Welcome to The Pipeline.

The Best Day To Prospect Is Not Someday!2

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Someday

I was talking to a rep the other day, he was telling me about his approach to structuring his week to help him succeed. He set certain activities to specific days, and filled in the rest of the time with things that were dependent on the buyers’ calendars. He had time set for writing account reviews, Thursday afternoons, this way if he had to get something from the clients he still had time in the week. Proposals were done on Wednesdays and Mondays, all he had to do is set the right expectation from the buyer. And so it went.

But when it came to prospecting, there were no allocations. I asked him about it, and he like others told me that he does it when he can, any time he can get around to it. I asked why he has clearly allocated time to all other key activities, does he not see prospecting and filling the funnel as a key activity? Of course he said. Well, then why does it not conform to the way you approach and execute the other key activities, I said “you have everything else all neatly in place in place, what’s the deal with prospecting?”

He hummed and haad, checking the tips of his shoes, but it was clear that the day he allocated to prospecting was Someday.

Now I don’t like prospecting any more than the next guy, especially cold calling, but it has to be done. Which is why I do it first, then it’s out of the way, and I can go on to doing what I like. But kicking the can down the road only works in Ottawa and Washington.

I know the beauty of Someday is that it never comes, but the deadline for your quota does come, and in light of the fact that those people who make quota hovers around 50%, and the number one reason most sales leaders give for that is a lack of prospects and too much dependence on their base, the day of reckoning will get here before Someday, specifically two months from Tomorrow, December 31.

Given the choice between Someday and Today, I would go with today!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

3 Signs Of Bad Phone Breath – Sales eXecution 2724

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Phone breath

No one likes cold calling, well most don’t, so you can stop writing that e-mail telling me that you’re the exception that proves the rule. I don’t like it, I know it is god’s punishment to sales people, but it works, and I have made the connection between successful cold calls, a robust pipeline and the kids eating. I don’t know about you, but my kids get cranky when they don’t eat. But just because I don’t like it, I don’t tell myself it does not work, like many, I also figured out that if I don’t do it, for sure it will not work. So instead, I try to figure out how to do it better, so I have to do less of it, in the process have come to learn some things that stink a call out, literally like bad morning breath for the phone, and given that the people I am calling are not my lovers, they will not tolerate morning breath. So here three ways to avoid Bad Phone Breath.

Speak To them not At them

This one gets me every time, if you are going to interrupt someone during their busy day, make it worth their time, which means leading with and focusing on one of the oldest truths in sales, What’s In It For Them. Sure everyone knows this until the prospect answers the phone, and then they forget and bam, garlic breath. They start by talking about their company, “we’re a leading…”, or other things that mean nothing to the listener. What they want to know is how you can improve their lot, and specifically the outcomes you have delivered which they can relate to and would have an interest in. Start with that, grab their interest, save the rest for the meeting.

Soft In the Middle

I hate it when reps call me and say “I was wondering if we can meet?” I usually respond, “give me a call when you figured it out”; or “I was hoping we can meet” to which I say, “please call me when you get past hoping, and want to.” I know you are trying to be courteous, don’t want to come across pushy, but you need to make up for the fact that you are on the phone, and need to compensate for the lack of body language. People will follow a person with confidence who has a clear message that shows them what’s in it for them. Be clear, direct, and assertive, “I am calling to set a time to meet to share with you….”

Stop Telling Them There is No Reason to Talk to You

No getting away from the fact that if you are cold calling, you are talking to more voice mails than humans. So stop leaving code in your message that there is no need to call you, and they should go ahead and delete the message now. So here is the code buyers look for to hit 76 and flush your message: “Please call me back at your earliest convenience”, delivered in the Soft way described above. Sure, here is an empty message from a dude selling something I already have, because they didn’t tell me what’s in it for me, just what they do. So let me clear my calendar and set aside things I need to get done, so I can call you. Hmm, whose convenience is that for again?

There are other things you can do to improve the odor of a call, but this is start, get these down, call me and we share more.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Composed But Not Scripted4

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Composer

Whenever I do a piece about prospecting, specifically cold calling, one of the push backs I get is about the script. People feel limited and restricted by them, well not actors, who seemed to have found a way to take scripts, other people’s scripts, and not only use them creatively and expand beyond the words on the page (or screen), but make good money with in the process.

While I understand the reason for the resistance to scripts, I really don’t get it. As an industry we have tried to take the bite of scripts by hiding them in apps or software, even taking up new (and silly) labels like “Talk Track” and more. Yes indeed, I continue to be amazed at how the same people who rebel against scripts, are more than willing to work with Talk Tracks, one for the powers of branding.

But there is a lot that sales people can learn from the arts when it comes to balancing form, structure and personal expression. Where one can stay very much within the limits of a particular “school” or practice, yet still be individual and original.

The balance I try to help sales people achieve is one of being “Composed but Not Scripted”.

“Composed”, speaks to the need to be thoroughly prepared for the call. This is less about what you say in terms of the exact words you use, and more about the structure for the journey you want to take the prospect on, including the final outcome of the call, scheduled meeting, live or web or phone or …. As with any journey you need to know where it will start, where some turns will be, where you are likely to face heavy traffic or detours, and how you will respond to those in order to get to your destination on time.

When we look at a composition, there are all the elements you need to make it work, the parameters within which it is be played, all of which not only help the player play the piece, but helps the listener consume, enjoy and understand what the composer was trying to communicate. But these do not limit the ability of the player to interpret and enhance the piece while staying loyal to the composition.

