Cold calling is by far the hardest and most mentally straining activity associated with sales. This reminds me of what it takes to be successful as a sales person. What I have come to realize over the years is that a good salesperson knows how to balance patience and persistence!
When I think about some of the biggest deals I have closed, they’ve mostly started with a very persistent cold calling session. But once I made a connection and established a relationship, it usually took months (if not years) to actually close the deal. When I think about my first company – Phastcash.com – it took us 6 months to land our most profitable paying customer. When I think about my second company – GEP – we literally started the conversation 15 months before the first group from Russia actually landed at SFO.
At PowerBeam I sold to the CTO at Honeywell, top executives at Duracell, AT&T, Samsung, etc.; all of which took months to close. However, the biggest development deal we did was with the audio group at Logitech. What was the sales cycle on that deal? Over 2 years of conversations and dialogue before we actually got a check. But it was a big check and the project we did had the potential to be a real game changer. The most enjoyable development deal we did, of course, was with Apple; once they decide to do something they do it quickly and efficiently.
Even when I was at WePay, which had a typical sales cycle of just a few weeks, I landed one of the biggest and fastest growing accounts of the 2012 calendar year by spending 5 months and dozens of follow-ups with a prospect that others would have just written off after a few “no response” calls.
In my opinion, one needs to be super aggressive and persistent in making that first connection and actually getting someone on the phone. However, once you make contact and start to develop that relationship you want to show a level of professionalism that is respectful to their timelines and also displays a sense of confidence on your end. If you are still very aggressive to move the deal along and become “annoying” you run the risk of looking like someone who NEEDS the deal. There is an old saying – a broke salesperson stinks. Don’t stink – that’s why you take a shower everyday. So once you have them interested, slow down and move foreword wisely.
Patience also shows your experience and maturity. Anyone that has sold to Fortune 500 companies knows that these deals tend to be complex, involve multiple layers with several decision makers, and take time to become a priority within the business unit. If you don’t understand this, you can come off as naïve and turn off your prospects. Also, remember, everyone in a big corporation as to justify to their bosses why they are working for you – so you and your company need to be credible.
Now, with that being said, there certainly is an appropriate time to lean in and close the deal. In fact, when the timing is right, it is more than appropriate. It’s akin to dating. In the beginning, you get those first few dates. Then the girl/boy starts to like you and the next thing you know you two are in a serious relationship. After the appropriate amount of time goes by you decide, “hey, time to move forward with our relationship or move on.” Once you feel that in your business relationship with your prospect, that’s when you start to be a bit more persistent in terms of the close. If you have developed the relationship appropriately, bring the right value to the table, and are the right fit for them…not only is it appropriate but your prospect will embrace the nudge and recognize it is time to make a decision. You will then be in a much better position to close the deal and be a hero. If not, you cut it loose and get back to hunting. Again, very similar to dating.
It is important to remember that the bigger deals take longer, so set you and your boss’ expectations of this fact. The worse is when you get an inexperienced boss who wants everything “now, now, now.” I worked for a guy like that once, BUT only for 3 months and I’ll never do it again. As with life, it’s a marathon so get in the right race, with the right team, with the right product, and enjoy the ride. If things are running smoothly, you should be getting a runner’s high.