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.

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July 30, 2012

Guest Article: “The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales,” by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales
by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

It may be just me, but the explosion of robot selling arena appears to be contradictory to the goal to increase sales. Every day I receive messages from robots, oops I mean salespeople, wanting me to buy this or try that.

Just yesterday I got this one:

Hi Leanne,

I was checking on this.

This ends at 5pm today.

Let me know if you would be interested. Regards,

What he was checking on was a previous marketing message that I had personally answered, but his “robot” sales process did not even read my email because he was engaged in “robot selling.”

Over at LinkedIn, second connections who share similar groups believe they, too, can engage in “robot selling.” These folks send out broadcast emails with the hope to snag one or two likely sales leads, while ignoring the fact they potentially alienated a whole lot more folks with their intrusive marketing messages.

Now there are email marketing to social media firms who assure their clients that email and social media marketing works.  Maybe it does, but my sense is small business owners are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to their buying decisions.

People buy from people, not robots.

This is why the term is relationship selling not robot selling.

People also buy from people, not robots, they know and trust.  When businesses and more specifically professional sales people are engaged in robot selling (think automatic emails, robo calls, recorded voice mail messages,  etc.), they ignore the human factor.

Automation type marketing tools are great especially when you are posting content.  However, there still must be some personal interaction from you as the human being unless your target market is robots if you truly wish to increase sales.

This human or personal interaction may be a handwritten note or postcard, a phone call, something that differentiates you from all those other gray suited robots. Additionally, thanking or liking postings to actually leaving a message shows you have some real interest in others and it is not just about you wanting to sell.

So continue with the robot selling if that is working for you meaning you are securing your goal to increase sales. However, for this old Swede, I will continue with my focus on relationship selling and building those critical relationships necessary to increase sales. My sense is at the end of the day, I will have ticked off far less people, enhanced my personal credibility and built some new relationships based on trust.


Leanne Hoagland-Smith is the Chief Results Officer for her executive coaching and consulting company.  She brings a no nonsense approach to her clients that is results focused.  You can read more from Leanne at the Increase Sales Blog.

March 23, 2012

Can It Get Any Stranger?

We humans are funny animals.  We tend to do the same things over and over, no matter what the consequences.  Although we are admonished to learn from our mistakes, more often than not we continue to make the same mistakes time after time.  Maybe not the big obvious mistakes, but the little ones that we don’t notice we keep doing and doing.

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if we’re doing something that has a negative outcome that we’d stop doing it?  Even more fundamental, doesn’t it seem reasonable that we’d notice that what we’re doing isn’t working?

Seems reasonable. 

But strange as it seems, our lives are full of things that have negative consequences yet we continue to do them. 

Some of these negative things we may be aware of and consciously choose to do anyway with such as smoking, overeating, or taking a tad too many nips of the juice.. 

Nevertheless, there are whole hosts of actions we take that have negative consequences of which we are completely ignorant.  We’re ignorant of these negative consequence actions not because we’re blind, or stupid, or too lazy to see them.  We’re ignorant because we have never examined them to see what the consequences of those actions really are.  We do them because we’re ‘supposed’ to do them or because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  We do them out of ignorance.

Unfortunately, that same ignorance that invests other parts of our lives, worms its way into our sales careers as well.  We do the things we’ve been told are the right things to do or we do them in the way we were told was the right way to do them.  And when the outcome of those actions isn’t what it’s supposed to be, we blame ourselves or chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing.  Worse, we decide the answer is to do more of those actions believing that if we do them more often and with more conviction, the outcome will definitely be better, right?  After all, weren’t we told that those were the right actions, so then the problem must be we simply aren’t doing them long enough or hard enough, never examining them to see if the problem might be with them, not with us.

So our solution is to do more of what doesn’t work.

Can it get any stranger? 

Yet, that is how the vast majority of salespeople run their sales careers.

Cold calling not working?  Make more cold calls.  Not closing enough sales?  Push for the sale harder.  Not meeting enough prospects at the networking events you go to?  Go to more events.  The direct mail piece you sent not producing results?  Send out more. 

The answer is always more of the same.  Do more of what’s not working and it’ll work

What a strange business we’re in.  What other business is there whose answer to the things that aren’t producing results is to do more of it?

Do you think that if the owner of a restaurant decided he wasn’t selling enough fish the answer would be to cook more fish?  Or, if the radiology treatment a physician has prescribed isn’t working they would just prescribe a larger dose without first examining why it isn’t working?  Of course not.  The restaurateur would want to know why he wasn’t selling more fish and he would figure out how to generate more customers who order fish or he would change his menu to reflect the tastes of his customers because if he tries to continue to force fish on his customers, he’ll be out of business.  Likewise, instead of just prescribing a bigger dose of the same radiology treatment, the physician will seek to discover why the treatment isn’t working and change her prescription accordingly. 

