Rule #9: Use The “Seven See’s” Strategy
I don’t particularly like the word “aggressive” when used to define a sales professional’s behavior. I consider myself a professional, yet I don’t want to be thought of as an aggressive person. If I don’t enjoy being around aggressive people, why would I want to be one?
Being recognized as professionally conscientious and persistent, on the other hand, is a reputation I could learn to live with. “Persistence” connotes a non- quitter, a go-getter, a person who sticks with a task until it is completed. People who don’t pack up their tent at the first sign of discomfort are always welcome and appreciated. Persistence is a flattering label. So, let’s put persistence to work.
The first step to get someone comfortable enough to do business with you is to have them realize that you exist. You must tell your target audience that you are both “in the game” and “qualified to play.” Telling people you are alive, just once, won’t cut it. Having introduced yourself, you must proceed with a planned campaign of timely reminders. Think of this maneuver as a battle for the mind.
Once your prospect realizes that (1) you appear to be a qualified supplier, and (2) you are available, the next step is to get the prospect to feel comfortable with you. A meaningful business relationship is, and always has been, based on trust. But, breaking into a prospect’s guarded “comfort zone” takes more time than most salespeople budget for. Prospects will move the relationship at their own pace. You can’t rush them any more than you can cook a steak in one minute by turning up the heat. The result is the same for both endeavors: a scorched failure.
By implementing the Seven See’s Strategy, you will position yourself in your prospect’s eyes as a good person — a thrifty, brave, clean, reverent, courteous and persistent team member who is prepared, interested and able to contribute to solving the prospect’s problems. The Seven See’s Strategy also cuts through the clutter and daily noise created by the big boys’ promotional budgets. Here it is:
You don’t have to “see” the prospect each time although at least one or two personal visits are advisable. Sincere phone calls and correspondence count, too. What is so magical about eighteen months? Why not three months or six months? The answer has to do with “spaced repetition.” This time frame prevents you from appearing too pushy while helping the prospect view you as a true ally. At the same time, your name passes in front of your prospects often enough to serve as a non-threatening reminder.
To make this strategy work you need to provide your target audience with something useful with each contact — i.e. information, tips, mistakes to avoid, directions, heads-up alerts, etc. You also need to set up a tickler system that reminds you every six weeks to send something of value to your target audience. Follow with an E-mail or phone call now and then . . . very matter of fact . . . very brief. Less is more when it comes to reminding people you are alive. You can even simply send a postcard with your web address and the words “Pay Us An E-Visit for Information” stamped into the message area. This simple communication device passes your name in front of the prospect and gives a location (www.you.com) where the prospect can find more information if he has an inclination to check you out or learn more about your available products and services.
The key to this system is consistency. Consistency works miracles. Your objective is to keep your name and the name of your company fresh in the prospect’s mind . . . and to show the prospect that you want his business. (This is really courtship without the romance.)
You are probably saying to yourself at this very moment, “I’ll never have the time to do this for each prospect.” Be smart. Don’t begin to implement the Seven See’s Strategy for your entire prospect list. I said in an earlier Rule that there are only two types of people in the world — those we can help, and those we can’t. Use your persistence (and limited time) only for those prospects who you firmly believe belong on your A list or the top of your B list. You also probably want to be convinced that the Seven See’s works before committing yourself to the strategy. I don’t blame you. So try this. Pick out at random thirty prospects and split them into two groups. One group of fifteen prospects will get the Seven See’s treatment; the remainder will receive your customary sales approach. (You don’t like thirty? Pick a number!)
Keep track of your sales from each group for the next eighteen months. If you like computer generated visuals, make a graph for the sales from each group. As the months unfold, the “normal” group’s graph will look like a freeway on ramp; the Seven See’s group’s graph will look like the road to Pike’s Peak. Over time, many prospects exposed to the Seven See’s treatment will turn into long-term business relationships.
Why The Seven See’s Always Works (Well Almost Always)
As I observed in an earlier chapter, approximately 80% of sales happen after multiple contacts with a qualified potential buyer. The research indicates that most business transactions happen after the fifth contact. I personally think the number is closer to the seventh.
Despite this documented fact, 50% of all salespeople still quit after the first contact with a prospect. They lob in some unrehearsed sales banter and give up after the painful rejection. Another 25% of salespeople stop trying after their second contact. So 75% of your competition has packed up and gone home after two at bats . . . at least three at bats short of getting a hit.
Your amateur competition, those who have no idea how the process works, successfully eliminate themselves long before the sale becomes as easy as smackin’ a slow, floating lob into the bleachers. Use the Seven See’s Strategy and you’ll suspend that ball over home plate waiting for your bat.