Tag Archives: prospecting

10 Action Tips to Increase Your Sales

by Jill Konrath (www.jillkonrath.com)

Want to take your business to the next level? If so, take these actions. They’re guaranteed to make a difference in your sales results.

1. Clarify your value proposition

Strong value propositions are essential for getting in to see the corporate buyer. Make sure you can clearly articulate the business outcomes customers get as a result of using your product or service.

Be precise – numbers, percentages and time frames make your value proposition even stronger.

2. Target a specific market segment

Don’t chase every available opportunity. Focus. Focus. Focus. Increase your knowledge and expertise in a particular market segment.

Learn as much as you can about their business needs, terminology, issues and marketplace trends. This significantly increases your client desirability.

3. Prepare Ad Infinitum

Today’s customers suffer no fools. Unprepared sellers are quickly escorted out the door. Before you meet with any new prospect, research their business.

Read their annual report, check out their website, interview their clients, and review analyst’s reports. Find out what’s important to them, their challenges, goals, and strategic imperatives.

4. Create Seductive Ideas

Use your brain and think for your prospective and existing customers. They’re so busy putting out fires; they lack time for problem-solving, strategic thinking, creative alternatives or even reflection.

A seller who consistently brings business ideas to the relationship becomes indispensable – winning contracts with minimal competition and at full dollar value.

5. Slow Down, Lean Back

Don’t try to rush sales – even if you’re desperate. Customers feel your push and immediately erect a wall of resistance. On first sales calls do NOT lean forward.

To maintain a consultative approach you must LEAN BACK. The minute you lean forward, you’re “selling” – trying to get your customer to buy. Lean back. Slow down. And you’ll get the business sooner.

6. Pursue Quality, not Quantity

Make fewer sales calls – but much better ones. Focus all your efforts on preparing for the call. Determine the logical next step for each meeting. Then, working backwards, think about what you need to do to make this outcome a reality.

Test every idea you come up with from your customer’s perspective. Think: If I said or did this, how would my customer interpret it or react? Only their perception is important – not what you meant. Make your changes before the call to increase your success.

7. Minimize Opportunity Leakage

Unless customers can explicitly state the business value of your offering in concrete terms your opportunity can easily evaporate into thin air – even if they appear highly interested.

To increase your order rate, ask questions such as: Why would this help you? What value would you get from this service? What are the primary benefits you would realize from my product/service? This cements the value in their brain.

8. Make Follow-up Meetings Concrete

Don’t ever leave a meeting without scheduling your next one – or you may never catch up with your customer again. They’re running from meeting-to-meeting, busy handling way too many projects.

The longer it takes to reschedule, the more their desire for your offering fades. Get the meeting on both your calendars now – even if it’s just to talk on the phone.

9. Always Debrief Your Sales Calls

This is the only way you can get better. Ask yourself: a) what went well? b) where did I run into problems? and c) what could I do next time to get even better results?

This is absolutely the only way you will improve. Sales is a grand experiment – customers change, markets change, your offerings change, and so does your knowledge base. Unless you’re continually learning, you’re losing ground.

10. Reframe Your Attitude

Stop blaming the economy or anything else for your problems. There are many things totally within your control. Approach all tough sales situations with a “what’s possible” or “how can I?” mindset. If you’re stuck, brainstorm with friends or colleagues.

Accept 100% responsibility for your sales success and continually be on the lookout for creative approaches to take your business to the next level.

konrath 4217  websize croppedJill Konrath helps salespeople get their foot in the door and win big contracts in the corporate market. Sign up for her free e-newsletter by sending an email to jill@sellingtobigcompanies.com. You get a free “Sales Call Planning Guide” ($19.95 value) when you subscribe. Contact Jill Konrath at  jill@jillkonrath.com or at (651) 429-1922 to find out how she can help your sales force take their business to the next level
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Voice Mail/E-Mail – What to Say and What to Write (Part 2 of 2)

If you want to increase the response rate from prospects then you need to integrate and harmonize e-mails with your voice mail. In effect, you want to leverage the strengths of the two mediums while minimizing the weaknesses.

(This is Part 2 of a series. See Part 1: How to Get More Response to Your Voice Mails by Using E-Mails)
Your Voice Mail

Your voice mail message needs to be short and intriguing. It needs to reference a problem or concern that your prospect might be experiencing but it should not pitch a solution.

Next, the prospect should know precisely what he or she must do once they’ve heard the message.

And finally, it should reference the e-mail that you sent which will get them to scan their inbox. By getting them to interact with their e-mail you tend to create a stronger impression of you and your offer.For instance, your voice mail might sound like this,

Hi ______, this is ______ calling from ________.

_______, the reason for my call is to share an idea with you that could possibly reduce the hassle and headache – and the cost – of recruiting quality sales reps at your firm. I have also sent you an e-mail.

In the mean time, my number is xxx xxx xxxx. Again, it’s _________ from __________.

Thanks, ____

Easy isn’t it? The message is quick and to the point. No infomercial here. A problem is cited (hassle, headache and cost) and a solution is implied without a pitch. Finally, there is the reference to the e-mail. You can bet that most recipients of this voice mail will check their e-mail if only to gather more information about you and your company.

Your E-Mail

Your e-mail should echo your voice mail so that the prospect quickly relates the two. It starts with the subject line. A nifty subject line is simply this:

                Subject:  Jim, regarding my voice mail

         Subject:  Joan, voice mail message

                Subject:  Pat, today’s voice mail

Notice, the e-mail features the prospect’s first name. Using the first name acts like an eye magnet for the prospect especially if they’re glancing at their smart phone. Once they see their name, they’ll then be reminded of the voice mail. If they haven’t checked their voice mail they almost certainly will after seeing the message. If they have heard the voice mail, they’ll be curious if there’s additional information and open it up. In either case, you’ve left an impression.

As for the content of your e-mail message, use the theme of your voice message,

“Hi _______,

This e-mail is a follow up to the voice mail I left you regarding an idea I have that might reduce the hassle, headache and perhaps even the cost of hiring a more effective and successful sales rep.

Could you squeeze my call in tomorrow morning or perhaps late afternoon?

Let me know what works best for yo

Kind regards

Look at how short and simple this message is! Whether the prospect reads this at his/her workstation or on their iPhone sitting on the couch, the message is compact and to the point. If a quality rep is an issue with the prospect, there is reason to call if only out of curiosity.

Notice there is no fancy, detailed pitch.

The action request is simple. The prospect could key in “Tmw 8:30” during a commercial break or on the commute from a bus or train or subway or wherever.

Summary

Sending out an e-mail after you’ve left a voice mail adds one more step to the selling process. It appears a little tedious. But the purpose of the effort is to improve RESULTS. More prospects will notice your message and remember it. A certain percentage will act upon it. And that means more selling opportunities.

So integrate e-mail to your voice mail and start selling more.

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Telephone Dialing Gotcha’ Down? Take This Quick Break

Pounding out dials to prospects and clients sometimes takes its toll.  If you need a quick mental recess, read these paraprodokians by Winston Churchill.

A paraprodokians is a figure of speech in which the later part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected.  You’ll get a kick out of them.  Read them. Chuckle.  Clear your head.

PARAPROSDOKIANS

1. Where there’s a will … I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you … but it is still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound … some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you … we’d both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up … we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit … Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’… then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism … To steal from many is research.

10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations … On my desk is a work station.

11. I thought I wanted a career … Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

12. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency… notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’

13. I didn’t say it was your fault … I said I was blaming you.

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut … and still think they are sexy.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman …  Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

17. You do not need a parachute to skydive … You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

18. Money can’t buy happiness … but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

19. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

20. I used to be indecisive … Now I’m not so sure.

21. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

22. To be sure of hitting the target … shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

23. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

25. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian … any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

26. Where there’s a will … there are relatives.

And one more:
I’m supposed to respect my elders … but its getting harder and harder for me to find one now.

Churchill also said, “Never, ever, ever quit!”  The fun is over.  Now, get back to work!

(Source: sent to me via e-mail from France)

 

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5 Steps to Achieving the Tele-Prospecting “Zone”

Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady have been there. So have Justin Verlander, LeBron James and Sidney Crosby (when he’s not concussed). They’ve all been in the “zone” at one time or another throughout their careers.

The Zone

The “Zone” is that almost mystical and magical place in time and space where their athletic performance is extraordinarily focused, where they seem to perform with perfect mastery, where their passes, shots and hits simply and utterly boggle the mind. Everything clicks. It’s like magic. When the athlete describes the Zone, he or she talks about being swept away, losing track of time, and becoming completely absorbed in the activity.   Some experts have speculated that some athletes (for instance, Wayne Gretzky) can actually see events unfold a second or two before they take place.

Whatever is behind the Zone, the end result is typically astonishing.

The Tele-Prospecting Zone

But here’s the thing: the Zone is not just reserved for those in sports.

This place of seemingly effortless productivity and success can be achieved by virtually anyone in any area in life, including tele-prospecting. The trick to achieving a zone-like state is to have a process or method that when applied consistently and with discipline produces superior results.

5 Steps to Reach the Tele-Prospecting Zone

While the results of being in the Zone can be almost mystical, getting in the zone is not so mysterious or profound. There are five steps you can implement that will lead you to the Zone when prospecting or selling:

Step #1: Be Zone Ready

Aaron Rogers does not walk onto the field seconds before the game and start throwing completions. He gets ready for the big game long before that time. Before you pick up the phone and begin dialing, make sure you have your ‘master’ list of decision makers, their names, numbers, extensions, and e-mails. Like Aaron, do your ‘homework’ well before you get on the phone so you are game-ready. Have your notes, call guide, job aids – whatever you need- ready to go.

What this does is ensure that you have ‘flow.’ Flow is that steady, almost rhythmic process of calling that is uninterrupted by stops, pauses and delays. Watch Tom Brady when he’s in the Zone. Typically, he goes into a hurry up offense. No major delays. The flow is there. His job is to maintain it. Do the same. Pick up the phone and dial. No answer? No success? Dial again. Don’t lose the ‘end zone’ focus

Step #2: Create a Zone Friendly Environment

Watch Justin Verlander in the dugout when he’s pitching for the Tigers. Watch how closely his fellow Tigers leave him alone. They don’t want to distract him and disrupt his concentration.

To be in the Zone you have to stay focused on the task. Find or create a spot to make your calls that is free of distractions and temptations. Turn your back away from your fellow workers to avoid visual distractions. Post a sign called “Zone Calling” outside your office or cubicle that tells everyone that you are not to be disturbed. You’re in the zone.

Step #3: Be Zone Wise

Ever watch LeBron James on the court? He has an innate ability to exploit weaknesses in defenses. He makes the most of time and space he is given.

Same thing in tele-prospecting: there are good times to make your prospecting calls and there are not-so-good times. You want to exploit those good times like LeBron exploits his defenders. For instance, the best time to reach higher level decision makers is earlier in the morning or later in the day. To get into the Zone you may have to start calling at 7:30 a.m. or continue calling after 5:30 p.m. You increase your odds of success.The best time to reach your decision makers may vary. Test times. Look for a “Zone Wise” time. Keep track of your results. If you discover a good time, exploit it.

Step #4: Have Goals and Deadlines

You can bet your bottom dollar that Aaron, Tom, Justin, LeBron and Sydney don’t start their seasons or their games with “well… I’ll do my best and see what happens.” Pitchers know what they want to achieve as an ERA. Quarterbacks have ratings stats they would like to achieve because it gives them perspective on where they are and what they must do. Zone-ready athletes are goal oriented.

