Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 14, 2015

The “Prospecting” Disease

During my three decades in the sales industry I’ve worked with, met, coached, and observed thousands of sellers from a multitude of industries.  They’ve been new and experienced, inside and outside sellers, big ticket and small, specialized products and services as well as common, commodity products, some very successful and a great many barely holding their own or failing.

Some have been hail fellow well met types, others have been shy introverts.  Some pound the phones, others pound the pavement.  Some are highly attuned to technology, others can barely turn their cell phone on.  Some like to hit the office or the road early, others prefer to work late, a few do both.

But with rare exceptions they all have one thing in common—they’re busy.

They’re all doing stuff.

And a great deal of the time when you ask them what they’re doing they tell you they’re prospecting.

They’re busy trying to find business.  They’re focused on getting a contract in the door and getting paid.

Some, not the majority by any means, are very successful.  Most are not.

So the natural question is what’s the difference?  Why are a few really good at finding prospects and brining in business and most aren’t?

Turns out that most of the time the answer is really pretty simple.

The successful sellers spend their time prospecting.

The majority are simply infected with the disease of “prospecting,” that is, the illusion that what they are doing is prospecting when in reality it is nothing more than busy work to keep them from having to do the tough work of actually prospecting.

These unsuccessful sellers can show lists of several hundred names and phone numbers they have spent hours and hours researching that they have on a call list—a few dozen will have check marks beside them, even fewer will be scratched through.  They can show stacks of fliers and letters they have mailed out.  They can produce a list of networking events they have attended over the past couple of months.  They can produce a passel of emails they have sent out.  They may even have their business card pinned to every corkboard in every restaurant, laundromat, and other business that has a board to display customer’s cards.

Certainly they’ve been busy; no doubt about that.  The problem is although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been “prospecting”—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, making a phone call here and there—and increasingly spending more and more time “connecting’ with prospects via social media, tweeting and updating their facebook page and searching LinkedIn for any warm body that might be a prospect to try to connect with.  They confuse preparatory and busy work for prospecting, with the actual activity of interacting with a qualified prospect.

Although they spend a great deal of time doing busy work, they spend very little time actually prospecting.  They “feel” they are always prospecting, but in reality they are always finding ways not to prospect by spending their time preparing to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity isn’t the activity that will produce business; instead, it is the activity that makes them feel good, feel productive, allowing them to convince themselves that they are being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity—after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed.  But activity alone is fruitless.  Activity for activity’s sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

Prospecting isn’t preparation to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t simply being busy all of the time.  Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting and interacting with qualified prospects.

If you cold call, that means being on the phone, not getting ready to get on the phone.  If you network, it means actually being in front of and meeting prospects or garnering introductions to prospects from referral partners, not researching events or even spending time at non-qualified events where you’ll meet few, if any, prospects, or spending your time at the event hanging with friends and co-workers.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has.

As salespeople we have three very basic duties—finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale. 

Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn’t make a sale, doesn’t generate income, and doesn’t move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not.  If it isn’t directly producing income, does it really need to be done?  If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale.

To succeed you need to spend your time prospecting.  Getting infected with the “prospecting” disease where you “feel” you’re prospecting but in reality are finding ways to keep from having to prospect is a career killer.

October 7, 2012

Guest Article: “V + E = RESULTS,” by Daniel Frances

Filed under: cold calling,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 5:57 pm
Tags: ,

V + E = RESULTS
by Daniel Francès 

Some of you reading this blog may have an immediate recollection at the mention of the letters “V” and “E” because they have long been associated with V-E Day: Victory in Europe Day, hearkening back to World War II. A little before my time, granted, but the annual remembrance celebrations certainly did not escape my attention, especially growing up in Holland. However, I would like to take the liberty of making some new associations for “V” and “E”, with all due respect still accruing to VE Day and all it stands for!

VISUALIZE! EMPATHIZE! These two words, these two actions are imperative to Cold Calling success. Master the technique and use them together, and they will gift you with a Cold Call strategy that simply does not fail.

Man has been gifted with imagination. Cold callers need to use it! Creativity counts in so many ways when you are seeking to get beyond the gatekeeper and into the CEO or manager’s office. The truth is, it is uncanny how much of a difference it will make if you learn to use your imagination to Visualize your potential client in your mind before you pick up that phone.

If there is one trick, one surefire method I have learned through my own experience, it is this: Visualize the client before you call. I kid you not, I constantly practice and teach visualization. It has helped me become the Cold Call Expert.

You may be thinking, “What does this guy mean, visualize the client? Does it really matter what the guy looks like?” Not really in the big scheme of things, we all come in our own unique packages, but imagining what that potential client looks like is absolutely crucial to your Cold Calling success.

