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.

July 22, 2014

Is There More to Social Selling than Just Hype?

Are you sick of the social selling hype yet?  Have you had your fill of the unrelenting BS that bombards you day in and day out about the miracle of social selling and how it makes selling so much easier, how it eliminates the horror of cold calling, the expense of advertising, the time consuming drudgery of attending networking events?

Or, have you bought into the hype and discovered that in reality it is nothing more than quicksand that will drag you down and destroy your business slowly?

The truth is there is a great deal of hype and BS going on about social selling.  There are promises of easy business, millions to be made quickly, and unlike prospecting and selling; it’s just all great fun.

But there is also a kernel of truth in all that hype.  Social selling does work—when recognized for what it really is and integrated into a comprehensive prospecting and selling process.

Despite what many preach, social selling isn’t meant to be a standalone business development strategy. 

It isn’t a panacea, freeing sellers from the day-to-day work of picking up the phone, of generating referrals, of attending networking events, and the other work of finding and connecting with quality prospects.

Social selling is an adjunct to traditional prospecting, not a replacement of it.  Adopting social selling as a part of your business plan doesn’t eliminate all of the traditional strategies you’ve used in the past, it simply makes those strategies a bit more effective while adding another way to find and connect with your prospects.

Finding and connecting with prospects is a complex problem for not all prospects are alike.  Your prospects will accept and respond to different means of approach—some will respond to cold calling, most won’t.  Some will respond to being approached through a referral—of course, that assumes you have a referral to them.  Some will respond to direct mail, others to being approached at a networking event, others through advertising, others through an email campaign.  And others will respond through social media connections.

It isn’t our prospect’s responsibility to respond to us in the way we want to connect with them; it is our responsibility to connect with our prospects in the way they will accept.  And that means we must employ a variety of strategies if we want to find and connect with a broad prospect base.

This is where social selling comes in, allowing us to find and connect with those prospects who prefer to connect via social media.

It also allows us to transfer or continue our relationship online with prospects and customers that are found through offline strategies.

Social selling can open many doors but it can’t replace our offline efforts to find and connect with prospects.  In fact, we should be spending only a small fraction of our time online—an hour or so daily.

Don’t buy the ridiculous hype being put forth by so many.

By all means embrace social selling, but don’t destroy your business by thinking that it will produce magical results and free you from the work of prospecting.

It won’t.

February 27, 2014

The Single Biggest Difference Between Highly Successful Sellers and Also Rans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:43 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As a seller, sales leader, business owner, and sales consultant I’ve seen and worked with thousands of sellers from dozens of industries and from all sales career stages.  I’ve seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst and all in-between.   I’ve seen sellers who failed miserably as well as those making well into the seven or even eight figures.

Consistently the single biggest difference I have seen between the successful sellers and the also rans is prospecting. 

What is so different about prospecting that one group makes a ton of sales and the rest fail or just make a living?

One group prospects, the other group simply thinks they prospect.

The successful group is getting in front of great prospects and making sales while the other group is baffled by their lack of sales success because they insist that they are ‘always prospecting.’

Almost all in the second group can produce lists of prospects , some of which they’ve called; they can show where they’ve sent out a ton of letters and emails; they can give receipts for advertising they’ve bought; they can produce filers that they’ve plastered all over town.

Most have been busy; there is little doubt about that.  The problem is that although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been doing ‘things’—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, constructing call lists–and on occasion actually making a few phone calls.  Like many salespeople, they’ve confused doing preparatory and busy work getting ready to prospect with the activity of prospecting.

Although they have spent a great deal of time doing busy work, they have spent very little time actually connecting with and getting in front of decision makers.  They think they are always prospecting, but in reality they find ways not to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity engaged in isn’t the activity that would produce business; instead, it is the activity that made them feel good, that made them feel productive, allowed them to convince themselves that they were 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.

The salespeople in the second group above believed they were highly productive because they felt productive.