Give yourself an objective that is meaningful. It’s not about the number of dials, it about the number of contacts. If your goal is to reach twenty decision makers, dial until you reach twenty DECISION MAKERS not until you reach your quota of 80 dials set by your manager. If that means fifteen more dials, then make fifteen more dials (Step #4.) If you reach your twenty in less than a day, you’re in the Zone, keep dialing. That’s when you achieve superior results.

Track your efforts. Track those dials and decision maker contacts. Track the ratio of decision maker contacts to sales or appointments. Track the time that you called to see if there is a better time (Step #3)

Step #5: Just Do It

Nike has it right when they say, “Just Do It.” Get in the game. Pick up the phone and dial. Don’t stop. Be relentless. Do what it takes. At the height of his game, Sydney Crosby did it all. He skates…all the time… he doesn’t dog it. He back checks. He hits. He takes hits and gets up. He fights for position in front of the net. He’s tenacious. Sometimes he’s chippy. He does it all and he doesn’t stop until the game is over. He does not quit

Go through your master list. Don’t stop. Dial. Don’t leave messages if there is no answer. If you go through your list in a half an hour, start dialing again. If you haven’t reached your target objective, don’t quit. It’s sometimes grinding and tiring but … just do it!

Summary

The truth of the matter is that great athletes aren’t always in the Zone. Tom Brady sometime throws five interceptions. Verlander sometimes lobs balls that get smacked out of the stadium. Sid the Kid and LeBron have missed easy shots and lost games because of it. You’ll have those off days too. That’s okay.

The point here is that you go into every call session with a Zone plan. You do everything you can to get into the Zone. You don’t hope the Zone shows up. You do everything to make it happen. You are in control. Apply these principles and you’ll hit the Zone, not all the time, but some of the time. Either way, you’ll be a heck of a lot better off than you were without this process. Just do it.

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7 Tips on Conducting a Better Needs Analysis

Want to know the secret for significantly improving your sales results, generating more revenues and making more commissions or bonus?

Get better at conducting a needs analysis.

Depending on your target market and the product or service you sell, a needs analysis is quite possibly the most important activity in which you can engage.   Needs analysis help you AND your prospect identify areas of opportunity and areas of challenge. Done correctly, an effective needs analysis can also quantify those areas and ultimately determine if there is a need that your product/service can fulfill.   In other words, it is the key to sale.

Here are 7 tips to help you improve your approach to analyzing a prospect’s need:

Tip #1: Write out every single question you can possibly imagine

Here’s the toughest part but it’s worth the time and effort. Think of every single, solitary question you could ask your client relative to your product/service application. Everything: big or small, significant or insignificant.

And then write every one of those questions down on a sheet of paper.

I know. It’s tedious. But here’s what happens. First of all, this exercise gets you to stop and think. It makes you more thorough in your thought process because you have the time. Second, and maybe more significantly, this exercise begins to imprint the questions on your conscious or subconscious mind. It will help you remember them and conjure them up when conducting your needs analysis.

Tip #2: Group your questions into categories

You can do this step in conjunction with Tip #1. Where possible, group your questions into categories. This makes them less random, easy to access and easier to remember. Categories create another level of focus for you and help with the imprinting process.

For instance, you might have a category called “situational questions” which might be questions that ask about the prospect’s current situation or environment. These might be fundamentals such as number of employees, number of locations, types of niche markets, the machinery they use, the processes they follow, the software applications etc.

Another category might be ‘motivator questions’ i.e., those that explore possible challenges, problems and issues or opportunities, enhancements and improvements that your client might be experiencing relative to your product/service solution. Of course, these are important questions because they uncover needs and motivators.

A third category might be ‘analysis’ questions which are questions that get the prospect to quantify and elaborate upon a problem or an opportunity.

Tip #3: Ask yourself, “Why am I asking this question?”

By now, you should have a pile of questions. Now it’s time to cull and refine that list. Review each question and ask yourself “why am I asking this?” Is it vital information you absolutely NEED or is it nice to have?

Re-write those questions that you absolutely need to have answered on another sheet of paper. Write these in RED. They are ‘must haves.’ This is your “master list.” These questions go to the heart of needs analysis. Keep them in their categories.

In blue or black ink, below your master list, have your ‘nice to have questions.’ You can ask these questions if they are relevant or helpful to you and/or the prospect.

Tip #4: Ask yourself, “How will asking this question make my prospect feel? What will he/she think?”

Review your revised list and think about how your prospect might feel when asked. Some questions, particularly questions that probe for problems and concerns can be sensitive in nature. Some might feel defensive. Others might feel embarrassed. Others might be a bit hostile because you seem so ‘nosy.’ Think about this from THEIR perspective.

Identify the sensitive questions and then move on to Tip #5

Tip #5: Ask yourself, “What is the best way to ask this question?”

If you have a question that might make a prospect feel awkward, embarrassed, cautious, defensive or hostile, use a ‘softening trigger phrase’ before asking. A ‘softener’ is phrase that can take the ‘sting’ out of asking a sensitive question and make the prospect more receptive to replying.

For example, “Jim, some of the safety directors I have spoken to have expressed concern over the new OSHA ruling on … Let me ask, you what are your thoughts…” In this case, the prospect recognizes that he is not alone, that others have concerns, and that it’s ‘okay’ to speak up. He becomes less self conscious.

Here’s another one: “Debbie, hypothetically speaking, if you could improve production by 10%, what would be the net impact on profitability?” In this case, Debbie is not being held to specifics and not necessarily being held accountable for the estimate. In other words, she is not putting herself at risk because the question is creating a ‘make believe’ scenario. This makes it easier to truthfully answer.

Here’s one more: “Pat, sometimes clients see this as a sensitive question but I ask because it goes to the heart of what we can solve. We are finding that…” In this case, the softener trigger phrase warns the prospect that a potentially awkward question is coming up. In this manner, he/she is not caught off guard. In addition, the phrase explains why the question is being asked and implies a benefit for the prospect.

Tip # 6: Create a needs analysis cheat sheet

Once you have created your list of questions including softener trigger phrases, create a ‘cheat sheet’ or job aid. Use colored paper, use colored ink. Use large font. Hand write it or use Word and cut and paste. Put you questions on an 11 x17 sheet so there’s plenty of room. If required, paste two 11 x 17 sheets together. Make your needs analysis sheet big, bold and brassy. No one can see it but you. Post it where it is easily accessible and visible so you can reference it.

Tip #7: Drill, practice and rehearse asking your questions.

The last tip is to drill, practice and rehearse your needs analysis. You could do this with your manager, or a co-worker, friend or spouse. You can rehearse it in your mind. The idea is to familiarize yourself with the questions and get comfortable with them. Use your cheat sheet and get comfortable with it too.

IMPORTANT!

The objective of this entire process is NOT to ask every single solitary question, one by one, like conducting a survey. The idea is to ask the appropriate questions when required. You might begin with a few situational questions, then segue into a motivator question, then back to a situational question or two, and then move on to an analysis questions.

No one can teach you the flow of questioning. That is a factor of the client and the information that he or she gives you. But KNOWING the questions ahead of time ( having them imprinted on your mind) makes asking the appropriate question at the appropriate time much easier.

Summary

Good needs analysis differentiates you from your competition. Your prospects tend to see you as more consultative. You will get better, more relevant information. This gives you a distinct opportunity to sell more. Take the time and do it right

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Don’t Send a Prospecting E-mail Like This

A good prospecting e-mail makes a follow up call easier and often more successful.

But the operative words are “a good prospecting e-mail.”  Here’s an example of an e-mail I recently received. It has just about everything you shouldn’t do when prospecting.  Read the e-mail and see my comments in bold.

The Prospecting E-Mail from Hell

Subject: Inquiry Localization Services (Okay, not bad.  I had no idea what this was or meant but the “inquiry” could have been about my services (in other words, a lead)…so I opened it.)

Hi Jim, (personalized and informal: good)

(GROAN! A quick glance at the length of the e-mail staggered me.  Clearly a pitch. Look at the length of some of those paragraphs!  Who has the time to wade through all this? I read it only because I felt an article brewing deep inside me)

Hope this finds you well and on a great path! (Trite. False. Waste of time. Credibility drops. Get down to business)

My name is _________ and I represent ­­­­­­­­­__________, an award winning e-Learning localization company.(ya…whatever…) I write this email to solicit an opportunity to meet with you and discuss our services around localization of content and e-Learning development.   (I see.  And what’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?  Talk about me, not you!)

(Man! Are you kidding me?  Look at this long, rolling paragraph! Am I supposed to be impressed with these features? It ain’t workin’ for me!) Since 2000, _________ has vastly expanded its e-Learning translation capabilities and in just 2011, we localized 200+ courses in 50+ languages both eastern and western. ____ has huge experience within localization of training materials, and now additionally providing extensive translation, engineering, and testing services for a wide array of e-Learning infrastructure software and content. We have saved thousands of dollars for our clients by rightly managing the source files (such as externalizing content in XML files) allowing customers to easily and more affordably perform localization of all titles. (Oh … here’s the benefit, nicely tucked away.  If the rep had told me this up front, I might have been a little more interested.  I suspect that 99.965% of the readers never got this far) Whether the content is scientific, commercial or legal, with _________ localization service at the helm, your content receives focused treatment, testified by quality of the output.

(Incredibly, there’s even more features… not that I care. Can you imagine the telephone pitch or the voice mail that this rep might deliver?) With a team of over 5000+ multi-disciplinary translation specialists, ________ does more than million words of translation and voice recording across 100+ concurrent projects every year. _________ localization services have proven their effectiveness at more than 50 training design companies, and with many leading publishers. G-Cube’s clients include Huthwaite, Corpedia, Kaplan, Omega Performance, ESI International, Sunwin Services Group, QA, Practice IT, Skillsoft, Cigital, Datatask, Incisive Media, Oilennium and many more.

Here are some of the examples of language works:

SSQM Chinese: <link> (Stop, buddy!  You’re killing me by overwhelming me.  Do you think I have the time in my busy day to read all this and STILL click on the Chinese link?)

SSQM Spanish: <link> (see above comment)

I’ve also attached a calculator that will allow you to calculate the expenses if ________ were to do translation, voice recording and repurposing for you.  (Don’t tell me there’s an attachment too? Who would open it?)

_____ is the one amongst very few organizations in the world to be assessed at Level 3 in SEI-CMM (look at the jargon!) frameworks. Its solutions have won prestigious awards including Brandon Hall, APEX, Codie, and Deloitte Fastest 50 Technology. 

I would like to trade 30 minutes of my ideas with 30 minutes of your time.  (isn’t that clever and cute!)  Are you free on 21st  August (Tuesday) at 10:00 am your Local Time for a quick call? Later works well too.   (Oh dear… you can bet I won’t reply.  And just to be sure, I’ll screen every call on the 21st just in case the rep decides to call anyway. I mean, what more can he “tell” me?  EVERYTHING  has been laid forth in the e-mail)  

Look forward to your reply. (Ain’t gonna’ happen)

Best Regards,

How to Improve Your Prospecting E-mail

Look:  I know I was being somewhat sarcastic and flippant in my remarks. But these types of e-mails are typical and I am tired of them, aren’t you?

If you’re  using e-mail for prospecting your message has to be about me, about problems I might have or about opportunities that I might achieve. You need to offer hope.

Next, your message must be short and to the point.  I’m going to scan it, not read it.  So you better make it crisp and clear. It must look short and read even shorter. It’s not something you whip up in 2.5 minutes.  It takes time and effort to compose an effective message.

Finally,it must intrigue me.  It must make me want to learn more.  You do this by teasing me about the potential benefits you have to offer.  Get me salivating with curiosity.