Try it. Sit back, close your eyes, and banish those nagging doubts. Is he a big guy or thin as a whip? Dark-haired or distinguished and grey? What’s he wearing today? Three-piece suit straight off the cover of GQ or khakis and an open-neck shirt? What’s his office look like? If he is drinking a cup of coffee, is it espresso or instant (poor guy)? When he talks to you on the phone, is he sitting back looking out the window too, or is he hunched over the desk, maybe just a tad impatient?

Now picture yourself sitting across the desk from him, looking around. What are you going to say to him to break the ice? This is where your investment in a little pre-Cold-Call research comes into play: What do you already know about his education, work history, family, or organizational affiliations? How are you going to connect?

Everyone responds differently when meeting someone in person as opposed to over the phone, especially on the first call. The interaction of meeting someone face to face is almost always warmer, friendlier, more open and receptive. Visualization helps you capture some of that warmth and transmit it to your potential client over the phone. The perceived distance between you will become tangibly “closer” if you visualize the person effectively. Even if your mental image ultimately proves to be totally off base, the genuine energy you convey to him will not be, and he will feel it and respond in kind.

Train yourself to visualize your potential client in your mind’s eye.  Understand and embrace WHO he is. This is the bottom line of every Cold Call I have ever made. The effectiveness of your Cold Call will weigh heavily on how sincerely you can empathize with your potential client, and to empathize on a Cold Call, you need to be able to relate to him when you don’t actually know him. If you visualize and empathize before you call, the second your ears pick up any telltale inflection in the client’s voice, you will already be well on your way to knowing the best way to respond, what to ask, say, or offer.

I would never advise any aspiring Cold Callers to limit themselves to improvement in only one area, but if I had to choose, visualization and empathy is the winning combo, without question. When you feel you “already know him”, even if your mental image is totally inaccurate, the positive energy of the feeling of connection that you transmit in your voice and words over the phone will bring the results you seek, and do it amazingly fast.

Daniel Frances is CEO of The Cold Call Company and author of The Cold Call Bible. 

March 31, 2011

Book Review: The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts by Mike Brooks

Almost everything in selling can be controversial.  Does cold calling work or not?  What’s the best sales process to use?  Should you even use a sales process?  Are referrals and word of mouth marketing related or are they totally unrelated marketing concepts?  Is the way buyers buy changing?  Are salespeople becoming irrelevant?

I could name dozens of other areas where there’s currently debate occurring.

I’m dealing with one of those areas today: using scripts.. 

Do you think scripts are useful and necessary?  

Do you think scripts create a “canned” presentation that is hokey and makes the salesperson come across as amateurish and unprofessional?

Although there are many who subscribe to the latter—that scripts are unprofessional and do more harm than good–the fact is that we all use scripts, even the most ardent anti-script arguers use scripts. 

What is a script?  A script is nothing more than a standardized presentation or answer.  A script can be written and memorized but that certainly isn’t necessary.  If I start every cold call I make with, “Hi, Ms. Prospect, I’m Paul McCord with McCord Training,” I’m using a standardized script, whether I’ve committed those words to writing or not. 

If I always answer a price objection early in the sale with, “I understand that cost is important.  The investment can range anywhere from a low of X to XX or more, depending upon your needs which at this point we haven’t discussed.  What would you say is your sales teams most pressing issue?”  Again, I’m using a standardized script whether I’ve put that answer to the objection in writing or not. 

A script is simply the standard wording we’ve developed to make our presentations and to answer the questions we are asked on a regular basis. 

So the question isn’t whether or not we use scripts, the question is does it make sense to think through our standard presentations and the typical questions and objections we get and develop well thought-out words to address them? 

If we don’t have a well thought-out script, we’re using an off the cuff script.  Either way we’re using a script.

Unfortunately, creating a high impact, effective script isn’t easy.  Rather than spending a great amount of time and frustration with a hit or miss script that you have to constantly refine until, if you’re lucky, you get it right, why not get professional help upfront?

Mike Brooks has just released The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts (Sales Gravy Press: 2011), the book that will help you construct the scripts you’ll need to handle your phone and non-phone presentations and overcoming objections.

Brooks will help you create well thought-out wording that will help you:

  • Overcome initial objections like, “We’re not interested” and “I’m too busy,” and “We  already have a company/supplier for that,” and many, many more;
  • Learn how to build crucial rapport in the first 5 seconds;
  • Connect with gatekeepers and getting through to the decision maker;
  • Know what to do and what NOT to do when prospecting and qualifying;
  • Deal with smokescreen objections like “The price is too high”;
  • Get your prospects to return your emails and voice mails;
  • Overcome common objections like, “We just need to think about it,” and “I can get it for less money,” and many more. 

