Depending on which articles your read; whose studies you consider, it is said that as much as 60 percent of business deals are lost due to indecision. The prospect opts to hang tight to the “status quo.” While there are times that it’s prudent to keep the status quo most of the time doing so inhibits progress. Historically had our nation not undergone challenges to change the status quo we would still be attending the Church of England; plantation owners would still be buying slaves to pick the cotton, and women most certainly would not have the vote. Without challenging the status quo we wouldn’t have advances in medicine, science, and technology, nor would we be searching the Universe for a backup plan. Embedded in the very definition of life is the condition of change. Without change; without growth all things die or get swallowed by the competition, especially in this age of technology. Each prospect that you talk to who chooses to make no decision has their reason. The trick is to learn their reason and address their concerns by opening a dialog. Dig Deeper. Respect Prospect’s Perspective Even a “no decision” is based on something. You prospect knows their balance sheet and they know the team under them. They may see all change as a risk, whether the company is still trying to gain a solid footing or is in a comfortable holding pattern. Rule of thumb: Remember, when your mouth is open, your ears are closed. Let your prospect lead the conversation, and then reflect back your understanding with questions and comments that prove you are hearing what they said. Example: “I hear that your current system is effectively meeting your needs when it comes to call volume, but that it doesn’t track activity history at an ideal level. How does that affect your analytics?” A pro/con dialogue will give insight to both you and your prospect.
Validate the Difficulty of the Change Process
Discuss the different aspects of the change process ahead of time. There should be no surprises at the eleventh hour. Keep the conversations real and compassionate about how the steps will affect the prospect.
- It will cost time. Production may have to slow while new software is implemented and the users are trained. Time lost may show a temporary drop in revenue. The new efficient system will quickly make it up and continue to push revenue up.
- It will take energy. It will take structured effort to get everyone trained and comfortable with the new system. Schedules will have to be coordinated for training, and progress fastidiously monitored.
- It will take encouragement. Reassuring reminders about the benefits of the new software during the training process will ease the transition. When you know your product everything seems simple, but to the person trying to learn it, not necessarily so. Take care not to assume that everything is understood. Check and recheck. Patient, consistent re-enforcement will get the job done.
Give Control of Change Process to Prospect
It’s important that the prospect has control of the change calendar within reason, and that they choose the initial trainees. When customizing the software to meet specific needs, it’s crucial to keep an open dialogue and gain approval for significant modifications. Avoid buyer’s remorse by encouraging conversations that addresses any fears that develop during the transition, and make it comfortable for the prospect to put all issues on the table.
Just Guide; Don’t Take Over
There are two ways to teach. You can do it and let the learner watch, or the learner can do it while you watch. The fact is, people learn better with their hands on, and your position as just a guide will result in a smoother process. Mistakes during training are a great clarifier of understanding; easily fixable. Guide, and resist the urge to take over. Dissecting the sales process and digging a little deeper into the reasons for no decision being made will payoff for all concerned. Build long-term relationships through communication.
There’s fancy French Cuisine and there’s meat and potatoes. Which one best describes your sales pitch? Do you proudly tick off your product’s features like they are the appetizers and hope to keep the prospect on the line long enough to serve them the Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc Sauce, or do you recognize that with your initial call that businesses want you to hold the appetizers and straight up serve the meat and potatoes? The truth is that they are busy people who want to know what your product can do for them – and they see all your bells and whistles as simply the fringe benefits that belong in future calls.
Every prospect; every company is an individual with specific needs. Selling to them isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Do your homework. Find out enough about your prospect to know how you can actually help them before calling.
Identifying Right Benefits
- Are they a large, established company?
- Are they a smaller or start-up company?
- What is their product and/or service?
- Are they retail or wholesale?
- Do they do inside sales?
- Are they currently using a similar product that yours improves upon?
- How are market trends and the state of the economy affecting them?
What Do They Want To Hear From You?
- Numbers – how much time your product can save.
- Numbers – what percentage of revenue increase might they experience.
- How much easier your product is to use than their current one.
- They want to hear that over and above making a sale that you want to help them.
- They want to hear your respect for their time and your understanding of their needs.
- The want to know that you’re hearing them.
