Like it or not we’re all in the business of selling. Whether we’re overtly selling a product or service to customers

or providing support to people that do we’re nevertheless all in the same boat. We’re all selling something, directly or indirectly.

A colleague of mine recently complained to me that it was taking him too long to convert “prospects” into customers.He sold a good service, had a recognisable (and valuable) point of difference in the market and a generally happy group of existing customers. His problem was that his sales growth and rate of new customer acquisition was poor. He couldn’t understand why. He asked me for my view.

After digging around for a while it became clear that his pipeline of prospects was too thin and too much time was being spent on trying to convert too few prospects. A small list of prospects was being “bothered” too regularly and certainly in advance of their own timeframe to purchase. This created frustration both within the company and the prospects list. Instead of broadening the sales funnel the business was too focused on trying to convert existing prospects that were not yet ready to buy.

In the end the business had forgotten one of the most important words in sales – next…

The philosophy of “next” is that you only spend the minimum amount of time on every prospect to determine whether they are likely to buy or not and the timeframe in which they are prepared to buy. This will vary on case by case basis but the key is not to get bogged down. If they want to buy now then spend time to sell to them. If they need more time then follow up later on a mutually agreed date. And finally if they don’t want to buy at all then move on quickly to the “next” prospect.

It’s important not to get too emotional about it, especially rejection.  It’s not personal. Sales is a numbers game and you can’t force anyone to buy from youWhat is important is the size of the sales funnel and the work being put into expanding it.

A good business will have a full calendar of new prospect meetings for at least one month out into the future, irrespective of the time of year. This is tough to do and requires discipline and advanced organisational skills to do it year in year out. It will however provide greater performance certainty and, when well done, should guarantee that you are rarely scrambling around to meet your sales targets.

The next time someone doesn’t want to buy from you or defers their decision listen and learn from them and then move on quickly. Call the “next” prospect  and repeat the process. At the same time spend time increasing the depth of your sales pipeline and refining your offer. This will ensure you never run out of prospects. Eventually too you will create momentum in your business. The dual process of “calling” and “deepening” are the fundamentals tenets of “next” – an approach that works no matter what business you are in.