Prospecting isn’t preparing to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t doing busy work.  Nor is it easy but very low return lead generation such as plastering the Wal-Mart parking lot with fliers or sending out thousands of SPAM emails.  Those may be easy, non-threatening activities, but they are also career killers.

Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting with a decision maker and that requires a physical connection.

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. 

It means connecting with quality prospects through highly targeted and personal letter and email communications, not sending out thousands of pieces of SPAM hoping that someone will read and respond. 

It means creating a highly targeted and well researched direct mail campaign, not just sending letters to a purchased list.

Yet even in the above prospecting activities, the prep and research time is NOT prospecting time and should be done only during nonproductive prospecting hours.

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 to solve real issues, 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

February 24, 2014

Looking to Grow Your Business? Learn How to Get Directly Introducted to Your Best Prospects

Whether you’re relatively new to sales or are a scarred, proven old pro, prospecting is a tough chore that we all must do otherwise we’ll quickly find ourselves out of business. 

And there are a great many ways to prospect, from cold calling to cold walking to networking to purchasing ads to social media to encouraging word of mouth referrals to the traditional asking for referrals from clients and friends.  Depending upon your industry and personality, some methods work better than others.

But in the end the object is to get in front of decision makers that are great prospects for you, that is, decision makers who need and can afford your product or service.

Like a great many sellers I was taught that after the sale I should ask my client for referrals to others they know that might be able to use my product or service.  And like a great many other sellers I discovered that asking for referrals in that manner simply didn’t produce much of value.  Sure, I’d get some names and phone numbers but most of the time they were either poor prospects or no prospects at all.

Over the years I’ve spoken to thousands of sellers who were taught the same referral generation process who have experienced the same disappointing results that I experienced.  Many continue to ask knowing that only a small portion of the names and phone numbers they get are of value, while many, many others have simply given up on referrals all together.

A few years ago I discovered a referral generation process that is far different than the traditional “do a good job and ask for referrals” process that most of us have been taught that produces so little return for so much time invested.  Rather than asking clients to do our prospecting for us, the process I discovered demands that we do the work for our client and instead of getting a name and phone number of someone who more than likely isn’t a real prospect for us, the process I use generates a direct introduction to my hand picked prospect. 

The process that I teach allows you to maintain complete control of the referral process, takes all the work off the client, doesn’t put the client in an awkward and uncomfortable position of feeling that they have to give a name and phone number, and gets you introduced directly to someone you know is a great prospect for you.

If you’d like to learn more about how to generate direct introductions to your hand picked prospects head over to LeadLifter as I just completed a 45 minute webinar for them that outlines the whole process.  You can listen to the webinar at your leisure and for free at the LeadLifter events page.

February 3, 2014

Breaking Through the Noise and Connecting with Prospects

On Saturday, February 1st I was interviewed by Deb Calvert on her Connect! Online Radio program about one of the most serious problems sellers have—breaking through all the noise that is bombarding prospects.  You can listen to a recording of the show here.

During the hour interview we discussed some of the most effective ways sellers have of breaking through and connecting with great prospects.

It isn’t an accident that it is getting harder and harder to connect with prospects.  They are finding more effective ways of keeping us at bay; from gatekeepers to email blockers to caller ID just to mention a few.  They are making it as clear as they possibly can that they’re not interested in hearing from sellers.

So how do we knock these barriers down and get through to them?

Listen as Deb and I discuss the issue at Connect! Online Radio.   

June 4, 2013

The Keys to Creating Effective and Productive Referral Partnerships

It is getting harder and harder to break through the relentless marketing and sales noise to reach new prospects.

Prospects today are finding new—and better–ways to insulate themselves from sellers.

Many of the tried and true methods to connect with prospects are becoming increasingly less effective and demand a larger investment of time, often for a much smaller payoff.

Whether you’re facing the above issues or not, aligning yourself with others who can expose you to new prospects, help set up the sale for you, and help make life more enjoyable is one of the most effective prospecting and marketing methods you can employ.

