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.
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.
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.
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.
I can still hear my high school office practice teacher, Mr. Kimball, saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” If you knew how far back that was, you’d be impressed with my memory. There isn’t a sales person breathing that would disagree with Mr.Kimball. You pick up the phone; dial and you have about thirty seconds to make a first impression that will garner you a second conversation.
Being the professional that you are, you are prepared, you’re in the zone, and you score the coveted invite to a second conversation; that’s great. Now what? Now is the time to start thinking about what your last impression will be. The fact is, when all is said and done you will be remembered for one of two things; the problems you solve, or the problems you create. Closing a deal is one thing, but getting the yearly renewals is another.
Make or Break Practices
Deal Breaker: False promises about your product’s capability.
Renewal: Be upfront about what your product can and can’t do. Customers rarely expect all or nothing. If your product is a fit for them, they will be content with knowing that their suggestions will be considered for future updates.
Deal Breaker: Hidden costs.
Renewal: No surprises. Present a contract that puts every cost in plain view, before the deal is closed.
Deal Breaker: Failing to call when you say you will. Slow response when a message is left. Being unreachable.
Renewal: You are accessible. You promptly return calls. You follow through with your promises to call on a particular date, at a set time. If something truly unavoidable gets in the way, make amends – starting with an apology.
Deal Breaker: Giving insufficient training on the use of your product will lead to buyer’s remorse.
Renewal: Thorough, patient training in the use of your product where you invite all questions, arrange hands-on learning time, and work through the customizing of your product with the customer – until they are both satisfied and comfortable.
Deal Breaker: Once they pay the bill consider your job done.
Renewal: Regular monitoring during the trial periods, and an open line of communication that spans the years you maintain the business relationship will prove to be worth the effort.
Deal Breaker: Failure to keep your customer’s business confidential.
Renewal: Unflinchingly protect every confidence; no exceptions; no excuses.
Best Practice : Aim for more than a sale; aim for a long-term business relationship. Never forget that whether you are remembered for solving problems or creating them – your customers will spread the word. Make sure your last impression, be it at the end of a phone call, or the end of a subscription, is one that you can be proud of.
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.
In the United States of America we are guided by a Constitution that protects our right to be individuals in thought, deed, and beliefs as long as we don’t step on our fellowman. We thrive because we’re all different, and our differences are the threads from which our flag is woven. Lumping people and companies into groups; giving them a number, and dealing with them in a generalized mass handling method may not bode well with a nation where people value their right to be an individual.
The evolution of email marketing In 1978 Gary Thuerk, Marketing Manager for Digital Equipment Corp sent out the first mass emailing, earning him the title of “Father of Spam.” It didn’t take long for others to see his approach as a potential gold mine. In theory, it was. When the public protested, action was taken. In 2003 Spam laws were put in place, so the processors of mass emailing had to learn how to adhere to guidelines, and mailings went on. The afore mentioned article does make it look like mass mailing is the be all to end all – but there is a danger when you fail to keep your finger on the pulse of consumer attitude.
Mass Emails: The Seller’s Point of View
- Emails save money. Direct Mail is expensive.
- You save time. You can put your energies elsewhere.
- Emailing is efficient. Click the mouse and you’re done. No heavy bundles to drag to the Post Office.
- You reach an unlimited number of prospects.
- More people will know your company’s name and product.
- You can repeat the process over and over again.
If every ten emails nets you one chance to make a sale; it stands to reason that you’ll get ten chances if you send out 100 emails, and so forth. Do those statistics pan out in real practice or are consumers beginning to see the process as one that shows no respect for the hard work a business owner has put into making their business unique?
Mass Emails: The Prospect’s Point of View
- Who I am, what my company stands for doesn’t matter. I’m seen as nothing more than a random target.
- I’d rather have a meaningful conversation than a bulk sales pitch.
- Tons of time is spent cleaning out my online mailbox, when I have more important things to do.
- Opening emails from an online sender that I don’t know, puts me at risk for computer viruses.
- If I open your email and choose to discard it, I’m annoyed when you just come back at me wearing a variation of your original email address.
- I will remember your name – which may not serve you well.
The Future: Mass Conversations
The bottom line is mass marketing via emails might make a seller’s life easier, but you might be shooting yourself in the foot by forgetting that making a sale depends on you being able to make your prospect’s life easier. To do that you have to learn to adapt and stay current with changing attitudes. It might serve purpose to take Marketo’s fresh viewpoint under consideration in their article Conversations, Not Campaigns. In this whitepaper, Marketo outlines an approach that uses engaging emails that are sent based on the buyer’s interest and behavior. Since these emails are triggered by behaviors such as viewing pages on a website, clicking links in an email, and filling out forms, the content is delivered at exactly the right point in the buying process. These “conversations” become much more targeted and allow for a wide variety of content to be generated but only the relevant information is delivered to the prospect, when it is needed.
At a certain point, companies need to pick up the phone and have a meaningful conversation with a prospect. Incite2, the Salesforce add-on that is offered by ShadeTree Technology makes it easy. Paired with a Marketing Automation program like Marketo, Incite2 can help sales people pick up the marketing “conversations” without missing a step.
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.