overcomingI was on Skype late last night with a client down in Australia…

He’s one of the top marketers, in terms of results generated, in all of the Southern Hemisphere.

He’s literally made clients well over a billion dollars.  (He’ll hit two billion soon.)

And we were chatting about a topic near and dear to his heart.

You see, he helps clients generate leads for their business.  And I’m NOT talking the internet marketing space here.  He doesn’t really work with traditional “IM” clients.

But he does use the internet to market all sorts of businesses, and bring in leads.

He (via his agency) gets the attention of leads.  Breaks them from their stupor of internet and especially social media browsing.  Gets them intrigued enough to click through to the client’s website.

Then, on the basis of the pages his team has put there, he gets these website visitors interested in taking the next step with the client.  He gets them to raise their hand and express interest in whatever it is the client sells.

At this time, the client has a fresh lead or prospect…

Now, here’s what normally happens.

The client’s sales team picks up the phone.  They call this prospect.  In some cases, they even go visit — depending on the offer.  They tell them about their product or service.  They make an offer.  They may try to close the deal.  The lead buys or doesn’t buy.

The end.

Now, these clients are happy.  They’re pouring a TON of money into getting these leads, because they’re making a profit.

And yet, they’re also a touch dissatisfied.  Not enough of these leads are ready to buy.  Not enough of these leads are converting on that first touch.

They believe that the leads would be better if more of them were ready to buy today.

This reflects an old and dying school of sales thinking…

Now, this will probably never go away.  Some low-end selling almost requires it.

For example, when I was selling newspaper subscriptions over the phone and in-person at local grocery stores, I could only sell in one shot.

I didn’t have an option, so that’s what I did.

Other industries are so widely hated that it’s unlikely you’ll get a second conversation.  I spent exactly 60 days selling credit cards (I couldn’t quit until I got my 60-day bonus).  Very few people would have ever picked up the phone twice for me in that gig.

Then again, most of those businesses were also run with churn ‘em and burn ‘em call center mentality.

Employees had to sell today, because the phone was on auto-dial.  When you hung up one call, the next one would come in right after.  There was no room for anything other than “sell ‘em now, or don’t make the sale at all.”

The thing is, it’s this style of selling — and running a selling operation — that gets marketers and salespeople in trouble.  Those call centers are the reason for the do not call list.

Even though consumers occasionally buy as a result of that kind of sales call, nobody really likes it all that much.

While it’s not realistic to think that the one-shot style of aggressive selling will ever go away, it’s definitely on the descent.  Good riddance.

So what’s taking its place?

The new school of selling, and what it means for you…

I believe that the internet has changed consumer attitudes quite a bit.  It’s a tectonic shift in consumer awareness.

Trust is paramount.  Relationships are key.

Consumers don’t want to be cajoled or coerced into buying.  They — WE — want to feel like the buying decision is in their hands.

This has led to the rise of consultative selling.

Rather than being focused on the close, consultative selling is focused on the consumer — and figuring out if the product or service on offer is a fit for their needs.

It’s about asking questions.  Identifying needs, challenges, and problems the consumer wants to have solved.  And seeing if the puzzle pieces fit, such that the solution the salesperson has to sell will meet the consumer’s needs.

If you’re doing the selling, it starts with you holding the consumer’s satisfaction at at least as high of a level of priority as your own commission check.

The best news about this new style of selling?

Well, people actually like to buy this way.

So when you get good at it, it actually increases your sales.

But here’s the thing.  The last vestiges of “closer” style selling are still with most people adopting more consultative selling strategies today.

For example, those leads generated online.  Maybe you don’t sell from a “close it now” mentality.  Instead, you ask probing questions of the lead.  You figure out why they reached out and raised their hand in the first place.  You answer their questions.  You match their challenges and problems to your solution.  You help them make the buying decision.

By the end, you and the lead are both feeling pretty good about it.  They’re pretty much convinced.  But, for whatever reason, they’re not ready to move forward today.

Now, proponents of the old style of selling will tell you they weren’t really a good lead to begin with.  That they were a waste of your time.

And if you’re bridging the divide between old-style selling and the newer consultative approach, you’ll probably let it go at that — which is exactly what most sales people will do.

But wait, there’s more!

Here’s the thing.  In a group of 100 leads, maybe 10 are ready to buy now.  But all 100 became leads for a reason.  They were actually interested in the product or service you offer.  It’s just that only 10 were ready to buy today.

What you may not realize is that another 10 will be ready within the next month.  Another 20 will become buyers in the next 3 months.  And another 40 will become buyers within the next 2 years.

All-in, 80% will probably convert to buyers in your category over the next couple years.  The other 20% will fall off and not purchase for one reason or another.

But if all you’re doing is focusing on the ones who are ready to convert today, you’re only getting 1 out of every 8 eventual buyers doing business with you.  Maybe a few more will come back.  But if you’ve dedicated your sales team to the instant conversions, that first 10% is all you’ll reliably pick up.

That means your return on investment on generating those leads is 1/8th what it could be.  That means for every customer you get, 7 more are going to your competitors.  That means you’re choosing — through inaction — to let the vast majority of business that could be yours slip through your fingers…

The alternative?

Simple.  Follow-up.  Stay in touch with those prospective customers.  Stay connected.  Build your relationship.  Help them make the buying decision when they’re ready — and help them with their buying process, if needed.

When I sold IT training all those years ago, I’d go 28 times or more, touching base with a prospect.

I knew when I closed the deal, it was $30,000 in revenue.  Isn’t that worth a quick email to see if there’s anything I could do to help?  Isn’t that worth a few emails touching base?

I hope you’re nodding your head, “yes!”

Simply by building your relationship through consistent and friendly follow up, you can close a much bigger percentage of sales.  You can get far bigger ROI on your lead generation efforts.  You can keep more of the customers your competitors aren’t following up with.

Not only that, this relationship-based, consultative selling is actually fulfilling!  Do it right, and people like to hear from you.  They like to talk to you.  They start to consider you a friend and advocate, and trusted advisor.  They respect you.

You’re a welcome guest, not an unwanted pest.

If you’re really committed to making the sale, you don’t have to bring the hammer down with a hard close.  Rather, show your commitment by staying in touch in a friendly way, and building the relationship.  Be helpful.  Be a listening ear, and a thoughtful advisor.  Care.  Give a f*ck.

If you haven’t done this yet, you’ll be surprised at how effective of a selling strategy it really is.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr