Tag Archives: tele-prospecting

The Brutal Truth About Pre-Call Research and Planning

The following post is from my January 2013 newsletter  (Tele-Sales Vitamins).  It got a good deal of response from readers.  See what you think? Am I spot on or am I off the mark?  You tell me.

Pre-call research and planning prior to picking up the phone and calling the prospect or customer is a good thing, right?

Trainers, consultants and bosses laud the effort. They encourage it. Push it. We’re repeatedly told that taking the time to gather information about the client is a smart thing. We’re told we should carefully plan the call to ensure it’s success.  All in all, this pre-work  helps us position ourselves as ‘consultative.’ It helps give us a competitive edge.  Makes us more money. So it’s a slam dunk activity, right?

Or is it?

While it may seem counter-intuitive, less research and planning may actually be more effective than more and may actually lead to more sales and revenues!

The 2 Perils of Pre-Call Research and Planning

There are a couple of perils that can be associated with too much research and planning.  The first is that it gets awfully easy to go overboard with these tasks. What can happen is that more time is spent on pre-call activities than on picking up the phone and making the call. This impacts productivity, not to mention the opportunity cost. When you spend too much time in researching and planning, what are you giving up? Ultimately you may be sacrificing more opportunities to sell or generate leads because you’re dialing less.

Pre-call research and planning can be (and often is) a form a procrastination. Think about it: it’s much easier and far less risky to browse the internet or leaf through newspapers, or review old files or study past notes or analyze company reports than it is to telephone the client.  Calling clients can lead to rejection and discouragement so we convince ourselves that if we research longer and harder we’ll minimize the chance of the customer or prospect terminating  the call. What makes it even worse is that all this pre-work can give you a false sense of ‘doing.’ It becomes seductively easy to persuade yourself that you’re achieving things.

The other peril is that developing a detailed plan for your call (including composing an e-mail, editing it , changing it,  developing your telephone opener, your questioning sequence, etc. etc. etc.) can not only waste time it can sometimes make you too rigid and structured in your approach. It can impact your ability to be flexible and respond to the curve balls a client might throw at you.

The Case For Pre- Call Research and Planning 

On the other hand, blindly picking up the phone and winging it is a clear recipe for disaster too.

A certain degree of research can be extremely effective in getting your foot in the door and giving you a competitive edge. It can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Similarly, planning the overall strategy and structure of your call gives you clear direction and greater focus. Jotting down your objectives, laying out your opening statement, making a list of key questions and having a list of key selling points is a wise course of action… provided you don’t go overboard.  (Go here for more information on how Mr. Spock would plan his call)

5  Tips to Balancing Pre Call Research and Planning with Productivity

So what’s the answer? Of course, it’s all a matter of degree. Here’s a checklist for you (AND your manager) to use to determine the level and extent of your pre-call work. All of the items should be taken into account and evaluated collectively. No single item stands on it’s own.

1. The Value of the Sale

What’s the possible payoff? If the value of the potential sale is relatively high, take the time and conduct the necessary research and plan accordingly.

2. The Nature of the Sale

Is your sale simple or complex? If the sale is simple (i.e., one decision maker, low price, many competitive products in the marketplace, short sales cycle) not a lot of research and planning  is necessary. This is not say you should ignore doing some homework but at the end of the day, a minute or two is probably all that’s necessary.

If your sale is complex (i.e., multiple decision makers, higher price, longer sales cycle) more time should be devoted to the effort (with due consideration to the other points listed here).


3. The Prospect

Who are you calling? Are you calling a buyer in a large firm? If so, there’s not a lot you can do before picking up the phone. Buyers are usually paid to source the best value which usually means price.

Are you calling a top executive at a Fortune 500 company? If so, spend the time to scan a few sites and look for something on the individual and/or the company. But here too, it’s a matter of degree. Sometimes you can be searching for something that doesn’t exist. Consequently you search and search, and all the while, rationalize the waste time and effort.  Do this instead: check out Google Alerts and learn how the internet can work for you. Browse newspapers or journals or newsletters. But here’s the IMPORTANT thing: do that in evenings or early morning or over lunch so that it doesn’t interfere with your dialing effort. .

4. The Objective of the Call

What is the objective of the particular call you are making? If it’s to sell directly, then perhaps more time is necessary bearing in mind your prospect or customer, the nature of the sale and the value potential. On the other hand, if the call is to generate a lead or invite the client to a webinar or seminar, your research and planning might be toned down a bit.

5. Your Objectives and Results

Maybe this is the most important consideration. How well are you doing relative to your sales objectives? If you have high objectives and you’re not hitting them, maybe you need to spend more time in doing (making the calls) and less time in ‘doing other things.’ Sometimes you need to dive in and just make things happen. Sometimes – often- it is  a simple matter of elbow grease. Try discussing your situation with your manager (because, in all honesty, sometimes the problem is that reps flail about making calls without the least bit of thought, research and planning).

