“If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result.” — Idowu Koyenikan
What do you remember most about dial-up internet? Today, dial-up is remembered as time-consuming and very slow. We live in a world of immediate connections—a world where your email program can tell you if the person you’re messaging is on their computer or not. As a result of this, we are impatient and expect immediate results.
Many people think of sales as an immediate event.
Several years ago, I offered a free call about how to improve sales for speakers who wanted to learn how to market themselves better. I was inundated with requests from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Germany and Australia to set up a time for a fast-paced, 30-minute call to teach people how to sell.
During the call, I told the participants that if they did what I told them to do for 90 days, they could call me back and I would answer any question for free. All said they would be in touch. Can you guess how many actually called me back to tell me the results or ask questions?
Oh, I received rave reviews from the participants on social media. They praised my methods, friendliness and willingness to help other people. They thought the ideas and processes for selling that I described were the best they had ever heard. However, I never heard from any of them again because they didn’t follow my simple instructions.
Event Versus Process
Many people think sales is an “event” that will be over in a phone call or two. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people I mentored discovered to their disappointment that selling is a “process,” and they gave up. To my knowledge, no one tried the process for more than one or two weeks. They thought selling was like ordering at a fast-food restaurant. Fast, easy and done. That’s not a process—that’s an event.
We overestimate the event, and we underestimate the process.
Selling is a process, not an event. I have found this to be very common in teaching sales. Many people come to a sales training event and get excited, and then when they try something they heard, they fail the first time. One and done! Here’s what I know about the differences between events and processes:
- Events encourage decisions; a process encourages development. Successful sales develop both the seller and the buyer.
- The event motivates people, but the process matures people. Maturity makes sales; motivation is just a result from an event.
- The event is a calendar issue; the process is a culture issue. Your sales culture is a non-calendar issue.
- The event challenges people, but the process changes people. You can make a sudden decision, but you can’t make a sudden change—that’s a process.
- The event is easy, but the process is difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Only those willing to do the difficult parts succeed abundantly.
The selling process is multifaceted. I have composed a list of sales laws called “The 15 Unequivocal Laws of Sales.” The process is just one of those laws; it takes time to absorb them all and change your selling culture. That is precisely why the speakers I mentored earlier failed. They didn’t follow through on the process.
Life stretches to expand according to your willingness to get up and try again.
Failure is two things: It is inevitable, and it is a learning tool. We are all going to fail. I have had many failures, but I didn’t allow it to label me as a failure. You are going to fail at some point; in fact, you are probably going to fail at something today.
It happens to us all the time. We can either avoid it by doing nothing or we can learn from what we did wrong and make the adjustments to do it better next time. I will get back up, continue to make the best effort I can and try again.
Successful selling is a long process. I have very rarely sold to a client on the first or second contact. A rookie quarterback rarely has a successful first season. The greatest quarterbacks of all time had to adapt and make the necessary adjustments to playing in a professional league, in different conditions and with more pressure than in their college days. It takes a process of development to mold quarterbacks into top players—as long as they understand and follow that process.
Successful salespeople must accept the process. The average number of contacts required to make a sale is 23. That is a lot of calls, visits, emails, texts and information being traded. You’ll rarely sell homecare products and services on the first call, and any good sales manager will tell you that. The process cannot be ignored. You can’t use one skill and overlook everything else.
You must have patience—a skill in itself—and understand timing to be successful. The following skills and traits, while important, won’t cut it if you ignore the process.
- It’s not attitude, although I’ve never met a successful salesperson with a bad attitude.
- It’s not just momentum in the moment; it’s a process. It is far more than the moment.
- It’s not knowledge. I’ve met people who are very knowledgeable about their products, their clients and their skills and abilities, but that alone didn’t make them successful.
- It’s not just adaptability. Sure, you can’t sell very well without studying your client, their needs and their circumstances, but that alone won’t work without understanding the process.
- It’s not “introvert vs. extrovert.” I’ve met successful salespeople who are outgoing and some who aren’t, but who are consistent in their diligence to work the process. In fact, your consistency is the best gift you have for selling successfully.
Making the process work for you will benefit you in the long run—and it will be long! Continue collecting prospects. Will they all buy from you? No. But the odds of getting a buyer increase with more prospects. Expand your file system constantly.
Diligence, Consistency & Discipline
In a roundabout way, I am advocating persistence, but I call it “diligence.” Persistence sounds too much like pestering. I like diligence because it sounds professional and trustworthy. Attorneys are diligent. Hard workers are diligent. Trustworthy people are diligent.
I believe in consistency and discipline. You need to have a system that works for you, not one that is sold in a nationwide package that doesn’t use your skills to your advantage. The process requires consistency. You must keep at it, even when you get knocked down and lose a sale. You must follow up when the prospect hasn’t responded in the proper amount of time. Remember, they are your No. 1 priority. You may be No. 21 on their list today.
One mantra you can adopt is, “I may be turned down, but I won’t be ignored.”
I also believe if you can’t discipline yourself, you will never be successful. Ruthlessly eliminate every distraction that keeps you from diligently reaching out to people and eliminate your fear of rejection. John Maxwell says, “Motivation starts you going; discipline keeps you growing.” You will never grow your sales if you aren’t disciplined in your process.
Am I preaching to the choir or speaking to your fears? I often meet sales managers who are frustrated with salespeople who won’t follow up, won’t make legitimate contacts, won’t gather a list to contact, won’t be diligent, etc.
Share the concepts in this article with your team. Maybe they need to hear from someone else that they are not doing what they need to be doing in the first place. As Doc Holliday said in the movie “Tombstone,” “I’m your Huckleberry. That’s just my game.”
Embrace the process, work it and be patient with it. Nobody ever succeeded in sales by making it an event. The successful ones know and work the process. Now, go sell!