Neither the restaurateur nor the physician is just going to say, “oh, well.  What I’m doing isn’t working so I’ll just do lots more of it.”  We’d think they were nuts if that were their answer.

Yet, that’s the answer most salespeople come up with when their sales career isn’t progressing in the direction they want.  And the strange thing is few of their associates or their manager thinks they’re crazy for simply doing more of what doesn’t work.  In fact, they are often the salesperson’s biggest cheerleaders egging them on to do exactly those things.

Can it get any stranger?    

Why would a rational person decide the answer to correcting something that isn’t working is to do more of what isn’t working? 

Although there are a number of reasons such as the advice they are getting from their sales manager, many of the sales books they read, and their associates, all assuring them that all they need to do is make more calls, push harder for the sale, send out more direct mail pieces, often the real culprit is that they have no idea what they are doing that is working and what they are doing that isn’t working.

Salespeople for the most part tend to work off gut feeling.  “I feel that my cold calling isn’t producing the desired results.”  “I feel that my closing skills are really good, I just don’t feel that I’m getting to make enough presentations.”  “I feel that I’m getting a lot of referrals, they’re just not very good.” 

Working off gut feeling is a surefire way to feel–and be–broke. 

The problem is few salespeople take the time and put in the effort to examine their sales business in detail to discover what they are doing that is really producing the results they want—and what they are doing that isn’t.  Few salespeople know exactly:

  • What activities they are investing the majority of their time in
  • The characteristics of the prospects they really connect with
  • Where their sales–not their prospects but their sales–are coming from
  • What prospecting and marketing methods are actually producing sales and not just bodies
  • What they are doing in the sales process that is working and what isn’t, furthermore, most have no real idea of what their sales process is
  • Or know exactly how many qualified prospects they talk to, how many of those prospects bought, what specific products or services they bought, why the prospects bought—or didn’t buy

In order to run a business, the business owner must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their income statement and their balance sheet.  Those two documents tell the business owner what’s really going on in their business.  They tell them not only how well they are doing, but where to invest more time and money, they warn of potential problems, and they reveal new potential opportunities the business owner might not otherwise have seen.  The balance sheet and income statement are the history of the business and the business’s history tells the business owner what’s going to happen in the future—good and bad–unless the business owner makes changes to the business.

Salespeople need the same roadmap as any other business owner.  Salespeople are not employees—despite getting a W2.  Every salesperson is self-employed.  They run their own sales company.  For those salespeople who are W2’d, it just happens they have only one client—the company they are currently selling for.  Like any business owner, they must have a historical document that alerts them to problems–as well as opportunities.

Rather than having a balance sheet and income statement, salespeople must take the time and invest the effort to reconstruct their sales and marketing history in numerical form.  They must create a document that informs them of not what they think or feel has happened in the past, but tells them exactly what has happened.  Such a document will tell them in no uncertain terms where they have really spent their time; what they have really done in terms of prospecting and marketing; who their ideal prospect really is; what prospecting and marketing methods are really working; what their closing ratio really is; and a great deal more.  And it tells them that if they continue doing what they’re doing, exactly what will happen in the future.  On the other hand, it will also tell them exactly what changes must be made in order to change their future.

If a sales history document is so powerful, why do only a handful of salespeople have one?  Although one of the most powerful tools any salesperson—and their manager—can have, reconstructing one’s sales and marketing history is tedious, takes a good deal of effort, and for many the results are very uncomfortable. 

If you are serious about changing your sales business, you must learn to run it like a business and to take full responsibility for what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.  You can’t do that unless you know–and you can’t know by guessing or going on gut feeling.  You can’t change your career if you simply continue to do what you’re doing. 

For salespeople, finding and selling quality prospects is how they make a living.  Yet, most leave their success or failure up to chance and gut feeling.  Can it get any stranger than that?  You don’t have to be like 85% of all other salespeople who meander along with no real idea of what to do to be successful. 

Sit down and do a thorough review of your prospecting, marketing, and selling activities for a reasonable period, say a year.  Dig out your records of what you did and exactly what activity produced what business.  Figure out what produces business and why.  Likewise, figure out what you’re investing time in that isn’t producing business—and why. 

Once you know those two things you can begin to put together a solid plan to exploit those things that are producing for you and take corrective action on those things that aren’t.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in control of your sales business and you’ll no longer have to wonder where your business will come from—or if it will come.

follow me on Twitter at: @paul_mccord

October 7, 2011

A Simple Way to Distance Yourself From Your Competition

Every seller, no matter the product or service they sell, is looking for ways to demonstrate how they differ from their competition.  Most of us will go to great lengths to try to make our prospects and clients recognize how unique we are and how fortunate they are to be working with us.

