Welcome to The Pipeline.

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 

 

The Best Working E-Mail Subject Lines0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

mail

One of the critical elements to success in prospecting is getting the person to open you note. If they do not recognize the sender, the next most important factor is the subject line, and if you like many prospect using e-mail, the subject line becomes the key difference between being opened and potentially starting a sales cycle, or being deleted. While and some guests have shared proposed best practices around e-mails, ContactMonkey has just released some interesting insights about good, bad and other types of subject lines.

I have mentioned ContactMonkey in the past, I like many others use them to track the fate of e-mails I send out. Now based on 30 million emails sent from Outlook and Gmail, they have shared data the best and worst subject lines. Some will surprise others won’t, but it is worth checking out if you want to improve you open and by extension, engage ratios.

Subject lines with 2 words work well, more than 3 words dramatically reduce open rates. In fact they show that no subject line, yes blank, has a high open rate, much higher than 3 or more words. Not really a surprise if you think about it. Most go for subject lines that “will compel” someone to open it, but like with voice mail, the more they know about what is in the mail, the less the urgency to open and deal with it. Big subject lines, like big e-mails, get deleted; keep it short simple, if they can’t make a decision based on the subject, they will need to open the mail to know.

Given that 40% of e-mail are first read on a mobile device, real estate becomes important, both in the subject and the content. With only enough room for 4 – 7 words in a subject line on an average mobile device, don’t be tempted to pack everything in.

Asking questions or marketing jargon is out, short and direct works best, nothing at all even better.

Having RE: in the subject line boosts success; just having RE: and nothing else is the number one best subject line, 92% open rate. RE: Follow up was second. Again, goes to human nature, RE: makes it seem as though you are already in the conversation, and are about to see a response to a previous communication. This is why when you follow up to a voice mail, having RE: voice mail, is a good subject line. The worst is open rate with 7.25% is “the results are in”.

I encourage you to look at the output from ContactMonkey by clicking here. Keep in mind that it takes up to 12 touch points to make contact with prospects you are targeting, e-mail becomes a key element, and your subject line can be the difference.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto
 

It’s Really Not This vs. That – Sales eXecution 2510

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

A few weeks back I asked in a post What’s Your Favourite Hyphenated Selling, and many missed the point, and actually told me why one “type” of selling is better than the other. Many pundits and so called experts will tell you that this “type selling does not work anymore, only that type (their type) does.” Good sellers understand that it is not vs. the other, but how do I combine and expand to make the best of all possible techniques and tools to deliver value for the buyer.

Have a look, and tell me what you think:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

 

 

Social Trust and Sales (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Monday I shared a clip from a discussion I had with Heidi Schwende, Chief Digital Officer & Certified Internet Consultant WSI Digital Moxie, part of WSI Internet Consulting. The interview explored the importance of and the “how to’s” of SOCIALIZING YOUR SALES SUCCESS.

Today’s snippet captures the discussion about trust, the lack there of for some traditional channels, while at the same time the elevated level of trust among social peers.

Click here to see the entire interview, let us know what you think.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

To Call or Not9

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Touch

I am often asked a question I really hate, and while I have learned not to let it get on my nerves, and usually manage to deal with it calmly, it still pains me that my fellow professional sellers would ask it. The question relates to how vigorously one should pursue a potential prospect? I find the question bizarre on a number of levels, not the least of which is that today’s potential; prospect is tomorrow’s prospect, next week’s customer, and a stream of revenue (if not commissions) for some time after that. Ya, you should pursue it vigorously.

