what a busy fool!” I wonder (and wince) how many times that busy fool was me!

Ultimately, sales results are driven by the quality, direction and quantity of sales efforts. The most effective sales people are those who are best able to streamline, measure and manage these three areas of their activities, and who really understand the importance of each. These are the people who have understood that whilst many factors can have an impact on their results, not all of these are in their control (war, weather, politics, technology, recession etc.) Effort, is not only extremely significant in terms of its impact on present and future results, it is also directly in the control of each individual sales person.

The quality of sales effort can be described as “Getting it right in front of the customer.” What this really means is the ability to develop a good relationship during face-to-face or phone-to-phone sales interactions. The skills required for this include listening, questioning, empathy and the ability to understand their customer’s perspective and relate to it.

Many sales people make the fatal error of trying to tell the customer what his or her requirements are, and how they can help, rather than first taking the time to listen and then provide tailored solutions. Much research has been conducted on sales effectiveness by organizations such as Learning International, Huthelwaite, Miller-Heimann etc. and they all reach the same conclusion; that a diagnostic/consultative approach to sales, produces better results than a product-driven approach.

The Direction of effort or activity refers to both the customer and product mix. In other words, it is “Getting in front of the right customer with the right product or service”. This is a major failing of the “busy fool”, who tends to spend a lot of time talking to the wrong people, rather than the professional seller, who invests a lot of time with the right people. The desk research which is necessary to filter the market for potential opportunities, may require a considerable initial investment of time, but is well worth it as there will be a corresponding improvement in the conversion ratio of visits sales.

Finally, the quantity of effort is very important. Sales people can and will face rejection, and over time very accurate measurements of the amount of rejection they have faced in the past can be made. Subsequently, these measurements can be used to forecast future rejection!

Whilst it may feel depressing to anticipate the number of lost opportunities we are likely to face, it also makes it possible to anticipate future business volumes where we have not been turned down. Hence we can build a tool to measure the conversion ratio between effort and result.

For example: If a sales person makes a hundred phone calls (on average) to secure ten appointments, and for every ten appointments he makes he is able to send three proposals, and for every three proposals he sends he gets one order; If his monthly target is five orders then he must make at least five hundred phone calls to achieve it. Even in times of recessions conversion ratios hold true, although the numbers may be different and we may have to work a bit harder to get the same result.
Ultimately selling is a numbers game, regardless of the industry or product. However, you can only really play the game if you know what the numbers are. This requires measurement systems. There are many different measurable factors when it comes to sales efforts: the number of visits, the number of phone calls, the number of entertainments etc. Not only can these things be measured, the can also be targeted (by person, by product, by customer) and therefore they can be managed.

If these areas of focus are to be measured and managed, then a system has to be implemented that takes two factors into consideration:

• Not every effort leads to an order. (Hence the rejection.)
• There is a time lag, or delay between the effort and the result.

Having a measurement system or tool helps individuals, and organizations filter the market to identify potential opportunities. These can be classified either as Super Prospects or as Prospects. A Super Prospect would be an organization or contact with whom there is an existing relationship. With a Prospect, no such relationship exists. This differentiation is made because the likelihood of success is higher with the former then with the latter. The return on effort (R.O.E.) is better.

Having identified a potential hit list, the next step would be to re-filter them. What is their reputation like? Who do I know? Who should I get to know? Is it really going to be worth the effort? Do they pay?! By doing this we can not only improve the contact tactics, we can also significantly reduce the number of “being busy with no real hope” sales calls.

Now that the hit list has been turned into a workable target list, the time has come to begin investing in visits. In general most sales people are great talkers and lousy listeners! Now is the time to listen. Find out what they would like you to be able to do for them, and if you can, do it.

Pipeline management will help improve the odds. By measuring probability and pipeline leakage, sales efforts can be focused onto those opportunities, which have a higher probability of success. This not only saves time, it also stops sales people from being too persistent for too long with prospects that have absolutely no intention of ever doing business with them.

The existing client base can be segmented in many ways, and in general will consist of four main customer groups: first time buyers, small and medium accounts, key accounts and ambassadors.

First time customers can be difficult as there is no real relationship yet and therefore very little loyalty. Once the first “deal” has been done, first time customers need to be looked after. The message to sales people is “don’t over-promise to such an extent that you can now only under-deliver.”

Small and medium accounts are expensive to service as there are lots of them, but the returns are not great. They can however grow with time (if looked after properly) and become key accounts.

Key accounts are the 20{4816ad7fb2531acc3ea956d0a17d85cea324f9c2a75b3dcffb440c8c81eed43c} of the client base that provide 80{4816ad7fb2531acc3ea956d0a17d85cea324f9c2a75b3dcffb440c8c81eed43c} of the business. It would be a good idea to conduct an internal study to see if the top revenue producers are also the top profit generators, as this is often not the case.


Finally all organizations have ambassadors, clients who like them so much that they act as part of their P.R. teams. They feed their suppliers with market information, competition information and forge introductions (with glowing recommendations) to their business partners and friends.

Clearly, it is easier to do business with people who are already known, than it is to work with strangers. It is therefore very important that sales people maintain and build their relationship with their existing client base. This is done with so called “Relationship cementing activities”. Such activities would include entertainment, loyalty schemes, sponsorships, golf tournaments etc.

These activities are designed to keep the existing client base happy doing business for the years ahead. Unfortunately, this is an area where many organizations let themselves down. Research has shown that the motivation behind a customers change in suppliers is often (68{4816ad7fb2531acc3ea956d0a17d85cea324f9c2a75b3dcffb440c8c81eed43c} of the time) because of a perceived lack of interest from their previous business partner. Sadly, the “busy fool” is so occupied running around the market trying to drum up new business that he forgets about the customer base he has already secured, and because they feel ignored and unappreciated, they leave.

In summary, selling is a fairly simple concept, which has been made very complicated. Selling is simply the process of motivating a customer’s commitment towards you, your products and your services. It is a process of understanding what a customer or prospective customer wants you to be able to provide, and then providing it.

How much you sell is based on how good you are at understanding what your customers want, who your customers are or could be and seeing them often enough to build and strengthen your relationship with them.

With most database management systems nowadays; it is easy to measure the quantity and direction of effort. The effectiveness of this effort (quality) can also be measured by looking at the conversion ratios, which the first two are giving you in terms of business results over time.

In business, if you can measure it, you can manage it. If you are not measuring it, you are not managing it, and therefore you are not in control of the achievement of your own results……Just like the busy fool!


October 2013

The last few weeks have been really busy and rewarding for me. After six months of research and study using the iWAM tool (www.jobeq.com) – an online tool that measures 48 different meta programmes- I have finally completed and submitted my dissertation on Emirati Meta Programmes at Work. This is the final requirement for me to achieve my Masters Degree in Applied Coaching  with the University of Derby (www.derby.ac.uk).

I have also appeared as a guest speaker at the recent HTNG – Hotel Technology Next Generation (www.htng.org) conference in Dubai where I talked about the importance of taking ownership and control over your own career and on how people can get themselves noticed positively within their organisations.

We are now coming towards the end of the year and I am increasingly involved in facilitating Strategic Workshops aimed at setting scorecard goals and objectives for the coming year as well as the action plans that will achieve them.

With the award of Expo 2020 coming at the end of November, 2014 looks as though it will be a very interesting year.