What’s the meaning of life, Mitch asks Curly? After a chuckle and a brief pause, Curly replies, It’s the “one thing”. Perplexed, Mitch asks, what’s the one thing? With a sly smile, Curly says, ah, that’s what you must find out for yourself.
If you recognize this exchange, congratulations. It is a pivotal moment in the Billy Crystal movie classic, City Slickers. If you are too young to remember it or have never had the chance to see it, it is well worth adding to that binge-watching movie playlist.
What does City Slickers and the “one thing” have to do with selling?
If there is one thing, I’ve learned about selling, it is that timing is everything!
Yet, I see so many sellers showing up in front of buyers, as if they think they are attending a speed dating event.
If you’ve never seen such an event in action, it is hilarious and ridiculous at the same time. Bell rings. Four minutes at the table with a total stranger. Your goal? Make enough of a connection so that the other person wants to talk to you again later. Your two minutes starts. You spew the pitch. Now the other person gets their turn. Bell rings. Move to the next table, do it again. Hope to seal a deal. A follow up phone call or a date to meet again.
I’ve not participated in such silliness myself, but I have had fun sitting at the bar watching my friends engage in the insanity.
Stop approaching target prospects like you are attending a speed dating event.
If you are responsible for doing outbound work to fuel the top end of the funnel, then wake up. Your random acts of phone, email or LinkedIn spamcasting do not work, and you know it. The lack of high-quality sales meetings booked on your calendar proves my point. This spamcasting behavior shows up at the most critical point in the sales process – the first touch. This first interaction is critical to get right, yet, getting it consistently wrong is the new normal in selling.
And that leads me back to the one thing. Timing.
When that first chance to capture a buyer’s attention matters so much, trying to speed sell your way to a sales meeting doesn’t work. Maybe you think (or your sales manager thinks) you are simply being efficient. What you are really doing is shooting yourself in the foot. When that first interaction adds no business value to a buyer’s day, you rarely get a do-over to try and get it right.
Improving sales funnel efficiency remains a top sales priority for most companies. Without highly qualified leads in the pipeline, salespeople cannot convert leads into sales conversations much less move a prospect down the path to purchase.
Opportunity is knocking.
As Salesforce reported in their 3rd annual State of Sales research, “winning deals still requires human to human interaction.” Your opportunity to engage a target buyer won’t happen with just any human interaction though. It must be the right interaction that happens at the right time and in the right way.
Your speed selling pitch isn’t the right way!
Buyer expectations keep rising. They’ve made that clear. For all the talk about “aligning to the buyer’s journey” most companies fail miserably at doing this right.
No degree in rocket science required.
It surprises me to no end how complicated people want to make the front-end of the sales process when it doesn’t need to be that way. Demonstrate value + capture attention = score a meeting.
The biggest disconnect is in how sellers try to capture a buyer’s initial attention. Your sales pitch, no matter how artfully you think it is crafted, is not adding value to a buyer who can buy from any other competitor in your category.
Here is the formula that I use, and for the record, my personalization approach works.
Decision makers in similar roles in similar industries are likely thinking about or experiencing similar challenges. That kind of information can be found through doing research on the web, using LinkedIn or business intelligence tools.
- Do the research. Land on 1-3 insights you could use in your outbound work.
- Write a sales message that leads with ONE brief, relevant and specific insight that you know is or could be a problem for the buyer. Followed by a sentence about how other companies are looking at the problem.
- Suggest a meeting to discuss further.
Notice I didn’t say talk about you or your products! These 3 steps form the template you can use that sets up the bulk of your outreach. Then you quickly personalize more specifically to each individual before hitting send.
This is not a long process. It is not a sales pitch. And you are not writing the great American novel. The message is 4-5 sentences max. Short, sweet, relevant to the buyer.
Coming full circle to the title of my article.
In sales, the one thing always comes back to timing. Have you earned the right to ask a prospective customer to meet with you, or are you trying to speed sell them like every other rep?
It is a new sales year, so what have you got to lose by ditching the pitch in favor of selling in a better way?