Getting in the door is the #1 problem for most small companies I know.
When I first got involved in sales I was a sales engineer. I supported a technology sales force on their sales calls with semiconductor engineers. I always thought I was pretty amazing. When I got to these meetings I had many engaging conversations with these buyers that our sales team did not seem able to handle.
Their knowledge seemed so “thin” compared to my in depth tech mastery. I wondered “what do these sales guys actually do? Many of them earn more money than me and when I go to these meetings I do all the work.”
A real sales job
Several years later I got my first “official” sales job. It was an “exciting entrepreneurial opportunity” as I had a completely “green field”. My territory was broad. The world as my oyster. I was set to make big money in sales!
Except I wasn’t set to make big money at all. In fact, I was perfectly set up to get the sack in a few months.
You see I had no meetings to go to. Nowhere to display my brilliance in tech. No deep geeky conversations to have that would surely persuade other brilliant techies to sign large contracts and make contributions to my firm’s and my bank account.
That was when I realized what the sales people did that I had worked with in my first sales engineering job—they got meetings.
Oh, so that was what they did!
That is where those sales people spent all their time and energy (at least if they were good.) Their job was getting meetings so brilliant sales engineering geeks like me could waltz in and generate sales pipeline by talking engineer-to-engineer.
How not to get meetings
Once the realization hit me that setting meetings with prospects was the key to my success, I went to my sales manager to find out how to do this.
He told me to hit the phones. The more people you call, the more meetings you will get. As I suspected, this was pretty simple stuff! (I knew it!)
I hit the phones.
My enthusiasm lasted about a week.
I “spoke” to hundreds of voice mails (and about ten humans!) I left great messages and waited for the phone to wring so I could fill up my calendar with meetings with ideal prospects.
Nada. Zippo. Crickets.
It turns out a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners share these experiences.
Most small business owners I know are pretty good once they are in a meeting with the appropriate buyer. They know their product inside-out and they know a lot about the pain the buyer is suffering and how to solve it.
Sure, they make mistakes in the sales process and they lose deals they should win bit overall this is not the biggest problem in their sales process.
Their biggest problem is not enough meetings with prospective customers.
They are like me in my first full sales job. They don’t know how to get meetings and when they try their success rate is so small they get discouraged. (I just concluded some semi-scientific research with a couple of hundred entrepreneurial friends and they named getting in the door as their biggest business development challenge.)
If getting in the door is a problem for you, stay tuned to this blog. I’m going to talk a lot about how to do that.
David Brown says
Great blog post Nigel. Looking forward to the next part.