One Thing Leads to Sales Success

The recent pandemic is a possible threat to your sales career but probably not for the reason you think. If you’ve read my articles in the past, you know that I attribute sales success and failure primarily to activity level. If you make enough calls to talk to enough qualified prospects, and you have at least average sales skills, you’ll make enough sales. If you don’t make enough calls, you won’t make enough sales.

Sales success starts with the math. What’s your annual sales goal? Based upon your average sale, how many sales do you have to make? How many proposals do you need based you’re your closing ratio? How many people do you need to talk to in order to get the necessary number of proposals? And finally, how many calls do you need to make to talk to that many people? Now break those down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Simple, right? You’d think so but this is where the problems start.

First off, many people skip the math, so they don’t have a target to hit. Some have an excuse such as: I don’t know my average sale, closing ratio, or some other part of the equation. That’s fine. Guess. Based upon other salespeople, industry averages, what your manager says, make an educated guess and come up with some numbers. Whatever those numbers are, increase them by 20%. The other excuse I hear is that the formula is too complicated. Go back and read the formula. A caveman can do that math.

Second, while doing the math is an issue in many cases, more often the bigger issue is actually executing on the numbers once people have them. At first glance, this almost always appears to be a time management issue, but as we dig deeper, we find something else. When someone fails to make the necessary calls it’s usually due to the fact that they are either scared, uncomfortable, or both. Sometimes the fear or discomfort is obvious, other times it’s a little more subtle. In the subtle cases, we have to take a look at human psychology.

Basically, the brain moves us toward pleasure and away from pain. Rejection for most human beings is painful to some degree. Although many people are able to overcome the pain, fear, and discomfort of rejection, the brain is super-creative and, while our conscious brain is telling us to make calls, the subconscious brain comes up with all sorts of reasons to avoid making prospecting calls. The most common ones I see are servicing current clients, spending too much time researching information before calling a prospect, doing paperwork during prime hours, and working on their call because they don’t feel like they’re ready to talk to a live prospect yet.

Another way people avoid making ‘live’ prospecting calls is to hide behind e-mail. I once had a business owner I was working with who was afraid to prospect. We agreed to start slowly by making three calls his first week. After the first week I asked how he did. He said, “I did okay, I made 2 ½ calls.” When I asked him where the ½ came from he said, “Well, actually, I didn’t make any phone calls, I sent five e-mails and I counted each one as ½ call.” An e-mail is not a prospecting call, it’s spam. An in-person call or phone call is a prospecting call.

Next, Chambers of Commerce and similar networking groups are not proactive prospecting. These are fine if you’re a veteran and have a great business and these are supplementing your business. If you’re new, you can go to these only after you’ve hit all your new prospecting calls for the week. The name of the game with any method is to meet new people, so your goal should be to meet five new people each time you go to one of these events. They may be guests or new members but the goal is five. Again, if you are a veteran with an established business, the number can be negotiable. If you are within the first three years of your business, or you need to actively bring in new business, five new people is non-negotiable, and again, only after you’ve made all your new prospecting calls for the week. If you can’t meet five new people each time, you need to spend this time calling on new prospects.

Another diversion is social media. Two or three hours a day tweeting and putting posts on Facebook is not prospecting. Social media is fine as an addon to your prospecting and marketing, but the only true way to proactively prospect is by reaching people by phone or in-person. And these days, depending upon where you are and what the situation is, it may only be by phone, but it isn’t social media.

Lastly, the problem with the current pandemic… I know, I’m getting tired of hearing about it too… is that it gives the creative, subconscious brain yet another way to avoid making scary, uncomfortable prospecting calls. And let’s face it, without working too hard you can convince yourself this one is legit. But at the end of the day, it isn’t. If our world is to survive, business must continue and sales must be made. Without those, we’re dead. You’ve still got to make the phone calls, if not in-person calls, and at the end of the day hit the numbers that your math foretold, because ultimately only one thing leads to sales success: talking ‘live’ to enough people about your product or service.

John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach, and trainer. For his free 5-steps to Sales Success Report and monthly article, or to have him speak at your next event, go to: John has over 32 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards). You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place. E-mail:

Original Post date 8/27/2020

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