I had known this particular prospect for many years, dating back to the time when he was an executive at a consumer software company. Now he has started a new company. From time to time I have shared ideas and examples with him, working to stay in touch and be helpful. During one such phone call a few weeks ago, he said, “Your call was really serendipity.”
I knew otherwise.
This is an Opinion
Serendipity means “the occurrence and development of events by chance (my emphasis added) in a happy or beneficial way.” This wasn’t chance.
One of the primary challenges in sales, marketing and revenue growth is timing. The most successful sellers I meet have a strategy driving the times they prospect for new opportunities, follow up on existing opportunities or reach out to people they already know.
The less successful sellers try to force it, acting on their schedule rather than on the prospective buyer’s schedule. Not knowing the important changes and implications in their buyers’ worlds, they push a sense of urgency based upon the end of the month or quarter, their new product introduction or some other internal force.
It is very difficult to make that approach work for any length of time. Furthermore, it comes across as pushy or even desperate — hardly the “trusted adviser” perception most companies want.
What tends to be good timing for the business buyer? Typically you want to show up when that prospect is grappling with a tough problem or evaluating options for dealing with big changes. Some of the more common triggers are regulatory changes, an acquisition or joint venture, changes in the product line, a new competitor or new leadership.
Even if you lack any inside scoop as to exactly when such things are happening, you and your team can easily find clues. Your prospect’s industry association (or media serving that industry) will have content about regulatory issues. Your prospect is likely talking openly about their initiatives, awards, new-product road map and executive changes via their news releases, earnings calls, blogs, social media posts and presentations at industry events.
With that sort of information, you can likely determine what feels urgent to the prospect (as opposed to what you feel compelled to sell today). You can then tailor your messaging, connecting the dots to ways you can help.
That is largely the way it worked with my “serendipitous” prospect. By following their blog posts and setting up a simple news alert in Google, I had a good idea when they would be adding a direct-sales team and making decisions on a sales process. Then I was able to offer some insights and recommendations, at an appropriate time.
By the way, I’m far from perfect in that regard. Many of you have shared similar experiences. It’s all too easy to rely upon good intentions, to-do lists or our memory in an attempt to be timely.
Many businesses have gone full-bore into automation as the antidote. That has its limitations as well. Or am I the only one receiving an increasing number of generic, uninvited and presumptuous messages these days about franchise opportunities or other things I have no interest in at the moment?
My hope is that you and your team find the right balance: what to automate, how best to reach out and how to retain a personal touch. We can all continue to work toward a system — one that uses modern tools while keeping our authenticity and building real relationships. It’s a nice feeling when that great prospect or past client says, “I’m actually glad you called.”