Take the time to analyze your sales approach and make sure that you’re not assuming that every person you talk to is a technology geek who will be enamored of your product’s ability to jump at the click of a mouse. That’s all fun stuff, but it’s not the meat and potatoes. If you budget time for the appropriate research before you start calling your prospect’s budget will reap the rewards that you’re offering.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” ~Steve Jobs
While it is true that sales is a numbers game there is a fine line between what is best, quantity or quality, when it comes to filling your call list with prospects. You can argue that it’s a hit and miss situation so the more leads you have the better your chance of connecting with a voice, over a machine. You can tell yourself that if the person who answers isn’t the right person that they will gladly give you the number to call of the one that is. You can tell yourself that your supervisor will be happy just to see that you made an impressive number of dials. You can hang onto the idea that it is totally about persistence – but is it?
Statistically, according to Leap Job – “only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment.” Is that a statistic you simply have to live with, or could you change it if you thought about how to fill your call list with quality, instead of quantity? What if you took the time to actually differentiate between a good lead and a nonproductive one, and communicated that to those who are harvesting your leads? Gartner Group notes, “Typically if a firm has somewhere between 100 and 500 employees there are only about seven people who are actually involved in the buying decision.” Wouldn’t you like to find them?
Bad Lead – Quantity Harvesting
- A person who by virtue of their job title doesn’t have the ability or authority to invite a second call.
- A lead to someone in an industry that doesn’t fit your product.
- A lead with incorrect contact information.
- A lead that no longer works for said company.
Imagine how much time and money is wasted when your call list is filled with bad leads. You might make an impressive number of dials, but you won’t make an earth-moving number of sales, because it isn’t possible when you’re talking to the wrong people. On top of that – how frustrating is it for you to make dial after dial that is met with a negative outcome? How do you keep up your spirit – not to mention enjoy any measure of job security? It’s no wonder that there is such a high turnover in sales jobs. Anyone who can beat your success statistics can have your job. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcomes.” – Einstein
Good Lead – Quality Harvesting
- A lead with the job title that authorizes them to invite a second call.
- A lead who works for a company that you know that your product actually can help
- Leads that have undergone routine data cleansing and are verified to still work for the company.
Imagine how it would feel to be calling the right people. Trading quantity for quality means a higher level of success, higher job revenues and increased job security. While it may seem that finding the right person to call is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it really isn’t. It’s a matter of defining criteria, and then looking specifically for that. If you do an advanced search out on LinkedIn you can eliminate much of the hay and get down to the needle. Often times you can find the right person on a company’s website. An experienced sales person knows which job titles have authority and passing the word down to those who harvest the leads can make a difference. Setting up a schedule that keeps your lead’s job verification current within 6 months or a year will keep things cleaner and more productive.
There is one other important step. Once you have a quality call list you need to put it in an application that allows you to truly attack it. Incite2, a Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology will impart magic to your call list because it allows for momentum you can’t get anywhere else. It consolidates all Salesforce data so that on one page you can click through calls, schedule next steps, send appropriate communications and keep track of your sales history. A few clicks during and after your call, and you quickly move onto the next call. With Incite2 you can triple your call volumne.
Laws of Attraction
In the early 1900’s there was a “New Thought Movement.” Proponents wrote about, and lectured that “both people and thoughts are pure energy and like energy attracts like energy.“ The idea came to be known as the Laws of Attraction. The concept was sold to the populace with a biblical reference which gave it more substance for people. Writer James Allen’s best known work was an article written in 1902 entitled, As a Man Thinketh.” The basis for the article was a verse in the Bible from the Book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Opportunists took flight with the idea and made millions of dollars preaching it. The jury is still out on whether it is true or not.
Power of Positive Thinking
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” published in 1952 took it one step farther. Personally, I think there is more substance to the power of positive thinking than there is to the so-called Laws of Attraction because to me “confidence” is the epitome of positive thinking.
I came to understand confidence when I was very young. I learned that as long as I believed when I put on my ice skates that I was going to fall; fall I did. A little practice, and my confidence grew and I stopped falling. That scenario played out thousands of times over the years. Every measure of success that I experienced was directly connected to my level of confidence in my ability to accomplish.