In order to create that sought after difference we’ll talk up how great our customer service is, some will give out cute or useful freebies, others will bring in other vendors to help create the perfect comprehensive solution to their prospect’s or client’s issues.

Certainly we should be giving exceptional customer service.  The problem is every one of our competitors is claiming to have the best customer service also.

And by all means we should be doing everything in our power—including partnering with other vendors if necessary—to give the best and most comprehensive solution possible.  The problem is most of the time our prospects and clients don’t really grasp the true extent of our solution until after the product or service is delivered and has been in place for awhile.

But there is a much simpler way to not only demonstrate a real difference between yourself and your competition, but to give your client a very different experience than what your competition would give.  Furthermore, this strategy is so seldom used that it really stands out to the client.

What, pray tell, is the fabulous strategy that is simple yet can make such an impact on your client?

It is simply giving the client the purchasing experience they want rather than the one you think they want.

So simple, yet so few sellers do it because frankly they have no idea what their clients want to happen during the purchase because they simply don’t ask.

Yep, that’s it; couldn’t be simpler.

Most sellers mistakenly think they know what their clients want to happen during the course of the sale.  Ask a seller what their client wants and they’ll rattle off a number of things such as on time delivery, prompt service, a quality product at a fair price, a seller they can trust, and a number of other “expectations.”

These are so general that they are almost useless in defining what a client’s purchasing expectations are. 

What does “on time delivery” really mean?  Does it mean the same thing to each and every customer?

What does prompt service mean?  To one customer it may mean that a phone call is returned within 24 hours, to another it may mean the call should be returned within an hour.  To another client a phone call might be totally out of the question as they prefer to communicate only through email.

The fact is that no two of our clients have the same expectations but we treat them all the same because we assume we know what they want.

We never ask the most basic and simple customer service question—“What can we do to make this the exact purchasing experience you want?”

That question is asked so infrequently (some customers have never been asked that question) that many customers won’t know how to respond; they really won’t understand the question.

In that case you’ll have to ask some follow-up questions such as: “How do you prefer to be contacted, phone or email?”  “If something comes up and I really need to speak with you, is there an emergency number that I can reach you at?”  “Do you want me to keep you posted daily or weekly, or would you rather I only contact you if there is an issue or question that needs to be dealt with?”

Obviously the number and type of purchasing experience questions you need to ask will depend on the particular product or service being purchased. 

And a great side benefit is you can find out upfront if your client has an unrealistic expectation, and if they do, you can deal with it before it becomes an issue later in the sale.

If you want to really make a quick impact on a client and put yourself in a different category from your competition, quit forcing them to live through the purchasing experience you want to give them and begin giving them the purchasing experience they want.

It’s simple—just ask them, they’ll tell you—and then all you have to do is give them the exact experience they wan—and  that no one else can give them.  You’ll be a hero—and all you had to do was ask a few questions that you should have been asking every client anyway.

June 11, 2011

Understand the Four Pillars of a Referral and You’ll Get More and Better Referrals

At first glance, a referral is a pretty simple thing.  For most salespeople, managers, and trainers, a referral is just a name and phone number that a client has given the salesperson once the salesperson has completed the sale and has done a good job for the client.

Once a salesperson has received a referral, contacting the referred party is just as simple.  The salesperson either will call the referred party mentioning to him or her that the client, which they know, referred the salesperson to them, or will ask the client to write a referral letter to the prospect and then the salesperson will call the prospect after they have received the letter.  A very simple, straightforward process.

Unfortunately, this process is totally and completely wrong, and has been proven by millions of salespeople to not work worth a darn. Nevertheless, this is what is taught in almost every sales course in the world.  And not only is it a waste of time and effort, it deceives the salespeople who don’t succeed with it into believing that the fault lies with them, not with a “system” that doesn’t work.

Generating a large number of high quality referrals requires far more than “doing a good job and asking for referrals.”  It requires a systematic process of planting referral seeds, watering them at every chance, weeding out problems and issues, and then reaping the rewards. 

If you want to generate a large number of high quality referrals from your clients, you must understand what a referral is based on.

A Referral is Based on a Foundation with Four Pillars-and you can control 3 of them:

The relationship between you and your client:  you can control this pillar of the foundation.  By instituting the full client relationship building process in detailed in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), you can create a strong relationship with your client built on mutual trust.  Clients don’t give referrals because they like you or even because you did a good job.  Clients hate to give referrals and unless they have a deep trust that you will not embarrass them and that you’ll deal honestly with the prospect they refer, they won’t be willing to give quality referrals.