Summary

Look, I am all for preparation. It generates ‘smart’ selling. The amount of time YOU spend on pre-call activities is often a matter of common sense and utter honesty. Some calls require a good deal of research. Most don’t. So be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing all this pre-work in the legitimate quest to find something or simply because you’re procrastinating? Then act accordingly

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How Donald Trump Would Get Past Gatekeepers

If Donald Trump was an inside sales rep making cold calls to higher level executives he wouldn’t have the least bit of problem getting past a gatekeeper and reaching the decision maker. Here’s why:

Putting his famous name aside, “The Donald” would be successful because of the manner in which he would approach a gatekeeper.  If you’ve ever seen Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice” or on news clips, you’ve probably noticed he has a distinct air about him (to say the least).  Not only is he absolutely confident, he radiates a sense of assertiveness.  So, even if Trump called a business and did not use his name, you can bet that both his tone and his words would have a distinct ‘edge’- maybe even tension- to them.

Remember this:  on the telephone tone accounts for over 80% of the message and at a subconscious level, the poor receptionist or personal assistant would immediately sense that this man is not someone to quibble with; best to leave it to the boss.Donald Trump

The Trump Persona

You don’t have to be Donald Trump to get past the gatekeeper.  You only need to create a Trump persona. Act like the Donald would act. Behave like a billionaire would behave. Act like CEO would act. For instance,

Gatekeeper:    Good morning. ABC Corp. Can I help you?

Tele-Rep:         Rob Smith for Jim Jones. Put me through please.

Imagine the words being delivered in a quick, terse, and assertive manner. No mistaking this for a Mr.-Nice-Guy.  Notice the brevity.  Notice the directive nature:  ‘put me through.’  Trump tells, he doesn’t ask. The ‘please’ is perfunctory and has no real sincerity. The rep sounds like he’s busy, in a hurry and doesn’t want to debate the issue.  The suggestion in the tone is ‘don’t try your screening tactics on me.’ He sounds like a peer, a colleague, or an equal to Jones and the gatekeeper is more likely to put the call through without any further delay.

But suppose the gatekeeper mustards up another screen, here is your Trump-like reply,

Gatekeeper:    Where are you calling from?

Tele-Rep:         Nordstar.  Please connect me.

The reply is absolutely minimal. No elaboration. That’s what a busy executive like Trump would say.  Very clipped, too.  Notice, again, the directive tone (connect me please).  Let’s face it; it’s a thinly disguised order. The ‘please’ is a throwaway.  And, of course, the tone has a brash and brittle quality to it.

Theater of the Mind

Some might suggest that this technique is ‘mean’ and aggressive.  It is not. But it is assertive. The words are polite. There is nothing insulting or demeaning or abusive about them.  It is only the tone that suggests the caller is busy, in a hurry … and perhaps not tolerant.  It plays to the theater of the mind.  The gatekeeper gets a sense that this is not the person or the time to draw a line; better to take the safe route and not risk the caller’s annoyance.

But, let’s suppose the gatekeeper takes one more shot at screening the call.

Gatekeeper:    What’s this regarding?

Tele-rep:         Revenue generation and cash flow.  Would you put me through now?

Here again, the information provided by the rep is absolutely minimal but not withheld. He does not confess that he’s calling to set up an appointment.  The directive nature of the call is still evident but notice there is no ‘please’ attached to the phrase.  This slight shift in approach may alert the gatekeeper that maybe now is the time to pass the call through. The tone says it all. You don’t have to be rude; you simply need to maintain that steely manner.

Martha Stewart Works Too

If you’re a female, your persona might be Martha Stewart.  For the life of me, I can’t imagine Martha dancing about with a gatekeeper. Her manner would be exactly like Trump’s.

How to Make Trump Work for You

The fact of the matter is this: reaching decision makers is becoming more and more difficult as more and more companies turn to tele-prospecting to drum of leads, appointments and business.  You need an edge in today’s high level cold calling.  Differentiate yourself and give this technique a shot.

Once mastered, The Donald is extremely effective if only because it is not widely used. To make it work for you, practice it.  Rehearse it. Often. Master the nuances.  Like an actor you need to prepare for your role on stage.  This is precisely what this is: an act and a role.  Know your lines and deliver them well and you’ll get through more often.

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5 Steps on How to NOT Prolong the Agony of Cold Calling

I know that the sales reps I am coaching hate cold calling.

I know because they tell me at every opportunity.  They tell me about the worries, dreads and fears before they even pick up the phone and dial.