How does all of this translate to sales? If the prospect hears your lack of confidence, the deal is off. If you don’t truly believe you have a solution; that you can get that coveted second chance to call, odds are good that you won’t.
How to Gain Confidence
Confidence Relates to Education
Make sure that you know your product; not just the basic product, but every upgrade. Know your competitor’s products. How do they compare to yours? What makes yours better?
Spend Time with Peers.
There is power in teamwork. Social time spent with coworkers will always have nuggets of wisdom in it. We all have people in our field that we respect for their ability to get the job done. Spend time with them; observe their style. Ask questions about how they landed successful deals. Don’t forget to ask about the deals that didn’t pan out for them. Learn from their mistakes.
We never get so good that a little practice will hurt us. When you make improvements to your sales script practice it out loud to a friend, colleague, family member; the dog if no one else is around. Things said out loud showcases mistakes and bring awareness to ineffective content.
Read Articles, Blogs and Books on Sales.
While you certainly have a life outside of sales, you will find that making time to read current literature on the topic, will inspire and energize you. It will keep you apprised of changes in the market, advances in technology, and what company is acquiring what company. Embrace the Internet; the more you know, the more confident you will be.
Find Value in Seminars; Podcasts; Webinars and Sales Events.
Tuning in and/or attending such events will raise your level of engagement in your profession.
Social Media is a Source of Knowledge.
Twitter, for example, is a great place to find out what people are talking about. You can get the jump on new trends and technologies.
Consider a Business Diary.
While not everyone finds a comfort with writing, keeping a record of your wins and losses would give you something to look back on that might give you a tool to progress forward.
Take the pause out of your sentences, the hesitation from your information delivery, and the nervous energy out of your sales pitch by shoring up your sales education. Your prospects can spot fear, inexperience and bluffing from a mile away. You can positively increase your sales by building your confidence – by increasing your knowledge.
Whether you were born with a passion for your craft or whether you learned it along the way, the bottom line is that without the passion, your success will not be consistent. Consider the sales people that are recognized by the industry as being the best. If you do a little research you will find that almost without exception they either cut their teeth on it following in their parent’s footsteps or they were just naturally, genuinely driven to help people.
Very spiritually driven because of instances of what he saw as miraculous in his own life. As a motivational speaker he helped shape the modern vocabulary of sales.
Popeil is the hands down king of the infomercials. He says, “If I create a product, I can market it as well as or better than anyone on the planet. I have the confidence and the passion. People see that, and they know it is real.”
She sold over $41 million dollars in pianos for Steinway & Sons by taking the time to match-make people to the right piano. For beginning players she wore the symbolic hat of piano teacher; for the experienced she matched their personalities to the personalities of the piano. She made it personal.
It wasn’t the products he sold that he is remembered for; it is the drive he had to teach others how to sell.
Ogilvy’s mantra was that he believed the best way to get new clients was to do notable work for existing ones. His level of service is legendary.
Sales is Not a Profession for the Faint-Hearted
Even when you have the passion for your craft you have to be thick-skinned and resilient. Know that even the most successful have days of frustration, but they recognize when they need to refresh their energy and seek ways to do so, because prospects can spot a fake a mile away.
12 Ways to Stay Passionate
- Surround yourself with people who share your passion for sales. It really will rub off on you. It’s among the Laws of Attraction.
- Make lists – to-do lists; things that worked list; things that didn’t work.
- Carry a small notebook everywhere. Noting inspirational ideas can help you freshen up your sales methods.
- Take Breaks – Schedule in time to change the view. Leave your desk for lunch.
- Seek feedback on your efforts. Love the good and learn from the not so good.
- Collaborate. Brainstorming and sharing experiences with colleagues will energize you.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes; just make it a point to learn from them. It will make others trust and respect you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Give your sales pitch to family and friends and ask for their opinions. Everything can always be made better, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
- Get lots of rest. You can’t deliver energy if you don’t have any.
- Clean your workspace. You will think clearer and feel more professional without clutter and with organization.
- Stay on top of new technology.
- Attend webinars and seminars to gain new ideas.
