Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales. Take a look at what I mean:
We are about to enter the silly season in sales, the run up to the end of the year. I say silly because all the theorist and soothsayers will be brimming with advice, pulled from their memories and favourite web sources. Soothsayers, because many spend more time advising than selling.
As a sales professional what you need is practical and executable inputs that will help you close the year strong, and set yourself up for a profitable 2015.
To that end, I invite you to join me, and two other leaders who spend their time on the front line doing and selling, Matt Heinz and Mike Weinberg, for a no holds barred panel discussion that will not only get you thinking, but doing. Moderated by KiteDesk CEO Sean Burke, this will be a no fluff, no theory – just real, practical, candid tactics that deliver results. Promise – money back guarantee.
Put it in your calendar now: Thursday, September 11th, 2014 2:00 pm Eastern
Social Sales. Sales 2.0. Modern Sales. The nomenclature is irrelevant. What really matters is what works; we will challenge each other and you in a blunt, holistic discussion about what constitutes smart selling.
This is NOT another Marketing-Still-Sucks-Here’s-What-You-Need-To-Do-Better rant. We will lay out what needs to be accomplished at each stage of the sales funnel and offer actionable insights for marketing and sales to work collaboratively on content development, defining the target market, refining prospect lists and generating engagement.
Smart sales is an ‘and’ not an ‘or.’ Focus on opportunities to capitalize on social networks’ unprecedented data, reach, and resonance within each stage of the sales process.Register now and walk away with sales tips that have a material impact on your Q4 and 2014 results.
Being that it is Labour Day both in the USA and Canada, the last long weekend of the summer, I thought I would keep things simple, and to one point. A simple but important point for those not in sales to understand, and those in sales to revel in.
On Friday I heard a radio ad from a labour union wishing everyone a happy Labour Day, then they went on to remind everyone of all the things they would be without if not for labourers and more specifically labour unions.
So I am here to remind them that none of that would be possible if not for the labour of sales people. Nothing happens until there is a sale. It is sales people that first sell the hammer and then sell the sickle. It is the sales person in every entrepreneur that sells their passion and idea to investors and the world.
If you are not a labourer, you still owe your fortunes to a sales type, don’t kid yourself. How many great ideas didn’t make it out of the garage because there was no sales power; how much crap has added to the wealth of capitalism all because there was a savvy sales person behind it.
So before you pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment, first find a sales person to thank for making it happen.
Happy Labour Day, and ya, You’re Welcome!
If you ask sales people why they hate/fear cold calling their response always revolves around them, their feelings, and rarely the buyer’s. Even when they mention the buyer, it is very much through their own filters, “I wouldn’t like that”, or about the buyer’s reaction to the call. It is important to remember that the reaction is exactly that, a response to what you said or did, so if you change the input, what you say and do, and you can change the outcome.
This is where the Beatles come in – stop making the call about “me”. The real big downfall in cold calling is that it’s never about “me”, “my company”, “what we do”, etc. Make the call about “YOU”, the buyer. I know many are thinking they already do that, but only in thought, when you listen to cold calls, you hear a lot more “me” than ‘YOU”. “I am calling from ACME Corp, a Fortune 500 company, specializing in BLAH BLAH BLAH”. He didn’t hang up, he dozed off and fell on the phone. It is usually well in to the second act before their world is even mentioned.
Start with YOU: Of the top 100 words used by the Beatles in their songs, the word YOU, was a distant first, 2,262 times, second was I, but only 1,36 time, and LOVE, was eighth at 613.
Not only did they use it often, but used it early, think of all the Beatles songs, especially early hits that had the word YOU, right in the first line. “Love Me Do”, their first hit: Love, “love me do You know I love you”; twice. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You”, “All My Loving”, and more.
You have always been told that buyers live by WIFM, give it to them:
Stay with YOU: Don’t go from the introduction about how great you are and all the great things your company does. Talk to the buyer in context of their world. “What YOU will get out of it”; how it will help YOU achieve YOUR objectives”. Doesn’t matter how cool, new or nifty your offering is, unless they called you, and it’s a cold call so they didn’t, they seem to be doing just fine, thank YOU! Warm the call up by speaking to direct impact and outcomes for them, moving them closer to their objectives, if you don’t, the call gets real cold – real fast.
Close with YOU: When you close for the appointment (live or virtual), it needs to be about them. “YOU Will…” I hear a lot of sales people say what they are going to get out of the meeting, why they want to meet. But I rarely hear “as a result of us meeting YOU will be able to …..”
The reason many calls are cold, is that there is more in it for and about the caller than the buyer, leaving the buyer out in the cold, and then having the same effect on the caller.
