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Four steps to snagging the one that got away

Telling fishing stories about "the one that got away" can be amusing. Telling sales stories about the prospect that got away are anything but amusing. Frustrating is a more appropriate description.

Fortunately, there is a big difference between fishing and selling. The chance of re-snagging the trophy-class fish that slipped the hook at the last moment is extremely small. The chance of "re-snagging" the prospect who slipped away is much greater, if you're willing to exert a little effort.

Step 1
Identify the ones that got away. Make a list of contacts who never graduated to the level of prospect. Those are the people you met who indicated some interest in your product or service or a reason to talk further, but for some reason an appointment was never scheduled. Make a list of prospects who missed or needed to reschedule an appointment, but the rescheduling never took place. In other words, identify the people who slipped the hook. Consolidate your lists into one master call list.

Step 2
Develop the justification for the calls. You'll need an opening for your phone calls. Unlike a cold call where you might use a 30-second commercial to uncover some potential pain, you only need to remind the person of your previous contact. "Bill, last month after a Chamber of Commerce meeting we had a brief chat about how my company might be able to help you with your inventory storage problem. For some reason, we never got together to further that discussion. Would it make sense for us to do that now?"

Step 3
Schedule the time to make the phone calls. Unless you schedule time to make the phone calls, the time you invested compiling your list and preparing your call was wasted time. So, schedule time to follow through and make the calls. Not "someday" or when you "get some time." Make an appointment with yourself - write it in your calendar - then, keep the appointment. Block out an hour or hour and a half on a day or two. (If your list is long, block out time on more days.)

Step 4
Make the calls! As the Nike slogan suggests, just do it. No excuses. No procrastination. Make the calls during the time scheduled. After your conversations, the people on the list should fall into one of three categories:

• Scheduled appointments
• Closed files
• Clear-cut, specifically defined future action

There should be very few people in the third category - and only as a result of very special circumstances. The people on the list have put you off (at least) once; don't let them do it again.

It's OK to close files. In the long run, it's better to close the file than waste time pursuing people who aren't truly interested or committed.
Reserve "the one that got away" stories for your fishing buddies, not your sales colleagues.
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Gary Harvey

Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the world. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or gary.harvey@sandler.com.


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