One of the objections that I face in my work as a sales consultant here in Hungary is very different from what I am used to in my home country of America. Hungary, and the CEE region in general, seems to be more connections driven than the USA, where I got my start in professional sales.
In the USA, it was considered completely normal to contact someone you never knew and who doesn’t know you at all, ask them for a meeting, present your business to them and sometimes move forward in working together. Not every time, but often enough that if you set up a reasonable amount of these meetings from nothing, you were able to generate a reasonable amount of business from them.
Here in Hungary, my adopted home of the last 7 years, a lot of business – far too much business in my opinion – gets done based on who you know, often in complete disregard for what you know, or what is best for the businesses involved in a transaction. The problems with this mode of business are numerous and significant.
The first, from the sales perspective, is that salespeople who only work within their sphere of connections never really prospect for new business. I have seen salespeople go to extreme efforts to find a janitor or a secretary in the company they want to contact so that they can worm their way into a connection with a prospective client. Why not just call and ask for the guy you want to talk to? What happens when a target company or geography is out of your connections circle? If your company wants to go international, how do you do that if you don’t know anyone in the target country? This can be an easy sales problem to solve, but not for people who constrain themselves within the limits of their own connections.
The second problem with operating primarily from within the sphere of your connections is that compromises are made on product quantity or quality, often to the detriment of the business. If a business has a need for a product or service, then the need should be well analyzed, and the best solution should be selected based on the ability of the solution to solve the problem. If solutions are selected based on what someone I know has to offer, then the total set of potential solutions is not being considered, or the solution is chosen from among a too small set of choices – only those represented by someone known to the buyer. Once in a while, this might be the right choice for the company, but probably not every time, probably not even close.
Finally – at least for this post – is the potential for bad deals. I won’t go so far as to call this corruption, but you could. You so often hear stories of orders being placed between friends at different companies that have nothing to do with the needs of the buying company, like extra inventory purchased by a retail outlet to allow the seller to meet his numbers, or a higher than possible price being accepted with some creative incentives happening in the background. Breaking out of the circle of connections reduces the chances for these kinds of deals that ultimately hurt one or both businesses involved, in spite of the short term gain by one side or the other, not to mention the guys in between.
Neither in the US nor in Hungary are these things absolute. I have generated plenty of business for myself in Hungary by contacting people who have never heard from me, presenting my case, and winning some business. So have many of the salespeople in companies here that I work with as a consultant.
In the US, there are no shortage of salespeople who are afraid to contact someone that they don’t know, and often they limit their potential for results because of this.
Either way, the point is this: To decide that you can’t contact someone to initiate a sales relationship without a prior connection is simply not a fact set in stone. Whether you are here, there or anywhere, contacting someone cold, or creating an environment in which you can warm things up for a meeting that might otherwise be cold expands potential business possibilities far beyond the limited realm of your current connections. And for those on the buy side, the guy you know may not be more than that. That you know him is nice, but to serve your company best, you should evaluate opportunities based on their merits, not on the fact that you know the guy who sells it.
Success in business comes from making decisions and taking action on them. To accelerate your business – whether you are buying or selling, break out of the “I know a guy” mode of thinking, and start making decisions based on the likelihood for best results. It is not perfect, but nothing is, and it is much less limiting than your circle of connections and the limited choices they provide.
Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)
So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.
If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:
The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.
Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.
The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.
If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.
Here’s to your success!