The REAL Problem with Cold Calling

This got me to thinking that the real problem with cold calling is not so much the cold calling itself but rather the thought of cold calling.

If you’re not a fan of cold calling you probably do what most callers do: you agonize about making the calls. You work yourself into a lathered frenzy and you delay the inevitable moment for as long as you can:

  • you check your e-mails,
  •  you read a short article in a newsletter,
  • you straighten your desk,
  • you check your e-mails again,
  •  you get your call guide out and ready
  • you decide a coffee is in order,
  • you need to make a fresh pot,
  • you chat with a colleague about some issue,
  •  you get back to your desk and resolve to pick up the phone
  •  but first you check your e-mail…
  • oh…look… something you can reply to.
  •  And so it goes.

Sound familiar?

You see what’s happening, right? You waste time, you spend energy, a sweat breaks out on your brow, and you fret.  In other words you prolong the agony. It wrecks your psyche and eats away at your resolve.  You sometimes –often?- don’t make your cold calls at all…

The Key is Momentum

But here’s the thing I have noticed when working with those who have to cold call.  Once you start dialing, once momentum is created, it’s not as bad as you thought it was.  Call it ‘resignation’ but you’ve surrendered to the moment the process of cold calling becomes more manageable than trying to manage the stress and worry of thinking about it.

And the best thing is, once you get it done, it’s over.  No more worries.  There is a fantastic sense of relief and accomplishment, isn’t there?

5 Steps to Avoid Prolonging the Agony

So the trick is avoid prolonging the agony and start making the calls before worry has a chance to take a firm hold of your resolve.  Here’s how to do it:

First, schedule your calling for the first thing in the morning. Get your cold calling done. Don’t let it hang over you like the sword of Damocles.   Make an appointment in your Outlook or other CRM. Put an alarm on it. Don’t be tempted with choices. Make the commitment. Schedule it for the entire week, like an exercise program.

Second, before you leave your office for the day, have your prospect list open on your computer (or on paper on your desk) ready to go.  If you can, put your computer into sleep mode so that you need only touch a button.  You don’t want to have to wait for the computer to warm up because that creates delay. Have at least 25 names prepared on a spreadsheet or whatever you use. You don’t want to be hunting around for names.

Third, have your call guide and job aids (or whatever you use) sitting in front of the computer ready to go.  Don’t bury them away so you have to search for them. Remember the agony that comes with prolonging the moment.

Fourth, when you arrive in the morning boldly go to your desk, sit down, touch the key to access your list, and boldly dial the first number on your list of 25.  Dive in.  Don’t chat with friends, don’t grab that coffee, and for heaven’s sake don’t check your e-mails. They’ll be there when you finish making your calls. Make that first dial.  You’ll be glad you did.

Fifth, go through your list of twenty five prospects.  Don’t stop at all until you’ve gone through the entire list.  At that point you can decide if you want or need to continue dialling, take a break or move on to something else.

The Relief

Regardless of what you do, you’ll have already done something! The heavy lifting has been started or has been completed. What a relief. Hallelujah! The rest of your day by comparison is a walk in the park.

Do you know what you’ve done here? You created momentum and spent your time and energy on getting the task done instead of fretting about it.  You’ll feel good. Real good.  And the added bonus is you’ll start picking up leads and sales here and there.

Don’t prolong the agony. Hunker down. Do it.

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Controlling Your Sales Destiny – Tip #10: A Propensity for Action

This is the tenth in a series of posts about taking control of your sales destiny and achieving sales success.

Tip #10: Propensity for Action

Perhaps the single biggest issue that sales reps face when it comes to controlling their sales destiny is the failure to ‘execute’ or execute consistently.

Put another way, they fail to consistently take effective action on those tasks and activities that have the most significant impact on their sales. Or put yet another way, they have the tendency to procrastinate on key priorities.  For instance, active and ongoing tele-prospecting (business development, cold calling …whatever you want to label it) is often a task that is delayed or whittled because it is not always pleasant.  Yet we all know how important and vital it is to success.

So, here’s the moment of truth: are you guilty? Some of the time? Often?

The Thick of Thin Things

You see the problem is it gets easy to get caught up in the thick of thin things.  It gets easy to clear up our e-mails instead of picking up the phone and calling a prospect.  It is so much more rewarding to surf the net to do ‘research’ on a prospect rather than call that prospect.  You know precisely what I mean, don’t you?

Not surprisingly, 80% of your success in sales will come from about 20% of all your daily activities.  At the top of the list are actions like: cold calling, following up on leads, actively up selling and cross selling, developing relationships and selling to existing clients, gathering referrals and a few others.