Let’s face it – you get the same objections 90% of the time, so why not be prepared in advance with the absolute best scripts and techniques that really work.  Brooks’ scripts are focused on helping you connect with and engage your prospects instead of talking and pitching at them. 

As a bonus, Brooks has a special section to help overcome common objections for mortgage brokers, insurance agents, Realtors, and credit card processing salespeople.  Even if your product or service isn’t included in the “Top 10 Objections” section, reviewing how the specific industry objections are addressed will help you develop answers to the objections you constantly run across.

If you sell, The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts has something for you.—no matter your experience level.  Buy it and then spend some time crafting your scripts—you’ll find that making the phone calls and overcoming objections becomes a lot easier and lot more enjoyable.

March 30, 2010

Get a Hit Everytime You Go To Bat on the Phone

Do you use the phone to connect with potential clients?

Would you like to eliminate fear and rejection from your prospecting and get a win on every call?

You can with Art Sobczak’s Smart Calling method. In Smart Calling – Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling, Art gives you the field-tested, practical information you need to make your calls work.

Packed with hundreds of real-world examples, Smart Calling shows you how to:

— Grab your prospect’s interest in critical first 20 seconds;

— Use “social engineering” to get the inside scoop on prospects;

— Have screeners, gatekeepers, and assistants working for you;

— Stay motivated and avoid morale-killing rejection!

Nobody likes cold calling, and for good reason. Most of the time, cold calls don’t work and end up wasting everyone’s time. Smart Calling gives you a better way to approach prospects and win sales. Order today and start Smart Calling.

Order you copy today and you’ll get several hundred dollars worth of bonuses from great thought leaders such as Keith Rosen, Dan Seidman, Jill Konrath, Kelley Robertson, myself and many others.  You get Art’s great book and a ton of other great ebooks and other incentives for only the cost of Art’s book which is less than $15!

Receive instant access to special bonus gifts from leading business experts when you order today.

Check out Smart Calling now.

February 26, 2010

The Sales Winner’s Handbook–Sharpen Your Phone Skills, Increase Your Sales

If you’re familiar with my work you know I’m not a big fan of cold calling—but you also know that I fully understand that there are great prospects we all have that we just can’t reach any other way.  Whether we like it or not, we have to pick up the phone and make some calls.

The problem is most of us just aren’t very skilled in using the phone to prospect.  Sure, we set an appointment here and one there, but we’re wasting so much time.  It costs us a fortune in time and energy—and lost sales possibilities.

Fortunately, my friend, Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling, has just completed The Sales Winner’s Handbook. This new book gives you tools you need to turn the phone into a REAL, effective sales tool that make using the phone profitable.

http://www.salesdog.com/the_sales_winners_handbook.html

You’ll learn how to break free of old habits and discover proven ways to close more sales. You’ll never work the same way again!

Here’s just some of what you will learn:

— How to engage buyers in conversations that close sales

— Surefire ways to beat the price objection

— How to increase your sales by simply changing a few words

— Proven ways to whiz past gatekeepers

— Ways to grab your prospect’s interest in 15 seconds or less

— Secrets to voicemail messages that have prospects calling you 

 The quickest and most certain way to get your phone skills into high gear is to use these secrets.

The Sales Winner’s Handbook gives you 20 fast-moving chapters that will have you selling more in no time. You get 48 scripts you can use over the phone to set appointments, overcome objections and close. You also get 12 real-life example scripts to see it in action, and 103 questions you can use to qualify prospects, gather information, gain agreement, justify your price and close the deal.

Take a few moments to learn more at http://www.salesdog.com/the_sales_winners_handbook.html. You’ll be glad you did.

October 5, 2009

Can B2B Salespeople Succeed Without Cold Calling?

Filed under: cold calling,prospecting,sales,Sales Failure,selling — Paul McCord @ 9:12 am
Tags: , , ,

A couple of months ago I was on a Roundtable discussion with Wendy Weiss, Nancy Solomon, Tibor Shanto and Jonathan Farrington over at the Top Sales Experts when the question arose as to whether business-to-business salespeople can be successful without cold calling.

My answer at that time—and still my answer today—is that of course sellers can be successful without cold calling, just as they can be successful without generating referrals or networking within their target market industry associations or consistently connecting with their prospects and clients through a disciplined communication program or by eliminating any given element of a strong, well defined business generation plan.  There’s nothing magical about any individual prospecting method.  They all work to one extent or another depending on how much time and effort the seller commits to learning and perfecting the particular method.

But I think the question that was asked really isn’t the right question.  It isn’t a matter of can one succeed without cold calling (or generating referrals or networking where one’s prospects congregate), but rather why would one try to succeed without taking advantage of all of these proven strategies?

