80% of success is about this


When you are a representative with something to sell to another person who is representing an organisation you are engaged in B2B sales. Whilst both parties are people (allegedly) the buyer is not a consumer. The psychology of the process may have some similarities but the processes and the environments are very different.

Unlike with Retail Selling (to the consumer) I don’t have any particular qualifications in this space, but I do have the experience of doing it. And being who I am, I constantly learn by following other pundits in this space and in that process I discovered some interesting statistics.

We are familiar with the notion a funnel, so I have created this graphic to illustrate funnelmental (geddit?) tension that exists between the behaviours of sales people and the behaviours of the buyers.

Perseverance Stats.PNG

The statistics are quite rubbery – in fact I have no doubt they are wrong. I cannot trace an original source – just people quoting people who quote people. However I firmly believe the general principle conveyed in these numbers holds true.

It really is nothing more than the Pareto Principle: That is, 80% of the sales come to the 20% who persevere. (The quoted statistics would suggest it is more like 95:5)

Breaking this down like this illustrates the point dramatically. Now you, as a representative, can ask yourself specifically how many follow-ups you execute?

I too am guilty of quitting after a couple initial attempts. I fall back on the blog to ‘stay in touch’. But that is an excuse because I know the blog is just a grain of sand on the internet beach.

Entrepreneur magazine has an article on how Jerry Seinfeld manages to produce so much, high quality comedy consistently. They relate the story of the advice Seinfeld gave to an aspiring comedian:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

"After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

You'll notice that Seinfeld didn't say a single thing about results.

It didn't matter if he was motivated or not. It didn't matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn't matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was "not breaking the chain."

And that's one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld's remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on "not breaking the chain."

What is your excuse?

We are entering the season of Gift Fairs – so there will be a lot of B2B selling happening. A past business partner started an export business (gifts to the USA) and it took them four years of showing at the shows before they got a meaningful order. You may not do business the first time, but who knows what will happen if you stick to it?

This is the message of persistence – not about being a nuisance.

Not every person is a prospect, but if the representative has made an honest and accurate assessment of the buyer’s needs and that buyer (i.e. the retailer) is a true prospect, both parties will gain from the representative being persistent.

That consistency creates trust – which is the bedrock of a relationship.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

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