Successful reps – the top of the heap reps- have a propensity for action. They do it! They clearly know their priorities and they make the habit of acting on them.  They know that if they act on these important activities and do nothing else, then they’ll succeed.  In fact, an average sales person who has clearly established his/her sales priorities and who gets important tasks done that relate to those priorities will run rings around everyone else.  The point is: you don’t have to be a genius if you act and act wisely.

Actions

Do you have a propensity for action? Here are four actions to get you going:

Action #1:  Identify the top 3-5 priorities in your selling day.  These are those important, sales building and sales sustaining activities that will produce consistent sales results. (e.g., prospecting … I know…you’ve heard it before). Do it right now!

Action #2:  Commit to those priorities by scheduling precisely when you’ll do them.  Block out chunks of time.  Tip: the action that you dislike the most should be done first.  Get it over with. Schedule these activities for the next four weeks. Put them in your Outlook or CRM or whatever you use.  Just do it.  Like, now.

Action #3:  Discipline yourself to follow your plan.  Resist the urge to do something less important or trivial.  CHOOSE.

Action #4: Pause and think. Throughout the day ask yourself, “is what I am working on truly contributing to my sales destiny?” If not, consider what you should be doing.

Summary

Remember this: propensity for action doesn’t mean scurrying about looking busy.  Looking busy doesn’t buy you diddly squat.  It means definitive action of those items that are significant and important.

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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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5 Ways to be Horrible at Cold Calling

by Michael Scott, www.invokeselling.com
The idea that you can pick up the phone, talk to the owner of a company you’ve never spoken with before, set a meeting and get his business is one of the most exciting things I do as a sales person.  The problem is – so many salespeople are just really bad at it, and it is a vicious cycle.  They think they are bad, so they are bad, then they hate doing it and they get no results. Sales consulting companies then feast on “never cold call again” campaigns because this is what some salespeople want to hear.  The fact of it is, cold calling is an integral part of any sales cook book to meet your goals.  If you are choosing to not cold call, you are making a big mistake.

Here are 5 items that make people bad at cold calling which wrongfully convinces themselves that cold calling does not work:

1) Say “Hi this is Jon Dough with abc company, can I talk to your head of operations?”

2) Leave a voice mail

3) Use a script

4) Use a gimmick like “Hi Jon, I’m calling for the appointment I set with you”

5) Sound “Salesy”

We will be coming out with articles on how you can be successful at cold calling and make a dedicated effort to utilize this tool as part of your sales plan to increase business.

For more great articles visit www.invokeselling.com

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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 Top 10 Things Every Field Rep Should Know About Tele-Prospecting

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 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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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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The 5 Voice Mail Messages From Hell – Are you Guilty of One of These?

Here’s the bad news:The overwhelming majority of voice mails are not returned simply because they’re lousy. Period. Worse, every tele-sales rep is leaving the same tired and worn message over and over again. It is little wonder that your prospect erases your voice mail with 10-20 seconds.

Before you can leave a killer voice mail message it is important to know what prospects despise about the prospecting messages they receive.  By knowing what to avoid, it is easier to craft a compelling and intriguing message. Here are the five most annoying voice mail messages.

# 1 The Vomit

The vomit message is one where the sales rep throws up virtually everything about his company, services, results, unique selling propositions, success stories- you name it – in the hope  that something will ‘stick.’  Your busy prospects has neither the time nor the inclination to listen to your speech. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Stop the vomit,

#2 The Bland

The bland message is one that a rep has left for the last 23 prospects  It sounds tired, fatigued and ‘read.’ It screams, “I hate doing this and what’s the point?” With over 85% of your message delivered by the tone of you voice, this message will never inspire a return call.

# 3 The Race

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the ‘race’ message where the telephone rep zips through his script. Rushed and irritated because leaving messages has not produced a single call, this sales rep is simply going through the motions and getting the task over with.  Meanwhile, the prospect picks up every single annoying nuance and just as quickly deletes the message.

#4 The Cheesy

Cheesy messages use hype and exaggeration hoping to entice a return call,   “Hi Amybeth, this is Jim Day calling from ABC Recruiters. Amybeth, if I could reduce turnover by 20% or more a year, would you take a moment to call me back?”  Gag! While ‘benefit oriented’ cheesy messages NEVER get returned because the prospect knows perfectly well that results like that will never happen even  if  Jupiter is aligned with Mars. What they hear is “slick” and untrustworthy.

#5 The Incompetent

Sadly, the majority of messages are delivered incompetently due to a lack of preparation and practice. These message are filled with ‘ums…” and  “ahss…”; repeated phrases; stuttering; throat clearing; disjointed thoughts; poor grammar. You get the picture.

So…are you guilty of one of leaving one of these messages?

If so, go to the “voice mail” category on this blog and get some tips on how to leave a good voice mail message.

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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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