I was working with a group of sales people a few weeks ago on some strong tactical approaches to securing appointments with prospects. As sometimes happens in these situations, we went down a rabbit hole on a very specific element of the approach. Namely, the fact that I always practice and teach the step of asking prospects if I’m catching them at a bad time, before I attempt to pitch anything.

A debate ensued. Is it too much of a risk to qualify for time at the outset of a sales call? Which is greater, the risk that we give the prospect an easy out or the risk that the prospect isn’t really listening when we pitch? The class was about evenly split in thirds. One third really liked the tactic we were discussing, one third though it wasn’t worth the risk of the easy out, and one third was firmly planted in mid air, unconvinced of either argument.
Finally, one of the opponents of the tactic said something which struck me as powerfully wrong.

“Asking them if it’s a bad time is like throwing water at them. I really doesn’t move them enough to be worth it.”

“How much water?” I asked.

“What do you mean,” he replied. “It doesn’t make any difference how much water it is. Water is water.”

Actually it does. It makes a huge difference. My parents live on an island in France. There are several spots on that island where a few tourists every year are hurt or killed. They venture out on to the rocky points to collect shells, unaware that an occasional wave can come over the rocks and hit them. It’s just water right? You get a little wet, no big deal.

The thing is, water has weight. In fact, 3 cubic feet of water (about the size of a large moving box) weighs almost 190 lbs. So one of those tourists on the rocks getting hit by a wave the size of a moving box is equivalent of me tackling them. Add the velocity of the water (or me) hitting them and the impact is exponentially higher. The math nerds out there can show you the math where the impact quickly reaches a metric ton, based on the speed of the wave. No wonder tourists get washed out to sea.

OK, what do drowning tourists have to do with sales techniques? The compound effect of weight. No tactic is by itself going to cause a massive increase in conversions from cold calls to sales. But by the time you consolidate the effect of a hundred, or a thousand glasses of water (aka proper sales tactics) on your prospect, you start to get some serious weight impact effect.

No single technique or tactic is a silver bullet, but the compound effect of proper sales psychology applied to your interactions with customers can easily add a metric ton of leverage to your sales efforts. Or even 190 lbs of leverage, which isn’t bad either.