Kids are so smart. Have you ever watched them in action? More often than not, when they want something they get it. Why? They get yes answers because they have a natural radar that tells them who to ask? Not really. What they have is a natural instinct to remember what does and doesn’t work depending on their want or need. They know if they want sweets at 4 p.m. that Mom will say,”No, it’s too close to dinner.” Dad will say, “Okay, if you bring me one too.” If they want new clothes, dad might say, “You have a closet full.” Mom might say, “All of your pants are getting short. We can make a stop at the clothing store on Tuesday when I go into town to get groceries.”
If you’ve been in the sales business for years you have most likely developed a sense of who best to approach based on trial and error, but what if you’re new to the game and your instincts are not yet fine tuned? It would be wise to avoid making assumptions about where the power lies to start the sales process. It isn’t as obvious as it seems on the surface. Starting at the top – just might be a waste of time and a quick step to “no thanks.”
There are no ironclad rules about who the right person to call is, but aside from your experience and gut instinct, there are things to consider.
Who To Call
- CEO’s – While one might assume it best to just start at the top, it could play out to be a mistake. There’s a reason a gatekeeper is often in place; a reason that a team of advising department heads exist. CEO’s like filtered information because they are busy with commitments that encompass the whole company. What software their accountant is using is not their top priority. The accountant best know what works for them. Starting with the CEO is a risky first call.
- VP’s & Directors – You could be in the right place, but whether they are regional or a major voice out of Corporate might have some bearing on their decision making authority, but they can invite your second call.
- Sales Engineers are a good place to start. They too can agree to a second call.
- Managers – Not a strong foothold, but not a total rule out either. The larger a company is the less likely your success with managers – especially territory managers. There are stronger voices higher up.
- Sales Effectiveness, Sales Enablement & Sales Coordinators are reasonable targets because they aren’t generally inundated with sales calls. They may listen with a fresh ear and be a back door in.
- Referrals – Positively a great foot in the door. Name dropping can be magic.
- About that Gatekeeper – They aren’t decision makers; nor can they invite a call back, but they do have power. They are a friend you want to have because you have to get around them to get to anyone else. If you can’t engage them, they won’t pass on your message. That’s their job.
Communicate with your sales team and share insights and pick up tidbits, and then urge your lead generators to target specifics. They can find most anything if they know what you’re looking for. I don’t know if they can help with getting you a cookie just before dinner, but you’re in sales… It’s always worth an ask.
When I was growing up we had a gigantic garden in back of the house. Actually maybe it wasn’t gigantic; maybe I was just small? Anyone who knew my grandmother said that she had a “green thumb.” No matter what she grew it had more flavor than the same thing grown next door. She grew the biggest, sweetest strawberries, tomatoes flavored by the vine and watermelon so perfect that you didn’t need salt. There were cucumbers, long white icicle radishes and sweet onions… Out in front of the house there was a roadside produce stand that she kept stocked with whatever was in season. On the counter there was a small wooden box with a slot in the top and a sign that said, “Pay What You Can,” and people did.
Whenever someone new moved into the neighborhood, or someone was sick, or maybe they brought home a new baby, my grandmother would fill a basket – not with strawberries, but with strawberry jam; not with cucumbers but with bread and butter pickles. When I asked her why she didn’t just give the fruits and vegetables, she said, “The fruits and vegetables are the things I sell, but the jam and pickles are what I give to make and keep friends.
When you think about your sales technique do your efforts lean toward selling a product or building a relationship? What’s the difference?
Just the Product
- Products are sold on retail shelves.
- A sale may be lost because the competitor’s product that is right next to yours, costs less, or has a more attractive package.
- A sale often depends on the store display.
- You never get to know the buyer, so your only feedback is quantity sold.
- You don’t get any recommendations or insight about how you could improve your product and encourage higher sales.
- Brand loyalty is hard to earn
- Quick sale and now it’s a wait and see.
- People buy more from people they come to know and trust.
- Your analytics are more predictable.
- Future upgrades of your product are watched for.
- You get testimonials when you do a good job.
- Your customers will help you sell your product.
- You get feedback from those who actually use your product.