Your client’s purchasing experience: you can control this pillar of the foundation.  You must discover exactly what your client’s expectations and priorities are, then meet-, and hopefully exceed them.  You cannot afford to guess or “think” you know what these are-you must know exactly and you can only do that by discussing them with your client and then making sure you meet them or exceed them-nothing less will do.

The relationship between your client and the prospect: you have no control over this pillar.  Clients will refer you to people they have very strong, positive relationships with and people they have very negative relationships with.  If the prospect trusts and respects our client, some that trust and respect will be automatically imbued to you.  On the other hand, if the prospect distrusts or doesn’t respect your client, some of that distrust or disrespect will also be imbued to you.  Your job is to find out exactly what the relationship between client and prospect is and then plan you approach accordingly.

Your initial contact with the prospect: you control this pillar also.  If you have built your relationship with the client properly, your client will be happy to contact the prospect in whatever method you desire.  As outlined in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income, there are a number of methods of contacting clients, each with their own pros and cons, depending on the strength or weakness of the client/prospect relationship.

As seen above, you have control of the majority of the pillars upon which a referral is based.  If any of the above is weak, your likelihood of generating quality referrals will decline and the weakness must be made up elsewhere.  In actuality, if one of the first two segments is weak, you will not be getting quality referrals-period.  However, you can mitigate the affects of the last two.

If the relationship between client and prospect is weak, use a stronger contact method.  Moreover, if the contact method is weak, convert the method into a stronger one.  For example, if your contact method is a phone call to a prospect who has a weak relationship with your client, try to bring in one or two other clients the prospect may know by reputation to build additional credibility.  Better yet, try to arrange a conference call between the prospect and your client.

Generating a large number of quality sales isn’t done by chance or luck, and neither is generating a large number of high quality referrals. Just as you need a well thought out process to consistently sell, you need a well thought out process to generate quality referrals.   You can significantly increase the volume and the success of your referrals if you understand the dynamics that generate quality referrals and then control those dynamics.

May 10, 2011

Bust Your Slump: Fast Track Referrals to Fill Your Pipeline in 30 Days

This is one of the twelve strategies presented in my newest book, Bust Your Slump: A Dozen Slump Busting Strategies to Fill Your Pipeline in 40 Days, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any fine bookseller.

 

Referrals are difficult for most salespeople to generate. Certainly, many will manage to get a name and phone number here and there. However, most of those names and phone numbers are little better than taking out the phonebook and pointing at a name at random.

It need not be that way.

By learning a disciplined, effective, proven process for generating a large number of high quality referrals from each of your clients and even your prospects, referral selling can become a reality. It is for many of the top producers in every industry.

Yet of course, you can’t possibly learn and implement a systematic process of referral generation and expect to see significant results in only 30 days.

The good news, however, is that you can still generate a substantial flow of business in only 30 days if you learn to turbo charge your client’s ability to give you a large number of quality referrals in a very short period of time–virtually overnight.

To Whom Do You Want To Be Referred?

If you expect to use referrals as an igniter of your pipeline in short order, you’ll have to do all of the work for your clients. Asking your database of clients for referrals will generate referrals if done correctly. However, the fruits of that request won’t be seen quickly.

You, of course, don’t have the luxury of waiting. You need business NOW.

You’re going to make giving referrals super easy for your client.

Sit down right now and draw up a list of 100 individuals or companies YOU KNOW you want to be referred to. Be specific. List the name, the phone number and the address of each individual or the name, phone number, address, and the specific person within the company for each company you wish to be referred to.

You may have to do some serious research. Nevertheless, your list is the critical part of this strategy.

Don’t stop at 50, or 70, or 90. List a minimum of 100 individuals or companies. Remember, you’re going to make it easy for your client to refer you. Someone must do the work, and that’s you.

When making your list, leave room on the right side of the sheet beside each name to put the name of the person who is going to refer you to that person or company.

Who Is Going To Refer You?

Great. You know 100 individuals or companies you want to be referred to.

So, how are you going to get referred to them? By your clients, of course.

Now, take your database of clients and examine each one. Which client do you have reason to believe can refer you to the first person on your list? The second? The third?

The more you know about each of your clients, the easier this part of the task will be. Hopefully, you’ve come to know the majority of your clients well.

Beside each prospect list the client–and their phone number–that you believe can refer you to that prospect.

If you have a list of 100 people or companies you know you want to be referred to, you’ll probably be able to identify 70 or so that you have reason to believe one of your clients may know and can refer you to.

If you have 70 prospects your clients may know, you’ll probably find they can actually refer you to about 45 to 50 of them.

If you are referred to 45 to 50, you’ll probably set appoints with about 30 to 35.

If you set appointments with 35, multiply 35 by your average close ratio, which is what you can expect to close. If your close ratio is 40%, you should have in your hand 14 short-term sales.