Enlisting other sellers or companies who sell to the same prospects as you to help you find and connect with quality prospects has been a staple of marketing for top producers for decades—and unsuccessfully imitated by countless others.

Why have top producers found working with other professionals for referrals to work so well while so many others have failed to capitalize on them?

I often hear sellers and managers–and even some sales trainers–talk about seeking out ‘referral sources’ to help them find and connect with prospects.  These referral sources tend to be sellers or companies who are likely to deal with people or companies that would be great prospects for the seller and who might need or want their product or service.

These ‘referral sources’ discussions always interest me, so I’ll engage the seller in a conversation about their experience with them.  Typically my first question will be how much business they’ve closed through these referral sources.  A few will indicate they’ve done well, most indicate they’ve seen very little to no real business from their sources.

When I ask the seller I’m speaking with what the other seller gets out of making the referral, they mention that they are giving the referrer the assurance that they’ll take exceptional care of the client, allowing that seller to become more valuable to the client by becoming a trusted source of additional advice and services; or they’ll give the seller’s client a discount of some sort that only that seller’s clients get, or they’ll give the seller a cash incentive–in other words, nothing of value to the referrer.

When I assert that the other person is getting nothing of value, I often get a scornful look and verbal resistance.  Some of the responses I’ve received are:

•    From a mortgage loan officer: “Their client has to have a loan and I’ll make sure their client is well taken care of and gets a great deal—and that the loan will close on time.  That’s real value to that Realtor and their client.”
•    From an insurance agent: “She doesn’t offer insurance, just securities.  Her clients need insurance and she can be assured that I won’t try to steal her clients or infringe on her business in any way and if she doesn’t help her client through me, her client is likely to see an agent that will try to steal her business.”

•    From a seller for an IT service company: “I often find additional needs the client has and when I do, if he (the person who referred him to the client) sells that product, I’ll send the business to him.  I’ll be a source for additional sales for him to his client.”

•    From a specialized printing seller: “My referral sources are also in the printing business.  Their clients will on occasion need some things done that they can’t do and that I can.  My appeal to them is that by referring the business to me, they are assured that I’ll talk up just how good they are and it keeps their client from going to another company that might be able to not only do what I do but might be able to replace them as well.”
•    From a management consultant: “I focus exclusively on helping companies evaluate and hire more effective employees.  I look for other consultants who work in other areas who can recommend me to their clients who are having employee selection and retention issues.  By recommending me, they prevent the client from seeking help elsewhere which just might be from a company who could replace them in addition to helping with their hiring and retention issues.”

In each of these cases (and these responses are the norm, not the exception), the reason given for the referral source to send them referrals is that they are doing the referral source a favor.   “I’ll talk them up,” or “I’ll close the loan on time,” or “I won’t try to steal her business,” or “I’ll help them protect their relationship with their client.”  The worst part is these sellers are serious when they make these statements.

Lazy, delusional thinking at it’s finest.

Why do these “referral sources” need these sellers?  A promise of making them look good, or not trying to steal their business, or closing the loan on time is a dime a dozen.  Actually, they’re more like a penny a hundred.  There isn’t a mortgage loan officer, IT salesperson, consultant, or printing salesperson alive that isn’t likely to make the same promise.  If you think you’re doing your referral source a favor and that is going to earn you their business, you’re living in fantasyland with Unicorns and Hobbits.

The first rule in developing referral business from others is that they don’t need you.  They don’t need your promises, they don’t need you to make them look good, they don’t need you messin’ with their clients.

The second rule in developing referral business from others is they need business just like you.  They need referrals to quality prospects, just like you do.

The ‘secret’ the top producers have discovered when getting referrals from other sellers and companies is to forget about ‘referral sources’ and develop referral partnerships—real partnerships where the referrals go in both directions, not jut one.

