How often have we watched someone, or been that person, who’s standing in the lobby ringing the bell again and again as though that continued effort would actually speed up the elevator’s arrival? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Yet all of us, in many contexts, are subject to the same kind of conditioned behavior that wastes time and resources and completely fails to move us closer to our goal. That’s called wheel spinning, and in sales it is a costly and draining activity.
Neil Rackham’s seminal book, Spin Selling, focuses on this significant problem by talking about continuations and advances. The latter move the sales process closer to a resolution while continuations have you dog-paddling in place, and over time are like being stuck in the mire. Advances can be small or large, but they all move you towards the finish line. They include activities like scheduling the next sales meeting, making a webinar presentation or simply getting the name and title of a particular decision-maker. An advance may also disqualify a “suspect” by confirming he’s not at all open to an insurance review, and while that may not be what you want to hear, it resolves the situation, or as we say at PMA, it gets that target business ‘off the radar.’
Continuations, on the other hand, involve activities that bring no further progress towards a sales decision. At the end of your meeting, the risk manager thanks you for your time, applauds you on a well-done presentation and offers a vague invitation to ”check back” next year.
Obviously, continuations are to be avoided. To do that you have to first recognize them when they occur and then break the pattern. In the telemarketing process, when you’re working to gain traction with qualified prospects, continuations may happen all too frequently.
“You’ve got me at a bad time,” says the manager responsible for insurance decisions, after your third attempt to get him on the phone, “I can’t talk right now.” Fair enough, but if you just cordially let him go, you’re back to square one. Instead, if you say, “I’m calling about providing a competitive insurance and risk review. Would you like me to call back next week to see if we can set something up?”, you’ll be able to disqualify a suspect who answers “no,” or plan on a call back with someone who’s expressed some buy-in.
As we become aware of how frequently continuations might be stalling the sales process, we can focus more effort on avoiding them altogether. Spending valuable sales time with recalcitrant prospects with whom it’s hard to get traction can be a real drain on your time and energy. You have to be alert and quick to avoid the trap of continuations, and train in making advances at every opportunity.