During a recent conversation, this good piece of advice came up. The man I was speaking to said he likes to ask successful people what makes them successful. One of them told him the most important thing he learned for being successful in business was to know when there’s no deal.
He was talking about walking away from people whom we often think of as good prospects, because when you take a good honest look at them, you realize they’ll probably never do business with you.
This conversation was in the context of a sales job but I think it’s applicable to many business situations. Most of us who own or manage small businesses are involved in selling to some degree. It’s natural if we’re passionate about our business.
It’s also natural that we will over work potential business relationships once in awhile. It’s easy to do. We meet someone whose business appears to need what we offer. They seem interested and willing to engage. A warm relationship develops. Everything looks perfect as we think we are moving toward the end goal of doing business.
But the deal is never done. It seems we get caught in this endless cycle of meetings and phone calls, all of which are pleasant but not productive. For some reason we get stuck, rather like Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day”.
It’s unfortunate when this happens because it can waste a lot of our valuable time. And, these traps are easy to fall into because many of the people we meet are nice people. In fact, many of the relationships we develop are very real and fulfilling.
The problem is they do nothing for our business.
The solution to keep from getting caught in this trap is to always remember why we’re there. It’s great to have fun and to develop new friendships. But, don’t let them prevent you from moving on to the real business relationships that turn into customers or clients.
Something I’ve found helpful here is to remember our sales cycle. I keep in mind the steps most our prospects go through as they move toward becoming a customer.
Anytime a prospect is not moving through these steps, I ask myself why they’re not. If I don’t have a good answer, then I ask them the same question. And I set benchmarks so I can objectively measure if I’m spending too much time with a situation that is likely not going to turn into a business deal.
A caveat: don’t go to the other extreme and push people too hard to close a deal. And don’t give up too soon. Some sales trainers say stop talking to someone after the second contact.
Most new business relationships require 7 to 15 contacts before a deal develops. It’s the power of repetition at work building trust and credibility between you and the other person. Some relationships take more time to grow and flower than others. So, don’t disregard the power of repetition.
The best strategy is to prioritize your prospects and leverage your time. Develop ways to stay in touch with people that don’t always require face time. Emails and regular mail (postcards, notes, articles, newsletters) are good ways to keep in touch with people without physically being in front of them.
By leveraging your time yet staying in touch with prospective customers you enable these new relationships to develop. And you still have quality time to spend with those people who are moving through your sales cycle and who intend to do business with you.
So, know when to walk away but find ways to keep in touch so you don’t walk away too soon!