Sellers and companies need the same thing you need—business.  If they need someone to make them look good or to help one of their clients, they have no problem finding dozens of sellers willing to help.  What they need are reciprocal relationships where the people they refer clients to also refer prospects back to them.  They need partners, not moochers.  And if you’re not giving back in kind, that’s exactly what you are—a moocher.

Setting up Referral Partnerships

1.  Identify Your Potential Partners: Look for other sellers or companies who deal with the same prospects as you.  Define your ideal prospect—you may have more than one ideal—and then look for others who target the same prospect.  You want to find sellers who are already established in the market; who have the reach and reputation you wish for yourself; and whose quality of products and services match yours.

There is no need to waste time and energy on low producing sellers as they won’t be able to feed you many prospects.  In addition, the quality and cost of your products and/or services should closely match your potential partner’s since you will be looking for the same prospect.  If your product is top of the line and expensive, don’t partner with a salesperson whose products are on the bargain end of the spectrum.  Likewise, if you are selling modestly priced products, don’t think you can partner with a premium priced company to enhance your image—their clients are more than likely not going to be interested in your company’s products.

2.  Know What You’re After: Once you’ve identified a number of potential partners, develop a plan of approach for each.  What are you looking for with each partner—joint marketing?  Maybe joint sales calls?  Simply referring clients back and forth?

Take a close look at the activities of each seller or company you’ve identified to get an idea of how they operate.  Do they do a lot of advertising?  Are they constantly running specials?  Are their sales materials high dollar—or maybe they don’t really use collateral material?  Are there gaps in their offerings that you can help fill?  Do they tend to sell mostly to existing customers or to new prospects?

How your proposed partner works will lead you to know what to propose to them.  If they do a great deal of advertising or direct mail, maybe a joint advertising campaign would be of interest to them.  If they work primarily with their existing client base, referring back and forth might be most appealing.  If they use a lot of high dollar collateral material, you better have material that is equally impressive.

3.  Set an Appointment with the Partner Prospect: Invite your partner prospect to lunch.  Your partnership discussion is important and shouldn’t be a viewed as a casual phone conversation.

Many of your potential partners will be men and women you either don’t know or have only met once or twice very casually.  Many will not know who you are.  Since the men and women you’ve identified as potential partners are the best in their industry in their local market, a very effective way to gain a lunch meeting is to acknowledge their success and superior reputation.  Just call them, introduce yourself, and then tell them that you know them via their reputation and the quality of their work and that you’d like to take them to lunch as you have found that it is always good practice to know top people in the business.  Most will accept—people like to be recognized for their work.  Seldom have I been turned down with this approach.  And best of all, it’s true.  I do want to know the best people in the business and they are among the best in the business in their area.

4.  Make Your Proposal: During your meeting, present your proposal.  Your proposal must focus on what the partnership will do for your potential partner, not what it will do for you.  Sellers are people, meaning their natural interest is ‘what’s in it for me.’  If you approach the conversation from a self-centered point of view, your proposal is dead before you even begin.

If you’ve done your homework well, you should be able to relate exactly why your potential partner would be interested in working with you, what type of working relationship it would be, and what the potential results for them will be.

Since there is a very good chance your potential partner doesn’t know who you are—and possibly they know little or nothing about your company—you’ll have to be able to quickly create a relationship with them and to provide credibility for yourself and your company.  Hopefully you have mutual clients or testimonials from individuals or companies your potential partner will recognize and respect.

Don’t expect a commitment during your initial meeting.  Most often if the person is interested, they’ll need time to do some due diligence, as well as additional discussions to develop the model for the partnership.

5.  The Monkey is on Your Back: The partnership was your idea, not theirs.  That means you’ll have to do the work to get the partnership going.  Even if you gain agreement from your potential partner, they won’t be committed until they see results.  You’ll have to take the lead in getting the partnership moving—and most importantly, you’ll have to provide them with real leads, referrals, and potential business before you can expect them to begin feeding you leads and referrals.