Make it about the buyer, talk about “YOU”, and not only will things be warmer, but more appointments to boot. It worked for the Beatles!
I am luck in the fact that I work with sales professionals, at all levels of their organisations, and as a result learn almost daily. I also see many similarities in B2B sellers regardless of the industry that they serve. One interesting characteristic many share is confusing ability with will.
I find there are two common reasons for this, one is the fear of change, of the unknown, and the discomfort of breakthroughs. The second reason usually has to do with conditioning, and life experience, “built in” notions of “how” we are supposed to do in certain things given specific circumstances. And since some things in sales are by nature counter intuitive, it makes it difficult for some to act that way. This is compounded when people are focused more on relationship than revenue. I for one do not feel that there are mutually exclusive, but I do think that sometimes people are unnecessarily fixated on the sequence, some feeling they need to have a relationship before there can be talk of revenue. It’s so much better for both parties when that pressure is absent, some buyers do want to be your friend, but are ready to have a long and loyal business relationship if you help them achieve their objectives.
Overcoming fear of change, fear of the unknown is not easy, yet we ask our buyers to do it every day. So why not look at how you go about helping your buyers deal with the same challenge, and apply that to yourself. I would argue that if it truly works for them, it should work for you. So when someone offers up a new way of doing something in your sales cycle, something foreign to you, and you find yourself questioning it and saying “I don’t know if I could do that”, how would you help a buyer deal with it a similar challenge and help them overcome it?
I find having a plan with various contingencies is a start. Ask the same questions you would of a reluctant prospect. Just as it helps buyers articulate their doubts or concerns, making it easier for them to be broken down and dealt with. Do the same with your challenge to get the same results. Many like to present some form of ROI, and a good ROI discussion also looks at the risk and cost of inaction. As a sales rep reluctant to try something, that would be the biggest question to answer. If the road you are on now is not getting you what you want, how much worse can the alternative be, what is the upside to trying the alternate?
The question of conditioning is a bigger challenge, especially since we view everything through the filters of our own experiences. Sometimes reps or managers tell me not only that they can’t do something, they make it universal, applying their standard on all, they tell me “you can’t do that”, as though it was law. Thanks to the internet, I can now research federal, state and provincial laws, and counter this by letting them know that based on the law of the land indeed you can, your competitor probably did and won the deal as a result. But I understand, lifelong habits are hard to change, lifelong fears are hard to face, doing unnecessary work, losing deals in the process seems the easier choice.
But I would argue it is not. Think in your own life of a time when you had a real breakthrough, I bet like me, as soon as the breakthrough takes place, we never see what all the fuss, fear and reluctance was in advance. So as long as it is legal, moral, and helps both you and your buyer, invest your energy in building your abilities. Remember there are million reasons why something won’t work, but there is one reason it will, you doing it.
As we have all noticed more and more companies are putting the Twitter and Facebook icons/logos not only on their marketing materials, but on trucks, and the signs on their buildings. In some instances they include their twitter handles, other cases not. I know I put my handle out there to help follow me, view my content, get a chance to see what I am about, and in general to invite them and encourage them to interact with me and my work. While some have called me odd, I figure that others have similar motives for displaying their “social signs”.
But I see it as sort of a half effort if you just display the Twitter logo on your truck or sign in front of your building, without including your handle. Puts the onus on me to go and search it, make sure that it is the right one, in most cases more bother than worth. Unless it involves a company you want to approach in order to do business with them, basically someone you want to prospect.
Which brings us to a company I have had my eye on for a bit, building my approach, but have yet to formally “put into play”. Last week when I drove by I noticed their new (or perhaps just newly cleaned) sign on the corner their building occupied. As you have guessed, the sign had the Twitter icon, but no handle. Hmm, I thought, let’s try something different.
I walked into reception, and said that I had noticed their sign, and wanted to talk to someone about their participation with and on Twitter. The receptionist looked puzzled, ask what specifically I wanted, I said I was interested in the company, and saw the icon on the sign, and wanted to follow them to satisfy my interest; so I was looking for their handle, but more importantly to speak with the individual who was managing their social media, gave her my card, which has my social coordinates on it. She picked up the phone, and a few minutes later, out cam a young lady, introduced herself as the person in marketing responsible for social media.
We talked for a few minutes, she told me why the company had decided to become active, how she got the job, and some of her objectives. One of which was t better interact with their clients and prospects, ensure their message was not only getting out, but received and understood by the right people. I asked if that included their sales team, and how the sales team was leveraging her work and social media in general. She smiled and said I would have to ask the VP of sales about that. Bingo!
He wasn’t in, but she introduced us via e-mail, and I booked the appointment.
You gotta love cold calling in the social age, it’s so not different than ever before.
