Good timing can mean good business. Like an expert comedian — think the perfectly timed facial expressions of Bill Cosby, or the “what’s the deal with that?” cracks of Jerry Seinfeld — the right moment and approach can make the difference in a sales career.
Here are five ways that salespeople can improve their timing and learn to pounce when the time is right:
1. Realize that it’s not just about you: This may sound like advice for the dating pool, but there will be times when the client is just not into you. That doesn’t mean forever, just a no-go for now. As Donald Cowper, author of The 8 Best Practices of High-Performing Salespeople, writes for freshbooks.com: “One of the problems a lot of people make in sales is that they focus on their own timing, not the prospect’s. You go out and try to make sales because the timing is right for you — you’re ready to take on a new client. But your client might not be ready to take you on. That’s common. The truth is you’re really lucky if your timing matches up with your prospect’s timing.” Among Cowper’s tips is to make yourself known, so that you’re top of mind if an opportunity arises. “Make contact every few months,” he says. “Build a relationship. Get them to see that you’re not just in it for a quick sale.”
2. Look for changes in the decision makers: When a targeted company makes a major shift among the top brass, it could mean a new opportunity for a sales call. So stay abreast of these potential clients, and look for announcements via the Web, local media and through professional contacts. As Dave Currie writes for The List, keep an eye out for role changes in such positions as chief marketing officer, chief digital officer and chief growth officer. “When assessing opportunities, pay particular attention to the use of terms such as relaunch or redirection, omni-channel focus and new demographic focus,” he writes. “These usually indicate the need for additional resources and services.”
3. Be aware of emerging companies: To accel in your sales career, you need ot keep up with trends in a variety of industries, looking for a possible “in” with a new client. The ever-changing world of technology is a prime candidate, with new businesses popping up all the time. “The technology space is primed with emerging companies and startups with dynamic and diverse products, services and applications,” Currie writes. “Keeping tabs on when these companies enter the market and their growth trajectory will provide the opportunity to effectively position your key offering as a resource in their introduction to the mass market.”
4. Be smart about when to make a call: It’s generally understood that Friday afternoons are a bad time for a sales call, with the weekend approaching. Similarly, Monday mornings are clogged with catch-up time. So when is the best time? Geoffrey James reports for sellingpower.com about a study conducted by Dr. James Oldroyd of the Kellogg School of Management. Oldroyd analyzed more than a million cold calls from 50 companies. “Thursday is by far the best day to contact a lead in order to qualify him or her as a prospect,” James writes. The time of day is also key. “The best times to call to qualify a lead, according to Oldroyd’s findings, are from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” James writes. “In fact, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. is 164 percent better than calling right after lunch.”
5. Be specific: Pinpointing a date and time for a sales call may be a better option than an open-ended proposal. As sales adviser Pat Cavanaugh says in an interview with inc.com: “Instead of saying, ‘Would there be a chance to meet with you sometime next week?,’ say, ‘Would next week on Tuesday at 10:30 be a good time to meet?’ Take the initiative. Be the aggressor.” Similarly, Cavanaugh recommends specifics in the time you request: “Always say to the person, ‘All I’m asking for is 10 minutes of your time. Believe me, I would not be wasting your time or mine if I didn’t know for a fact that I could help you!’ Another comment when someone is pressed for time is, ‘All I’m asking for is 10 minutes, I’ll even bring in a stopwatch, and you can time me.’ This reinforces that you respect that person’s time.”