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Closing the deal in New Zealand

19 Mar 2012

Why is it so hard to prospect and sell to New Zealanders? I recently read a great article by Debbie Mayo-Smith entitled ‘Prospecting is not evil’.  I agree with her 100%.  Prospecting is an essential part of business as we know it and it is the key to increasing sales.

The prospecting challenge in New Zealand is twofold. The first challenge can be ring fenced to a uniqueness of the New Zealand way of life and culture, whereas the second is a more global phenomenon brought on by generational change.

Challenge One:  "You are such lovely people in New Zealand."

Yes indeed. New Zealanders are generally very nice people and this is a rather large problem for sales people. Why so? Well, most of us generally do not like to offend others, even sales people. Rather, we tell the sales person nice things and have him call back in a month hoping he or she will go away. 

However, thatnks to that warm thoughtful approach, the sales person from the ‘long white cloud company’ has taken the conversation, applied the measure and told his sales manager that  he has a fantastic new prospect that he or she will close next month. 

I was with a client in Wellington last week undertaking a Sales Readiness and Effectiveness assessment for their business and was looking through their considerable prospect list from the sales team. 

There were 90 top ‘Hot’ prospects in total. The sales manager was very pleased, until, we applied our measurement tool and gave him the news. Of the 90, 13 were A prospects, 11 were B and the rest, well,… they had a lot of ‘nice’ conversations with nice people I guess. 

I lived in New York City early in my career so I can speak with a degree of experience when I tell you we are polar opposites when it comes to the selling and buying world. Whereas kiwis generally have time for people and are very accommodating, Americans, will slam the door in your face in a heartbeat. Cold calling is fine up there but if it’s longer than 20 seconds and you need to find the ‘approach angle’ fast.  This is part of the reason why Americans are so ruthless in business. They have to be to survive. 

On a flight last year from Los Angeles to New York, I sat next to a rather dejected bloke, Phil (real name, who had a media distribution business based in New Jersey. Phil had been calling on a company in LA for six months. He had finally set up a meeting to present his pitch with one of the senior executives of the company,  booked a flight and two days accommodation in LA. 

On arrival at the office, he was informed by the receptionist that his contact was now unavailable and too busy to see him. He was asked to leave his card and a copy of his presentation. I was flabbergasted, but Phil told me  this was not uncommon amongst US corporates.

"Part of the game” he said, and for him, a lesson learnt.

Fortunately, we do not have this problem in New Zealand and this is part of the reason why people love our great country and also why sales people have such healthy sales pipelines. We care, we don’t like to offend and therefore everyone is a hot prospect.

Challenge Two: Changing generations of mind-set and thought processes.

Generation X, and to a greater extent Generation Y, have grown up in a world where absolutely everything can be found online and social networking is high on the agenda information. These ‘gen groups’ seek out and pre-filter their options long before a sales person even thought of making their cold call.

From an early age, these two ‘gen’ groups learned to serve themselves by seeking information and services they need, when and where they need it. As you would expect, some of the ‘boomer’ generation are also becoming very savvy with technology and behaviours are changing.

The later generations have spawned and demanded a new approach to sales and marketing. A dramatic shift in social culture and technology over the last five years has given rise to a new form of prospecting. A large proportion of New Zealand companies  are still having their teams dial those phones furiously, sending the email newsletters and closing, closing, closing.  Although this still needs to happen, just doing more of the same is not only highly inefficient, but you are missing a huge generational gap in the market.

I suggest ‘permission marketing' is where you should start if you are selling products or services business-to-business today. This, followed by relevant and useful information served (with permission granted) to your target audience as and when they need it will build brand recognition, trust, enhance your business relationships and yes, will translate into increased sales.  

The answer then lies at the intersection of social understanding, training and technology. The world has change, and as business owners or sales and marketing professionals responsible for the revenue objectives of your business, you would be remiss at the very least for not pausing to understand what this means, and how you might interweave these new strategies into your sales and marketing approach.