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If At First You Don’t Succeed

I suspect that you have heard the expression “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” This adage was created many decades ago and it remains true to this day. And even though many sales people understand it, they make a fatal mistake-they use the same approach although their original approach was not effective.

My wife and I once vacationed at an all-inclusive resort in Cuba. One of the advertised features was an in-room mini-bar stocked with beer, water, and soda. Both my wife and I drink a lot of water (2-3 liters per day each), so this feature definitely appealed to us. Unfortunately, upon our arrival, the mini-bar contained only soda so my wife called the front desk to have our water replenished. Several attempts failed to generate results.

Early the next morning I went to reception area and explained our situation to a customer service agent and was told “no problem” but a few hours later we still had no water. Finally, my wife changed her approach and asked an employee where she could BUY water. The resort employee threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Buy water?!!? You don’t have to do that! We give it to you!” After that we always had water in our room (until the resort ran out of bottled water!).

What made the difference? It was her approach. My wife was smart enough to change her approach because she recognized that our initial approach had not been effective.

Here is the relevance of this scenario to sales:

It is critical to keep trying in the face of adversity when you don’t get your intended result. After all, persistence is a key sales skill. And although many sales people are persistent, they tend to use the same tired techniques.

Successful sales people know the importance of persistence but the key is to change your approach or strategy with each prospect every time you contact them. You also need to consider the frequency of your contacts. While it is important to maintain regular contact with new prospects as well as existing customers, you can easily wear out your welcome if you call people too often especially if your prospect has no need for your product, service or offering when you contact them. I once heard that when you are trying to initially connect with decision maker that you should call three times in the first week, twice during each of the next two weeks, once a week for the following month and then monthly after that. To me this is sound advice.

While it may seem like overkill, the key is to leave a different message every single time you call. Leaving the same voice message won’t get your call returned and using the same strategy with every prospect won’t help you differentiate yourself from you competition. Spewing on and on about your product or service won’t help you sound any different than everyone else calling your prospect. And sounding like every other sales person won’t motivate your prospect to do business with you.

It is essential that you modify your approach or change your strategy, especially in today’s challenging times. The approach you used last year will not generate the same results this year. So, what approach WILL work? Unfortunately, no single approach will be effective. In this economic climate, you need to customize your approach with every new prospect. Here’s an example of an ineffective sales strategy.

My wife recently contacted a company about conducting online training sessions. She spoke to a sales representative and took their on-line demonstration. Within 24 hours, another sales rep took over her account and began calling her. However, each voice mail message was identical and did little to compel my wife to return his call.

I encountered a similar situation when I contact a company about merchant services for online credit cards. He was persistent in his follow up but his voice mail messages were the same each time he called. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario. Most sales people leave the same tired, over-used voice mail messages that fail to motivate people to take action.

Effective persistence means keeping your name in your prospect’s mind by using different strategies and techniques. Varying your approach will help separate you from your competition.

You can use email, voice mail, snail mail, letters, postcards, web conferencing, and social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. The key is to develop a series of approaches with each one delivering a different message.

Remember this saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

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