“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose …” Recognise these words? They’re taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1 and were subsequently made famous in a song adapted by Pete Seeger, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, performed by the Byrds.
Whilst it might not seem obvious from the words, penned around 3,000 years ago, the business task of selling is actually included. Here’s the proof: “a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted.”
Selling is not an isolated event that just occurs when we want it to. It doesn’t just happen. I write this having had so many experiences where one gets the feeling that, for some, that is how it’s viewed. “We need more sales,” says the MD to the Sales Manager, as if the Sales Manager has some hidden order up the sleeve or a hit list of buyers champing at the bit, just waiting for the Sales Manager to make contact and allow them to place their orders.
No, it just doesn’t work like that. Effective selling is a process that moves a potential buyer along a continuum. From someone that might barely know you exist, to someone that is prepared to exchange their hard earned resources for the benefits your offering brings them.
It takes time. A lot of time. Each purchase decision has a timeframe – what we call the clock speed. In some instances the clock speed can be relatively short. Buying stationery is a good example: you decide you need some envelopes, and they could be with you within days.
But what about the time it takes to order a big-ticket item like a car or training programme? More people are involved, other demands on limited resources might have to be juggled, approvals need to be sought, specifications negotiated, and so on. These all take time. One of our clients has a typical lead time of 18 months!
The key, therefore, is to manage the relationship through the sales lead time. Gentle nudges, open questions, emails offering support, newsletters, and invites to events all help keep the relationship flowing until the time is ripe for reaping.
If that is your role, develop a relationship development tool-kit and use it when necessary.
And if it’s not your role and you delegate it to a salesperson, remember this: “A salesperson, like the storage battery in your car, is constantly discharging energy. Unless they are recharged at frequent intervals, they soon run dry. This is one of the greatest responsibilities of sales leadership.”
How do you manage the clock speed of your sales pipeline?