Imagine having customers who both appreciate the product – and remember how energetic, passionate, and genuine you were when you sold it to them. It will get you repeat business.
In 1974 I bought my first microwave oven from JC Penney. Whenever a technology is new to the consumer, the price is always high for a handful of years. The first microwave ovens hit the stores in 1967 so when I bought, I paid $750, which definitely taxed the household budget. The product came with a one year guarantee, and at the time of the sale I was offered an extended warranty – which I turned down. One year and three weeks later the microwave stopped working, and when I contacted the store, I was told, “Nothing we can do. You didn’t buy the extended warranty.”
I decided to keep the problem human. I sat down and wrote to the CEO of JC Penney’s. I told him that I didn’t buy the extended warranty because I had grown up with JC Penney being a part of my family, and I trusted that as family they would do what was right – whether I bought the extended warranty or not. I told him that their products were in every closet, on every shelf and in every drawer of our home. I asked him to not break the trust that I had grown up having for the company. He authorized the repairs at no charge.
When it comes to business, especially in this day of high tech everything, caution should be taken to not lose the human touch with your prospects. While everyone appreciates the speed, the accuracy and the convenience of technology; no one wants to be nothing but a statistic in your analytics.
Keep it Human
Keep it Warm
Talk with your prospects like they are professional “friends.” As you move through the sales cycle get to know them as people. Learn about their family, significant events taking place in their life – weddings, new babies, great vacations. Maybe they just built a new house; their child’s ball team took first place or they are thrilled with a new car they just parked in their garage. Share a piece of yourself to open the door of friendship; they will give back. You will build trust by letting them know you care about them beyond their bank account.
Email is awesome. It is fast, and it is free, and there is a time and a place for it. Some years back I was with a car insurance company that actually mailed me a birthday card each year, personally signed by my agent. Had he sent me a birthday greeting via email – I would have been a lot less touched. Yes, I know it was a marketing tool, but I still thought it a class act.
While you may think your customers are impressed when you have all the answers, know that they are equally as impressed when you admit that you don’t. There’s something reassuring and connecting when you admit to being human. If you promise to find the answer, and follow through, you’ve demonstrated your good character and earned their respect. Know too, admitting your mistakes and then responsibly fixing them, builds a level of trust that you can’t put a price on.
Let the Wisdom Kick In
The difference between a good teacher and a great one is that a great one will tell you that they learned more from their students than they taught them. Every prospect has something to teach you, even the ones who say, “No thanks.” It might be the questions they ask that drive you to research; it might be their leadership style that you get to observe, or it might simply be that they share something they’ve learned that makes your job easier. Learning from others is the best way for you to grow, both personally and professionally.
It’s a new day. Before you start calling consider your style. Will the prospect hear a sales shark, or will they hear a new friend who wants to help them? Will they hear irritation at a “No thanks,” or will they hear understanding and respect? What kind of impression will you leave? You can keep it business, and be real at the same time.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and that’s too clear a vision to waste. It is human nature to tuck away memories of extreme moments, so more often than not, our greatest lessons stem from the mistakes we make.
In business one of your most powerful, money-making assets is the lessons you learn when things don’t go right. In 1959 Ford lost $250 million on the Edsel and in 1964 it turned out the Mustang. A million of them were sold the first year. In 1977 20th Century Fox made the mistake of signing over all product merchandising rights for all Star Wars films to George Lucas for just $20,000. They lost over 3 billion. In 1975 Eastman Kodak developed the first digital camera – and then opted to sit on it and the core technology for the cell phone, and in 2013 Apple and Samsung split the profit on the 120 million smartphones sold.
Take time to reflect on the call that didn’t work; the deal that fell through and the renewal you didn’t get, and use what you realize to take your mistakes to the bank. What can you do to improve the process that you used on the ones that got away?
- Was there any pre-call research?
- Could your call script be better; your tone of voice more confident?
- Did you call the right person; someone with the authority to invite a second call?
- Did you push for a sale instead of a second call?
- Were you able to separate them from the last “no thanks” you got?
- Did you offer them something helpful?
- Did you assume you had all the answers rather than listen for their need?
- Were you respectful of their time?
- Did you leave yourself available in the event they reconsider?