What to learn more? Visit the other articles on this page.  Learn to write an e-mail that gets prospects to turn their heads.

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Please… Return My Call

by Eric Slife www.salestrainingcentral.com.

Getting prospects to return your calls is one of the most frustrating problems you experience.

You can be 90% sure a deal will close in the next week and suddenly, silence. If you keep calling, you appear desperate and annoying, so what do you do?

Before you drive yourself completely crazy, take solace in the fact your competition faces the same problem. However, that alone won’t pay the bills. Before exploring some tactics that will help you get your calls returned, first ask yourself, “Why don’t prospects return my calls?”

Here are some of the more common reasons prospects don’t return calls:

  • Fear – Most people don’t like confrontation. They would rather completely avoid you, than deliver you bad news.
  • Too Busy – Prospects are bombarded by calls every day. Even though returning your call may only take 5 minutes, the thought of having to talk with a sales person when they have nothing new for you and a pile of work on their desk can seem like an hour. In addition, if they have 10 similar calls that day, it will take an hour.
  • Lack Urgency – If their problem hasn’t reached their pain threshold, they will lack a sense of urgency to fix it. Without pain, their problem isn’t a high priority.
  • No Value – If you are leaving messages that don’t provide additional value or specific reason for them to call you back, there is no point for them to call you. “I’m just calling to see if you got my brochure (or made a decision),” won’t stimulate someone to return your call.
  • Using You – If a company is just fishing for information, they will lose all interest once they receive what they want. Don’t give up information without getting something in return. If they want a price quote over the phone or a brochure, make them first agree to an appointment.

How do you get people to call you back?

Your first action with your prospect is to establish the ground rules and expectations. Your prospect needs to know it is okay to say, “No.”

For example: “Mr. or Ms. Prospect I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. At the end of today’s meeting, my goal is for us to establish if my product or service is a good fit for you and your company. In order to do this, I’d like to ask you some questions, so I better understand your business. Are you okay with this?”

If at any time during our conversation today or future conversations it becomes clear to you that we aren’t a good fit, or you decide to go in a different direction, are you comfortable with telling me, ‘No’? In addition, if at sometime I need you to return a call or reply to an email for additional information or to determine what you want next, what method do you prefer? Great, let’s get started.”

By doing this, you are laying the ground rules. If they don’t return your calls, politely remind them of this conversation. This doesn’t mean you email or call them every other day. Give them an opportunity to respond. I suggest at least 4 business days between contacts.

Let’s say, you’ve laid the ground work, and your calls still aren’t returned, here are some specific techniques you can do to reach your prospect.

  • Disengage Caller ID: Contact your phone company and ask them how to temporarily disengage your caller id. Let’s face it, we all screen our calls. If they still don’t pick up, don’t leave a message, but call back at a different time using the same technique.
  • Use Email: Many times if a prospect can’t be reached over the phone, an email is your best alternative. I’ll often include the following in the Subject Line: John, regarding your request about…
  • Fall on Your Sword: Don’t come across as upset or demanding. Take the opposite approach:

“Mr. or Ms. Prospect, unfortunately we’ve been unable to connect, and I’m starting to feel like I’m becoming an annoyance. I certainly don’t want to be a pain in your side, but I’m feeling like your situation has changed. Please let me know what’s changed, and how I should best follow up with you. This politely let’s them know they haven’t returned your calls, and they appreciate your graciousness.”

  • Contact The Receptionist: That’s right, call the receptionist. Let them know you have had trouble connecting. See if your prospect has been out of town. They may even have information that sheds light on the situation. You may uncover some important internal politics or changes that are happening.
  • Go Over Their Head: Sometimes, you may need to make an end run. One catch. Have your manager make the call to the person over your contact. This way you still may be able to save face with your prospect.

Call at Higher Levels: Most sales people think they are speaking with the decision maker, when in reality they aren’t. Many times sales people will ask, “Are you the decision maker?” Unfortunately, too many people don’t want to admit they aren’t the decision maker. To get a more accurate answer, ask them, “Who else besides yourself will be involved in the decision making process?”

If you start by calling the actual decision maker, you will receive more direct and honest answers. True decision makers don’t have time to play games. In addition, if they tell you to call someone lower in the organization, you can always use that as leverage if someone isn’t returning your calls. You might say something like:

“Mr. or Ms. Prospect I know you are busy. However, I promised _________ (their boss) I would provide them periodic updates, or information by this date. Unfortunately, I can’t provide them with this until I speak with you concerning…”

  • Fire Your Contact: If everything else has failed, it’s time to fish or cut bait. Reach out one last time, to inform them you are throwing away their file. Believe it or not, this will get some people to realize it’s time to make a decision. If it doesn’t work, walk away knowing you’re better off spending time with real prospects

One final thought. Sometimes deals fall through. In this case, the best thing you can do is to build top of mind awareness. Create your own drip marketing campaign, so when a company is prepared to purchase, you are at the top of their list, or at least number two. In addition, this is a great way to obtain referrals!

About The Author:
I started Slife Sales Training, Inc. with my wife Daphne in 1999. Since then, our company has evolved into one of the most extensive and affordable online sales training resources www.salestrainingcentral.com. Sign up for our newsletter today and receive Top 10 Voicemail Blunders for absolutely FREE.
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14 Things Sales Reps Should Never Stop Doing

The following  article is by training expert Kelley Robertson.This article was awarded the silver medal for “Article of the Year” at the 2011 Top Sales and Marketing Awards!

Selling for a living is challenging. There are many highs and frequent lows. Constant pressure to reach sales targets, customer and prospects that are more demanding, and changes in the marketplace all make sales a tough career.

If you are serious about maintaining a long-term career and increasing your sales, here are 14 things you should never stop doing. If by chance, you haven’t started doing some of these, I suggest that you do start…the sooner, the better.

1.   Prospect. If you do nothing else but prospect for new business every day the chances are you will always be busy and seldom, if ever, experience peaks and valleys in your sales.

2.   Improve your skill. Professionals in many industries require regular upgrading up skills. Selling is no different. The marketplace has changed and what worked five years ago is no longer relevant. Make the time and invest in regular self-improvement programs (workshops, conferences, books, audio programs, etc).

3.   Listen more than you talk. People who listen more, learn more. The more you learn the more effectively you can position your solution or offering. Enough said.

4.   Establish clear call objectives. Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or telephone call, you need to have a clear objective of what you want to accomplish. Closing the sale is NOT an objective.

5.   Create plans (yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly). I know very few sales people who actually create a business plan for the entire year. What sales do you want to achieve? How will you reach those targets? What daily, weekly and monthly activities do you need to execute to achieve your goals?

6.   Study your products. How much time do you spend studying and learning your products? Do you know the key differences between similar products? Do you know how each product will actually benefit a customer?

7.   Network. Effective sales networking means attending the events that your key prospects attend. A friend of mine deals with high-ranking executives so he attends high-profile fundraising dinners. The cost of entry can be expensive but the return can be excellent.

8.   Ask awesome questions. I’ve mentioned this…more than once! But the ability to ask great questions, tough probing questions, penetrating questions, is one of the most effective ways to increase your sales.

9.   Deliver great presentations. Don’t confuse this with the ability to stand up in front of several hundred people and deliver a keynote presentation. The key to delivering a great sales presentation is ensuring that it addresses your prospect’s key issues and that it focuses on their needs and objectives, not your agenda.

10.  Adapt your approach. Do you ever consider the personality style of the other person when planning your sales presentation? Do you know if your prospect prefers correspondence via email, texting, face-to-face or telephone? Is your prospect a 35,000 foot view person or do they like to know every detail?

11.  Set high goals. People with the highest goals tend to achieve the most. Are your goals challenging and motivating? Do you even set your own goals or do you simply take what’s given to you by your boss?

12.  Be persistent. Four or five years ago it would take an average of seven calls to connect with a new prospect. Now it’s a safe bet to say that it can take as many as twelve or more, just to make that first contact. You need to be diligent and persistence.

13.  Forge relationships. Developing and maintaining great relationships with prospects, customers, friends and other people in your network is one activity that will ALWAYS pay off.

14.  Show respect. I have seen, firsthand, how poorly some sales people treat gatekeepers and receptionists and it always disappoints me because I am a firm believer in treating people with respect and dignity. Yes, that person may only be the receptionist in your eyes but they often hold the key to the Presidential Suite. Treat them accordingly.

If you consistently apply and execute these strategies you will definitely see an increase in your sales.

Kelley Robertson is president of the Robertson Training Group. Kelley is the author of two sales books, Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers and The Secrets of Power Selling. Both sales training books provide practical insights to improving your sales results. Visit his website at www.fearless-selling.ca or call him 905 633 7750.

 

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6 Ways to Impress a Prospect

By Kelley Robertson, www.fearless-selling.ca

In today’s ultra-competitive business world it is becoming more difficult to stand out from the crowd and impress new prospects. However, there are a few things you can do to achieve this and start increasing your sales.

1 – Do your homework

Before you pick up the telephone and dial for dollars invest a few minutes to research the company or person you are calling. You don’t need to spend hours on this, simply do enough homework that you can speak intelligently about their potential issues.

A friend of mine was cold calling a company and he read through their recent annual report—which was available on their website. During his conversation he referenced a point from the report and his prospect said, “You know more than I do!”

2 – Be punctual

I have heard sales people proclaim, “Why can’t my prospect see me; I’m only 10 minutes late?”

Late is late! You are either on time or you aren’t.

If you say you will call someone at 2:30 make sure you follow through. Allow plenty of time for travel when meeting face-to-face with prospects. Road construction, an accident or other unexpected delays shouldn’t cause you to be late.

Key decision makers are too busy to wait for you so be punctual and on time. It’s a little thing but it makes a big difference.

3 – Get to the point

Don’t waste a lot of time on small talk or social chit-chat—unless your prospect initiates this type of conversation. Instead, get to the reason for the meeting. Your prospect will respect you and you will stand out from your competition.

An effective to open is to verify the time available, “Mrs. Prospect, when we spoke last we allotted 60 minutes for today’s meeting; is that still good?” This ensures that you and your contact are both on the same page with respect to scheduling.

4 – Recap

Just before you launch into your sales presentation, recap your understanding of your prospect’s situation, problems or concerns. This bullet-point summary demonstrates to your prospect that you have a handle on their issues and captures their attention immediately. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to modify the presentation of your offering if your prospect’s situation has changed since your last conversation.

5 – Focus on them

Instead of talking about your company, your client list, your products and services, how long you have been in business or anything else that focuses the attention on you and your company, concentrate on showing your prospect how your offering will help them and/or their organization.

Prospects are not interested in hearing the self-puffery details that your marketing department so desperately wants you to share. They want to know how you can help them solve a potential problem. The more your presentation focuses on this, the longer you will your prospect’s attention and the greater the likelihood you will move the sales process forward.

6 – Don’t overstay your welcome

Unfortunately, many sales calls and meetings go into overtime which disrupts the decision makers’ already jam-packed schedule. I have personally been on the receiving end of sales call that was supposed to take 30 minutes but quickly stretched to 40 and would have gone on longer had I not cut it short.

Just because you have 60 minutes allotted for your meeting does not mean you have to use it all. You can impress a prospect by wrapping up early and giving them a few minutes of “free” time. You will never hear a prospect say, “Wait…we had 60 minutes scheduled for this meeting and we’re only at fifty. Keep talking for another ten minutes.”

These six steps will help you impress your prospects and stand out from the competition.

What others can you think of?

Kelley Robertson is president of the Robertson Training Group. Kelley is the author of two sales books, Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers and The Secrets of Power Selling. Both sales training books provide practical insights to improving your sales results. Visit his website at www.fearless-selling.ca or call him 905 633 7750.