Get the Referrals

Now the question is: how do you turn your list into referrals?

Naturally, you are going to go back to each of the clients that you have identified as a potential referrer to someone on your list.

Start with the clients you have the strongest relationship with first. Better to get some positive reinforcement from your best relationship clients before you approach those you have a weaker relationship with.

However, before you approach anyone, you need to get comfortable with what you.re going to say. You don’t want to stumble and stammer. You want to come across to your client as comfortable, confident, and in control.

Referrals can be tricky. They are hard to generate if your client doesn’t believe you expect them and that you have earned them. If you doubt, that doubt will be picked up by your client, who will be less likely to agree to give them. After all, if you don’t believe what you.re saying, why should your client?

Get your act together before you make your call to your first client.

Don’t ask for referrals via a letter or email. You will be far more successful if you ask in person. Short of that, you must make a personal phone call. Generating referrals is a relationship action, not an impersonal request. You must deal with your client on a one-on-one, personal level.

When you call, before bringing up the referrals you seek, find out if your client has ANY needs, concerns, or requests regarding your product or service. In other words, make sure you still have a happy and fully satisfied client. If you don’t, you cannot expect referrals. If the client is dissatisfied for any reason, instead of referrals to get, you have customer service work to perform.

Then, once you know your client is still on the team, explain that you have a favor to ask. You have two or three people you believe you can help but have not been successful in being able to meet through the normal course of business. These are people that you thought for whatever reason the client might know and are hoping that if they do know them, that they would be comfortable referring you to these prospects.

If you have done your research and matching of prospect to client well, your client will probably know one or two of the prospects you ask about.

Once they acknowledge they know them, find out how well. With a referral, you are hoping to build a relationship with the referred prospect based on their trust and respect for your client. If the prospect trusts and respects your client, some of that trust and respect is imbued to you, so you start your relationship with the prospect from a positive position.

However, the person you’re asking about may not trust and respect your client. If they are just casual acquaintances, their trust relationship is neutral, as will be your starting point. In addition, if the prospect distrusts and disrespects your client, your starting point will be from a negative position because some of the distrust for your client will also be imbued to you.

It is important that you know where you start–the stronger the relationship between client and prospect, the better your chances of getting an appointment and a sale.

If you have done your job for the client well, they should have no problems referring you into the prospects they know.

Work your way through your list of 100 prospects. You should have more than a month’s work ahead of you. Again, you will probably have about 45 to 50 prospects to contact and set appointments with.

Don’t Just Get Referred, Get Introduced

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a referral is to simply get your client to agree to ?refer” you. That’s what the average salesperson does, and it doesn’t work well.

Instead of just getting a verbal referral, that is having your client say, “Sure, I’ll refer you to them,” get a direct introduction to the prospect.

Not only is a direct introduction more powerful than an agreement to use the client’s name, a direct introduction, if done correctly, almost guarantees a private meeting with the prospect.

Although there are a number of ways of getting a direct introduction, when under the time pressure of a 30-day explosion of production, you have 3 realistic options:

1. A Letter from Your Client Written by You for Your Client’s Signature. A letter of introduction will probably be your standard format for a direct introduction. Don’t ask your client to write the letter because they will not have the sense of urgency you need, nor will they write the letter you want written.

Instead, write the letter for your client, on your client’s stationary, in your client’s voice. Use a standard format: 1st paragraph informs the prospect of what you did for the client; the 2nd gives the prospect an idea of what you might be able to do for the them; the 3rd states an exact day and time the client has asked you to call the prospect; and the 4th has your client asking the prospect to call the client after your meeting with the prospect so the client can get the prospect’s opinion of you and your company (the reason the client requests this is because the client respects the prospect’s judgment).

A letter from your client might look like this:

Dear Dave,

Remember our conversation a couple of months ago where we discussed how difficult sales have been? I met a gentleman by the name of Paul McCord with McCord Training and Development who has shown our sales team some tremendous strategies to find and connect with really high quality prospects. His work is already paying off with the sales team.

Paul’s strategies are really effective and would work perfectly for your company. I really believe it would be beneficial for you to spend a few minutes speaking with Paul and seeing how he can help your sales team as he has mine.

I’ve asked Paul to give you a call Monday morning at 9:30 at your office.

Dave, I really respect your opinion, so once you’ve met with Paul, I’d like to hear what you think about him and his company.

See ya Monday at Lions,

Ron

Have your client sign the letter and then mail it to the prospect. A day or two after the letter should have arrived, call the prospect. Assume the prospect has not read the letter. When you reach the prospect, immediately refer to your client and the letter, not to yourself. If you introduce yourself first, the prospect may determine you are nothing but another tele-marketer before you have the opportunity to mention your client’s name and they may mentally block you out. Don’t give them the chance. Gain their interest with your client’s name first.