If you’re just looking for free, easy business, don’t bother with a partnership because it won’t do you any good.  However, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, focusing on creating partnerships with the top sellers and companies in your area that work with your prime prospects can bring in business you would have had a very difficult if not impossible time reaching.

Partnerships are great door openers and business builders.  But they aren’t magical.  They take work.  They take time and effort.  And most of all, they require you to do what you say you’re going to do—be a source of new business for your partner, just as they are expected to be a source of new business for you.

August 29, 2011

Guest Article: “Using Social Media for Sales Prospecting,” by Anita Campbell

Filed under: prospecting,sales,selling,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

Using Social Media for Sales Prospecting
by Anita Campbell

One of the hardest things for a sales professional is getting the right people to listen to you. Cold-calling is difficult, especially if you end up pitching someone who is not interested in spending money, or doesn’t have the authority to make decisions. That rejection is unpleasant, unhealthy, and it’s now unnecessary.

Social media offers the ability to reach out to people who are already talking about what you’re selling. All you have to do is find them, and that’s easier than you think once you’re using the right platforms, and using them in the right way. Imagine how your leads could grow if you placed your product in front of people who are already looking for it, and are in the mindset to spend. Not only would it be easier to turn prospects into leads, but you’d be saving everyone’s time and energy by reaching out to people already in the market for your product. That’s what social media can do for you, and your potential customers.

Twitter
Searching for conversations on Twitter that are pertinent to your field is fairly easy because the majority of Twitter’s content is public. It’s made even easier by using the Advanced Search feature of Twitter. Before diving in, though, the first thing to do is brainstorm all the related topics of conversation you could insert yourself into that could potentially yield sales. You may find that multiple topics are relatable to your products or services. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you may want to search conversations about photographers, bakeries, and invitations. Giving a soon-to-be bride advice may help her realize the number of decisions she must make, and that she needs your help.

Once you have a list of topics to search, use conversational wording in your searches to get better results. If you sell cars, search for “what car should I buy” or “buy a car” (don’t forget to specify a location!) as it will reveal a larger number of people asking for advice about what car they should buy. As a car sales professional, you’re an expert in the current market and what products are available, so why not offer advice? Be helpful in addressing their questions and needs, and create a conversation around what they’re looking for, and they may seek you out when they’re ready to buy.

LinkedIn
If your business offers services, or your sales are B2B oriented, a good choice for social networking is LinkedIn. Not familiar with the site? It’s a social network aimed at companies and professionals, and gives them a place to connect with one another. While another great option for professionals is a business networking site, LinkedIn offers several features not found in other places.

One of these features is the Answers section, which is a way for professionals and business experts to give and receive business advice. Using the Advanced Answers Search feature, you can find questions that contain keywords related to your services. Answering these questions will give you the opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge, as well as information about the products or services you provide. By showing other members you have superior knowledge and great products or services, you may be able to foster connections with those asking questions, and explain how your business can help their own.

Quora
Just like LinkedIn Answers, Quora offers great opportunities for using questions and answers to reach prospects and encourage sales. While answering questions on LinkedIn offers the chance to connect directly with businesses asking questions about specific products or services, Quora allows you to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Quora is also similar to Twitter in that it’s designed for users to follow people who are thought leaders in their industry. The site organizes all the questions you answer under your profile so anyone who visits it can get a comprehensive view of your expertise. Because of this, answering questions regularly and on-topic with your products is important if you’re looking to attract certain prospects to your profile.

By using Twitter to get involved in current conversations, LinkedIn to answer direct questions from businesses, and Quora to showcase and promote your expertise, you’ll be on your way to developing the most strategic sales prospects for your business.

Anita Campbell is the Founder of the Small Business Trends website and CEO of BizSugar, an online community of small business owners.