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A Good Question to Ask Your Prospects

When prospecting, beware of taking information from your prospect at it’s face value.

It is important to pause and verify the veracity of the information by inspecting it from another angle. In other words, dig a bit deeper and get the prospect to elaborate. By doing so, you’ll not only position yourself as consultative, you’ll avoid making assumptions that lead you down the wrong paths.

Bottom line? Better sales results.

Misguided Information

Read the quotes below and ask yourself what are the implications. Assume the prospect is providing you with the information:

  • “Our sales are up 20%!”
  • “We’ve reduced shipping costs by 15% over the last quarter.”
  • “Our top rep got 68 sales last year. The next highest rep got 65.”
  • “We’ve increase our production of lancets by 400 units a week by adding another machine operator.”
  • “I get about 15 new patients every month.”
  • “We have about 5-6 accidents per year.”

You would probably agree that the way the information is presented in these examples makes the information appear positive.  And herein lays the trouble. Taken at its face value the information can be misleading and dangerous from a selling perspective. The problem is that the above statements lack any perspective whatsoever. For instance:

  • “Sales are up by 20%” sounds impressive but compared to what?
  • Is the fact that shipping costs are down by 15% really good or really poor?
  • The top rep got 68 sales but was the company expecting him to get 100?
  • Is the cost of adding a machine operator covered by the production of 400 units?
  • When a chiropractor states that he gets 15 new patients per month, is he happy with this?
  • Is 5 -6 accidents per year something to celebrate?
A Good Question

How do you get perspective? How do you assess this information to determine its relevancy?  You do this by asking one simple question:

“How do you feel about that?”

For example:

Prospect:    “Sales are up 20%”

Rep:            “That’s interesting. How do you feel about that?”

Prospect:    “That’s a good question. And the answer is not good at all. While they are trending up we are significantly behind on our objectives.”
Because we hear that sales are “up” the inclination is to believe this is good news but in this example, the prospect is not happy. Left unchecked, this statement could skew your entire approach to a sale.

Similarly, because we hear a decision maker say that costs are “down by 15%” we get the impression that the prospect has got a grip on cost cutting. But the opposite may be true. Without verifying this statement further you run the risk of missing a huge selling point.

The same applies for the other examples. Asking the client “How do you feel about that” will clarify each statement one way or another.

Why it Works

The beauty of  “How do you feel about that” is twofold. First, it is an open ended question. By their very nature, open ended questions get people to “open up” and elaborate. Open ended questions invite the client to provide you with more information by which you can judge the statement further.

Second, this question is absolutely rich in psychology! Everyone has “feelings”- one way or the other- about things. By asking the client how she or he feels about their remark invites a certain degree of personal speculation and assessment.  Most people are irresistibly drawn to give their opinions. The interesting thing is that often the opinions are subjective and perhaps even emotional in nature but they are powerful and compelling because of it.  Buying decisions are often made based on an emotion. If you tap the emotional element of a prospect, your chances of making a sale increase significantly.

It is in these evaluative statements that the true nature of the client’s comments resides. “How do you feel about that” forces the client to ponder the remark and build upon it.

Summary

“How do feel about that” is a multi-faceted question that can be used in a huge variety of situations. Keep it handy and use it often. It will provide you with more information and better information by which you can direct and channel your selling efforts.

Try it. It works. It’s a good question.

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How to Set Meaningful Follow Up Times

Gold is a scarce resource.

So are diamonds and platinum.

And so is time.

When you set a follow up time with your client, you are committing valuable time; time that ideally results in a return on investment.  When a customer or prospect  misses an appointment, you squander time and opportunity.  The trick, then, is to do the utmost to ensure that your follow up calls occur when it is supposed to.  The trick is to ensure your appointment is important and that it’s not forgotten or delayed. Here’s how:

Typical Appointment Setting

The vast majority of appointments, whether by phone or face to face tend to occur at the top and the bottom of the hour. For instance, we set up a follow up call at, say, 9:00 or 10:30, 1:30, 3:00 …you get the picture.

And on the surface, you might think that is fine but for two points.

First of all, virtually every sales rep sets appointments at the top and bottom of the hour. Your competitors do the same thing. In fact, virtually every organization has their meetings set at the top and bottom of the hour. It is traditional. It is routine.  Everyone follows the norm. It also means your time is not a scarce resource but rather a commodity.

And that’s precisely the problem.  The time you set for your appointment is part of the clutter and the noise at the top and bottom of the hour. It does not distinguish you.

The second point is a little more insidious but I’ll bet you’ll agree. More or less, corporate North America never starts a meeting on time. If a meeting is set for 10:00 people drift in sometime after.  By 10:15 or so, everyone is assembled.  It has become acceptable that meetings start late.  The preciseness of time has no real meaning anymore. So, what this means to you is that when you do set an appointment at the top or the bottom of the hour, most people feel that it is acceptable to be late. “It’s no big deal.”

In essence, they are saying your time can be squandered. Well, it is a big deal if you are in sales. Call it trite, call it a cliché, but TIME IS MONEY!

For every follow up you make, something else is put aside. For every time you play telephone tag, something else is delayed,  forgotten or lost. Opportunity lost. You don’t want to make a dozen follow up calls and waste your time.  You don’t want to play telephone tag. You want to maximize your time.

The last point is this:  because so many events occur at the top and the bottom of the hour, they are easily confused and forgotten. Clients blithely agree to an appointment without checking their calendars.  When your ‘sales appointment’ conflicts with an internal meeting event or appointment, guess which one wins out?  You bet! The sales appointment always drops to the bottom of the list.

Getting Through Appointment Clutter

So what can you do to eliminate or reduce the clutter and get more clients to be ready, willing and able to take your call at a given time?

  • Make time a valuable resource.
  • Position it as scarce.
  • Dole it out carefully.
  • Be chintzy.
  • Let your clients realize its importance.
6 Different Times

And how do you do that? The answer is to set a unique time; a time that catches your client’s attention; something that stands out; something that is not readily dismissed.

I recommend six different times in any given hour to set an appointment. These times are at 10, 15, 20, 40, 45 and 50 minutes after the hour. For example, instead of setting an appointment for ll:00 try setting it for 11:10, 11:15 or 11:20.  Or instead of 3:30, set if for 3:40,  3:45 or 3:50.

Putting it altogether, here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

“Ms. Trempe, I would be glad to e-mail this proposal to you tomorrow. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 21st, at 8:40 to review it in detail. How does your calendar look for 8:40?”

“Tim,  I’d like to set up an appointment to provide you with a demonstration on how the unit works and how it could reduce printing and binding costs. How are you set for tomorrow at 2:15? Do you have your schedule handy?”

(Incidentally, once you’ve established the date and time, be sure to send a meeting request reminder using Outlook. The audio message (above) combined with the visual message of an e-mail increase the odds of call occurring on time).

Why This Works

These times tend be more effective because they are slightly  unusual for the client. (NOTE: they are not bizarre. Setting weird times like 8:18, 1: 14 or 4:43 is bizarre…and ridiculous). Because they are unusual, they tend to be written (or typed) in their day planners; they tend to be remembered; and they tend to be honored more times than not. Ultimately, they place a value on time.

Apart from an unusual time, this technique tends to work because the client must reach for their calendar, or log into their Outlook or whatever.  They must interact with something. When they interact, they participate, and when they participate they are more likely to remember than to forget.

But there is more to it than meets the eye. By setting one of these times it implies you have other things on the go. It suggests you have other appointments.  It indicates that you are busy and remember, busy sales reps are very well regarded.

There is one other implication:  there is a suggestion that you have other appointments set within the half hour. Not only do you appear busy but it implies your call will be short and to the point. Clients like this. It seems fast, hassle free and painless. It just might be the thing that ensures that they are ready and able for a call.

In short, you have positioned time like a rare jewel.

Summary

Time is indeed money. Spend it wisely. Avoid squandering this precious resource.  By positioning your time to your client as important and valued, they are more apt to respect the times you set for appointments. You’ll move your sales cycle faster and further by using this little known technique.

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Want Better Tele-Prospecting Results Tomorrow? Try the Squeeze Play Today

If you struggle to reach decision makers, if your messages are rarely returned, and if you’re frustrated with your prospecting results, then try using one of the best-kept secrets of tele-prospecting.

The secret? Call as high up in the organization as you can AND THEN apply the “Squeeze Play.”  You’re gonna love this because it really works!

At first blush, this approach would seem to be just the opposite of what you would expect. Executives (VPs and C-Levels) are tough to reach and getting them to respond is even tougher. Protected by personal administrators and voice mail, the odds of speaking to an exec are slim. So how could that improve your prospecting results?

But that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to speak the executive for the Squeeze Play to work. All you need is a simple strategy.

The Executive Suite

When you call higher up, one of two things will happen. You will get lucky and reach the decision maker or, more likely, you will reach a personal assistant. Either way, you can leverage the moment.

The Executive Encounter

Unless you’re selling a strategic product or service, the chances that the executive actually makes the decision to buy is negligible. An underling usually handles those buying decisions and that’s what you are really looking for. Begin by identifying yourself, where you are calling from and the nature of your call. They key here is to acknowledge that the executive may not be the right person and ask for guidance,

“Ms. Bigge, I know you probably don’t handle this type of purchase but perhaps you could steer me in the right direction.”

You’ll find the vast majority of executives appreciate your candid nature and will give you the name of the person in charge, the ‘underling.’ Now here’s how you complete the call and set up the Squeeze Play,

“Thank you Ms. Bigge for your time. I’ll call ____ today and then I’ll let you know how it went by the end of the week. How does that sound?”

Either the executive will say yes to your suggestion or she’ll explain you don’t have to call back. It doesn’t matter. You’ve set the stage.

The Personal Admin Encounter

You can use the same tactic if you reach a personal secretary. They’ll be glad to refer you to the proper underling. Be sure to thank secretary and let her know you’ll give them an update by a specific date and time.

The Underling – Voice Mail Squeeze Play

Call the underling. If you encounter voice mail, leverage the call to the executive suite and induce the Squeeze Play. Leave the following message,

“Mr. Underling, I was just speaking to Ms. Bigge (or I was just speaking to Janet, Ms. Bigge’s assistant) and she suggested I give you a call with an idea we discussed on how to ___________ (fill in your benefits statement)

Would you please give me a call at ______ as soon as possible as I told Ms. Bigge I will get back to her on Friday at 2:00 p.m. regarding the results of our conversation.”

By telling the underling that you will get back to the executive by a given date and time creates the “squeeze play.” At this point, the underling doesn’t know a thing about you except that you have had a chat with the executive (or the executive office). So naturally enough, the underling feels compelled to respond and reply to you…just in case. Et voila!

The Underling – Live Squeeze Play

You can use the Squeeze Play live as well. In your opening statement, make reference to the discussion with the executive right off the bat,

“Mr. Underling, I spoke with Ms. Bigge regarding ______ (your benefit statement). I am to get back to Ms. Bigge by Friday with regard to our call so if I have caught you at a good time, I’d like to ask you a few questions to get a feel for your situation and to determine if there might be a fit.”

As with the voice mail, the underling knows the executive is somehow involved and will likely feel obligated to answer your questions or set up a telephone appointment sometime before Friday. In this manner, you avoid the brush off objections that typically occur.

Keep Your Word

The beauty of the Squeeze Play is that it is legitimate. You have positioned your executive contact so that it maximizes the opportunity.

Key point: ALWAYS follow through and keep your word. Call the executive or admin back as you promised. This can work for you in two ways.

