Before you throw your hands up in the air, read on about what the experts are saying:
It’s not you
Contacts not returning your calls? Hot prospect suddenly gone cold? Even with business picking up, hotel sales managers and CVB account rep report having to chase buyers longer to get a commitment. Frustrating exercise, but the silver lining is that this is happening all over the place, not just in the meetings industry.
The Aberdeen Group and CSO Insights both have published extensive papers about how sales cycles have lengthened since the recession. One possible explanation is that in rough times, buyers become more conservative; they stick with who they know even when they have not been completely satisfied with their current supplier. With leaner staffing levels, it’s also likely there are fewer people to get the work done and meeting planners and tougher to reach!
At her April 2010 Sales Mastery Workshop, sales trainer Colleen Francis reported that, across various industries, closing a new B2B client now takes an average of 7 to 11 interactions with the customer. That’s 7 to 11 conversations or meetings – not just one-way emails and voice mail messages.
So stop taking it personally. It’s not you, it’s the way of the marketplace right now.
In a 2008 blog article, Brian Jeffrey describes that 81% of sales are made after the fourth call, by which time 90 percent of salespeople have quit calling. Similar numbers are reported by Stanford University research whereby 85% of clients buy after the fifth meeting and 95% of sales people give up after the fourth.
Sales experts agree: be persistent, without being a pest (for tips on the latter, check out Brian’s article).
From personal experience, it’s easier to have faith in your sales process when you have more opportunities in your pipeline. Fear sets in quickly when you only have a few tentative pieces of business on the books…
The only antidote to this fear: prospect more to increase your volume of potential business.
Start with past clients, or prospects you know you have a closer connection with through industry membership such as MPI, PCMA, etc.
When we haven’t prospected in a while it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a long list of overdue traces. Start small: commit to reaching out to 10 customers in one hour. On average at Greenfield Services, our Business Development Specialists connect with 1-3 live prospects in an hour (that’s the meeting planner – not the receptionist!). Be prepared to leave a voice mail, and if you know the client well, follow-up your message with an email.