July 16, 2011

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Secret to Sales Success

A little over one hundred years ago the father of a young 8 year old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon encouraged her to write to a then leading New York newspaper, The Sun, and ask the question she’d just asked him—if there were in fact a Santa Claus, for all of her friends were telling her that he really didn’t exist and she wanted to know if they were correct.

The Sun answered Virginia in one of the most famous editorials ever published—Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.  The reply was a resounding YES, there is a Santa Claus and the writer of the editorial laid out his proof.

Unfortunately, today all too many deny there is a real secret to sales success also.  Like Virginia’s friends, the claim is made that there really isn’t one single thing that if done can guarantee success in sales.  No, they say, you must become a master of every aspect of selling and then you’ll be prepared to become successful.  Oh, sure, they’ll admit, a few here and there appear to succeed by blind luck, but they’re the exception, not the rule.  Forget your silly search for the magic bullet of selling and resign yourself to learning the minutia of sales before seriously turning your eye to becoming truly successful.

Many, many others are all too eager to promote the idea of the sales secret—and to let you know that they are the sole keepers of the great secret that so few have known.  Better yet, they tell you, they’ll be happy to share the secret with you, but since it is such a valuable thing and should only be shared with those who are truly deserving of knowing, they must make sure you are worthy.  But since they really don’t have any other way of discerning who is and who isn’t worthy, they must charge an exorbitant fee to keep the riff-raff and undeserving from attaining it–and since you have the money to acquire it, you must be worthy and deserving of being given the great secret (as soon as your check clears, of course)..

Lucky for you I know this great secret and I’ll give it to you—and it won’t cost you $1,995.  Won’t even cost $995.  Heck, I’m not even going to charge you $9.95.  I’m simply going to give it to you—no charge.

Why in the world would I give such a tremendous secret away for nothing?  Because I know that once learned, the vast majority won’t put it into practice.  You see, the secret is simple, but it is far from easy.

Anyone can take this secret and become a successful seller—just how successful will depend on their commitment to implementing it.

So what is this secret?

Is it a super-duper sales process?  No.

Maybe a super special leads list?  Nope, not that.

How about some special words that will immediately connect with prospects?  Not that either.

Could it be a special super power like a super hero has?   Now we’re getting warm.

The secret is a super power of sorts–one that few are capable of acquiring.

This super power is tough-mindedness.  It’s the ability to out work and out prospect your competitors.  It’s the ability to take the rejection, the ‘no’s’, the frustration of making calls and not reaching anyone, of being stopped dead by a gatekeeper, by having the phone slammed down in your ear, of networking until you feel like you can’t network anymore–and to then do it again and again and again until you’ve reached your goals.

The secret is simple—if you have the determination and commitment to prospect longer and harder than anyone else, you will become successful.

I’ve seen this truth worked out time after time as new sellers enter the field and out work and outperform even the top sellers in their office. They know nothing–but work their tails off and sell like crazy. Unfortunately, many times after they “learn” that they’re not supposed to be having the success that they’re having their production craters. They’ve “learned” how to be average. Sometimes we simply learn the wrong things–such as there isn’t a secret to sales success.

This isn’t to say that all the other things in sales aren’t important.  They are.  You need a great sales process; you need to know how to probe and discover needs and wants; you need to know how to solve issues.  There is a great deal that every professional seller must learn.

But there is still one key to being successful in sales above all others—prospecting.

The better you become at qualifying suspects; the better you become at finding and solving real needs; the better you become at finding and connecting with your quality prospects; the easier success will be and the less time you’ll have to spend prospecting.

That being said, even if you know nothing about sales, have the world’s worst close ratio, have no discretion in who you spend time talking to. and haven’t the slightest idea of the difference between a closed-end and open-end question, if you outwork your competition in prospecting, you will reach a measure of success.

Don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t a simple secret to success in selling that alone can make you successful because there is.  It certainly isn’t complicated—but it is hard.  And it can be claimed and implemented by anyone. 