First, if the underling does not call back, you can call Ms. Bigge and explain you made a few attempts to reach Underling but that he has not gotten back to you. Explain further that you will continue to try and will continue to keep Ms. Bigge updated. In this manner, you are not really “tattling” but rather fulfilling a promise you made to the executive.

Second, if the underling does call you back you must STILL call Ms. Bigge. Regardless of whether or not you get a sale or an appointment or whatever, be sure to give the executive (or secretary) an update. It’s not so much they they really need to know but rather an issue of keeping your word and positioning yourself for future opportunities.

Summary

Try the Squeeze Play. It’s easy, it’s ethical and it’s a little edgy. Certainly, it’s different. Most of your competitors don’t use it. Above all, it works very well and that means more decision maker contacts. More opportunities typically mean more sales. Give it a shot

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To Hell With Cold Calling – 3 Steps to Warming Inactive Accounts

If cold calling is not one of your favorite pastimes try a different tack.

Try making “warmer” calls and watch your sales results improve. You do that by targeting “inactive accounts.” An inactive account is an account that has bought from you in the past but has not make a purchase in the past year or so.

3 Good Reasons

Here are some practical reasons why you should reactivate an inactive account:

  • You have a targeted list. The list is in house, you have ready access to it and it is targeted. This saves you money and time purchasing a list. You can start calling immediately.
  • You know them. Since you have a record of the past purchase(s) you have an idea of where to start when you make the call. You can see the size, quantity and frequency of past sales. This makes your pre call planning much easier.
  • They know you. Obviously, the account knows of you. They have some sort of history with your company even if it was a one time buy. But what this really means is that less time and effort is needed to help educate the client. It can help reduce the sales cycle.

When you put all these points together you have a call that is much easier to make compared to calling a complete stranger off a purchased list.

Why We Resist Inactive Accounts

Despite the benefits, many sales reps avoid calling inactive accounts. Most feel that the client has left for one of two reasons:

– the price was too high or,
–  there was a customer service problem.

The feeling is: “it is better to let a sleeping dog lie.”

Not so!

While price and customer service can be legitimate reasons for customers taking their business elsewhere, the number ONE reason why customers leave is simply due to neglect. A variety of studies reveal that as many as 68% of those customers who leave do so simply because they had no reason to stay.

Sixty eight percent!

Think about it. They have left because no one cultivated the relationship. The order was taken and that was it. The account was ignored. No one paid attention to it. The more positive implication is this: spend a little time and pay a little attention and you can probably reactivate some of these accounts.

The 3 Steps to Reactivating Inactive Accounts

Before the Call

Before picking up the phone take a moment or two to review the customer file. Take a look at the sales record and see what possible opportunities there might be. The file might be slim and meager but it is a start.

The Call – 3 Simple Rules

Here are three simple rules to guide you:

Rule #1:  Do make reference to past relationship.

While not all your accounts will remember the relationship, it is important that you leverage it. This is what helps make the call warmer. The client tends to be somewhat more receptive.

Rule #2:  Do not ask why they stopped buying.

This is a common mistake. By asking why a client has stopped buying one of two things can happen. First, you can unnecessarily open a can of worms. If the account does have a gripe, they will tell you. (More on that in a moment). Second, asking the question will often put your client on the spot. Many will feel defensive; some feel vaguely guilty and even embarrassed. Avoid this.

Rule #3:  Do a complete needs analysis; ask questions

Treat the account as thought it were brand new. Much can change in year or more. Ask the client questions to discover needs and opportunities. This also prevents you from pitching. Create a new beginning with this client  using a consultative sales approach.

Example

Mr./Ms._________ This is ___________ calling from ____________.

Mr./Ms.___________ We have worked with you in the past by providing you with _____. (list the product).  Of course, at this point in time I am not precisely certain of your needs but if I have caught you at a good time, I would like to ask you some questions to determine if we can help you (insert your benefit statement such as ‘cut the cost of delivery,’ ‘lower your prices,’ ‘source hard to find items’).

What types of _______ are you using now?”

What If…

But what if the client does have a problem or an issue from the past?

If the account refers to a problem ask what happened. Get the details. Many times the client simply feels the need to vent. It does not necessarily mean they will not buy more. Hear them out. Acknowledge their concern; express regret. Fix the problem if you can. But go on to say that you would like to start the relationship anew. What is the worst they can say?

What if the client references price issues?

Treat the price objection like you would with any other client. You need to question to determine if the issue is one of pure price or one of value. You need to probe to determine if there are opportunities for quantity discounts. You need to use negotiation skills.

What if they have a current supplier?

Big deal! Everyone has a supplier. You need to earn the business. This means nurturing the relationship.

Summary

Inactive accounts are easier to sell than cold prospects. This does not mean selling is a piece of cake. You still have work to do. But it does mean you have a bit of an edge.  Make sure you reactivate your inactive accounts!

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The 5 Worst Tele-Prospecting Questions – Are You Guilty?

Questioning a prospect is a good thing, right?

Questioning builds rapport, uncovers needs, gathers information, and identifies possible objections.  There are lots of benefits.

Or so it would seem.

But the truth of the matter is that there are some questions that telephone users should utterly avoid.  They annoy your prospects and they can threaten the success of your call. Here are the four most maddening questions of all time. Purge them from your calling process.

Worst Question #1: How are you today?

Nothing, absolutely nothing, puts a prospect on the defensive faster than this question!

While YOU might think it’s a real rapport builder the vast majority of your prospects think just the opposite.  When surveyed well over 90% of prospects felt that the question is trite and insincere.  They found it ‘wastes time’  but perhaps more significantly, it puts them on their guard because it creates a stereotypical (and negative) image of an invasive “telemarketer” who is trying to sell them something.

Look, the bottom line is this: you don’t really care how the prospect is, do you? You want a sale, lead or an appointment. And they KNOW that.  They know you don’t care. They know it’s a filler question.

So why would you use it?

It buys you absolutely nothing and it may cost you a lot. It may tarnish your ‘professional’ image.

Worst Question #2:  Did I catch you at a good time?

This question is a real sales killer. Hands down.

While asking a prospect ‘is now is a good time’ is polite and considerate, what it really does is provide a ready-made excuse to terminate the call.  Picture the scene: how many times have you asked that question and the prospect says, ‘Ya, sure…It’s a great time! I wasn’t doing anything important. In fact, I was just sitting here with my feet on the desk hoping that a sales rep would give me a call and pitch me?”

Rarely happens, right?

Of course, some prospects do say yes but the majority don’t.  At the moment they say ‘no’ you flounder and stumble around a bit and murmur something about calling later or ‘when is a good time.’  If the prospect does give you a time, they are never there when you make your follow up call. Waste of everyone’s time and energy.

I am all for polite and courteous tele-prospecting.  But instead of putting your call in the chopping block, try this,  “_____, If I have caught you at a good time what I would like to do is ask you a few questions, get a feel for you situation and see if there might be a way …(insert your benefit).’

Positioned this way, the client gets a feel or a sense that you have been polite about the ‘time’ thing but you are not really asking about the time; you’re asking about questions.  If you move seamlessly into your first question, your client will likely answer.

This subtle but extremely effective technique can dramatically change your contact rate and help you convert more contacts to sales or leads.  Use it.

Worst Question #3:  What do you like about your current supplier?

OMG! What a ridiculous question!

In effect, here’s what you are saying to the prospect, “Tell all the great things about your current vendor so that you will convince yourself not to make a change.  Remind yourself why you made this brilliant choice in the first place so that you can pat yourself on the back.”

Forgive the sarcasm.  But this question is definitely maddening. It does nothing to help your selling cause. It builds your competitor up and because the prospect is articulating their merits it’ll be awfully hard to knock them down.

Instead, ask the prospect what they like to see in a vendor.  Let the prospect tell you about the ideal service they would like to get.  See how you compare. Don’t even bother with the current competitor. Who cares? It’s not what they do, it’s what YOU do.

Worst Question #4: Is there anything you don’t like about your current vendor?

Think about this one for a moment. The prospect doesn’t know you from Adam or Eve and out of the blue you are asking him/her to divulge the faults and flaws of your competitor.  How often do you think that’s going to work?

It’s not.

Sure, if you get lucky you might find a flawed vendor and an annoyed prospect.  Even a blind squirrel finds a nut.  But in the vast majority of the calls you make, this question will get you a blunt “no.” Like Maddening Question #3, the prospect is reminded that there’s nothing wrong with their current supplier or, at best, better the devil they know then the devil they don’t. Net result? Resistance to change.

Stick with what they’d like to see in a vendor.  Determine what elements are the most important (price, delivery, selection, terms etc.)  Create a general question like, “Are you getting all those elements all the time?” Ask if they’ve ever been caught short? Ask what they do if there’s a delay or if a product is unavailable? Ask if they have a back up plan?

These questions can open doors, not close them.

Worst Question #5: what do I have to do to earn your business?

And finally…

This maddening question has been around for decades and has been driving your prospect nuts for just as long. In their mind what you are really saying is this, “Make this easy for me because I don’t really want to work at it. Tell me what you want so I don’t have to probe and find out.”

Prospects resent this. It’s lazy. And those that give you an answer often give you ridiculous answers like, “I want free shipping on every order over ten bucks…and oh…I want 120 days… oh… forget the days, how about consignment?”

Look, if you don’t know how to probe for needs, start learning now!

Summary

Questions can work for you or against you.  Think about your questions before you ask!

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Want Better Tele-Sales Results Tomorrow? Do These 7 Things Tonight

If you want to improve your tele-sales results tomorrow start by preparing today.

Here are seven actions you can take tonight that will help make you more productive and effective tomorrow.

1. Create a Master List

Before you leave your office tonight prepare a ‘master list’ of the top 20-30 clients or prospects that you plan to call tomorrow. Put the names and numbers on a spread sheet or a legal pad so that when you arrive in the morning they are there, in front of you, ready to go.

This simple act gets you going; gets you dialing; get’s you DOING.  The trouble with tele-sales or tele-prospecting is that it gets easy to avoid picking up the phone. We find ways to avoid it (as you’ll see below) and consequently, many reps pick up the phone 30 or 40 or more minutes after they arrive.  Similarly, turning on the computer and beginning the day by ‘searching’ the database for prospects or clients can take considerable time.  Don’t squander that time. Have those names ready to go for the morning.

2. Write Your Goals

After you have completed your master list, write your goals for the next day.  This is a classic ‘time management’ technique and no less important now than it was twenty five years ago.  Take the time to write down key goals such as dials, connects, leads generated, presentations made, sales made, revenue objectives, profit goals …whatever.

When you arrive in the morning knowing precisely what you want to accomplish, you increase your odds of making it happen.  Written goals bring clarity and focus. Waltzing in with a vague idea of what you want to achieve typically yields vague results. Be precise. Be laser like.

3. Clear Your Desk

How tempting is it to start your day by organizing your desk, clearing papers, and ‘getting ready’ for calling?  It’s a task that can easily take 20 ‘delicious’ minutes away from having to pick up the phone.  From another perspective, a chaotic desk in the morning often contributes to a chaotic approach to calling.  You search for a pen, paper, marketing material, notes … whatever. You can’t focus on a call because there is always something to pull you away.

A clean desk is refreshing. Because it’s not cluttered, your mind is less cluttered. That means more focus and attention to the calls you are about to make. Clear off your desk the night before. The only thing on your desk should be your Master List and Goals for the Day Sheet.

Seriously, a simple thing like clearing your desk can have a SIGNIFICANT  impact on your bottom line results.

4. Clear Up Your E-Mails

E-mails are an absolutely wonderful way to procrastinate, aren’t they?  You waltz in, crank up the computer and check your messages.  Invariably there are messages from the day before that ‘absolutely need’ a response (or so you think).  So you review your messages, compose replies, edit them and send them out.  And of course, there’s always a message or two from a friend, and a newsletter you should read, a web site link that you can’t resist, and before you know it, 40 minutes have past.