Now frankly, I’m not a big fan of cold calling in its most basic sense of “smiling and dialing.”  I think there are far more effective phone strategies for business-to-business salespeople.  But whether one uses the issue discovery strategy I use and teach or just picks up a list and starts dialing, the phone should be an integral part of how we connect with our prospects. 

My business is built primarily on referrals, strategic networking, and using various media to connect with prospects.  I’ve been very successful at using these strategies to connect with and meet some of my best prospects.  Referrals and networking allow me to meet a great number of specific prospects I know I want to reach and using media such as books, articles, giving speeches and presentations, and being quoted as an expert in business and industry publications has brought many great prospects to me.

But no matter how good at generating referrals I am or how much time I invest in networking where I know a large number of great prospects will be or how many prospects my use of media cause to call me, there are still great prospects out there that I just can’t reach any other way than picking up the phone.  I’m willing to bet you’re in exactly the same situation as I am.

During my three decades in sales, sales management, and consulting/training, I’ve met thousands of sellers who would rather commit murder than pick up the phone and call a total stranger.  The fear of calling someone with the intent of setting an appointment is so overwhelming for some salespeople that they would rather fail in sales than pick up the phone.

The fear is real, just as the fear of public speaking is real.  But just as you can overcome the fear of speaking in public, you can learn to master your fear of using the phone to prospect.

Although you can be a successful seller without using the phone to connect with strangers, you’re asking to succeed the hard way and you’re putting yourself at needless risk.  The cold hard fact of the matter is that you can succeed without using the phone but you’re far more likely to fail than to succeed.

If you were in a fight for your life would you volunteer to have one of your hands tied behind your back?  Of course you wouldn’t.  No one would handicap themselves in such a manner when their life was at stake.  So why would you handicap yourself by caving into your fear of connecting over the phone when your business life is at stake?  Why would you volunteer to tie one of your hands behind your back and invite disaster?

We sellers have two primary ways to conquer our fear of using the phone:

The Nike “Just do it” method:  Easy to say, hard to do.  Just do it.  Just pick up the phone and start dialing.  This is the preferred method of many companies and managers—it doesn’t cost the company anything and being tough and doing what you know “needs to be done” is what “professionals” do.  Not surprisingly it doesn’t work very often.

Building Confidence and Skills:  Where the Nike method requires little, this strategy requires a great deal.  It requires an investment of time and energy—and more than likely money—to learn and perfect the skills necessary to confidently pick up the phone and begin connecting with quality prospects.  The salesperson or company will most likely have to invest in a trainer and coach to help the seller learn the required skills.   The seller will have to invest the time and effort to learn, to practice, to screw up, and to be coached.  But as the lessons are learned, the confidence increases and as the confidence increases, the phone becomes a tool that can be conquered, not feared.

If you insist on ignoring the phone as a way to connect with prospects, good luck.  Many sellers have succeeded without the phone.  Far, far, far more have failed.  It’s your choice, but why would you want to substantially increase your chances of failure?  The phone may never become your friend, but it doesn’t have to be your enemy.  If your company won’t invest in helping you learn how to master the phone, invest in yourself.  Your bank account, your career, and your family will be glad you did.

September 29, 2009

Questions, Objections, or Dead Ends?

How do you handle cold calls when you get them at home or the office?  Although I haven’t bought anything from anyone who initiated their contact with me through a cold call in years and years, I accept almost every cold call that comes into my office.  No, I have no intention of purchasing whatever the product or service they are selling is, but I’m curious to find out how the seller on the phone is going to try to gain my attention and what they will do with it once they have it.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how many sellers seem to be unable to distinguish between a question, an objection, and a statement ending the conversation.

My observation from dealing with hundreds of sellers on the phone—and please don’t assume this is a cold caller issue alone as a great many sellers make these mistakes whether on the phone or in-person although they seem to be more prevalent in phone conversations—is they cannot distinguish between a straightforward question about their product or service, an objection to purchasing, and a direct statement ending the conversation.

This doesn’t mean that all sellers handle these situations in the same manner, but there does seem to be two primary schools of thought—two primary reactions—in how to deal with questions, objections, and conversation ending statements.

The “OK, I’m outta here” school:  The first method of handling these situations seems to be to simply fold up the selling tent and end the sales interview immediately upon getting what is perceived to be any resistance what-so-ever. 

Ask a couple of honest questions about the product or service and the seller seems to become discouraged and simply gives up.  State an objection to purchasing and they are ready to get off the phone.  Make a direct statement indicating you want to end the conversation and they can’t get off the phone fast enough.

They do not differentiate between probing questions to discover more information about their offering, an objection to making a purchase that could possibly be dealt with, and a desire to end the sales interview.  To them, they all indicate resistance and resistance means “no sale.”