So instead of saying something like: “Mr. Thomas, my name is Paul McCord with McCord Training and Development; say ?Mr. Thomas, have you read the letter that Janet Smith sent you recently?”  After they respond, introduce yourself. For example, ?Great. I’m the person she was introducing, Paul McCord of McCord Training and Development.” If he hasn’t read the letter, say something like: “I understand you’re busy. Janet asked me to connect with you and sent the letter to let you know she had asked me to call you. I’m Paul McCord with McCord Training and Development.”

Some salespeople think they can get around the letter by simply acting as if a letter has been sent. Bad move. Some prospects, after getting off the phone will look for the letter. If it isn’t there, only one of two things could have happened: the letter was lost in the mail or the salesperson lied. Guess which one they’ll assume?

2. A Phone Call to the Prospect from Your Client While You’re in the Client’s Office. This is, of course, a more powerful introduction than a letter. Don’t let your client call without you being present. You want a direct introduction and you want to know everything that is said during the conversation.

Although powerful, this format has some drawbacks. This method is powerful because it is unusual and because it allows the prospect to ask direct questions about you, your product and the client’s purchasing experience. This format can backfire if there are questions you’d rather the prospect not ask. If there are weak areas in your client’s purchase, this may not be your best choice.

However, this format almost guarantees a meeting with the prospect since it is difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request when the client is also on the line.

3. A Lunch Meeting with Your Client, the Prospect and Yourself.  This is, by far, the most powerful introduction format you can use in this circumstance. A lunch format allows you to get to know the prospect as a friend prior to getting to know them as a prospect or client. In addition, in this format, your client acts as your salesperson; during the lunch, you.re there as the consultant. As with the phone call format, it is very difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request in front of the client. Furthermore, since the meeting format is informal, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the prospect and their business long before you begin discussing business. If you pay attention, you should have a great deal of ammunition before the subject of business comes up.

Execution

Developing referrals from your clients can take some time. You must develop your list of prospects you want to be referred to; you have to match those prospects to individual clients in your database; you must contact each individual client for the referrals; write the letters or arrange the calls or lunches; and then have the actual contact with the prospect. All of this before you even has the individual meeting with the prospect.

This method requires you to be disciplined, very well organized, and committed to working the process. You must have a sense of urgency or time will slip away and you won’t meet your 30-day goal.

Commit yourself to having your prospect list completed within 2 days. Keep in mind, developing this list may take some serious research. Then, once you have your prospect list, you should have matched prospects to clients by the end of day three. By the end of the fourth day, you should have contacted and received referrals from several clients.

As soon as you have referrals, start the introduction process. Don’t try to go through all 100 prospects prior to beginning getting introductions or you’ll run out of time.

Again, this format calls for good organizational and coordination skills. You’ll have to be gathering referrals while working referrals.

More than likely, you’ll find that you’ve filled your pipeline and still have more referrals to pursue. Good job! Not only will you have jumpstarted your sales again, you’ll carry that momentum into the coming months as well.

Does It Work?

Linda Hollander knows very well how well this strategy works. Linda is a mortgage loan officer. Like most in the mortgage business, Linda has had some rough times over the past couple of years.

Linda began by listing as many specific people as she could that she knew she wanted to be referred to. She didn’t hit 100. She only came up with a little over 70 names.

She matched 57 names on her list to clients in her database.

She immediately began asking clients for referrals. She is still working on her original list even after 90 days.

During her first 30 days, Linda received 23 referrals; met with 16 prospects; initiated 5 loans, all refinance loans. During her second month she met with an additional 19 prospects (including some referrals from her newly referred clients) and closed an additional 7 loans (3 of which were referrals from her referred prospects).

In her first 60 days she closed 11 loans from referrals (one loan failed to close). Her previous average was closing slightly less than 4 loans a month. During the 2 month period her average loan closing went from 4 to 7, almost doubling her production. And she still has referrals to work, not to mention the long-term potential based on the new contacts she has made.

May 8, 2011

Financial Advisor: You Must Match Your Message with Your Desired Image

The typical financial adviser will spend over 650 hours a year studying their profession through reading professional books, blogs and other publications, attending on-line discussions and webinars, going to seminars and conferences, listening to CD’s or watching DVD’s, and other study methods.  That’s almost 17, 40-hour weeks of study a year to become good at what they do.  Broken into the equivalent of college courses, it equates to about three full semesters of college work a year. 

Three years into the profession, they will have completed the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree, plus a semester of graduate school.  After only 5 years in the profession, they’ve invested the equivalent of 7 ½ years of class time.  Since most enter the profession with at least a Bachelor’s degree, they have, in essence, earned a Ph.D. 