The same is true for a sales call, having a structured approach including beginning, key points, and desired outcome, delivered in a way that the prospect can get involved, understand what you want, and what is in it for them, will not only lead to more success, but make it an easier and more pleasant experience for you, and your quota.

Remember you can be composed but not scripted.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

Why is it easier for when you do it for others? – Sales eXecution 2690

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Dialing for Prospects

No secret I am a big proponent of cold calling being an element of prospecting success, along with any other viable means of engaging with potential buyers. I also understand that one of the big reason people do not like cold calling is the whole objection – fear of rejection thing.

But over the years I have observed an interesting phenomenon which raises some key questions about how people execute their calls, how they react and respond to objections and rejection. In turn this could perhaps lead some re-examining of one’s views of cold calling.

Time and time again what I find is that when people are making appointment calls for others, be they an in-house who is tasked with setting appointments for their outside reps, or an outsourced service provider, they react differently to rejection than when they are making appointments for themselves. Specifically, they seem a lot less if at all bothered about getting objections and rejections when they are calling on someone else’s behalf.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that it is because of what they do, or they are just part of that small minority that actually likes to cold call, it is not as simple as that, I know from personal experience. A couple of years ago, a friend was launching a business and asked if I can help set appointments with potential buyers and financers. I spent a few weeks doing that, my conversion rate of conversations to meetings was about the same as when I call for myself, yet when they said no, it didn’t hit me the same way. While the finder’s fee was quite rich, the rejection did not sting nearly to the same degree. Further, when I spoke to people who made the transition from setting appointments for their colleagues, to a sales role that included prospecting for themselves, they found the same experience.

Needless to say that I don’t have the degrees to back the opinion, but it seems the difference is ego. Clearly wasn’t the money, or the nature of the rejection; they included the usual, including hang ups, and assorted accusations.

As a result of the experience, I began to focus on taking myself out of the call. While I have always made the call about the prospect, that is different than taking myself out of the picture. While there is no escaping the fact that my success and income are tied to the call, it becomes a question of perspective. I used to focus on the outcome of the call, and was very conscious about where success on the call led, and even more so if the call did not yield an appointment. Beyond the money, it was like any friendly game of golf, there is always a preference to winning. I now shift the win/lose scenario to what happens in the resulting meeting, not the call that leads to the meeting. Sure you can argue without the call there is no appointment, but I now adopt the outlook that the real test of my ability is in the meeting, not in the exercise that leads to it. My conversions have not changed, but the impact of rejection on me has, making the days even more fun.

Why do you think the results are different when the task is performed for someone else?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

The Reason For My Call – Sales eXecution 2680

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Road sign objectives

For many, “The Reason For My Call”, is a crucial part of their prospecting call, probably more accurate to say cold call, as I would have to assume that if it were a warm call the recipient would know the reason for the call. All too often I cringe when I hear how most callers use this expression, especially when a couple of small adjustments in their approach may lead to better results.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Now!

First thing is the timing of the statement. Most people use it at or near the start of the call, too soon. While some will tell you that you have 10 seconds at the start of the call, step back and think, (for more than 10 seconds). On a cold call, you just interrupted someone who was most likely doing something other than waiting for a cold call, since you call you address them and hopefully not make the most common time and call water, and say either “how are you?”, or “is this a good time?” Hello, you just interrupted them, how could it be a good time. Even if they did want to speak with you they would need a few seconds to disengage from what they were involved with when the phone rang. Then they’ll need a few more seconds and effort to focus in on your voice, accent, intonation, etc. So giving them your Reason For The call at this point is premature, as it completely lacks context, you know why you called, you need to give them a clue too.

The Reason For Your Cal, should come after some context (a different post), and when it does come it should be a good reason, for them. The only reason someone would want to meet with us, is if there is a good indication that we can help them achieve their objectives, to deliver outcomes that will make a difference for them.

The Reason is certainly not to “learn”, they don’t have time to teach you. Remember you are asking, in my case, for an hour of their time, if they are working 10 hours a day that is a big chunk of time, big investment. If they going to make that investment, they have the right to learn and be smarter at the end, not you, they expect that you are coming prepared, (what happened to all that research I keep hearing about?). In the same way they do not have time to discuss.

I was once listening in on outbound calls, and one flower-child-caller, said The Reason They Were Calling was so they could meet to establish a relationship, after a brief pause, the prospect said, “You should go to church dance or singles club, I need help in my business.”

What prospect will make time for is hear how you can help them achieve specific objectives, how you can help them mitigate risk, have a positive financial impact, increase market share, and more, all based on how you have done that for others in a meaningful and measurable way. Those are good reasons for the call.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

3 Ways The Beatles Will Make You A Better Cold Caller – Sales eXecution 2652

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The Beatles Is On The Phone – by NowhereGirl17

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.

Get Your Cold Call-Flow Now!

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!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

(Photo: http://nowheregirl17.deviantart.com/)

Social Style Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2630

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

social billboard

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.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

An Inclusive Approach to Prospecting – Sales eXecution 2601

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

circle group small

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.

Grab your Proactive Prospecting Call-Flow Chart

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.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Happy Endings in Cold Calling – Sales eXecution 2590

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The end

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.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

The Best Time To Cold Call? – Sales eXecution 2581

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Buyer beware!

It seems over the last few months there is more and more advice coming from many sources on the merits of cold calling, (ya I know), and some so called “Rules and Best Practices”. But consider the source of expertise before you jump in. As with many things in sales, especially cold calling, for lasting success, you’re better off looking to your buyers than people jumping on bandwagons.

Here is an example why:

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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