The “I can’t hear you” school:  The opposite method of handling these situations is to also treat them all the same, but this time instead of rolling over and giving up, the seller presses on, ignoring the questions, ignoring the statements, forcing the prospect to either acquiesce to the sale or to finally hang up on the caller.

These are the sellers who have been trained that a ‘no’ never means no.  An objection is something to be ignored because it is nothing but a delaying tactic.  A statement seeking to end the conversation is nothing but an objection and objections are to be ignored because they are nothing but delaying tactics.  If you’re a really a good salesperson, you ‘lead’ the prospect to make the decision that is right for them, which is, of course, to make the purchase.

Why are these sellers so oblivious to the obvious differences between a question an objection and a desire to end the conversation?  Why do some see everything as resistance and others never see resistance?

Certainly, a great deal of this has to do with the sales training—or lack thereof—these sellers have received. 

Those who give up easily have probably had little or no sales training.  Product training, maybe; but I doubt they’ve had much training in how to sell.

Those who push forward no matter what have been trained very well—trained to ignore, to push, to bully, to demand until the prospect either buys or finds a way to end the conversation which probably means resorting to cussing out the seller or hanging up on them.  These sellers have been taught well in the sense that their trainers have instilled the desired behavior in them, but they certainly haven’t been taught to be professional sellers.

I think both of these groups of sellers suffer from more than just their training or lack thereof.  I think there are a number of sellers that suffer from a serious lack of communication skills.  They don’t listen.  They can’t assimilate what the prospect is communicating.  They really don’t know how to respond to what they perceive to be unwelcome or unexpected responses. Their focus is only on getting the sale which means for some what they say is the only thing of importance, what the prospect says is nothing but a distraction; while for others once they’ve made their case, they have nowhere else to go.

Communication has always been at the heart of selling and is becoming ever more critical as our prospects have more and more alternatives to acquire the information and guidance they need to analyze their problems and issues and to develop solutions to those problems and issues.  Our prospects now have as much information at their fingertips as we sellers can ever provide them.  An increasing number are deciding they don’t need a salesperson at all—ever.

If we sellers want to be relevant to prospects, we better learn the communication skills that have always been one of the hallmarks of the top sellers.

August 14, 2009

Recession Buster Webinar

Recession Buster Webinar

4  Tremendously Powerful Strategies

4  One and half hour Sessions

1  Session Everyday for 4 Days

Monday, September 28 through Thursday, October 1

Each day from 3 PM to 4:30 PM Central Time (4PM to 5:30 PM Eastern; 2PM to 3:30 PM Mountain: 1PM to 2:30PM Pacific)

4 of the Most Powerful Strategies to Find and Connect with Quality Prospects:

Monday, September 28
The PWWR Referral Generation System

You’ll Learn:

^ Why what you’ve been taught about referrals doesn’t work
^ How to work with your client to generate a large number of great referrals
^ How to guarantee you get at least four great referrals from every client
^ How to continue to get great referrals from every client every year

 

Tuesday, September 29
The Best Damn Networking Process There Is, Period

You’ll Learn:

^ Why networking at the Chamber meeting or at the leads breakfast group never
seems to pay off
^ Where to spend you time that will really pay off
^ How to create and execute a realistic, profitable, business producing networking strategy
^ How to work a networking room to maximize your time and create relationships with prospects fast
^ How to set a telephone or in-person meeting with every person you want at a networking event

 

Wednesday, September 30
Never a Cold Call, Always an Introduction

You’ll Learn:

^ Why decision makers hate cold calls
^ Why calling and fishing for a reason to meet with a prospect will get you nowhere
^ How to discover REAL issues your prospect has that you KNOW you can help solve
^ How to guarantee you get past gatekeepers and get voice mails returned without being deceptive, evasive, or lying
^ How to make using the phone to prospect far more enjoyable and productive for both you and your prospects
^ How to make more money by spending less time on the phone

 

Thursday, October 1
Get the Phone to Ring: Become the Expert

You’ll Learn:

^ Why if you don’t have the reputation and image of an expert you’re losing and will continue to lose in the marketplace
^ What it means to be an expert
^ How to use the tools at your disposal to CREATE your image and reputation as an expert in your field targeted to your specific market
^ How to totally eliminate price as an issue
^ How to get your phone to ring with people who want to work with you and only you

 Who Should Attend?

The Recession Buster webinar is designed for anyone who sells in a relationship driven environment such as:

^ Business to Business sellers

^ Professionals: attorney, accountants, architects, financial planners, consultants

^ Business to consumer services such as financial services, personal services, realtors, travel agents, etc.

Whether you are struggling to establish your sales practice or you’re established and simply seek to add more business–or maybe the recession has really devastated your current client base, this webinar will help drive your business to new heights.

