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The New Numbers Game In Selling

You’ve heard it before. “Selling is a numbers game.”

When people say this, they generally mean that the more calls you make the more sales you’ll get. When you run the numbers, it turns out that sellers average 2.7 sales for every 100 cold calls made.

Sales managers who share this philosophy set call targets and metrics to require sellers to make a set number of calls (per day, per week, etc.). It works well enough that it is a long-standing practice and widely held belief.

But I’m not in favor of this approach. I believe in quality over quantity. It’s possible to improve the ratio by working smarter, not harder. Instead of 2.7 sales for every 100 calls, what seller wouldn’t want to get 4 or 8 or more sales for every 100 cold calls?

Believe it or not, lots of sellers settle for making more calls and closing at a lower ratio because they are more comfortable with the quantity standard than a quality standard. Quality enables a seller to make fewer calls… But the time saved in calls must be reinvested in more strategic activities like researching prospects, developing business acumen, asking needs-based questions, and the like.

One of the reasons I don’t favor this quantity approach to selling is that it just doesn’t represent a company very well. No matter how much work the Marketing team puts into branding, a company’s image is impaired when sellers go into “smile and dial” mode. Generic pitches, relentless pursuit of a decision maker, irrelevant calls and e-mails do not engender good will about a company.

The other reason is obvious. Selling robotically doesn’t work as well as selling that is based on discovered needs and personalized benefits. There has never been and will never be a product pitch that outperforms a people connection.

There is, however, a different kind of numbers game that sellers should be playing. Since meeting and connecting with people on a personal level gives sellers the best shot at discovering unique needs, sellers ought to be expanding their network in every possible way.

Networking today is easier than ever before. Social networking really works, and it doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort to make targeted connections. Leads clubs and networking events and professional organizations give sellers a multitude of choices for getting connected.

Sellers shouldn’t limit themselves to Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, and small groups that get them in front of the same few people over and over again. For some, those are great places to start. But there are many other people to meet, so diversifying the places and ways you network will make you successful in playing this new numbers game.

The best way to truly connect with people you meet is to talk to them. Ask about their business needs and learn about the problems they would like to solve. So what if they aren’t your ideal decision maker. When they see value in talking to you, they will be happy to help you make connections with others. If you use networking to purely pitch your product or yourself, you will find that it is not as effective for you. The idea isn’t to see how many business cards you can collect so that you can “smile and dial” to these people. The idea isn’t to see how many hands you can shake either.

The number to pursue in this new numbers game is this one: How many people did you make a positive and lasting impression on so that they will be glad to be a part of your network? One of these is worth far more than a dozen collected business cards. It’s a different approach for a different way of selling. It really works.

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