Benchmark Business Group


April 4, 2011

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take” –Wayne Gretzky

You have probably heard it said many times that Sales is a numbers game.  That has certainly been our experience here at E-Myth Benchmark, but just what does that mean?  I mean seriously, in real numbers what does that mean?  If you were in front of 100 potential customers who were all within the demographic model of your most probable customer, and you offered them an opportunity to buy whatever it is you sell, how many would you expect to have immediate interest?

Actually, there is a fairly consistent answer, regardless of what you are selling.  It’s about three percent.  That number has come up several times in recent quantifications we have done both internally and with clients.  It is so fascinating (to those of us who are fascinated by human behavior and the sales process), that I recalled reading about it several months ago and went back to review it.  “It” is a book by Chet Holmes, entitled “The Ultimate Sales Machine” (Forward by the one and only Michael Gerber), which I highly recommend. 

In it, the author describes his experience and twenty years of research which revealed the same conclusion over and over—about three percent of potential buyers at any given time are buying now.  He tested it out in a lecture on the subject in front of 1200 CEOs.  He asked how many people in the audience were in the market for a car right then.  About 30 people raised their hands.  “How about tires?”  A different 30 raised their hands.  “How about furniture?”  Another approximately 30 hands went up.  “How about home improvements?”  Another 30 hands.  “How about office equipment?”  Again, about 30 hands.

His research further showed that another 7 percent of potential buyers are, at any given time, open to the idea of buying what you are selling.  They may not be satisfied with their current provider or situation and are not opposed to change but may not be ready to buy right now.  The remaining 90 percent, Holmes goes on, fall into three roughly equal categories.  The top third are what Holmes calls “not thinking about it.”  They are neither against it nor for it, they’re just “not thinking about it” right now.

The second third are what Holmes calls “think they’re not interested.”  They are not really neutral, and they have the potential to become interested at another time or under other circumstances.  The final third is “definitely not interested.”  They are happy with what they have or the way things are, and have no interest in change.

So, your challenges and opportunities should be clear.  With even average scripting, together with determination, discipline and persistence, you can find and begin to convert the three percent in your universe of prospects who are ready to buy now.  It is an even greater challenge, and certainly an opportunity, to discover ways to infuse a greater sense of urgency in the next seven percent who are open to the idea of what you sell, but not ready to buy now.  Depending on your product or service, that takes a clear message that communicates it is worth buying now, and not waiting.  This may be a value driven message, such as a discount, or one that promises immediate relief based on credible testimonials, or the like.

An even greater challenge, and again, opportunity, is to turn the heads of the next 30 percent who are “not thinking about it,” and even the additional 30 percent who “think they’re not interested.”  This takes a careful examination of what are called the psychographics of your potential customers, or “why” people buy from you.  What drives their emotional decisions?  What are their buying preferences?  Then, it takes carefully crafted scripting and channeling of the message to peak their interest and attract them to a selling conversation.

Are you interested in a message that begins with “let me show you the wonderful variety of carpeting we have to offer,” or one that begins with “let me describe what research has found to be the five most important things you can do to increase the value of your home?”  The first statement might attract the three percent who are interested in buying carpeting now, but that’s it.  How many more might the second statement attract?

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