These aren’t the same old worn out “strategies” you expect to hear. You’re not going to hear some worthless drivel like “ask for referrals,” or “tell everyone you meet what you do,” or “set a goal to make 50 dials a day and you’ll succeed.”

You know and I know, that’s crap. That’s the same old junk you hear from every “trainer” who doesn’t have anything of value to say.

You don’t need some worn-out, worthless piece of advice, you need real, workable, proven strategies to find and connect with quality clients.

That’s what you get in the Recession Buster webinar.

Four real strategies that work. That produce results. That will get you business.

Why four strategies over four days? Wouldn’t it be easier to just lay out the one best strategy in one session?

It would certainly be easier on everybody involved. It takes commitment to take time out four days in a row.

True. But there isn’t one single “best way” to generate business. We have to have a business building matrix that gives us several avenues with which to connect with prospects. And in today’s marketplace where more and more prospects are rejecting the traditional methods sellers have used to connect with them, we need several ways to find and connect with them that they’ll accept, respect, and respond to.

That’s the power of the Recession Buster webinar
 

Early Registration Until September 10

1 to 4 attendees only $199.00 per person

5 or more attendees only $159.00 per person

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Afraid you can’t make the session each day? 
Don’t worry.  Each session will be recorded and within 24 hours of the end of the session each attendee will receive a link to the recording.  Whether you missed the session or just want to hear it again, you’ve got it at your fingertips to listen to when you want.

June 5, 2009

Boost Your Sales Series: “Turn Your Cold Calls into Welcome Introductions,” by Paul McCord

Here’s the last article for the “Using the Phone to Generate Business” week.  It’s my contribution about the process I use to connect with prospects via the phone.  I never make cold calls, but I speak with a lot of decision makers I’ve never interacted with before.  This is how I turn what would be a cold call into a referred introduction.

Next week we’ll deal with Successful Networking.  First up will be The Sales Hunter–Mark Hunter; Tuesday bring in Andrea Sittig-Rolf; on Wednesday it will be Jonathan Farrington’s turn; Thursday I’ll introduce you to Will Kintish; and then Friday, as always, it will be my turn to tackle networking.

Come back everyday to get your daily dose of great, actionable sales and management guidance and discussions.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–Never a Cold Call, Always an Introduction
By Paul McCord

Are you a business-to-buisness seller who must use the phone to generate buisness and who is frustrated with amount of time you must spend, the number of calls you must place just to get a single appointment?  I feel your pain.

Are you tired of trying to find ways around the gate keeper, create voice mail messages that will be returned, and find a way to capture and keep your prospect’s attention?  Again, I feel your pain.

I’m a salesman, too.  I sell sales training, management consulting, coaching and speaking presentations.  My clients are companies, individual salespeople, business owners, and business and industry associations.

I prospect.  I have to if I want to stay in business.  I, like every other seller, am constantly looking for potential new business.

I also market my services and myself.  I have to invest a significant amount of my time and effort in getting my message out to potential clients.  The marketing I engage in takes many forms–from writing articles to giving interviews to writing newsletters to attending events and functions to networking and seeking referrals.

In other words, my business is exactly like yours.  I engage in the same activities you do.  I face the same obstacles, the same setbacks, the same disappointments, and enjoy the same victories. 

Whether you sell insurance, parking lot maintenance, copiers, communication systems, or the most sophisticated computer networks, business-to-business selling is in its essence the same for all of us.  The details are different.  The process may be vastly different.  The sales cycle may be months or even years apart.  But the basic essence is the same, and the most basic is you have to have a prospect that will accept your efforts to connect with them.

Like almost every other seller, I must use the phone to connect with some of those prospects.  Nevertheless, I refuse to make cold calls.  In my opinion, there is hardly a more worthless use of my time and energy than cold calling.  Cold calling is time consuming for the sellerCo and it immediately signifies to the recipient of the call that the person making the call isn’t an expert in their field because most prospects assume that true experts aren’t sitting at a desk pounding the phone.

Yet, that creates a dilemma for me—there are prospects I can’t find a way to reach without picking up the phone and calling them.  Despite being a strong advocate of referral selling, networking, developing referral partnerships, and using PR to create interest and get prospects to pick up the phone, those methods, no matter how expertly I implement them, just can’t get me to every possible prospect that I’m interested in reaching.

Not having a way to connect through other means and refusing to cold call presents a serious problem.

Fortunately, there is a solution that allows me to NEVER make a cold call and still call prospects that I’ve never interacted with before.  In fact, it always allows me to begin establishing a relationship with almost every prospect I connect with that I can expand and nurture over time.  In addition, this simple method allows me to gather a wealth of information about the company, their needs, their plans, and in many cases, key information about the person I’m about to speak to before I ever make the call.  Before I call, I know whom I’m calling, why I’m calling, and I have a very good idea of where the conversation will be going. 