When you make that sales call, remember the idea is to forge a long-term relationship, not one quick sale.
Build the Relationship
- Be trustworthy, reliable, objective, and available.
- Exhibit a care for the prospect’s needs and limitations.
- Listen to the prospect and respond in a way that shows you hear and understand.
- Don’t be all talk and no action.
- Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise at appropriate times.
- Keep everything confidential.
You can’t put a price on trust, but you can take the profits to the bank when you build it. My grandmother’s sales at that produce stand kept all of us kids in shoes and coats all the way through high school because the relationships she built, kept buying from her.
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.
“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.
Sales conversations inevitably follow a specific course, down one topical path. It is a well-worn and often quite predictable track called “product and price.” To improve your chances for a sale, you may try to steer the conversation in other, more intellectual directions. Your intention of course is to engage the buyer in a higher quality discussion that addresses their precise challenges and objectives.
What, does the term “Selling” mean to you? I decided to see how the various dictionaries define Selling–beyond the obvious. Paraphrasing what I found, Selling is “to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something; to bring about or cause to be accepted; to advocate successfully.”
Persuade. Influence. Advocate. To sell-and to do it consistently and successfully-you must communicate ideas to the prospective client. To really draw them into the process, you must first listen, then ask, and answer questions. Communicating is not the same as telling,just as hearing is not the same as listening. Indeed, if you measure a reps performance only by the number of calls they make, you may not adequately be emphasizing the distinction between holding a conversation with someone, and simply speaking with them. That’s becausetalking is not the same as conversing. Read more
As sales leaders, we place a high degree of focus, energy, and resources on lead generation to keep our sales pipeline full, and of course, flowing steadily. And rightly so, we direct an equally high degree of these same assets toward the other end of the pipeline where – if all goes according to plan – we chalk opportunities up in the plus column as closed deals.
Your success at both the beginning and the end of the pipeline is crucial for obvious reasons. Yet it is how effectively we move deals through the middle of the pipeline that calibrates our over-all level of success.
To build an analogy, the beginning and the end of the sales pipeline are the pillars of the sales process. They are the columns supporting the bridge to revenue. But it is, in fact, the middle of the pipeline where a salesperson must perform their greatest feats. Read more
Instead of making calls, are your salespeople making excuses? It might happen to even the best members of your sales team from time to time. According to research from Dudley & Goodson, about 40-percent of all career salespeople experience episodes of call reluctance that are serious enough to threaten their careers.
But you can’t lump all the call reluctance into the same boat. Here are five of the most common personalities that fall to call reluctance, the symptoms, and the potential fix.
1. Polite Polly: Doesn’t want to intrude on others. Feels like their role is invasive in another professional’s space. Read more
The next target name and title for your new B-team salesperson pops up on his screen. He takes a quick look at the company web site and then punches “dial”. His conversation starts the exact same way his last conversation did. He doesn’t have any context for how your company can help his target, instead using a “One Conversation Fits Most” approach.
How much better would his sales numbers be if he could cater each conversation to the person on the other end of the phone?
1. Research the company as it relates to what you’re selling: It’s not enough to get an overview of the target, for example, understanding that they manufacture and sell lenses. Your team needs to get a quick overview that is relevant to the product that they want to sell. Using recent articles about the company might have tremendous hints for their needs (for example, if they have new management or if they recently opened a new location). In addition, current articles about their industry might point to pain that they’re having that your company can address (for example, if there is a huge market for a new size of lenses and they are going to need to ramp up production). If you can start your conversation with a relevant bridge between what you’re selling and what they need, you are much more likely to engage a sale… than with a generic conversation. Read more
How are some companies able to generate consistently higher margins than their competitors? Take an organization like Tiffany & Co. jewelers. The silver, gold, platinum and diamonds are the same as the next jeweler’s… right?
Tiffany & Co. has a “story” that eclipses the product inside. This story which is based on tradition, quality, workmanship and a superior customer experience is responsible for a premium margin, the highest industry averages of return customer purchases and salespeople that earn more than their peers. Many other factors contribute to Tiffany & Co.’s success… but the Tiffany & Co. story, represented by that little pale blue box is iconic. It “is” the brand. Read more