Don’t let the lure of e-mails distract you from your prime objective: to make calls, reach clients and sell or prospect. Answer your e-mails the day before so they are not lingering the next day.  When you do get in, resist the urge to check them until after you’ve called your Master List.

5. Clear Up Your Voice Mails

Voice mails are the audible equivalent to e-mails. Clear them up the night before. Make your return calls before you leave for the day.  Leave messages for those who you don’t reach.  Call them back later the next morning but ONLY AFTER you’ve done an hour of calling.

6. Arrive 15 Minutes Earlier

Want better results almost instantly? Get in 15 minutes early. That’s it. Get in and start working  15 minutes earlier. Do the math.  In a week that amounts to an additional 1.25 hours of dialing.  In a month, that’s five additional hours. In a year that equates to 60 more hours or 7.5 days of additional calling!  It cannot help but increase your results!

Arriving 15 minutes early reduces distraction because there are fewer people around you.  When your co-workers arrive they’ll see you on phone. They’ll be less likely to talk about what they did the night before.  In the meantime, you’ll have a sale or a lead or an appointment before they ever switch on their computer!

7. Schedule Your First Call

Schedule your first call for the VERY first thing in the morning. In fact, block out an hour or more for calling. Treat it as an appointment with yourself and your success.  To make this happen, create an appointment or alarm in Outlook (or whatever you use) so that it pops up on your screen the moment your turn your computer on.  You’ll have an instant reminder.

Summary

Assuming you arrive 15 minutes early to a clean desk with a Master List in plain sight, sit down, turn on your computer, and dial the first name on your list.

Et voila.

You’ve started the day off right. You’ll get more sales, leads or appointments if only because you have purpose, direction, and focus with no niggling little distractions.

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An E-Mail That Gets a Response

Ever had a client or prospect never get back to you?

(SPECIAL NOTE: This article was written by Mr. Inside Sales, Mike Brooks.  This is a heck of a good article.  Visit Mike’s site at www.mrinsidesales.com for superb articles and products )

If you’re in sales, then I know it’s happened to you (or is happening with several of your clients or prospects right now).

If you have ever find yourself in a place where you’ve qualified a prospect, sent information to them on your product or service, and then find that they just won’t return your calls or emails, then I’ve got a guaranteed email that will get you a response.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go”

(Note: this email technique was one I learned last summer when I spoke at the L.A. Chapter of the AA-ISP. One of the participants shared it with us and I’ve been passing it along ever since!)

Subject of your email: “Should I stay or Should I go?”

“_________ While I’ve tried to reach you, I haven’t heard back from you and that tells me one of three things:

1) You’ve already chosen another company for this and if that’s the case please let me know so can I stop bothering you,

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet

3) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case please let me know and I’ll call 911 for you…

Please let me know which one it is because I’m starting to worry…

Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing back from you.”

Is that great or what?? This works on so many levels including using a “Clash” song everyone can relate to in the subject line, to giving them options and an out in case they’ve decided not to work with you.

And, of course, you give people a reason to smile and that always relieves the pressure from the sales situation.

Use it this week and see for yourself how it works to get your prospects to get back with you and how it gets you deals. And then email me yourself with your results – I’d love to hear them

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Lead Generation – How to Get Free Lists of Prospects (No kidding!)

I recently came across a new business information site that has some terrific tools to enable lead generation….and it’s free.

The site is called BizCompare.com site consists of company profiles for more than 1.5 million U.S. businesses who are business services providers (e.g. transportation, telecom, publishing, employment services, accounting, etc.). Their audience are people who are looking for information about business services and the companies that may provide them. However, they also have over 100 industry research reports and, importantly, show lists of companies. It’s the list of companies function that I like for lead generation.

Example

Go to this page to see a list of companies in the Medical and Science Equipment Repair industry. You’ll see that there are 3,680 companies in that industry, nationwide. This is arguably a huge number of sales prospects to work with so the site designers developed filtering tools which appear down the left navigation area. Specifically, one can narrow the search result by number of employees, annual sales volume, years in business, sales per employee and/or by state.

So, for example, if one was only interested in California based companies with over 10 years in business, the resulting list of companies narrows to 218 and they are all listed in alpha order. You have to click on each individual company name to get their detailed company profile.

For simplicity and ease of navigation, the 1.5 million companies have been organized into 19 major categories and further segmented into 108 specific industries. The quickest way to start your research is to either go to their site map and drill down by industry or use their search function and search by company name (once you are on a company profile, there are links to take you to all companies that are in the same industry).

For a sales rep or sales manager who is looking for company information for lead generation purposes, this is a site worth checking out.

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2 MORE Not-So-Smart Questions to Avoid

Remember what your teachers used to say: “there’s no such think as a dumb question?”

Well maybe that’s true in most cases but in tele-sales there are some not-so-smart questions that you should avoid because they can act as real show stoppers.

Not-So-Smart Question #1: How are You Today?

Please, at all costs, avoid this question when you’re tele-prospecting. Please.

While YOU might think it’s a real  rapport builder the vast majority of your prospects think just the opposite.  When surveyed well over 90% of prospects feel that the question is trite and insincere.  They find it ‘wastes time’  and puts them on their guard because it creates a stereotypical (and negative) image of an invasive “telemarketer” who is trying to sell them something. Is this how you want to start your cold call?

Look, if the prospect is telling you NOT to use this question, don’t use it.  Simple as that.  It doesn’t buy you anything and it can certainly cost you a lot in terms of credibility.

Not-So-Smart Question #2: Did I Catch You at a Good Time?

Don’t use this question either.  Oh, I know the argument: it’s polite and not using it can be seen as presumptuous by the prospect.  But be honest here, how many times have you asked this question only to hear, “no, it’s not a good time.”  I’ll wager it occurs 99 times out of 100. When you ask if it is a good time you are giving your prospect a ready made excuse to terminate the call. Hey! Isn’t tele-prospecting and cold calling  hard enough without you fueling the fire?

Instead, say this, “Jim, if I caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you some questions, get a feel for your situation and see if we might   (provide a benefit).  Let me ask…”

By doing this, the prospect gets a ‘sense’ that you are asking if it is a good time (which positions you as courteous and respectful)  but you aren’t really doing that. You’re asking if you can ask some questions.

Of course, the prospect can still object but you’ve made it just a bit harder to do so.  And that gives you a slight edge and slight edges are might all you need.

Summary

By avoiding these two not-so-smart questions your ‘image’ will be a little less tarnished and you’ll increase the number of times a prospect allows you to continue the call.

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Why Sales People Hate Cold Calling

This blog features sales expert Kelley Robertson.  Kelley is one of North America’s foremost experts in sales training and I think you’ll see why in this article. Enjoy!

Cold calling is a fact of life for most people in sales. Sure, the vast majority would prefer to rely on referrals, word-of-mouth, or some other lead source that reduces or eliminates their need to make cold calls. However, unless you deal with an established set of accounts, you will, at some time, be required to cold call in order to generate sufficient leads for your business.

Having said this, even the most seasoned sales professionals often resist this strategy unless they are poked, prodded and pushed by their manager. Excuses include:

“I don’t like the rejection.”

“I don’t want to come across like I’m desperate for business.”

“I don’t want to sound like a telemarketer.”

“I don’t like interrupting people at work.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

However, I believe that there is another dynamic at play that prevents people from embracing cold calling. It’s the need and desire for instant gratification. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The prize inside the box.

We know that cold calling seldom generates quick results. It takes a lot of dials to connect with live people. It takes finesse to deal with receptionists, gatekeepers and executive assistants. It takes a certain amount of creativity to deal with the barriers that get in our way. It takes multiple attempts and a bulldog sense of persistence to finally connect with decision makers. And, finally after all that work, we eventually manage to make contact with our prospect only to hear, “No, thanks.”

I once read that there are two types of people. People who are willing to wait for a reward and those who want the reward now even though the payoff may be higher if they wait. I suspect that people who have the ability to wait for a payoff also possess the ability to make more calls than individuals who need immediate gratification. Let’s face it. Capturing a sale is highly motivating and many people have a difficult time making call after call with little to show for it. Making fifty or sixty dials and not capturing a sale or being unable to connect with a buyer or decision maker can be extremely frustrating. Spending an entire day on the telephone is even more challenging and difficult.

Experts on this subject say that you need to recognize that every ‘no’ brings you one call closer to making an appointment or landing a sale. Some people say that you need to “go for the no” and to use those ‘no’s’ as a stepping stone to hearing a ‘yes.” While these philosophies are technically true, it takes much more than that.

It takes big picture thinking. It requires the ability to postpone the pleasure of getting the reward and developing the discipline to work through the pain and challenge of making dozens of calls with little to show for it.

So, here’s the $64,000 question: how do you develop this ability?

I’ll warn you; it’s not easy. In order to develop the ability to get used to a delayed payoff you actually have to make these calls, as painful and challenging as it is. You need to condition yourself that you will eventually get a reward for your efforts. I know, you were hoping for a magic answer or quick result. Unfortunately, the quick-fix solution exists only in infomercials, novels and movies.

Let’s take a look at this from a slightly different perspective. When you learn a new hobby, sport, language, etc., it takes time to just to become comfortable. It takes longer to develop a level of consistent proficiency. And, it takes even more time to develop your skill to the point of excellence. The same concept applies to cold calling. You can’t expect to make ten or fifteen calls and master the skill. In fact, that number of calls won’t even get you to the point of feeling comfortable. You need to block time in your schedule on a daily basis to make calls. The more calls you make, the easier it will get and the more proficient you will become. As your skill improves, so will your ability to generate leads and secure appointments. You will become more adept at dealing with receptionists and executive assistants. And this will eventually translate into sales.

I guarantee that it will be a grind at first. However, if you can push through your initial resistance you can develop the ability to postpone your need for instant gratification. And as you do this, your results will improve.

© MMXI Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved.

Do you know what sales blunders are costing you money? Get a FREE audio program, Sales Blunders That Cost You Money and two other sales-boosting resources by subscribing to Kelley’s newsletter at www.Fearless-Selling.ca or email Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca

Kelley Robertson, author of The Secrets of Power Selling helps sales professionals close more sales at higher profits with less effort. Kelley conducts sales training workshops and speaks regularly at sales meetings and conferences. Contact him at 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca.

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How NOT to Question Your Prospects – 5 Lessons from the Obama/O’Reilly Super Bowl Interview

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News might be a feisty TV journalist but he would make a lousy sales rep.

O’Reilly interviewed President Obama on Sunday prior to the Super Bowl.  That interview helps to illustrate what you should NOT do as a sales rep when questioning a client or prospect.

Lesson #1: Beware The Interrogative Style

For the most part O’Reilly grilled the President. His tone and approach to questioning was aggressive and intimidating.  Part of this is O’Reilly’s style and character and it probably serves him well in the world of political journalism.  But in a selling situation, prospects will often feel intimated with rapid fire questions delivered like a cop interrogating a suspect.  Watch your tone.  Be careful of the number of consecutive closed ended questions you use. Balance them with open ended questions. If you don’t,  they’ll feel badgered and will clam up.

Lesson #2: Don’t Interrupt

Did you notice this? O’Reilly interrupted Obama about twenty times in the fifteen minute interview.  This is not an exaggeration. Watch the interview and see for yourself.  http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/06/foxs-bill-oreilly-interviews-president-obama-before-super-bowl/

From a selling perspective, constant interruptions impact the flow of information. The content becomes fragmented and disjointed.  It is difficult to evaluate an answer when that answer is incomplete.  Regrettably, sales reps tend to interrupt a good deal which suggests they are less interested in the answers and more interested in going through the motions of questioning.