By all means, acquire a great sales process, learn the most sophisticated and effective prospecting strategies you can, learn to become great at identifying and solving prospect issues, learn all you can to make selling easier, but if you aren’t having the success you want, take heart—you now have the secret.

Take it, claim it as yours, implement it, and enjoy the rewards.

And know that even if your competitors know it too, few, if any, will claim it as their own because it simply costs too much for most.

May 21, 2011

Are You BS’ing Yourself with Your “Prospecting” Activity?

Filed under: career development,prospecting,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 10:32 am
Tags: , , ,

 Over the years I’ve spoken to salesperson after salesperson who is frustrated, angry, and depressed because although they’ve invested heavily in trying to make their sales career a success, all they have to show for their efforts are little to nothing—and often a pink slip from their employer.

It usually doesn’t take long for these conversations to get around to the particulars of their activities, in particular their prospecting activities.  They are baffled by their lack of sales success because they insist that they are ‘always prospecting.’

Almost all of them can produce lists of prospects , some of which they’ve called; they can show where they’ve sent out a ton of letters and emails; they can give receipts for advertising they’ve bought; they can produce filers that they’ve plastered all over town.

Most have been busy; there is little doubt about that.  The problem is that although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been doing ‘things’—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, constructing call lists–and on occasion actually making a few phone calls.  Like many salespeople, they’ve confused doing preparatory and busy work getting ready to prospect with the activity of prospecting.

Although they have spent a great deal of time doing busy work, they have spent very little time actually prospecting.  They think they are always prospecting, but in reality they find ways not to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity engaged in isn’t the activity that would produce business; instead, it is the activity that made them feel good, that made them feel productive, allowed them to convince themselves that they were 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.

The salespeople above believed they were highly productive because they felt productive.

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.  Nor is it easy but very low return lead generation such as plastering the Wal-Mart parking lot with fliers or sending out thousands of SPAM emails.  Those may be easy, non-threatening activities, but they are also career killers.

Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting with decision makers who you can help in one way or another and that requires a physical connection.

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.  It means connecting with quality prospects through highly targeted and personal letter and email communications, not sending out thousands of pieces of SPAM hoping that someone will read and respond.  It means creating a highly targeted and well researched direct mail campaign, not just sending letters to a purchased list.

Yet even in the above prospecting activities, the prep and research time is NOT prospecting time and should be done only during non productive prospecting hours.

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 to solve real issues, 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.

March 22, 2011

Using Social Media to Help You Generate Referrals from Clients

Referrals.

We all want them.

Yet most of us don’t get very many quality referrals. 

Instead we get the occasional name and phone number that we call a “referral” to someone who either has no need or want for our product or service, or couldn’t afford it even if they did want it.

What seems to be the problem with us sellers that prevents us from getting more than just a mere handful of quality referrals?

The good news is the problem isn’t with us.  We’re just fine.

The problem is the way we’ve been taught to get referrals.  It doesn’t work very well.

Most sales trainers and managers teach sellers that getting referrals is easy—just “do a good job” and then ask for referrals.  All you have to do to get referrals, they teach, is satisfy your client and then ask a question such as, “Ms. Client, who do you know that could benefit from my products or services?”

Simple, huh?

Yep.  So simple in fact that it’s just another piece of traditional sales training crap that isn’t worth the 45 seconds it takes to teach it.

The problem is the very concept of asking your client to do your prospecting for you is totally wrong.

Asking is passive.  When you ask your client to come up with a referral prospect for you, you’re asking them to do something they aren’t capable of doing.  You’re asking them to figure out who would be a good prospect for you—as though they knew your business.  As though they knew what constitutes a good prospect for you.  Unless they are your competitor, they don’t know.  It isn’t their job to know—it’s your job.  When you ask your client that silly referral question, you’re taking the future of your sales business out of your hands and putting it in their hands.

Asking is unfair.  When you ask your client for a referral you’re putting them on the spot.  Would you want someone to put you on the spot where you felt pressured to do something even if you didn’t want to? 

