Lisa, the managing director of a professional services firm, asked me to help improve their results with prospecting and revenue growth. They had been hiring junior people for inside sales roles and have them call potential customers. I asked Lisa how they were instructed. She replied “I just want them to get meetings.” I asked “In the past, what percentage of the meetings turn into revenue for the firm?” She did not know the specific numbers, but felt it was somewhere around one out of ten. She commented “It’s just a numbers game. They call about 80 people to get 10 meetings. We close about one of each of those. If we can get them to double their calls, we’ll double our business.” I started to feel like I was going to throw up. Let me explain.
Setting a meeting is a bad goal
The underlying flaw is the assumption that it is reasonable to achieve one piece of business for every 80 attempts. Lisa was surprised when I told her that having her team focus on just getting meetings is a major part of the problem, and could be a central reason why it takes 80 calls to get ten meetings, and why those only result in one client.
Consider this: A potential vendor calls you and says they want to have a meeting. Why? Are they bringing you a wheelbarrow of money? Without a stated purpose, we all know they are coming to try to sell us something. You might prefer to invite someone to remove one of your vital organs with a grapefruit spoon than schedule that meeting. The mere fact that the stated purpose is to have a meeting sets the stage for people coming to try to sell something. If you are someone who enjoys being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, you can stop reading.
I didn’t think so. The person who has enough time on their hands to meet with you for no compelling business reason is not likely the same person in charge of making important decisions.
How did we fix things?
There are three key elements that drive success in prospecting and growing business, and they delivered extraordinary results for Lisa’s business in how they target and win business:
- Know the WHY: Everyone on your team needs to understand with great clarity why a prospect would need what you do; why they would select you over your competition; and why the challenges you solve are important enough to draw dollars from the prospect. If you don’t know these things, your prospect probably won’t figure it out on their own.
- Target with precision: Define your targets based on specific criteria that would be good indicators of the problems you are good at solving. Go a step further and consider which roles in those organizations might be responsible for solving those specific challenges. You then want to reach out to those people, but your message cannot be about having a meeting.
- Let them sell you: When you contact the stakeholders, your goal is to illustrate the problems you are good at solving. You then need to guide them through a process where they convince you that they have that issue and that it has enough impact on their business and is important enough for them to solve to warrant a meeting. It requires skill and practice, but drives results.
When Lisa’s team now schedules a meeting, it is with the stated purpose to determine whether or not they can help the client address their important issue. The prospects don’t feel like someone is just showing up to try to sell something.
By guiding Lisa’s team through a process to focus on the right pursuits, their ratio improved from 80 prospects for each client, to 20 prospects for each client.
What is the “numbers game” in your business?