Earlier in the week I wrote about the need for sales people to be “multilingual” in order to better understand and communicate with the types of buyers they may not have prospected or sold to in the past. A common example of this is when sales people accustomed to selling to users or front line managers, are instructed by their leadership to go ‘upstream’, and sell to senior decision makers, executives or the ‘C’ suite.
It is important to remember that language and meaning are not the only thing that differentiates these two groups. While I am sure that many understood that “language” was a metaphor for a number of differences that need to be balanced and managed by sales people throughout the cycle. But there is one that is worth expanding on, specifically, time and the perception of time by some buyers.
Based on their role, different buyers will have, or more accurately, live in, different time frames. Front line folks, sales people, factory workers, database analysts, etc. tend to be in the here and now. Their targets and measures tend to be near term, which in turn drives their planning and execution. Their decision to execution to result cycle, is generally short in nature, using sales as an example, a sales person is more likely to focus on their current cycle, and partially into the next. So when we sell to these folks, we need to align our time frame and “language” accordingly.
Executives, those tasked with the strategic success of the enterprise, are operating way in the future, minimum 12 – 18 month into the future. This is why they built the layers below them, the front line discussed above. The front line is tasked with executing the strategic plan the executive developed last year. The reality is that the executives have delegated the present to the front line, because they are too busy dealing with the future, making sense of the uncharted. So if you hope to engage with these, you need to get past the how, and deal with the why; you have to speak their language, and you have to be in synch and aligned with their time line, the future.
If you go in there and talk about the here and now you’re more than dead, you’re history, because today, is part of their history, again, they have delegated it.
It is for this reason that one my favourite questions is “If we were sitting here 18 months from, and you were telling me you had hit a grand slam, what would that look like?” Now you’re where they are, someone they can talk to. Let them tell you, make sure you take it all in, and then ask “so why aren’t we there now?”, That’s when they tell you what they need to make that future happen, and what you can sell them.
So if you want too sell higher up, you need to stop living in the past!
You know sales is a lot like politics, some are isolationists, others realize we live in a big world with plenty of room for all to thrive, and not always at the expense of others, I guess these would be the inclusionary camp.
The way it plays out in sales is you have those zealots who will proclaim things dead, “never cold call again”, telling their unsuspecting followers that there is only one way to Nirvana, their’s, and no other, “all other roads will lead you to hell and financial ruin”. Sort of like the “Referral Über Alles” approach. For me, combining many approaches in a way that leads to maximum results is way better than betting the farm on one, and then hoping. I say take the inclusionary approach, that is, include as many viable methods, rather than the risk singular approach; if for no other reason than the fact that buyers come in many shapes and sizes and from many corners, some of which may not be known to us at the outset, and missed if you go down one street only.
I like to leverage cold calls to get referrals. Despite the scary things some will tell you about the responses to cold calls, most people you call are human and will behave that way even when they turn down your offer. They may not be interested in what you have to say or sell, (now), but most respect the fact that you are doing your job. Experience has shown that few hang up, and few swear at you, most tell you in a civil way why they are not interested at that moment in time. Managing those initial objections is part of the job.
But once you see that you cannot take away their objections, you still have the opportunity to say:
“Based on what we spoke about, is there anyone you know I should call who may see merit in the conversation?” A vast majority will say no, and the call ends. But a number will say, “You know you may want to call….” At that point I thank them, and follow up with, “May I say you suggested the call, or am I cold calling them?” Some say “Sure, tell’em I sent you.” Others will say cold call. Either way is good by me, and I have direction.
Not only that, but in all instances, you have demonstrated yourself to be a professional who completed the “Prospecting Exercise”, and will be remembered for being that pro. (Believe me you’ll call them again).
Using both cold calling and the referral approach is all upside, an inclusive approach both in terms of methodologies, and people. Using this technique I get to speak to more qualified prospects while setting up future wins, than those relying strictly on one methodology.
If you follow this blog, you may have seen that several times I have suggested that those people who are not cut out for a career in sales, should seriously consider transitioning to a career in hospitality. Based on recent experiences I’ve had as a prospect, and seeing how some sales people execute their sale, I am beginning to firmly believe that there is an expert on clairvoyance, who on his blog, is recommending to his readers that those who can’t cut it as clairvoyants, strongly consider a career in sales.
The reason I say this is the number of instances I have seen where people, who have a sales title of some sort on their business card, seem to be selling by using the ESP sales methodology. That’s right, you’ve heard of SPIN, The Challenger Sale, The Objective Seller, and other sales methodologies; but all of those combined, don’t come close to the number of sellers who use the Extra Sensory Perception approach to sales and prospecting.