At another level, constant interruptions are disrespectful and rude. It says to the prospect, “I really don’t care about your reply.”  How Obama managed to stay polite and not snap at O’Reilly is beyond me.  A prospect would simply have hung up.

Lesson #3: Learn to Listen to the Content

Even without the interruptions, I am not certain if O’Reilly was really listening to Obama’s answers.  O’Reilly seemed more intent on asking his questions for the sake of asking his questions than for the information Obama provided in return. It was as though he had the questions written on his clip board and he was going to ask them no matter what the reply.  Survey-like. The answers were really not of interest.

This is very typical in sales situations. Some sales reps will ask a question, stop speaking, and then simply wait for their turn to speak again.  Instead of processing what they have heard and then responding accordingly, they plough onto to the next question whether it is appropriate or not.

In selling it is easy enough to ask questions but it is not so easy to evaluate the answers.  Effective questioning must be fluid and dynamic.  The answers provided by the client should determine the next question.  While it is important to have questions prepared, you must flexible to the moment and adjust to the information provided.

Lesson #4: Speak Less

It was also obvious that O’Reilly was positioning himself as a hard-nosed journalist by asking tough questions. No problem with that. But at times, O’Reilly was inserting his opinions and views. It seemed to be less about Obama and his policies and administration and more about O’Reilly’s need to be seen as a tough no-nonsense  guy.

I understand that too but in the world of selling your commentary is not needed nor wanted. Speak less. Listen more. Learn more. Understand more.  Only when your client is speaking will you gather insights, knowledge and perspective. Everything you need to sell lies deep inside your client. When you are speaking, they are not. It’s hard to discover needs when your mouth gets in the way.  Let them articulate. Let them expound.  You can make that happen by zipping your lips.

Lesson #5: Understand the value questioning

What was the net result of the interview?

I don’t know about you but by the end of interview I doubt if anyone (the viewing audience and O’Reilly) was further ahead.  What possible value did the TV viewers really derive?

All we got was fragmented sound bytes from Obama. I, for one , certainly did not get a comprehensive feel for anything from the Middle East to healthcare or to the Super Bowl game.  If this were a selling situation, the sales rep would NOT have been any further ahead.  In fact, he would have probably been further behind because the questioning process was a disaster.

You see, the whole point of questioning is to build rapport, to gain an understanding of your buyer, of the needs and requirements.  It should create value for you and it should create value for your client.

Summary

NOTE:  I am a Canadian so I have no political interest in the interview one way or the other. I could care less.   I have no ‘agenda ‘ except  to use the interview as a learning lesson.   Here’s the lesson: questioning is the MOST important skill you can possess when it comes to selling.  Learn from these lessons and don’t  blow your opportunities.

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Why Secondary Objectives are More Important Than Primary Objectives

Before you ever lift the receiver to make a customer call or a cold call you need to established not one, two objectives.

By doing so you’ll increase your volume of sales/leads and reduce your level of frustration. While both objectives are extremely important, one is more significant than the other.

The Primary Objective

Whether it’s a call to an existing client or a prospect, take a few seconds to think about and establish your primary objective.  In a perfect selling world, the primary objective is the ideal goal you would like achieve.  It the ultimate result.  A primary objective does not necessarily need to be a ‘sale.’  Depending on the nature of your calling, a primary objective could be an appointment, or gathering a key piece of information, or a commitment to the next, or attendance at a webinar, or agreeing to review a proposal or whatever you decide you want from that particular call.

Write that goal down somewhere even if it is in the column of a sheet of paper. Studies reveal that writing a goal increases the chances of it being achieved compared to a goal that is not written. It seems that the ‘mind’s eye’ become more fixated on the attainment of goal and tends to drive behaviour to that outcome.

Of course, primary objective is important. It is vital. But curiously, it is not necessarily the more important of the two.

The Secondary Objectives

You see, most sales reps ‘get’ the concept primary objectives.  They are kind of obvious and intuitive.

But what many reps don’t ‘get’ is the concept of secondary objectives, and regrettably, they tend to ignore them completely.  But it’s these little puppies that often produce the best results because they maximize the moment. This is precisely why secondary objectives are more important the primary objectives.

Secondary objectives are ‘back up’ objectives; things you’d like to accomplish if you don’t achieve your primary objective or things you’d like to accomplish in addition to achieving the primary objective. They are the little extras; the nice-to-haves. Hidden gems. Diamonds in the ruff. They are the items that leverage your telephone contact and help make the very most of the moment.  Put another way, secondary objective can act as catalysts that help “synergize” the net result of your call.

Secondary objectives can be any number of things. For instance, they might include:

  • a cross sell,
  • a request for a referral or a testimonial,
  • an up sell,
  • a piece “market intelligence”,
  • a query about an ongoing project,
  • a strategic question,
  • an e-mail address of another contact,
  • a request for more information,
  • the mention of a new product,
  • the best time to reach someone
  • … virtually anything over and above your primary objective.

Here’s the other thing about secondary objectives. Suppose you don’t achieve your primary objective. It can be discouraging especially when prospecting. But a secondary objective helps you salvage a portion of that call. It gives you the feeling of achievement; a psychological edge. It helps combat frustration and burnout. You hang up feeling that the call wasn’t a complete waste of time and effort. And of course, if you do achieve your primary objective, anything over and above that is pure gravy.

Like primary objectives, write them down. This will help you remember them as well as improve the likelihood of achieving them. It is that simple. Period. Do it!

Summary

Getting a hold of a client or a prospect by phone is tough at the best of times. And often you only have a minute or two of their busy time.  Make the absolute MOSTof those minutes and seconds by being prepared. Think of your primary and secondary objectives, jot them down and seek to achieve them.  Your results will improve dramatically.

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The Top 10 Most Annoying Traits of Tele-Prospectors – Are you guilty?

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Tele-prospecting is tough enough without engaging in self destructive tendencies. Here is a list of the 10 most annoying traits of tele-sales reps. Are you guilty of any of these traits? Not sure? Ask someone you trust.

#1: “How are you today?”

Prospects rank this as their #1 complaint of telephone reps. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed feel it is trite and insincere and a complete waste of time. It immediately makes them weary and defensive.  What a lousy way to start a call. Since they don’t like it, don’t use it. It’s that simple.

#2: Butchering their name

Prospects hate it when you butcher their name. While it is true that some names are complex and the prospect is used to it, imagine how impressed they will be if you master the name. You do that by calling someone else in the company and asking them for the proper pronunciation. Practice. Write it phonetically. Practice some more. Get it right. Nail it.

3. Presenting in a monotone.

A lifeless and lack luster delivery of your opening statement is a one-way ticket to disaster. The prospect senses that you are bored or unprepared in a split second. Over 80% of your telephone communication is through the tone of your voice. Remember that! Be conscious of your tone before you pick up the phone. The three second you take to say to yourself “Stay up beat,” will pay dividends.

4. Beating around the bush.

Prospects say that many telephone reps fail to get to the point of the call quick enough; they beat around the bush. The prospect gets confused and impatient. The call becomes an intrusion. Get to the point. You do that by using this trigger phrase, “Sandy, the reason for my call is ….”  This simple phrase provides direction and focus in the clients mind. Subconsciously they are relieved because they understand.

Of course, you don’t have to be blunt and say, “The reason for my call is to sell you product X.” Be more subtle, “Sandy, the reason for my call is ask you some questions, get a feel for your situation, and see if there may be an opportunity to…”

5.  Not presenting a benefit.

While some reps are capable of getting to the point, many have failed to delineate the benefit to the client. The benefit is what gets the prospect to tune, listen and listen longer. This is the difference between a mediocre opening statement and great opening statement. If you can reduce expenses, say so. If your service will improve productivity, tell them up front.  If you can improve revenues, let them know.

To carry on with the example in #5 you might say, “…and to see if there might be an opportunity to reduce your acquisition costs.”

6.  Not getting the prospect involved.

No one likes or wants a monologue. The client needs to be engaged to feel part of the process. This means asking questions, getting agreement and seeking acknowledgement so that there is a two-way dialog. This is why it’s a heck of an idea to say the reason for you call is “to ask a few questions to get a feel for your situation…” It alerts the client that the call is about THEM and not you. Once you’ve provided your benefit, ask your first question. Get them involved early.

7.  Not answering a question.

Prospect despise it when they ask you a question or toss out an objection and you ignore it or you skate around by not answering the question directly.  They feel you are hiding something and the instantly, instantly distrust you.  Why risk that? Have your replies prepared.

8. Interrupting

Prospects complain about tele-sales reps who interrupt them with slick answers or more features. When your prospect talks, you listen. Don’t interrupt. Hear them out. Evaluate what they saying. Let them finish. Then, and only then, should you respond.

9. Sarcasm and Rhetoric

Tele-sales reps can blow a sales opportunity by the use of sarcasm or by the ridiculous use of rhetorical questions such as, “You want to save money, don’t you?” or “You’re a smart shopper, aren’t you?  Or “If I could show you a way to save 10% would you take a moment to listen…”Or, “Well, if you’re not interested in reducing the cost of your deliveries, that’s fine by me.” Further comment is unnecessary, right?

10. Not knowing when to quit.

In B to B (much less in B to C), most decision makers will cut you some slack because they know you are doing your job but do not push it. After the third ‘smokescreen objection’ (i.e., the objections seems patently false) you should probably cut you losses

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Follow Up Calls: 28 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Be Politely Persistent and Follow Up With Your Prospects

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve made the call. You generate interest. Maybe you send a proposal or quote. You make a follow up call and leave a message and wait for reply. And wait…Maybe you make another follow up…no reply.

In a short while you are convinced the client was stringing you along. Frustration sets in. Anxiety. Uncertainty. ‘Do I call again? Won’t I look like I am stalking? He’s not interested. If he were, he would have called right. Why waste my time? Forget about it. Let’s move on.”

This negative self-talk is repeated every day, every week by hundreds of reps. It gets easy to convince yourself not to make that extra follow up call.

The trouble is there can be any number of reasons why the prospect has yet to get back to you.  In fact, at last count there are 28 reasons why the prospect hasn’t returned your call. You should follow up because:

1.   The squeaky wheel often gets the oil

2.   The contact lost your number

3.   The contact inadvertently deleted your voice mail message

4.   The prospect/client simply forgot to call you back

5.   Your e-mail was sent to their SPAM folder and never seen

6.   Your e-mail was lost “in space” and never made it to the client.

7.   Your e-mail was lost, misplaced or forgotten in a pile of other e-mails received

8.   Your client is swamped with work and has been too busy to call

9.   The contact is putting out a major fire and her priorities, for the moment, have changed

10. Your prospect inverted a number or two when copying down your phone number and was not able to reach you

11. The client or prospect expects YOU to follow up and keep them on track

12. Your prospect or client is grotesquely disorganized and needs someone to keep them on track

13. Your contact figures if YOU don’t show interest in following up, you and your product can’t be all that important

14. Your prospect has had a minor delay and needs to someone (you) to get them on track

15. Your prospect has put the project on the back burner or has gone with another vendor and you need to find out to have closure and stop fretting

16. Your prospect figures the ball is in your court and is wondering why YOU haven’t made a further follow up.

17. You did not include a signature file with your contact information on it – and the client did not have it handy to make a quick call back

18. Your voice mail (and phone number) was delivered so rapid fire or slurred that the prospect gave up trying to decipher it

19. You accidentally sent your e-mail NOT to Brian Basanda but to Brian Adams when you used your Contact info in Outlook

20. Most of the other vendors calling your prospect fail to follow up … which gives you the competitive edge

21. Your contact may have a gatekeeper who erased your message

22. Your prospect has a wicked sense of humor and is waiting to see how many times you will call

23. Your voice mail script needs a re-write; it simply lacked ‘umph’

24. This could be the deal of your career – you’ll never know unless you call

25. Your prospect deleted you e-mail on their Blackberry by accident and there’s no “undo” feature

26. A poor, hungry and driven competitor will make the persistent follow up call that you didn’t make …and will get the business you should have got.

