To help you more clearly understand how sales works and why competition even exists, let review the analogy of the Plum Tree. It’s very simple but true to form. The Plums on a tree represent your prospects. Some of the Plums are ripe, but most of them still need a little bit (or a lot) of nurturing on the tree. The ripe ones are easy. These are prospects you call on with an immediate need and you happen to be there and you, fortunately, get a sale. This is not where you get rich. Your potential wealth lies in the green ones still on the tree.
Your average salesperson will pick all the ripe Plums off the tree, throw them in his/her little bucket (no need for a very big one), and run off to the next tree. Maybe your next tree is a trade show, a networking group, a direct mail piece or a telemarketing list. But think about this for a moment, wouldn’t some of those green Plums ripen in time?
The average Joe Salesperson suspects his green Plums might turn ripe someday too. So he sets up a great system for cultivating them. It’s called the tickler file. Every so often, Joe calls the people on his list from a given tree and at that moment becomes what I call “the annoying salesperson”
See if this sounds familiar…or if you’ve been guilty of saying it. “Hello, may I please speak with Tom Prospect. Tom? Hey, this is Joe Salesperson over at Digits and Widgets. Remember I met you at the trade show a couple of months ago? You don’t? Well, did you get that letter I sent you with my business card? Oh, don’t worry about it. Anyway, I was just calling to see if you guys over there need any digits or widgets yet. You don’t? No big deal. I’ll give you a call in a couple of months to see if you need some then. Bye!”
Do you know how annoying that is? Do you know how much that makes Tom Prospect dislike talking to you? That’s like picking your ripe Plums then leaving the tree alone for two months. No watering. No fertilizing. No spraying for bugs. No pruning. No nothing. It is not going to happen.
Why do you think competition exists? Because the next day after you leave your tree for a new one, your competitor comes along and throws a little bit of his fertilizer on it and guess what? A few more Plums ripen and he picks them. Those were your Plums! Are you going to stand for that? Actually, chances are you will…because you’re down in another part of the orchard looking for a new tree. You’re picking somebody else’s Plums that they left there, almost ripe, from the day before.
My idea of a great sales system is to pick all the pears off of all the trees in the orchard every day. We call the process of “Guarding and Nourishing” all the trees the Ultimate Follow-Up System.
In sales, remember that there’s an educational process a prospect must go through before he’s ready to buy from you. He may need to learn more about your industry in general or he may want to know about you and why your offer is any better than anyone else’s he’s considering.
Or maybe he just doesn’t need or can’t afford what you have…for now. Your challenge is to educate and nurture this prospect along. But that’s a tough deal if you have many prospects. Let’s go back to the orchard to find the solution. In the orchard, you cultivate Plum trees by watering, fertilizing, pruning, etc. and you also let nature run its course. But remember, prospects are like Plums, not entire trees. Building a relationship with every prospect is a lot like paying a lot of attention to every Plum on the tree. Imagine inspecting all the Plums for bugs every day or somehow adding a small but precise amount of water to each Plum each day. It would be a waste of time unless you had an effective system.
In the orchard, you could set up an irrigation system that would automatically come on every day to water the trees. You could hire an airplane to drop pesticide on your trees once a week. In other words, you can treat the entire orchard at once. All the Plums will ripen when the time comes. Then you just sit there and pick.
In sales, your nurturing consists of educating the prospect. You must set up a system for continual education and giving the prospects a “reason why” they should buy your product or service. Think about what you would want is a prospect and then do it.
Written by Jon Bingham.
Jon is a Strategic Marketing Consultant, he creates proven marketing systems for Fortune 500 companies. Connect with him at Twitter @jon_bingham or email email@example.com or 435-574-2145.