I once gave a presentation to a group of executives following the brilliant economist Arthur Laffer, former economic advisor to Ronald Reagan known as the father of supply-side economics and the creator of the “Laffer Curve.” The Laffer Curve explains that when tax rates are raised to create more tax revenues, after a certain point the revenues collected actually decrease. Therefore, taxes should be fair.
In honor of this worthy idea, I would like to present to you the “Martin Curve.” The Martin Curve explains a curious aspect of human behavior that I have experienced as a salesperson, vice president of sales, and professional speaker. I have come to realize that in every audience there are people who simply cannot be sold. Even if you walk on water or levitate an elephant in the air, these people will not follow you. Perhaps it’s because of their neurological wiring or maybe the result of some childhood trauma. There’s no way to tell where their close-mindedness came from. Conversely, a similar group of people will fall in love with you instantly, say all the right things, but never buy. They seemed to be enamored with what you have said but don’t follow up with any discernable action. Both of these groups are fatal for salespeople.
The Martin Curve explains that 10--15 percent of everyone you try to sell to will not buy, regardless of the effort you put into winning the deal. Another 10--15 percent will give you all the buying signs and tell you that they love you but never buy anything. Therefore, you will never close up to 30 percent of the deals you are currently working on.
We may admire persistent salespeople and respect the underdog who will fight with passion and battle against the odds. However, sometimes it’s impossible to win. Such is the case when your competitor holds such a tight grip on the account there is no way to pry it loose. In some accounts, although they may not say so directly, the customer simply doesn’t want to buy from you.
Facing these circumstances, some salespeople believe the customer is just playing hard to get or treating every vendor in this way (which they aren’t). These salespeople mistakenly believe they can turn the situation around by sheer willpower and determination. Recognizing when to abandon an account is as important as knowing what accounts to pursue. Ultimately, you will only win deals where you are given the opportunity to build personal relationships.
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