Avoiding the spiral 

When you are a sales hunter, you tend to be drawn to the higher value prospects – the larger companies, builders, or larger professional architects or surveyors. In theory, it’s where more of the work should be found, and certainly where the big ticket jobs are going to come from. That’s great, contacts in big companies are always valuable, and it’s entirely correct to go for them. But there is a danger, and it’s particularly acute if you have some early success. 

The problem is this: if work with big companies is going well, it’s tempting to keep going for more of the same. If you don’t keep feeding new sales leads and new contacts into the system, you can get tied up in one sort of work and end up chasing your tail. You may find yourself pursuing more and more contacts in fewer and fewer big companies, and getting diminishing returns on the time you’re sinking into it. It can become a downward spiral, and eventually a waste of time – a whirlpool, to put it dramatically. 

I’ve been caught out by this a couple of times myself, and have learned to keep an eye out for it. We now brief all our sales hunters at CMS to be on the lookout for a narrowing sales focus, and make sure they don’t get dragged into the spiral.
The solution? Keep looking for new contacts. It’s easy not to when existing contacts are delivering well, so it’s a matter of discipline. We always say that a third of each day should be dedicated to new sales leads, with the other two thirds for following up. This one-in-three ratio, give or take, keeps us balanced between developing good sources of work, and seeking out new and profitable opportunities. 

The main thing is to not get set in your ways. Success down one avenue does not mean success will continue to come from there indefinitely. Keep looking forward. Don’t get complacent. Maintain a balance between larger and smaller jobs, bigger and smaller clients. 

If you’re reading this and thinking you may be on the downward spiral of chasing too few clients, then mix it up a bit. While we’re committed to the phone and the personal connection, it can be useful to do some higher volume marketing when you need to expand the scope of your sales. We did this recently with a specialist roofing client who was spending a lot of time on the phones for little return. We suggested an email shot to our database of builders. It was a distinctive enough offer to get noticed, and if just one in a hundred got in touch, it would be a handful of brand new contacts in the pot.

A good salesperson has the discipline to keep looking for new contacts, even when they have regular returning clients. Be ruthlessly determined about getting out there for new business, aiming for breadth of contacts as well as depth. Do that, and you’ll have a more consistent, more resilient business.

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