How Many Licks Does it Take?

Not too long ago, some partners of mine in a business venture contacted a well-known, online referral portal that matches businesses in our industry with prospective customers. The sales representative, who conferred with us over the phone, answered questions and gave us the information we needed to gauge our steps moving forward. We are close to pulling the trigger on their service–but haven’t yet at the time of this writing.

That ball is presently in my partner’s court…however I wish he would serve it back because the sales rep keeps calling me!

I have to give her credit–she is not simply waiting for us to call back. She is applying gentle persistence–simply reaching out weekly to make sure we know that she is there for us. In the past couple months, I would say she has called at least ten times.

Send-Out-Cards has a greeting card intended to go out to other sales people, because on the front panel it lists “SALES STATISTICS.” While it does not attribute any source for these statistics (A friend of mine contacted them seeking this information and their response was “multiple sources”), they are nevertheless quite believable:

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect.
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop.
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop.
  • Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts.
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact.
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact.
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.

If you have read previous columns here you will know that this is one point that I hammer on again and again: the importance of gentle persistence. Indeed, we all look with awe at all the competition that is out there. Yet, in most cases, all it takes to make ourselves stand out among that competition is to do what they are NOT doing: pick up that phone (or drop a note) yet one more time.

And this doesn’t just apply to closing a sale. In fact, it likely applies more often to just setting up that first meeting!

And it also pairs well with the topic I wrote about a while back: the Power of a Sentiment. Then I challenged you to reach out and share a sentiment with just one person a day. Send-Out-Cards is a perfect resource to do just that, and it is highly affordable as well. Or if you wish, you can go out and purchase a modest supply of simple note cards, and sent them out to people the old fashioned way. And of course, there is nothing wrong with using the phone as well.

When I teach this concept in my programs on The Wedge, the question “How many times till you give up?” ultimately arises. It takes me back to an ancient Tootsie Pop commercial that ran when I was a kid:

Boy: Mr. Cow…
Mr. Cow: Yeeeeesss!!?
Boy: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?!
Mr. Cow: I don’t know, I always end up biting. Ask Mr. Fox, for he’s much clever than I.
Boy: Mr. Fox, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?!!
Mr. Fox: Why don’t you ask Mr. Turtle, for he’s been around a lot longer than I?!? Me, heheh, I bite!
Boy: Mr. Turtle, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
Mr. Turtle: I’ve never even made it without biting. Ask Mr. Owl, for he is the wisest of us all.
Boy: Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!?
Mr. Owl: A good question. Let’s find out. A One… A two-HOO… A tha-three..(crunch sound effect)
Mr. Owl: A Three!
Boy: If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s a smart owl.
Narrator: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.

While our prospect would not respond too kindly to our biting into them, I think you get the message. It takes persistence, and I doubt most of us who ever enjoyed a Tootsie Pop in our day ever gave up after just three licks.

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