I recently began doing training in the banking industry. Across the board, successful bankers close between 2% and 6% of the prospects they call on, starting from their first prospecting call.
Not only are those numbers abysmal, they are considered normal. In other words, bankers are expected to fail at least 94% of their time. The insurance industry has the same odds.
In general, every industry closes less than 10% of the prospects they call (first call to close), with over 90% falling in the 7% category. And, since there is no scientific way of knowing which prospects fall into the 7%, we continue running after all ‘hot’ prospects until they disappear. And then we make excuses for those we lost while having no earthly idea why we actually lost them.
Basically, we are out of control; the only control we seem to have is over product pitch and our ability to chase seemingly hot prospects.
While I’m being a bit harsh, these are the realities that are built into the system of selling. Sellers expect failure and work to overcome it.
Why is it OK to have such a low closing ratio? Why have we built failure into the sales system? Why do we accept a 90% plus failure rate – and hire an over-abundance of sales people to make up the difference? Why do we continue to teach sellers the same-old same-old techniques that continue getting them the same-old ratios? And why is it OK to have an entire profession that wastes over 90% of their time?
Because we don’t know any better.
THE PROBLEM WITH SALES
For millennia we have based sales on our need to sell that which we get paid to sell. We have watched buyers disappear and go into some quiet, silent space that remains hidden from us while they … while they do what?
Where do they go when we leave them? Why don’t they call us back when it’s so obvious they have a problem that our product can solve!
We have had this long standing belief that we can fix problems, that our products are the necessary solution, and that we know what a prospect needs (based on what we can see from our vantage point outside of the prospect’s environment.
But do we know? How do we know for sure? How can we ever know what another person needs in order to solve their problem? How can we know what a group or a team or a company needs? Just because we can see the problem, and just because our product could solve the problem, doesn’t mean the buyer needs it, or is ready to buy it, or doesn’t have other choices.
Or wants to leave the problem the way it is.
What makes us think we have the answer?
Let’s take a good look at what we’re doing here:
1. We enter our prospect’s status quo with a solution, and as a result become a solution looking for a problem.
2. Our calls, our questions, our communications – marketing, advertising, pitches and presentations, needs analyses – are all biased, and constructed around getting our product sold, even though we profess to be mindful of buyer’s needs.
3. All of our conversations are based on different ways to encourage a prospect to understand their need for our product.
4. We assume that if the prospect has a problem in the area our product solves, that they need us to supply them with our solution.
5. We assume that because there is a need, that the prospect just has to be made to understand that they will save time/money or whatever if they use our product – and of course it’s our job to get the prospect to understand they have a problem that we can fix.
What is going on? Until or unless a buyer can recognize, align, and manage their own internal variables – their culture, if you will – they will do nothing. And we are left waiting in a void with nothing but guesses to make sense of what seems to us to be an obvious decision.
BUYING FACILITATION: A WAY TO SUPPORT THE BUYING SYSTEM
I’m here to tell you that there is a way to support the buyer on her side of the equation. Rather than sell, we can actually help buyers make buying decisions without selling anything. Not only that, we can close 50% of the prospects that show up, 12% – 15% of the prospects we solicit, and close the sales in ½ the normal time frame.
But to do that, we must stop selling. In the mid 80’s Larry Wilson wrote a book called Stop Selling, Start Partnering. Even then he knew that sales wasn’t the answer. While he didn’t have a model to teach us how to do that, his ideas were sound and refreshing. But being the egotistical lot that we are, we assumed that what we had to do was partner in order to sell.
I’m going to make a different assertion: I’m going to suggest that we truly STOP SELLING and help people buy instead (and after all, selling and buying are two different activities).
Selling doesn’t work: it doesn’t get us anywhere; we never know when our buyers are going to come back – or even if they will; and we continue trying to add bells and whistles to the same basic process, hoping to get different results.
These are the realities that are built into the system of selling. We actually expect failure and work from there to overcome it.
Take a look at Buying Facilitation. It will give you skills to help you help buyers make purchasing decisions based on their own buying criteria. It’s a systems view of the buying process; a sequencing system of facilitating decisions. It’s got nothing to do with selling, and everything to do with solving problems within a system so the system can remain congruent and not disrupted.
Sales is antiquated. It’s very possible than better than a 10% success rate. It’s very possible indeed – but it won’t be by selling.
By John Vaughan