During the same time, most have invested little, if anything, in their profession’s other side—learning to sell and market their services.  By the end of their 5th year in the profession, most advisers have invested little more than a college semester’s effort in learning how to generate the clients necessary to be able to practice their profession. 

Unfortunately, being technically good is useless if you don’t have a client to work with.  Being half a financial adviser will get you nowhere except into another profession. 

A great many advisers struggle when it comes to generating new business; and, of course, thousands struggle themselves right out of the profession every year due to their inability to acquire enough business.  Some cold call, others network the local chamber of commerce.  Some stick their business cards to bulletin boards at restaurants or under windshields in parking lots, send unsolicited emails, fax fliers all over town, invest in direct mail, buy leads, or purchase expensive advertising.  Yet, few invest their time and money in learning more sophisticated prospecting and client acquisition methods.

When acquiring complex and sophisticated services such as financial products and guidance, prospects want to work with an adviser they believe to be expert. 

Indeed, whether their assumptions are correct or not, prospects make a number of assumptions about what an expert is and how experts acquire their business.  They assume that experts are not cold calling, sending unsolicited emails, sticking business cards on windshields or bulletin boards, putting up cheap yard signs on street corners, or faxing fliers. 

Prospects assume that true experts don’t have to do these things because their practice is populated through referrals from the adviser’s current client base. 

Consequently, the very act of cold calling, faxing fliers, blasting emails, or engaging in any other form of prospecting that prospects identify as crude, sends the message that the adviser is not what the adviser proclaims himself or herself to be—an expert.  These prospecting methods confirm Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation that “the medium is the message.”  The medium used to communicate to the prospect shapes the prospect’s perception of the adviser more than the content of the message.  Unfortunately for the adviser using these media, the message the medium communicates is the exact opposite of what the adviser seeks to communicate. 

Nevertheless, there are client acquisition methods available whose medium message can reinforce the adviser’s content message.  Learning and perfecting these formats requires as much dedication and commitment as learning the technical aspects of the profession.  Alternatively, hiring someone who understands the financial adviser’s business and can perform a number of these activities for the adviser will both expedite the process and free the adviser from the time commitment to learn and hone the required skills.

Communicating an expert message requires you use the media of an expert.  Mixing an expert message with a non-expert medium doesn’t send a mixed message, it sends the dominate message of the medium–a message that the adviser is just another one of the crowd. 

What are the media of an expert?  There are many:

Networking:  Networking through various organizations and associations is an expert format.  However, as all things associated with the expert, how and where you network is crucial.  An expert is more likely to be networking through specialized business, industry, and charitable associations than through more general organizations.  Working within a physician, engineering, architectural, CEO, or charitable organization is more “expert” than surfing the local chamber of commerce or breakfast networking group.  In addition, becoming an active member and developing relationships without overt “prospecting” is more “expert” than trying to evangelize someone you just met.  The relationship converts the prospect, not the overt “selling.”

Referrals:  Prospects assume true experts acquire clients through referrals.  Generating a large volume of high quality referrals requires learning and practicing a well-developed process that leads clients to a comfort level to give strong, quality referrals.  Simply asking doesn’t produce the quantity or quality desired.  However, there are processes used by the top sales professionals that work extremely well.

Press Releases:  Learning how to write and distribute well-written press releases about yourself and your practice will have far more impact than advertising.  Most prospects are resistant to advertising and direct mail.  Press releases, on the other hand, have the authority and subtlety of being reported as hard news.

Published Articles:  Becoming a published author on technical subjects important to the prospect demonstrates expert knowledge—and is in a medium most prospects recognize as educational and informative, not one that is “selling.”  With the thousands of article databases on the internet, becoming a published author is quick and easy if the article is well-written, educational, and void of overt self-promotion.

Speeches:  Giving educational speeches to local business and civic groups and organizations will also establish your credentials as an expert.  Moreover, like writing articles, the medium used has automatic expert credibility.  By appearing before the group as an expert, you become an expert.  And like writing articles, the emphasis is on education, not self-promotion.  Experts are far more effective at promoting themselves when they don’t overtly promote themselves.

Becoming an Expert Source:  Recognized experts are interviewed and quoted in various media—print, audio, and visual.  The “experts” quoted and interviewed in your local media have worked hard to become expert sources for the reporters, columnists, and freelance writers interviewing or quoting them.  You can become an expert source also by learning the ins and outs of working with the media and establishing yourself as a source for information, quotes, and interviews when they are dealing with a subject that you can address as an expert.

