The risk of 9 to 5 and the reality of before and after
Ninety-five percent of all salespeople try to fit their sales day into a normal workday. They want their day to be from 9 to 5, or maybe from 8 to 5, or maybe even from 8 to 6, but very little before that or after that.
The reality is that 9 to 5 is the riskiest time and the worst time to make sales — especially a new sale, a sales call or a cold call to a prospect. People are busy doing their own stuff from 9 to 5.
Note well: If you have a solid relationship with your customer and are doing ongoing business, you have a good chance of making a daytime appointment. But a new sale, or a new prospect — you have virtually zero 9-to-5 chance.
And salespeople continually beat their heads against the wall, and sales managers continually demand more activity — even as foolish as cold calls — in order to get their numbers up, when in fact numbers do not go up from 9 to 5 unless they are with existing customers.
From 9 to 5, people are busy working, not buying. Real salespeople make sales between 7 and 9 in the morning, and between 5 and 7 or 8 in the evening — and at breakfast and lunch.
Only about 5 percent of salespeople get this — the 5 percent who make all the sales.
My financial planner, Walter Putnam, says, “The best thing to know is the best time to have meaningful conversation. And the best way to find out is to ask the prospect or customer. And get a date at the same time.”
In other words, when you ask the question, make the appointment.
This self-assessment will reveal your opportunities or missed opportunities:
- How many hours a week are you working or networking before the workday starts? Five hours a week is a great number.
- How many hours a week are you working or networking after the workday is over? Five hours a week is a great number.
- Who are you meeting for early morning coffee? Why not have a daily coffee with a customer?
- Who are you meeting for breakfast? Why not have two business breakfasts a week?
- Who are you meeting for lunch? Have lunch with an existing customer once a week and bring a prospect for them.
- Where are you networking before 9 and after 5? Try for at least two events or groups per week.
- Are you a member of a business development group like BNI? Join at least one group.
- Where are your face-to-face meetings occurring in order to maximize your exposure and your sales opportunities? Where are your sales taking place?
- Who is not returning your calls? Why?
- Who is not setting an appointment? Why?
These are challenge questions to determine the productive use of time before and after normal work hours. From 9-5, you’re busy chasing people, leaving voice mails and being frustrated by a consistent lack of progress. More than half of your time will be wasted (you just don’t know which half).
Sales require relationship building. Not just for loyalty of existing customer base, but also to earn referrals and testimonials. Early and late sales meetings net positive outcomes. And early-late prospecting is much more relaxed.
What can you do?
Here are 7.5 things to enhance your relationships and your sales results. Caution: They require work.
1. Establish a mutually agreeable game plan with each existing customer. Not just how to sell, but also how you will help them.
2. Discover and document “best times,” “best topics” and “most important.”
3. Reach and engage customers and prospects socially.
4. Meet for early morning coffee every day if you can.
5. Send a weekly value message to everyone.
6. Give referrals.
7. Seek leadership positions in every group you join.
7.5. Study your struggles and your successes. Identify where your last 10 sales came from, because it’s likely your next 10 will come from the same places.
The key point of understanding is the difference between a job in sales and a dedicated, relationship-based sales career. Which do you have?
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the December 15, 2014, Grand Rapids Business Journal.