• Hugh Baker-Smith

Carl the Porsche salesman

In Sales it is important to leave no stone unturned – but all too easy to repeatedly look under the same rock in the hope that something might have appeared since our last visit. It rarely has.

The second-best answer in Sales is “no”. It enables you to move on. It requires you to seek out new opportunities. It makes you productive. A core Sales skill is the ability to quickly identify and qualify out those prospects not willing, able, or ready to buy.

For many years, my friend Carl was a Porsche salesman. I was never shy to point out to him that there is little skill in selling a product that essentially sells itself – but the truth is that Carl had an exceptional ability to recognise a genuine prospect from an interested party. He needed to – nine out of ten visitors to his showroom were tire-kickers.

As soon as you walked through the showroom door, Carl would be weighing you up. The average age of a Porsche buyer is 52, and 85% of them are male. Shoes are a more reliable indicator of net worth than watches or jewellery - and while affluent professionals might well wear scruffy jeans, they are unlikely to have a cheap coat. What coffee you take, and how you take it, can both be useful clues to your lifestyle (Porsche drivers apparently don’t drink much tea), but Carl’s absolute priority would always be to understand your occupation – with business owners and senior medical professionals immediately recognised as the hottest of prospects.

Perhaps this all sounds very cold and calculating, but none of his customers would recognise Carl as anything other than warm, professional, and willing to go the extra mile for them. The point is that he could only offer this “supercar” level of customer service by politely filtering out the tire-kickers quickly.

I would expect most established businesses to know their own customers as well as Carl knew his. Nevertheless, many of these companies will have Sales pipelines heavily bolstered by opportunities that clearly do not fit their normal deal profiles. Over the short term this will be giving them a warm sense of security - but it is probably an illusion.

It has become an accepted wisdom that the value of a Sales pipeline within a CRM should be three times the related forecast revenues. Perhaps this is one of the ways that you measure your own Sales performance? There is nothing wrong with this approach, but Easter is here and I suggest that it might be time for a good Spring-clean.

Why not pull together a team internally and set aside a couple of hours to review every opportunity in your Sales pipeline? If your normal Sales cycle takes a few months, then look carefully at anything that has already been in there for longer than this. Similarly, re-qualify any prospects that do not fit your normal customer profile. I am not suggesting that you remove all of these potential deals, just that you satisfy yourselves that they are real.

Think like Carl.

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