And if my prospect doesn’t answer the phone, I almost always get a return call from the voice mail I leave.

What is the incredible system I use?

Actually, it is so simple and so obvious I almost hate to admit it.  But it works.  It takes the pressure off me, as well as off the prospect.  When I call, I’m simply doing follow-up work, fulfilling my obligation to one or more of the prospect’s employees.

Once I’ve identified a company to approach about any of my services, I do my homework.  I call three or four of the company’s salespeople (remember my prodict– I’m selling sales training and consulting).  My hope is to speak to a salesperson that has been with the company for only a short time, to another who is an old hand with the company, and one who is a top producer. 

When I speak to these individuals, I am upfront with the purpose of my call.  I let them know who I am, why I’m calling them, what my intentions are regarding calling the company about my services, and request their permission to ask them some questions about the company and their experience with the company.  Seldom does anyone refuse speaking with me.  If they do, I’ll just call another salesperson within the company.

I ask a number of information gathering questions such as:

  • what type of sales training the company provides
  • their personal evaluation of the quality of the training
  • whether training is provided by outside vendors on in-house trainers
  • if they use outside trainers, what companies do they use
  • what training needs do they see the company has that aren’t being met
  • who in their opinion I should speak to about training
  • if there is anything else I should know prior to calling the person they suggested I call
  • prior to ending the call, I ask for permission to use their name when I make the call.

Three or four short calls—each will only last a very few minutes—gives me a tremendous amount of information about the company and potential opportunities for me.  Often I learn a little bit of personal information about the person I’m about to call that helps me connect with them.  Typically, at least one and often two or three of the individuals will not only give me permission to mention their name, but will encourage me to call, giving me a referral into the company.  Now, I’ve not only upgraded the call from a cold call to a warm call, but I’ve upgraded the warm call to a referral. 

When I do call the company, I use the introductions provided by the salespeople to break the ice and gain credibility.  Those introductions turn the call into a conversation about their needs and observations rather than a sales pitch.   In fact, most prospects actually appreciate my call.  In many cases I’m informing them of issues and concerns their sales team has that they aren’t aware of, and in virtually all cases I’m not calling them wasting their time fishing for  a reason to meet with them, I’m discussing a real specific issue that their team has that needs to be addressed.

If I am directed to voice mail, I don’t panic.  I don’t hang up without leaving a message.  I don’t leave some misleading message hoping to trick someone into returning my call.  I leave a very brief factual message that introduces myself and mentions that salesperson X and salesperson Y asked me to call about some issues that concern them.  I almost always get a return call.

Naturally, the person I’m calling wants to know how and why his or her salespeople encouraged me to make the call.  Again, I don’t beat around the bush.  I tell them that I was doing my homework prior to making my introductory call.  The fact that I was willing to spend time learning something about the company, their needs, their salespeople, and their processes tends to impress the person with whom I’m speaking. 

Seldom do sellers take the time to be prepared before making a call.  Seldom do they find a way to turn a cold call into a referral.  So unusual is it that when someone calls who is fully prepared, the impression is not only positive but also deep and lasting.  Furthermore, by demonstrating my ability to find a positive, honest and effective way to connect with them that pricks their interest and almost demands they pay attention to me, they make the connection that I just might have something of value to teach their sales team. 

Naturally, I don’t turn every call into a sale.  I do, however, begin the process of developing a positive and trusting relationship that will, hopefully, turn into a sale in the future.

My method of reaching the prospects that I otherwise cannot find another way of reaching doesn’t allow me to make tons of calls.  I give up quantity for quality.  And to tell you the truth, I’d much rather have an introduction to a quality prospect than sit and pound the phone hoping that sooner or later I’ll fall into an appointment.

No matter your product, you too can find individuals within your target companies who can give you the information you need—and their endorsement when you do make the call.  Getting past gatekeepers and gaining the prospect’s interest doesn’t have to be a game of deception or manipulation.  Investing a little time before calling your prospect opens doors, eliminates resistance, pricks interest, and helps begin the relationship building process. 

You virtually never have to make another business-to-business cold call.  With a little bit of research and effort you can turn almost every cold call into a referred call.  Give it a try, it makes life much easier and making those calls much more enjoyable—and productive.

Paul McCord, a leading Business Development Strategist and president of McCord Training, works with companies and sales leaders to help them increase sales and profits by finding and connecting with high quality prospects in ways prospects respect and respond to.  An internationally recognized author, speaker, trainer and consultant, Paul’s clients range from giants such as Chase, New York Life, Siemens, and GE, to small and mid-size firms, as well as individual sales leaders.  He is the author of the popular Sales and Sales Management Blog (http://salesandmanagementblog.com). 

