Know When To Say When

Professional salespeople ascend to the top of their profession by maximizing the use of their “sales” time. If you study the top producers in any industry you’ll find they do very little—if anything—during their sales hours that doesn’t help them sell.

They’ve simply found ways to eliminate time-wasters. And, that’s a lot easier said than done.

We all get caught up at times in things that have nothing to do with our customers or prospects—we just have to work to minimize those things that take us away from the task at hand: SELLING.

However, by far the biggest time-waster for most salespeople is one we bring on ourselves. It’s not something others “dump” on us or tasks that we find to keep ourselves busy. The biggest time-waster we have (and the one that needs to be eliminated most) is one that we alone control.

Curious? I thought so.

The biggest time-waster for most salespeople is hanging onto prospects that will never buy no matter what we do. We’re trained to continue to close, follow up, close, follow up, close and follow up. We call and call and call—leaving voice mail after voice mail—knowing deep down inside that the “work” we’re doing well never result in a sale. Period. You must know when to say when.

As salespeople—we’re focused on selling and not turning prospects loose.

But, how many sales could you make if you spent this wasted time working with potential customers that could and should eventually buy?

One of the strategies I teach and believe in whole-heartedly is that there are times when we—as professionals—must fire prospects. Yes, you read correctly: fire them. There comes a time when it’s no longer prudent to continue to call on someone that isn’t going to buy. That time could be spent with a new prospect or with a current customer that deserves your attention. So, how do you do this—and when is the time?

When calling for an appointment, I will leave four very specific voice mails before I leave my final voice mail. And, when I say final—I mean final. After the fifth voice mail, I will not call the prospect back. Note what I say on this final voice mail is almost verbatim.

“Mr./Mrs. Prospect, this is Butch Bellah again at (my cell phone number). I’ve left a couple of voice mails and have been unable to reach you. I know you’re busy and so am I, so I won’t bother you again. I’m not going to continue to bug you. If you’d like to reach me, my number is (insert your number here). Again, I’m not going to bother you anymore. Thanks.”

A couple of notes: First, I acknowledge the prospect is busy, but so am I. Secondly, I use the words “bug” and “bother” intentionally. I’m not really sure why, but they seem to have always worked for me. What have I accomplished?

I’ve let the prospect know that we are about to end the voice mail circle and put the ball in their court. Are they really a prospect? Believe it or not, but MORE THAN 50% of the prospects I leave this for will call me back with “Butch, I had lost your number,” or “I’ve been meaning to call you back, but I got covered up.”

Whatever it is, I don’t care. They WILL call you back and now is your chance to try to get on their calendar and start the relationship.

The key here is this: I eliminate this prospect from my prospect list after this final voice mail. Period. After you leave this voice mail, DO NOT CALL BACK! You are a professional and your time is valuable, too.

Use this little strategy and you will get some of those prospects to call you back and stop wasting time with those that don’t.

Note that I leave my phone number at the beginning and the end of the voice mail. I know this is “selling 101”, but stay with me. You know your phone number by heart and whether you consciously notice it or not, you tend to talk faster regarding things with which you are familiar. Slow down on the phone number and leave it twice. Just think about listening to a three-four minute voice mail only to miss the number at the end and having to listen to it all over again. This could be one reason calls haven’t been returned.

Question: Do you use a similar strategy to get voice mails returned? How does it work for you?