Okay, I’ve never admitted this in public before, but we’re friends, so I’m going to trust you not to snicker. I spent second grade in a one room school house. Yes, a box with a peaked roof, bell with a rope beside the door; a right off of Little House on the Prairie schoolhouse on the outskirts of Jackson, Michigan. No, I’m not older than….
The interesting thing about the one room school was that it was full of students of all ages from multiple grade levels. The one teacher couldn’t adequately cover all educational needs at the same time, so the solution was that the older students taught the younger, and the younger taught someone younger than them. It was a type of hand-me-down education, but it worked. Today I can tell you that I earned a Masters in Education in college, but I learned to teach in the field, in a give and take process. There are times I’m sure I learned more from my students than I taught them.
How did you learn to be a sales person? You may be sitting on more than one business degrees, but if you think about it – you actually learned how to sell on the job by following someone else, and I will bet you’ve paid it forward. Sales is a bit of an abstract, complex profession because techniques are varied depending on the product you sell, the environment you work in, and the unbending insistence that you stay on top of technology, so aside from following the leader, how do you fine-tune your skills and stay on top, while remaining a team player?
Internet Mentors to the Rescue
- How to Deal with Rejection in your Sales
- The best days and times to call prospects
- The Sales Pipeline Revealed
- Long or Short Sales Cycle Makes a Difference
- Is Research Overrated?
- Model Responses to Cold Call Objections. Sales Scripts to handle Blow-Offs and Sales Resistance
We all learn easiest from positive role models. Time and experience adds to our skill wealth, but you have one thing the one room schoolhouse didn’t. You have the power of the amazing search engine. If you have a question and can’t get the answer from a warm body standing nearby – don’t forget to just look it up on the Internet, and then make your sales team stronger by sharing.
“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.
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!
“Your beliefs become your thoughts;
Your thoughts become your words;
Your words become your actions;
Your actions become your habits;
Your habits become your values;
Your values become your destiny.”
The truth is that in an effort to keep things simple we often do them the most complex way. It’s just human nature, or is it? Think about it; how many versions of the sink or swim story have you heard? Is there anyone, anywhere who doesn’t know someone whose father threw them in the water, to teach them how to swim? What about no pain, no gain? How many believe that if you don’t learn it the hard way, that you don’t thoroughly learn it? Is it possible that we were taught the hard way and then adopted it as the only way?
Five Missteps when doing it the Hard Way and
What to Do about Them
1. Failure to Organize
Cold calling is hard enough, but tackling it without a plan is harder. Take advantage of your ability to create lists in Salesforce. Lead pages already have a “Status Field” but if you add such to your Contacts pages – you now have the ability to create a productive list to work from based on status. Calling just got a whole lot faster.
2. Neglecting Research
While many step over the research step in their day, likely because it’s time consuming and only a few calls in an hour actually net a conversation, doesn’t mean there isn’t any value in being prepared. When you know a company’s product, you know what you can do for them. If you know about their achievements and recognition’s you just might get your foot in the door. If they have newly acquired another company, you may be able to play to that fact. While it may not be practical to dig deep for every single call, even if you just use the account note field in Salesforce to note small details as you learn them, you’re better off than having no research. Buy your lead generators a cup of coffee once in a while – and they might just be willing to make a few notes for you.
3. Skipping the Call Script
When you ad lib the conversation you give up control. The Internet has a wealth of information. With just a little research you can find the elements of conversation that are most likely to get you a second call. You have just seconds to get it right, and quite possibly only one crack at it. Leaving it to chance can be sales suicide.
4. Lack of Follow Up
Despite the fact that you make hundreds of calls a week, it’s important to always keep your word. In the sales jungle, it is truly survival of the fittest. You have to do ten things right to erase one wrong thing. Best practice: If you say you will call back on a certain day; at a certain time – do it. If you promise to only take a moment of their time – do it. If you are asked not to call them again – don’t. Find someone new to call. Make your word your bond. Follow up, and follow through.
5. No Time Taken to Document
Documenting all activity may be the last thing you want to do when you hang up the phone, but failing to do so means that the numbers fed into analytics will give back a false reading. It is a numbers game, and everyone’s paycheck depends on them. You should know that without documenting where you’ve been, there is little chance of knowing where you should go.
It is possible to take control of the process, and success can be achieved doing things the easy way.
Human nature is complex and at times counterproductive. Take our general resistance to change; our innate fear of stepping out of our comfort zone, even when common sense dictates there are easier ways to do things. We embrace our habits like they are a lifeline. All too often we will go down with the ship, rather than jump in and swim. Interestingly enough, it really isn’t fear of change that paralyzes us; it is fear of the unknown. We get braver with preparation and practice.
One item at a time, or a list packed with purpose?
Consider your sales team. If you turn an introspective eye on them, what do you see? Are they approaching their day with bad habits, or are they practicing common sense? How do they line up their calls? Is it a random, time-consuming hunting and pecking process, or do they build an efficient call list before dialing?
An ounce of preparation nets a wealth of results.