- Did you leave a quality last impression?
The Renewal You Didn’t Get
- Did you give your client a reason to renew?
- Did you give them reason not to renew?
- Did your product update to stay current with the needs of the buyers?
- How was your after-purchase service?
- Did you foster a business relationship that had the ability to grow?
- Did you keep your product competitively priced?
The only bad mistake is the one you don’t learn anything from; the one you repeat. When something doesn’t work, make time to figure out why. Life is supposed to be a learning experience. Turn “no thank-you” into revenue by using it to make you better at what you do.
Linguists will tell you that there are between 6,500 and 6,800 different languages spoken in the world today, but technically it would be more accurate if you doubled that number. The first thing that I learned in college was that along with every subject that I took there was a hidden language course. The language of my master’s field, which was education, was a walk in the park for me, and the language in my business degree was comfortable, but I have to tell you the language of statistics, algebra and chemistry remained forever foreign to my ear.
Most everyone owns a copy of the basic dictionary as first conceived by Noah Webster in 1828, but if you have a career, a passion or simply a relaxing hobby you may own a dictionary with all of the terms that go with it. I’m a writer and my novels embrace history so I have a collection of dictionaries with all of the terms from the Vietnam War; 12th Century Scotland; Gaelic translated to English; slang of the Old West, The California Gold Rush; Civil War Battles; Slavery in the Deep South, and WWII, etc.
Whether you have it in a bound book, or in your head, you own the dictionary of Sales. Interestingly enough the words and phrases are not exclusive to business. Mostly likely you learned them during your growing up years.
I know this one. It’s from The Sermon on the Mount -– “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” If someone were calling you, wouldn’t you want them to be polite, considerate of your time, patient, a good listener, be respectful, and say please and thank you? Wouldn’t you want them to be able to solve a problem for you?
I learned about leadership on my 2nd grade playground. I loved “Follow the Leader.” Someone has to be at the head of the line, and they best know where they are going. It takes years of learning to be a good business leader and to gain the skills that are reflected back through your confidence. Good leaders remember what it was like to follow.
I got all of those in scouting. I didn’t know at the time that they would serve as a foundation in all successful business deals. Scouting was a sneaky way to build my character, but where would I be without it? Turn your prospects into customers by polishing these traits.
My 7th grade History teacher insisted on it. At first I fought it, and then I came to love it because I finally figured out that it opened fascinating doors. In sales it might just be the details you know that garner you a second call; that close the deal. While the common comeback on this topic is, “there just isn’t time,” know that the time you make for it, will pay you back.
When I was a kid, my family ate all winter long because in the summer my sisters, my mother and myself divided the chores of picking the vegetables, peeling and chopping them up, and packing them in jars. When the sales cycle is long, a multitude of people are involved. It takes every hand, idea and the combined energies of the team to complete the steps in the process. Success is the result of quality teamwork.
All writers know about rejection. Not everything I’ve written soared. All rejection means is to increase efforts, improve your technique, and keep trying. That is the way it is in sales too. Even when you get a “no thank you” say “thank you” and dial the next number. There are people waiting for your call.
The more comfortable you are with the language of your trade the better you will be at doing your job. The words are nouns, but you won’t make money until you turn them all into verbs. Do have thoughtful conversations; do follow your leader; practice integrity, reliability, preparedness, and trustworthiness. Do the research, play nice with teammates, and shrug off rejection so that the person waiting for your call, gets it.
All of us had all-knowing mothers who spouted tidbits of wisdom that we all swore we’d never say to our own kids. My mom would say, “Who did it?” I would say, “I don’t know.” She’d say, “No one named ‘I Don’t Know’ lives here.” I would roll my eyes, when I said, “I wish…” and she’d reply, “If wishes were horses we’d all go for a ride.” I was sure she was nuts every time she told me, “I walked to and from school, and it was uphill both directions.” Okay most of the funny things we remember mom saying we now look back on with a conservative fondness – and laugh when we hear ourselves repeating them to our own kids. There was one piece of wisdom that I’m happy to repeat – because mom was right. No matter the task, she’d say, “Before you get started, get all of your ducks in a row.”
