How Long Should I Try a New Sales Approach?

How long do you keep slogging away at a new approach, or in a new market, or with a new product or with a new service before you give up or move on?  Good question! I won’t try to teach a statistics course in a short article so I won’t give you a scientific number.  If you want to know a scientific number, and not a “sales model,” then go to a statistician and ask them to crunch the numbers for you.   For a rough guess, let’s assume your sample size would have to be over a hundred selling conversations. If you are smiling and dialing, that probably means somewhere between a thousand and two-thousand phone calls.  Run the numbers and that means, even at a hundred calls a day, somewhere between ten days and twenty days, just to find out if you are on the right track!

That means two to four weeks of calling on customers.  If you are making outside calls, chances are you will talk to a higher percentage of decision makers and be able to make fewer calls.  If your territory is geographically small, you can probably call on twenty to thirty potential customers a day, counting on seeing one out of five or so.  This would mean you could make eight presentations a day.  So, two and half weeks worth of work just to find out if you are on the right track!

Selling When You Can’t See the Whites of Their Eyes-Selling at a Distance Webinar sign up.  7 classes over seven weeks plus 3 Audio CDs and 357 page training manual. 

These numbers only make sense if you have a short sales cycle. If you are in the long sale business, as I am, then it could take six months to a year to figure out if it is time to move on.  I am a speaker, trainer and consultant in leadership, management, project management and sales.  Getting into a training budget can mean a time line of up to a year.

There is a way to find out if you are making headway even in big-ticket, long-cycle sales.  You must have a smaller product to sell that has great value and is within the means of most decision makers to buy without getting approval from a higher up.  In my case I sell audio training coupled with workbooks on the sales training side and webinars on the leadership, management and project management side.

Another way to gauge success is by how eager people are to read your blog or subscribe to your newsletter or to attend your “free” webinars or talks.  If you are packing them in to your talks or getting great feed-back on your webinars or free tools, that can be a good sign that you have opportunity.  A good sign is not the same as being able to make your mortgage payment or send the kid to a good school without taking down a student loan.

Another thing to consider is timing.  You can have a great product and sell it in to the wrong cycle or a terrible product and sell it into a great cycle.  Example:  A monkey could have made money selling real estate or mortgage loans in 2005 or 2006 in a lot of US markets  The best realtor in the world would have had a tough time selling in the same market in 2010.

I have bailed on sales process and sales cycles way too late and bailed way too early.  Learn from my pain and have a plan.  Stick to it.  And, then, just in case you hit the cycle at the wrong time, dust off your sales process and try it every six months or so.  Another thing to think about. It could be you.  Some folks can sell the heck out of one product or service and be terrible at another.

Action Items/Activity Triggers

  1. Run a big enough test to be sure, say a thousand calls for a short sales cycle product
  2. On big ticket or long sales cycles products or services, judge success by entry level products or readership of blogs, white papers or webinar attendance.
  3. The problem could be the sales person and not the product or services you sell.

Try a new sales process or product long enough for your test to be statistically valid.  Because of business cycles, you might be bucking a trend.  Try another time.


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