27. What do you have to lose?

28. What do you have to win?

So there you have it: 28 compelling reasons to pick up that phone and make a few follow up calls. Print this list on a bright yellow sheet of paper. Post it at your desk and refer to it whenever you hesitate about making that follow up call.  Do it now. And close more sales!

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The Top 10 Things Every Field Rep Should Know About Making Telephone Cold Calling

Many field reps are uncomfortable using the telephone when cold calling. Here are some tips to make the process of cold calling by phone easier and more effective.

1. It’s NOT a numbers game, it’s a results game

You’ll often hear this about cold calling especially from you boss: “It’s a numbers game.” Translated it means you have to make a zillion calls. No way. Don’t believe them.   Telephone cold calling is not about quantity, it’s about results.

Results come from smart tele-prospecting, not mindless dialing. Being smart means have the skills and techniques to make the most of the dials you make.  It means learning new processes and using job aids to convert more prospects into leads. It means being good at cold calling.

2. Use a verbal GPS (call guide)

A verbal GPS is a written ‘map’ to help guide your cold call.  Like a GPS, enter your destination (your primary objective), your starting point (your opening statement)  the sites you want to see along the way (your secondary objectives) and the route you want to take to get  there (your key questions, the key points you want to make).

Put this information on a green sheet of paper so that it sticks out on your desk or wall. Look at it before you call. Use it during the call to keep you on track. The mere process of writing these items down will increase you success rate by a minimum of 20%.

3. Script – yes, script- your opening statement

Most field reps would rather undergo a root canal than use a script. Instead of a script, field reps tend to ‘wing it’ and justify their behavior by saying, it sounds more ‘natural.’ The net result is that the cold call feels like a root canal.

If you were going to make dozens of cold calls to similar prospects regarding your products or services, why would you try to ‘wing’ it every time? Script your opening statement so you have the very best mix of words that entices the prospect to listen further.

4. Avoid Shooting Yourself in Both Feet by Avoiding these Killer Phrases

Cold calls quickly become lame when field sales reps inadvertently shoot themselves in both feet by using two killer phrases.  The first phrase is “How are you today?” In cold calling situations, the vast majority of prospects perceive this phase as trite and insincere. It instantly puts the prospect on guard; makes them skeptical and suspicious. Just eliminate it from your vocabulary.

The other killer phrase is “Did I catch you at a good time?” While polite, it gives your prospect a fast and easy way to ditch you. Instead, use this phrase, “If I caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you a few questions to get a feel for your situation and to determine if we might be able to … (list a benefit).”  The prospect has the definite sense that permission was asked but the real question was not if he had the time but rather could questions be asked.” Big difference.

5. Know When and When NOT to Leave a Voice Mail – and Avoid Call Display

If you are never going to call this prospect again, leave a message. You have nothing to lose. Script – yes script- your message ahead of time and be prepared to leave it. If you are planning to recycle the list a few times, don’t leave a message. It warns them you’re coming. They use call display to screen your calls. Hang up. Take three or four shots at getting the client live.

6.  Anticipate Knee Jerk Objections

The majority of prospects are not sitting back and waiting for a call from a sales person. They are typically working and your call is an interruption. Many prospects will toss out an objection out of reflex not unlike what happens when a doctor taps your knee with a rubber hammer.

Here’s what to do. List the typical knee jerk objections on a sheet of paper so you’re not caught off guard. When you hear an objection follow the “EIA Process.” First, empathize. Next, ignore the objection completely. It’s not legitimate anyway. Third, calmly ask ‘one quick question.’  (Example:  Prospect: “I am busy right now.” Rep: “I understand completely…Brian, while I have you, one quick question: do you…)

Amazingly, over half the prospects will answer your question and most they will continue to answer additional questions simply because their reflexive reaction has settled down.

7.  Ruthless Disqualify Your Prospects

Have your key qualifying questions prepared and get to them right off the bat. You do this to determine if the prospect is worth YOUR time. If not, ruthlessly disqualify them and move on to greener pastures.

8.  Script- yes, again, script- your offer

For most sales reps, the offer is a request for an appointment. At this point in the sales cycle,  your product is the appointment.  Therefore, script your request for their time word for word.  Explain what the appointment will entail. Most importantly, list the benefit the client will get by granting you thirty or so minutes of time. By having this prepared ahead of time you won’t fumble the opportunity.

9.  Forget About Sending Literature

Prospects can make mince meat of your efforts by getting you to send, fax or e-mail literature. This smokescreen objection is a classic, if not polite, way to blow you off. Don’t fall for it. If you do agree to send marketing material, get commitment by asking for a specific follow up date and time (e.g., Thursday at 3:15). No date and time, no literature. Move on.

10. Make your call like an Academy Award Winner

The telephone is an audio medium.  Your tone, rate of delivery and volume of your voice accounts for about 80% of the message. Too fast, too slow, or too monotone will destroy your cold call in less than ten seconds. What this really means to you is that you need to practice your opening statement so that it flows naturally. You need to practice following your verbal GPS so you can transition your prospect through the call.  Practice your ‘offer’ as if you’re Brad or Angelina. Get your words and tone down pat. Do that and you’ll be a tele-prospecting star.

Summary

Telephone cold calling for field sales reps can be easier and more effective by simply bearing these ten tips in mind. Implement them and watch your success grow.

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The Top 7 Ways to Get Past Gatekeepers

Are receptionists, secretaries and personal assistants stifling your attempts to reach decision makers? You’re not alone. Everyday sales reps are routinely being frustrated when prospecting by these pesky professional screeners. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 professional ways to get past gatekeepers and reach your prospect.

1. Try a Different Route

The best way to get past gatekeepers is to by pass them completely by taking a different route. If a receptionist is the culprit screening your calls, ask to be put through to the sales department, not the decision maker. Your call is never screened and you are virtually guaranteed to reach a live individual. When you reach the sales department, be candid about your call and who you’re trying to reach. Then ask if they can put you through. Many of them do so because they completely understand your plight.

2. Try Different Times

Sometimes the most obvious tactic is the least used. Try calling your prospects early or late in the day when the regular gatekeepers are not at their desk. This is particularly true when calling C-level and other top executives who have private secretaries or personal assistants. Start calling at 7:00 a.m. and see what happens. Call at noon. Try after 5:00 p.m.

3. The Collegial Technique

This approach is actually fun when you get the knack of it. As the name implies the collegial approach seeks to sound like a colleague or an equal of decision maker. For instance,

“Pat Smith calling long distance for Mike Crosby. Could you put me through?”

The collegial technique is all about style and delivery. Your tone has to be quick and brusque; busy-like; professional but edgy; like you don’t have time to quibble. It’s not rude or nasty but it is assertive. It’s the kind of approach Donald Trump would probably use. Practice this and your tone will convey a ‘don’t mess with me’ message.

4. The Tennis Technique

The tennis technique is sheer finesse and like the game itself requires a bit of practice. But once mastered it can be extremely effective. Gatekeepers have learned to serve up tough qualifying questions which typically ace the unprepared sales rep. They stammer and fumble about and in a split second, they’re screened.

The trick to this technique is to answer the question and then to quickly lobe a question back at the gatekeeper. Most screeners are familiar with this method and after couple of volleys you can often gain you the advantage. Here’s an example.

Rep: “Could I speak to Ms. Decesioni?”

Gatekeeper: “Who is calling?”

Rep: “Pat Anton. Is she available?”

Gatekeeper: ” Ah…where are you calling from?”

Rep: “The ATC Group. I’m calling long distance. Could you put me through please?”

Gatekeeper: “Er…ah…what’s this in regard to?”

Rep: “Profitability indicators. It’s important. Is she available?”

Notice the rep answers the question with the barest of information and then volleys a question back. The tone is polite but notice the sense of urgency conveyed with the reference to ‘long distance’ and ‘it’s important.’ These messages are subtle but can catch gatekeepers off guard because they are not used to being on the ‘defensive.’

5. Befriend them

Befriending the gatekeeper is a classic and it means being polite. Extra polite. Kind. Considerate. It means chatting it up a bit; learning their name and using it. A friendly and respectful tone and manner can sometimes provide you with an edge but it must be genuine. With a degree of persistence you can sometimes wear the gatekeeper down with niceness.

A variation on this theme is the ‘friendly bribe.” Be wise and be cautious. The gift should not be lavish. Usually it is something that can be shared by everyone in the office. A little box of truffles, a jar of candies or a bag of M&Ms can sweetened the moment and the gatekeeper might feel compelled to reciprocate and permit your call to go through. Time your call so that it arrives the same day (or the next) as your ‘offering.’

6. Beseech Them

Beseeching gatekeepers means acknowledging their expertise as screener and then ‘pleading your case.’ This tactic only comes after repeated attempts and you’re at your wits end. It’s like laying all your cards on the table and trusting that this gesture will appeal to their sense of fair play. For example,

“Okay Jenn, I give up! I think you are absolutely the best screener of calls that I have run into this year…maybe ever. And I respect what doing and why. But Jenn, we really do offer a profit builder than can do marvels for businesses like yours. We’ve worked with firms ABC and XYZ so we’re well known. I truly think this is something Mr. Bigguy would seriously consider. It’s very important to me and if you could see it in your heart to grant me five minutes, I would sincerely appreciate it.”

You can vary the words but what makes this tactic work is your tone. The first part requires your tone to convey a sense of humor and a sense of resignation. It must convey the ‘okay-you-win-and- this-is-my-last-gasp” quality to it. The second part must be absolutely sincere and convincing. When you say “we really do offer” they must hear that ring of authenticity and believability. Finally, there is an appeal Jenn’s sense of kindness and decency without lathering it on too heavily.

7. Sell to

The last tactic is to be used only with personal assistants and private secretaries who have been with the decision maker for years and years. These are gatekeepers who are extremely loyal to their bosses and extremely adept at all manner of tactics to get past them. In this circumstance, see these gatekeepers as the decision maker and ‘sell to them.’ For instance,

“Kelly, what if we do this: what if I send you the proposal that I have in mind for your company and what it could do for bottom line productivity and profits. You look it over. Review it in detail. Compile any questions you might have. Then I will call you back and get your take on it? How does that sound?”

Notice that the proposal will go to Kelly for review and comment. No one else. There is absolutely no mention of the boss. The rep will have Kelly assess it and will get Kelly’s thoughts. It’s all about Kelly.

Here’s the thing: by not referencing the boss or asking what the boss might think, the rep is acknowledging the power, prestige and business acumen of the personal assistance. Not only is it flattering, it is the wise and correct thing to do. Chances are Kelly knows precisely what the boss looks for and wants.

CRITICAL POINT: this tactic is very, very rare. Maybe only 1% of the time will you use it. The reason is that it gets very easy to kid yourself that all gatekeepers have this power. The vast majority don’t. The danger is wasting a lot of time and effort sending proposals that never have a chance to succeed.

Summary

Gatekeepers are paid to manage the flow of calls. Respect them and never bully them. But YOU are paid to sell. It’s your job to get to decision makers to achieve that goal. Use these tactics to make your job easier and more effective.

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