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June 4, 2009

Boost Your Sales Series: “Why Your Voice Mails Are Ignored, and What to Do Instead,” by Art Sobczak

Filed under: cold calling,prospecting,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 6:01 am
Tags: , , , ,

Art Sobczak is up with guidance on what to do to get your voice mails answered.

Tomorrow ‘s my turn as I talk about how to turn a business to business cold call into an introduction and conversation about a real problem the prospect has that needs to be dealt with.

Upcoming topics:

Next week:  Successful Networking

The week after:  Referrals and Word of Mouth Marketing

The week after that:  Prospecting and Using Social Media

Come back every weekday for a summer’s worth of great guidance from the world’s top experts.

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Why Your Voice Mails Are Ignored, and What to Do Instead           
By Art Sobczak

“I leave voice mail messages all day long for prospects,” the salesperson complained to me. “Why don’t people call me back?”

I didn’t need to listen to his calls to give an answer. The same reasons apply to all salespeople leaving voice mails. Pick any three (or more) of the following reasons.

The message is too long. Grab their attention within 10 seconds or you’re “sixed” (or whatever their delete key is.) Picture someone picking up their voice mails in a busy, noisy airport; they don’t have time to listen to your life story.

It’s not about them. They don’t care about you, your products, or that you’re their new “account manager.” And really, why should they?  They’re just like Toby Keith in his song, “I Want to Talk About ME.”

You sound salesy. Mention that you have a new product, a service, that you want them to do business with you, or that you want to meet with them, and you evoke the same resistance as when the retail store sales rep says, “May I help you?”  Face it: most people run the other way when a salesperson approaches them.

Most people don’t return voice mails from sales reps. News alert: They’re swimming upstream as fast as they can just to stay up with their daily piles of work and emails. Very few say, “Oh, good. Another call from a sales rep. Move that to the top of the to-do list.”

You only called once. Even if someone returns the occasional voice mail, who do they call? Probably not the one-time caller. A buyer I interviewed told me that he never returns calls, and the only sales reps who have the remotest chance of even getting through his screener next time are those he recognizes as having left several interesting voice mails.

So is voice mail a lost cause for sales reps?

On the contrary, it’s a great tool to separate you from the majority of reps making mistakes. Here’s what to do.

Learn about them first. Be a detective. Glean info wherever possible. Go to their website. Enter the company name and prospect’s name into search engines. Read trade publications, your local Business Journal, and the ones in your territory. Then use that information in your message as it relates to how you might be able to help them get or avoid something.

Talk to others in the company. Anyone and everyone. Continue your info-gathering. Identify yourself and company and say, “I hope you can help me. I’m going to speak with Ms. Byer, and I want to be sure that what I have would be appropriate.” Then ask questions.

Be prepared. Voice mail is not new technology. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you will be asked to speak after the tone. So why not be prepared for what you’ll say, without hesitation?  (Just notice how many messages you get that begin with, “Uhhh.”) There’s no excuse to not be smooth and confident.

Use a “possible results” statement. This is the grabber. Mention what you might be able to do for them. Personalization increases their interest level: “I understand you’re now looking at ways to increase the number of long-term leases at your Highland Park property. We specialize in some unique marketing methods that help property managers minimize vacancies…”

Use a multi-media approach. Don’t rely on voice mail to carry the entire load. Back up your message with an email, a fax, a letter, or a message that you ask the screener to write on the pink message pad and give to the boss. And don’t overlook the lowest tech, but highest touch approach: handwritten letters.

Say YOU’LL call back. You need to control the communication. It’s your responsibility to reach them. Tell them you’ll call back Thursday morning. Then DO it. But do give them options to reach you, leaving your phone number and email just in case they want to contact you.

Use a “last resort.” At some point of repeated futility, depending upon their future potential and the size of your prospect pool, you need to punt and leave a final, firmer message. What is that point?  If you sell office supplies, everyone could be a prospect, so the magic number at which you let go would be smaller than for someone selling train locomotives to railroads. What to say?

“… I’ve tried several times to contact you about how we might be able to help cut your cost of customer acquisition by 20% like we have for B.O. Industries. If I don’t hear back from you I’m going to assume this is not something you’d like to discuss at this time …”

This often elicits a response (I’ve even heard apologies) from people who are interested and simply were too busy to reply.

While most sales reps are ensuring they never get through because of their voice mails, you can set yourself apart and pave the way for a productive conversation. Avoid these mistakes, use these ideas, and the sound of the tone will be like the music of a cash register!

(For over 26 years Art Sobczak has helped sales pros say and do the right things to minimize resistance and rejection, and get “yes” answers by phone in their sales and prospecting. Get his free weekly emailed tips, see more examples of articles like this one, and hear recordings of actual calls at his Telesales Blog, http://www.TelesalesBlog.com)

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