Asking is a waste of time.  Most of the time when we ask for a referral we are literally standing in front of or are on the phone expecting them to give us an immediate  answer.  We are giving our client 10 or 15 seconds to go through their mental file cabinet to come up with a great referral for us.  And then we’re surprised when they can’t.

So if asking doesn’t work, what does?

Instead of asking for a referral from your client, generate a referral for your client to give you.

Referral generation is proactive.  When you generate a referral for your client to give you, you are doing all the work for your client.  You’re making it easy for them to give you great referrals.  You’re taking the load off them so they don’t have to come up with a referral—all they have to do is utter one simple little word—“yes.”

Referral generation takes work.  Where asking is easy, referral generation takes work.  Like most things in life, getting high quality referrals takes work.  Although asking for referrals is easy, the result is what most easy things in life bring—little to nothing.  In order to generate a referral for your client to give you, you have to figure out who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to.  That means you have to become a bit of a detective.

Referral generation guarantees you get great referrals.  When you generate a referral for your client to give, you insure you get a great referral because it is a referral to someone you know you want to be referred to.  How would you like to get one or two or three referrals from every one of your clients, all to prospects that you know are great prospects for you?  It would change your business overnight.

The process of referral generation is really pretty simple.  You figure out who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to.  Then when it comes time to ask for a referral, you ask your client if they know the person you want to be referred to.  If you’ve done your homework well, they’ll say they know them.  Then you ask for the introduction.

The conversation goes something like this:

You:  “John, I’ve been trying to connect with Don Jones at XYZ Corporation for quite some time and just haven’t been able to make the connection.  It dawned on me that you just might know Don.  Do you know him?”  If you’ve done your homework well, you know the answer will be yes—or at least you have good reason to believe it will be yes.

John:  “Sure, I’ve known Don for about four years, why?”

You:  “Great.  Would you be comfortable introducing me to him?”  If you’ve done your job well and have a very satisfied client who trusts you, he’ll agree to give the introduction.

John didn’t have to come up with a name.  He didn’t have to fret over who to refer or what it was you really wanted.  He didn’t have to invest time or effort.  All he had to do was say “yes.”

You get an introduction to a great prospect and all your client had to do way say one little word.

Super easy—for your client.  And really not very hard for you, either.

But how do you find out who your client knows?

That may seem like the hard part, but with practice, it’s really pretty easy and doesn’t take a great deal of time.

Learning to really listen to your client is one key.  In the course of getting to know your client you can pick up a great many ideas about who they know—references to friends, family, and co-workers.  References to employers, past employers, organizations and associations, or places of worship or recreation they belong to.  All of these are fruitful areas to figure out who your client knows or likely knows.  Small talk can become one of the most informative areas of helping you generate referrals.

Becoming highly observant is also key.  If you meet in your client’s office or home, you can pick up all kinds of clues: what awards or certifications do they have on the wall?  Are their pictures with potential prospects?  Who are their vendors and suppliers?  What association or organization directories are in the bookcase?

Today social media can be a quick way to discover who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to. 

Does your client have a LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook account? 

If they do, search through their connections, followers, and/or friends to find great referral prospects for you.  Once you’ve identified a few, try to figure out which ones your client knows best and concentrate on using them as your generated referral.

What groups does your client belong to on LinkedIn and Facebook?  These not only tell you what their interests are, but can also help identify prospects that your client knows.

Does your client have a blog?  If so spend some time reading it.  It is a great way to get to know your client—and who they know.  Do they talk about specific people or companies they know or deal with?  Are there certain people that comment frequently on their posts?

Do a Google search on your client.  You might find other social media sites your client belongs to or possibly comments he or she has made on blogs or various media sites.

Social media is proving to be a tremendous help in a number of business applications.  Referral generation is one—and one that you should be taking advantage of. 

Don’t waste your time asking for referrals.  Learn to make giving you high quality referrals so easy your clients will love saying yes.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: