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  • 07.02.12

My Dentist Follows Up On Leads. Do Your Sales People?

Research shows that the sales process for most enterprise sales doesn’t begin until after 5 follow-up attempts. Yet most sales people give up after 3 attempts. Why? And what can be done about it?

My Dentist Follows Up On Leads. Do Your Sales People?


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My dentist, Dr. Paul DiMattia, cares about my
health. How do I know?  He regularly sends me a postcard to remind
me to come in for my semi-annual appointment. And if I don’t respond, he sends me an email, followed by a voicemail
message.

I’m a busy guy and I appreciate the reminders. Dr. DiMattia knows he provides an important
service. And he is confident enough in
the value he provides that he is not afraid to regularly reach out to me. Dr. DiMattia does not worry about bothering me
or becoming a pest. He does not agonize
over the optimal time to send his reminders or if I will be offended by his
message. 

In contrast, B2B sales reps behave very differently. And their behavior has significant consequences
for revenue generation.

New research from the National Association of Sales
Executives indicates that 80% of all complex B2B deals require at least 5 contacts or touches for a prospect
to respond. 

Yet according to the same research, the vast majority of
sales reps (82%) stop trying to reach prospects in their target market after 3
attempts. Another way to put it is that
only 18% of all sales reps hang in there long enough to get the sales process
started. 

This results in what I refer to as the sales follow-up gap.

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Why does a sales follow-up gap exist? For one thing, it is emotionally exhausting for
sales people to continually reach out to prospects with no response. A common refrain from sales people is that
“if they were really interested, they would call me back.  This
is a potentially dangerous assumption. 

Recently, when I was called in to help a company figure out
how to sell a life-saving device to schools, I went on a number of cold calls
with their sales team. It was
relatively easy for me to make cold calls because I believed in the
product. After all, a child’s life could
be at risk if this new technology was not adopted quickly. My desire to save lives outweighed any anxiety
I had about making cold calls.

I often hear from sales people that since they are unclear
how a product will benefit a particular prospect, they don’t want to damage an emerging relationship by becoming a pest. Their commitment to the product is not strong enough to overcome their
follow-up anxiety.

Of course, it is easy to fault the sales person for their
lack of persistence.   

However, product marketing must share some of the blame for
the follow-up gap. 

Product marketing teams fail to create compelling value
propositions and explain how their product will change a customer’s life. In
addition, they fail to give the sales people the ammunition to keep pursuing a
prospect. They don’t provide the sales team with compelling
stories to engage the prospect and explain how your product contributed to the
success of similar organizations.   

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Sales people often are forced to chase prospects without the
appropriate tools or training.

With the right support from product marketing, your sales
people will be able to follow-up as effectively as Dr. DiMattia. And
your sales follow-up gap will become old news.

Visit Neil Baron at www.baronstrategic.com.

[Image: Flickr user Kate Sumbler]

About the author

Neil Baron is an internationally recognized authority on selling and marketing innovative products, services and solutions sold to risk averse customers. He has served in a variety of senior marketing and management roles at companies such as IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation, Sybase, Art Technology Group, Brooks Automation and ATMI.

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