Here are but two examples. I was recently in the market for something that I can either buy some apps and do myself, or hire a service to do it for me. I pursued the latter, and met with a couple of providers in and around Toronto. One I met with did a good job qualifying the opportunity, there was good alignment between their offering and my objectives. For me it was a low energy day, so I was not jumping up and down every time we identified a fit, nor did I high-five them as I was leaving. We agreed that based on the exchange they would forward a proposal by the following Monday, and “follow up with in a few days of sending.” (First mistake, they should have confirmed a time, especially with people not tied to their desk.)
Here we are more than month later, no proposal – no follow up. The only conclusion I can come to is that A) they didn’t like me and didn’t want to help me, not the first time, but it was a nice slice of revenue. B) They are useless. C) They are clairvoyant, they were able to use the ESP method to know that I will not buy their service, so why waste time, effort, or router capacity to send the proposal. Although I have to believe that if they did possess this skill (power) they would have known this the minute I walked in, or even before, and not wasted any time on me.
Myself, I think they are useless, not following up is just not acceptable. Even when I have meetings where I know we will not do business now, or ever, I still send a follow up note, if for no other reason than to keep up my reputation, not being clairvoyant, I don’t know what will happen in the future, where they may end up working next year. If I have any inkling of possible business, I follow up for the obvious (may be not to some) reasons.
Another example is when sales people are tasked with calling either people who stopped by their booth at a trade show, or sales people who spend part of their day collecting cards to use for potential appointments. Time after time, I see people just look at the name on a list, or hold the business card, at a certain angle at given distance from their eyes, and the miraculously divine not only whether the person will give them an appointment, but whether they will buy.
Not possessing that skill, I find that following up by making the call often leads to the same results, no appointment – no sale; but sometimes these people invite me in, and then buy, who would’ve known?
I know it takes effort, not just the actual act of follow up, but the planning, the flow, the means, and more. Start with a plan, map out the various potential outcomes to each stage of the sale, including next steps, (plans A, B, and C). Once you have that flow, just execute, complete the plan; it won’t make non-buyers buyers, but those people on the fence, will more likely fall your way, especially when the competitors don’t follow up.
Seems to me that if you are going to start something, following up, and bringing it to whatever closure, regardless of final outcome, is just more professional and profitable than letting things hang.
It’s not that people don’t like cold calling, mostly they don’t like the outcome, which often is very little, leading to disappointed, and anemic pipelines. Frustrated, they seek expert advice on how to get more buyer engagement while avoiding the dreaded cold call. Much of the advice is more feel good than do good, especially when measured in real engagement, real pipeline opportunities, and resulting revenues. Much like the ab machines which promise a swimsuit figures in just five minutes a day.
A large part of the problem is that a lot of the advice is focused on how to avoid the unpleasant aspects of the exercise, most specifically the objection/rejection. While there may be ways to get around initial rejection here and there, for the most part these are temporary fixes, or can only be applied to small segments of buyers, leaving you in search of the next miracle cure or silver bullet. (I am the Zomby Woof)
For those who can’t survive through referrals only, or whose target market is not as active on social media, especially for business, (a large number of SMB’s) the phone remains a vital component of their prospecting effort/success. Part of that effort is the reality of interrupting prospects, making it more crucial that we engage that buyer as quickly as possible.
Most people start the call talking about their company, expertise, including some ambiguity about how they do things, followed by a barrage of buzzwords like: productivity, efficiency, work-flow, peace of mind, reliability, and the crowd favourite, “customer responsive”. Things the prospect has heard 30 times this week already, and it’s only Wednesday, and none of which was he or she thinking about when they answered the phone: bam – rejected.
Why not start with positive and measurable outcomes they will realize as a result using your product/service. Not many people care about how you do it (so long as it’s legal), fewer care about you or your company, they will as they get closer to committing, but that’s down the road, the object at hand now is getting them to engage. So instead of inflicting them to something like:
“We deliver sustainable improvements in financial performance to forward-thinking manufacturers by implementing custom productivity solutions. We offer a broad spectrum of work-flow efficiencies that can be configured to support our clients’ overall business strategies and best leverage their resources.
I am hoping to set up a time to discuss what we do and how it may help you like it has some of our clients. Is there a convenient time we may do that?”
Ya, like never.
I mean really, “hoping, discuss, may help, some of our clients?”
Tell them exactly what will happen after they implement: “Increased profits each and every quarter since implemented 18 months ago”; “Improved forecast accuracy by 11%”; “Reduced wait time by 10%”, “Decreased abandoned carts by 22% over the last year”. This is more likely what was on the mind of the buyer when they answered the phone or responded to your voice mail, and what is likely to capture and get them to listen.
Unlike a book, take them right to the last page right away, and then work back from there when you meet. To improve your prospecting results, give them the happy ending right up front.