You may think that I am just playing with words here. But carefully read on and you will find that the power of this statement lies in its execution, not its elocution.

What does it mean to be responsive? First, I will tell what it doesn’t mean. “Responsive” doesn’t mean fast.

Responsiveness in selling has two inseparable elements: information content and speed. Take away one element and you are no longer responsive. Imagine that responsiveness is a molecule like H20 composed of two elements; hydrogen and oxygen. Take away the H2 (two hydrogen atoms) and you just have O (oxygen.) That’s great for breathing but it’s not much use in the thirst quenching category. Similarly, if you are fast to respond to your prospects, but cannot give them the data and information they need to move forward in their buying process, then you are not being responsive. Being fast is good for gold medals but in the absence of content speed is not a virtue in sales.

Your responsiveness, or lack thereof, is your prospect’s first experience with your company. The initial interaction you have with a prospect or customer is judged to be a win or a loss. What do you want the prospect’s first perception of you, your product and your company to be? “Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?” (Christopher Marlowe) or “Contempt is as frequently produced at first sight as love.” (Herman Melville)

Responsiveness is an absolute value. You either are or your aren’t. You can’t be partially responsive. Customers are acutely aware of responsiveness in sales. Unfortunately they aren’t on the receiving end of it very often. But, what happens to your sales results (and, conversely, those of your poor competitors) when you condition your prospects and customers to expect complete responsiveness from sellers? “We generally make up our minds beforehand to the sort of person we should like…;—and when we meet with a complete example of the qualities we admire, the bargain is soon struck.” (William Hazlitt)

For a seller, responsiveness becomes a key competitive advantage in a commodity oriented world. Customers witness from the first sales call the experience of working with your company. Help your customer complete their buying cycle sooner and they will begin to expect this level of responsiveness from all companies. The competitors that don’t measure up will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

How can you instill a culture of absolute responsiveness in your selling? 1. Make it a priority. Everyone who engages with the customer has to be trained on the importance of providing the higher level of sales service and responsiveness that compress the customer’s buying cycle. 2. Create metrics for your key sales processes. You have to measure responsiveness in your selling. If you aren’t measuring it, it isn’t happening. Start with the simple sales processes first. For instance, how long should it take to respond to an individual sales lead? How long should it take to follow up 100% of your sales leads? You can’t be responsive if you aren’t following up all of your leads. 3. Sell with the Sharp End of the Stick. This means to put your people with the deepest product knowledge closest to the point of attack; closest to the customer. A customer’s buying process is a search for information to help them make a purchase decision. If your front line sales people can more quickly provide the answers the prospect requires, then your responsiveness will skyrocket. 4. Map your content to the prospect’s buying process. Unless you are selling a brand new product, you should know what content the prospect requires at each stage of their buying cycle to move forward to the next stage. This content has to be in a form that is quickly and easily shared with your prospects. 5. Manage to the metrics. The metrics, and the individual performances against them, have to be reviewed daily. Your CRM system is a perfect tool for tracking and managing responsiveness.

There is an epidemic of poor responsiveness in sales. Some of it is laziness. Some is due to inattentiveness on the part of management. Mostly poor responsiveness is due to a lack of understanding about how essential the first perception of the prospect  is to your ability to win their business. If you value responsiveness then it will quickly become apparent to your prospect that you do. And set you apart from your competitors.

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Lois, my Mom


Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by selling faster. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, “The Speed of Selling.” Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to our blog!

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