My old sales mentor, the sage of Wythenshawe, Phil Copp, was an inveterate and committed cold caller in the days when sales forces could afford to swan off into the wide world and see if they could generate some business, anywhere and anyhow.
Phil would just call in on a company if he was passing and it looked interesting, go to reception, demand to see the Chief Engineer and then wait. On occasions he was lucky and the Chief would come to see him, but generally, he had the usual rebuffs of "nothing today, thank you" (irrespective of the fact that nobody knew what he was selling) or "he's in a meeting" or "just leave your brochure and he will call you". Oh yes?
I asked him once how many cold calls he made and didn't see anyone and he said, "Probably hundreds". In something of a state of shock I asked him how many times he made a sale and he said: "Probably once in a hundred".
In even more shock I questioned: "How on earth can you accept all that rejection and keep on cold calling?"
His answer has stuck with me ever since. He said, quite simply: "Because the next call might be the next sale".
Sales methods have changed radically since those times. Vistage speaker Grant Leboff exhorts us to "stop shouting at the customers"; to organise your approach so that the customer comes to you.
Even so, Phil's message still holds good because selling is an art not a science, however much the sales gurus want make it so. However we manage the interaction between ourselves and a potential customer or client, in the end, we have to put over a message that will entice the customer to make a decision, and hopefully a positive one.
It is obviously far better to generate qualified leads than to cold call although that message doesn't seem to have got through to the many unwanted telephone calls that I seem to get these days.
Even with qualified leads, however, if conversion rates are generally low, Phil's philosophy holds good. The next discussion might be the one which is successful - even better, the next discussion WILL be the one which is successful.
Yes, it is most important to understand that what we say to potential customers and how we say it, is key to success as well but the overwhelming aspect is complete self-confidence that we will succeed. It is only by that self-confidence that we can overcome the fear of rejection and move on to the next opportunity.
As long ago as 1952, Dr Norman Vincent Peale wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking" and that concept is still valid, perhaps even more so in these extremely competitive times.
"The next sales meeting WILL be successful" is a mantra that many people in business could well take on as a way of life.
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