In order to be efficient, you must make it a habit to stay organized. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes a comfort zone. In Salesforce you should be able to easily find any group of Leads or Contacts that you want to call. If you are having trouble organizing Contacts, try adding a custom Status field with values similar to the Lead Statuses. Use the Status fields in conjunction with other relevant information such as Title, Last Activity, or Mailing State. At the minimum, reps should be able to easily get to a list of open tasks, new leads, leads and contacts that need to be followed-up with, and any responses to marketing campaigns that have been passed to sales. The Sales Team can now generate a call list that eliminates the time and effort it takes to figure out who to call.
It’s Called Power Hour
The beauty of a list is that it allows for momentum in the calling process. Imagine what could get accomplished if you scheduled a few hours a week where reps did nothing but focus on call lists. Scheduled hours that are dedicated to call lists – and that avoid phone calls, inbound emails and meetings can bump up production. Something that should be considered a new best practice.
Supercharge the sales process.
ShadeTree Technology’s Incite2 allows sales reps to load any list into the app, see all activities on one page, and with one click they can advance to the next call in seconds. The workload lightens and suddenly call volume triples and company profits increase. Make common sense, common practice – and take it to the bank.
The Great Pyramid of Giza built in 2584 BC; the beautiful Sistine Chapel constructed in 1473, and our own White House, whose cornerstone was laid in 1792, would have undoubtedly never stood against time, without a building plan. Greatness requires a plan, but how many sales people shortcut the planning stage in their day?
Exactly what is a plan?
It is the map you follow; a task management tool that allows you to efficiently navigate the road you travel toward your goal. It helps you budget your time, monitor your progress, side-step bad habits, and recognize a crisis before it happens. It aids in decision making, and it ultimately enables you to build a competitive edge.
Why wouldn’t every sales call be preceded by planning, when we know planning works?
It is fact that most calls don’t end in a conversation – and that alone would tend to make it feel like the planning is a waste of time, especially when the steps in the planning process are both tedious and time consuming. Sometimes it just feels easier to wing it and jump into the fray. Someone who has been working in sales a longtime may step over some of the planning, feeling assured that their gut instinct and experience, will fill in the blanks. Someone new to the game may not always see the reasoning for some of the steps in the planning process. There are times that the pressure to make the number of goal driven calls in a day makes if feel like there isn’t enough time for thorough planning. There are a multitude of reasons for short-cutting the planning, but still, the value of the planning is undeniable.
What is the cause of insufficient planning?
It lies in the fact that the process is time consuming and complex – because each target is unique, and the information you need is scattered across countless web pages. The note gathering lacks efficiency, and gaining a solid view of the whole picture is very difficult.
What would be on the wish list that would take the sting out of pre-call planning?
Ideal would mean having all of your information at your finger tips, all on one page. It would mean that right from the beginning, when an account was first created in your data bank, every piece of information associated with it would be automatically sent to one place, where you could view it collectively. In that single location you not only would have your research visible, but call prompts that were tailored for success – and a complete history of all your hard work displayed. There would be an active timeline that you could hover over with a mouse to gleam the details, allowing you to see at a glance see where you’ve been, as well as where you need to go.
If you had the information and capabilities of a checklist at your fingertips – all on one computer screen, would your job be easier? Could you make more calls, in less time? Would you be better prepared for your calls? Would automatically documenting your calling history help? Can you imagine your rate of success going up?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Speed and impact are two critical and decisive factors when you are in the sales profession, especially when your activities are being scrutinized by the ‘time-is-money’ shot-clock. Your reps must consistently be on top of their game if they want to meet or exceed quota. On a revenue-weighted scale of all-out performance, what you really want for them is to have the maximum amount ofimpact in the least amount of time. Andy Paul refers to this as MILT in his book Zero Time Selling. Mr. Paul discusses his MILT concept in detail with regard to interacting with prospects. Read more
By estimate, there will be approximately 70,000 people at this week’s spectacular Dreamforce event, Salesforce.com’s annual conference and expo being held in San Francisco. Its impressive agenda is all about how the social revolution is changing the way we do business. The event will impact and illustrate how business trends are adjusting to and dictating emerging technologies. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that an astounding number of companies use Salesforce. Although the company will not reveal its sales figures or its total customer tally, industry estimates have put the number of clients in the neighborhood of 132,000 organizations and over 4.5M subscribers. Without the risk of overstating the obvious, that is a remarkable amount of customers. Read more
The debate about whether to leave a voicemail message on a cold call is as old as voicemail itself. You all know that leaving a voicemail rarely results in a callback, no matter how great your technique. Statistics found on various sales web sites show a range of five- to ten-percent of voicemails are returned. So even if you are spectacular at your VMs, you might top out at 25-percent call backs. So is it really worth it?
I say yes. Definitely. You just need to change your reason and expectations for leaving that message. Instead of expecting a callback, use the voicemail as a friendly, personal, targeted billboard. If you do it right, the next time the person sees or hears your name, they’ll have some kind of positive brand recognition. Read more
By Jim Domanski
Are you getting a decent response when you leave a voice mail with a prospect or are you like the vast majority of tele-prospectors whose messages go unanswered?
Well over 70% of B-to-B calls encounter voice mail so it is imperative that you have a voice mail message that works for you and increases your odds of getting a call back. Read more