When do you go from selling to pestering?

Josh Stailey

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Josh Stailey of the Pursuit Group answers a popular question about how often can you talk to prospective clients before it becomes too much.

Hi, this is Josh Stailey from the Pursuit Group. I want to talk a little bit today about a question we get asked a lot from business owners, marketers and even sales people, sometimes as aggressive as you often consider sales people to be. And that question is, when do you go from selling to pestering? How often to you talk to somebody before it becomes too much?

There’s several interesting answers to that, but I want to tell a story that surfaced in the media recently, in our trade media recently, that I thought was fascinating. The simple answer is, you continue to talk to someone until they tell you they’re not interested. That’s the simple answer. In many cases, they will choose to opt out or people who do not respond to an effort may not be disinterested and may not be ready to buy or may actually be wanting to do what you want to sell, but simply may not be ready.

An interesting story occurred with an organization that had a contact, and this is an important piece of business for them because it was a six or seven figure sale if they made it. And so they persisted with this particular target using email and other non-direct attempts to connect with this person. And finally at some point, this person replied to an email, this prospect, replied to an email and said, “Guys, I thank you for sending things to me. I know you’ve been trying to reach me. I’m sorry I haven’t called you back, but don’t stop.” And the specific thing he said in this email is, “You are my conscience. I need you to keep after me until I get through this crazy time and can actually sit down a look at this because I want to do this. My company needs to do this.”

And interestingly, the company that was selling to them decided to go back and check and see how may contacts that they had made with this individual before he responded. And they counted them all up and it was 42. They made 42 attempts to reach this person, which is almost a record for persistence among people that I talk to. One of the typical problems we come up with when we talk to people is they will attempt three times to talk to someone and then say, “oh, he’s cold,” and throw it away. And some of the research we’ve seen in the last few years is you may actually have to talk to an organization and that means email, it means messaging of one sort or another, it could be all kinds of different things. But you have to touch someone in an organization as many as 20 or 25 times before it breaks through the traffic, the background, the noise that occurs on a day-to-day life of a potential buyer.

So my advice is, wait until they tell you they’re not interested before you stop talking. Now, don’t spend high value time, don’t have a sales guy calling him once a week saying, “Is it ready yet? Are you ready to talk yet?” But find a way to provide relevant information on a persistent, almost permanent basis if they don’t opt out.

About Josh

Our friend and contributor Josh Stailey passed away unexpectedly on September 10, 2011. We have valued his expertise and willingness to share his insights with us. We discussed the appropriateness of sharing content he provided before his death with his business partners at The Pursuit Group and they agreed sharing his expertise was a fitting tribute to Josh.

Josh Stailey was a 40-year veteran of the marketing and sales wars, a journalism-trained professional who understood the role of information and technology in today’s business world. A consultant and writer, he was a founding partner of The Pursuit Group, which specializes in designing and implementing demand-generation systems for small- and medium-sized businesses. He has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on customer experience management and content system design.

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