By carefully matching the medium you use with the content of your message, you can establish a public image and reputation as an expert in a matter of months that will continue to grow over the years.  These media are not easy to use, nor are they a quick solution to client acquisition.  They are, however, highly effective and they come to the prospect in a format that doesn’t confuse the message or, worse, defeat the content of your message.

April 11, 2011

Results of the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey

It has taken a bit of time and a lot of effort, but we finally have the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey results.

Some will be surprised, some won’t like the findings, and others will find they confirm what they suspected.

Two things stick out for me:

1.  Both salespeople and companies, whether they currently use social media or not, are struggling to figure out how to use it effectively. In fact, few—even those with sophisticated marketing departments investing time and effort into the process—have any real social media strategy.  Undoubtedly, this will be true for quite some time to come–and, of course, that means there are and will be thousands out looking to take your money to help you learn the hows of making Social Media work.  The lesson here: be extremely careful as there are many who know little more than how to construct a tweet who are anxious to take your money.

2.  To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.  By far the most use salespeople and companies are getting from social media is in the area of prospecting–finding new prospects to contact using traditional means, not in making sales.  Again, this will probably be the case for a long, long time–it may always be the case.  Except for web-based sellers, few are realizing any real sales volume from their social media activities.  The lesson?  If you’re thinking you’re going to make easy money by spending time on social media and not having to do the hard work of prospecting, well, good luck with that thought.  On the other hand, if you’re not using social media to help identify and research prospects, you’re probably wasting a heck of a lot of time elsewhere.

Find out what else we discovered–it’s all in the survey.

I’ve decided to divert from the typical approach of requiring you to register to receive a sales oriented White Paper or making you subscribe to our newsletter.  Instead, I’m offering the report as a simple PDF download with the download link below.  I would encourage you, though, to either subscribe to the SELLING POWER Newsletter by simply shooting me an email at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com with the subject line “subscribe,” or clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button at the top of the sidebar to the right and subscribe to receive notification of new blog posts.  Subscription appreciated, not required.

If you have questions or anything needs a little more light put upon it, by all means, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Download social media survey

January 28, 2011

Trust on Decline Unless You’re Recognized as an Expert Study Finds

Leanne Hoagland-Smith suggested I take a look at a very interesting post by Steve Rubel that draws attention to some recent research his company, Edelman, the largest PR firm in the world, has done in the area of trust.  His findings are most interesting for sellers and small business owners even though his real target is larger corporations engaged in constructing advertising and public relations campaigns.

One of the major findings is that there has been a decline in the number of people who trust in a person “just like myself.”  Rubel goes on to give his analysis: ”I believe the reason for this is that, as more of us join social networks, there’s been devaluation in the entire concept of ‘friendship.’”

Another finding was that trust of credentialed experts increased to 70%.  According to Rubel, “This is a trend that began last year. In addition, for the first time we looked at the credibility of technical specialists inside a company. Trust in this group is off the charts (64%). This hits home the need to identify those with expertise inside a company who can engage across different channels, many of which today are digital – or will be soon.”

Very important for us in sales, the study also found that in developed countries such as the US and the UK people need to hear a message as many as NINE times—and from multiple channels to effect behavior change.  Now this study was looking at media communication, but human nature doesn’t change—if it takes multiple hearings in multiple channels for marketers to change recipient behavior, it’s logical to assume the same is true when dealing directly with prospects and clients (one of the reasons historically we’ve had to we talk to them, give them collateral material, and make formal presentations to them—multiple hearings from multiple channels).  The key here is how many times the recipient had to hear the message before behavior changed.  Nine.  That’s a lot—and most of us probably give up on a prospect long before they’ve heard our message nine times.

You can get a mini-whitepaper of the study here.

October 10, 2010

Register for Free Masterclass on How to Bust Your Sales Slump

Tuesday October 12th 2010 1PM EASTERN

Are you or your sales team finding it difficult to bring in business?  If so, I suggest you take a look at my newest book, Bust Your Slump: A Dozen Slump Busting Strategies to Fill Your Pipeline in 30 Days, which has just been released.

Bust Your Slump isn’t another book that promises easy eternal success and delivers nothing but a bunch of fluff and hype with no substance.

My only purpose in Bust Your Slump is to lay out in detail 12 proven, effective, real strategies that will generate business for you fast.  Each chapter not only gives you the concept, it gives you a step by step process for implementing it, and then demonstrates what it can do by relating how one of his clients used.

Whether you sell B2B or B2C, are involved in a one-time close process or a long sales cycle, sell a commodity or a sophisticated product or service, you’ll find strategies that will work for you.

During this 45 minute Masterclass, I will provide you with a comprehensive overview of those 12 proven, effective, real strategies, so do be sure to join me – Registration is FREE, but places are limited.

REGISTER  here for FREE. 

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