Tailor your content to the leads and roles of your prospects. When your content is relevant to the prospect, it lets them know that you’ve done your homework, and that you’ve listened to what they had to say. When you can send content that gives your prospects resources they may have not uncovered themselves, it will show that you’re both on the same team, strengthen your business relationship, and shorten the sales cycle.
Finding the right person to call can be done with a systematic approach. Ideally the companies in your data base have quality leads with desirable job titles. If that is the case, you can build a call list based on status in Salesforce – by adding a “Status” field to your Contacts page with the same options that you have for Leads. If you are lacking in appropriate leads with desirable job titles, a quick search at LinkedIn using the advance search option can net you multiple fresh leads. InsideView is also a great source for new leads. Often times the right person comes your way via a referral.
Initial conversations can, and do, happen every day at random hours, but a study done a few years ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that research across the Internet still supports today, concluded that there are both days and hours that are richer for cold calling success. The study looked at six different companies over a three year period and determined that gold was struck more often on Wednesdays and Thursdays with Thursdays being the best – at 49% better than the worst day, Tuesday. The study also found that the hours with the highest rate of calling success were between 8 & 9 a.m. before business hours, and between 6 & 7 p.m. at the end of the day. The study is not meant to imply that the cited days and times are the only times to call. It is just meant as a leg up when you add the information to your own observations. Ultimately you will find your personal pattern. The Lead Response Management Study Overview
There is a multitude of ways to send your messages out. It’s important to realize that the medium that resonates with one person may not be effective with another. While your best bet is an actual conversation, you can reach prospects in many other ways. Short videos, slideshows, emails, and postcards will be effective with visual receivers. Well crafted conversations, voicemails, and videos will click with auditory receivers. Delivering your information in multiple mediums is a way to cover all bases and address the various ways that your prospects most comfortably process information.
A little organization goes a long way. If your ducks are in a row, the rate of success is driven up. Give your list building more power by using Incite2 the ultra efficient Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology. It collects information from multiple Salesforce screens and presents it all on one efficient page.
Many companies pay significant amounts of money to generate leads for their sales teams, and yet, many of those leads never get called. Salespeople have a tendency, like most of us do to take the path of least resistance, and as a result, many otherwise perfectly viable leads get ignored and become stale. Why is that?
Problem #1: Where to Begin
Some salespeople have a knack for organizing their day and executing on the highest return activities, but they are in the minority. Lacking clear direction and a solid plan, the majority will actually only spend about 40% of their time on the most valuable sales activities. Whether it’s a lack of confidence, or a lack of organization, the result is the same… a lack of worthwhile activity.
Problem #2: But Other Leads Responded
If salespeople are getting more traction with a handful of their leads, others are often left to rot on the vine. Intuitively, salespeople equate activity (any customer-facing activity) as a buying signal, the fast track to sales nirvana, the shortest path to quota attainment. Unfortunately, just because a lead is willing to talk, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the ideal lead that should get the salesperson’s full attention, to the exclusion of others.
Problem #3: I Got Distracted / Busy
Social media, email, customer issues, colleagues over the cubicle wall…the list goes on and on. A recent article by Reuters states that an estimated 2.1 hours of productivity a day is lost, per employee, because of distractions. It’s not necessarily that the distractions themselves are not pertinent, but the refocusing time to get back to the task in a fully cognizant mode after being distracted or interrupted can be as much as 15 minutes!
Problem #4: I Tried Once, but They Didn’t Answer
Experts differ and pontificate on the number of attempts one should make to reach a prospect before giving up. Anywhere from 4 to 18 attempts have been recommended so it’s clear that calling once and giving up should not be an option.
According to a CSO Insights survey, sales reps research as many as 15 different sources prior to calling a prospect. 82% of sales teams feel challenged by the amount of data available and the time it takes to research a prospect before making a call.
You’ve got some hard working salespeople. So why are they struggling to make quota? The problem could be that they are busy doing a lot of the wrong things. Equipping your reps with the right tools can make all the difference. If you could give your reps more time to sell, more focus, more confidence, a guide to prioritize who to call and when, and what to say to them, what might that be worth? How would that speed up sales cycle times?
Get involved in the conversation in the comments section below!