I am have a hard time not screaming when a sales person asks me “Should I call that prospect or not, I called him a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t call back, I guess he is not interested.” No, from where I sit, it is the sales person making that statement who is not interested. If they were, they’d be reaching out to the potential prospect, not asking the question. Not only do they lack the interest, but a good and executable pursuit plan needed to engage the potential prospect and start a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Consider the following:

48% Of Sales People Never Follow Up with a Prospect
25% Of Sales People Make a Second Contact and Stop
12% Of Sales People Make a Third Contact and Stop
Only 10% Of Sales People Make More Than Three Contacts
2% Of Sales Are Made On the First Contact
3% Of Sales Are Made On the Second Contact
5% Of Sales Are Made On the Third Contact
10% Of Sales Are Made On the Fourth Contact
80% Of Sales Are Made On the Fifth to Twelfth Contact

It is clear that the answer is not whether you should make the call (e-mail, tweet, smoke signal…) or not, but how many times, and what will you communicate. It is one things know how to spell nurture, another to execute it well

A good pursuit plan maps out how many touch points you will execute, in what sequence and frequency. Frequency is an important often overlooked or mismanaged factor. These touch-points should be made in a much narrower timeframe than many recognize or feel comfortable with. If you set out a pursuit plan that includes say eight touch-points, which is a median number, some go higher, some go lower, if you’re going to err, err on the higher end, so eight is about right. The time horizon should be between three to four weeks at the max. Long gaps, a week or two will just diminish the compounding effect of the touch-points.

When looking to connect with someone you have had no direct contact with, two or three touches a week are necessary, but most people don’t want to do more than one a week, you may as well not bother. One of the reasons they don’t call you back is you are allowing them to forget about you, and more importantly what you are trying to engage them around. That combined with the fact that you lose focus, and allow your attention to wonder during the long gaps.

The other key component is the combination of content, and medium. While I still think that Marshall McLuhan, would have been a lousy sales person, because it is the message that drives revenue, the medium does count. A combination of phone, e-mail, text, LinkedIn, tweets, introductions, smoke signals, you name it. No single touch should overwhelm the recipient, remember the goal is to engage directly not to sell. The content should entice the recipient to engage, while each may build on the other, the goal is to have the opportunity to complete the picture directly, even if it takes a few tries.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Why Set Out For 2nd Prize?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

2nd prize

Every day I work with sales people who start their day by setting their sights on winning second prize, and then celebrate when they achieve it. No really, watch any group of sales people on the phone trying to set appointments, and it is only a question of minutes before you see a few telling you how they convinced the potential prospect to let them have second place, or take their place among the also-rans.

Now I am not sure it is always accurate, but there is something to be said for the saying that in sales “second place, is as good as seventh place.” Meaning only the rep who wins the deal has any bragging rights, and the money, the rest are quickly forgotten.

But seriously, how else can you explain sales people doing the following.

They get on the phone, get their indented target on the phone, who tells them “we’re all set, we already have a provider (insert your stuff here), thanks for calling though”. To which the sales rep responds “Well, maybe I can send you some info, and if you ever need a backup…” Sometimes it is a variation on that theme, their whole approach is to get permission to send information to the potential prospect, and then ask for permission to call back to follow up. I mean I could find it interesting if they asked for an appointment to review the material they send, but to ask for permission to call back, don’t we all know what will happen when they call back:

A.   They end up in voice mail, they don’t leave a message, or leave the wrong message; no call back, couple more tries and then they give up
B.   Mysteriously, despite improvements in technology, the prospect did not receive what they sent
C.   The prospect hasn’t had a chance to read, but will, and asks you to call in a week
D.   All of the above

Notice what one of the options wasn’t, that’s right, an appointment, which what the objective is, first prize!

Knowing how to handle objections is one thing, and if you download our Objection Handling Handbook, you’ll know how to handle the two above, (all set, and send me stuff), as well as the most common you are likely to face on the phone. But where most fail is in their attitude, which is really just a symptom of their preparedness and commitment.

While the reality is that most people you speak to will not meet with you first try; it is also true that often that first call is a chance to introduce yourself and initiate a process that may involve a number of calls before you have built enough rapport to have them take a meeting. But it is also true that that should be what you settle for, not your intent going into the call.

Assuming, (not always safe I know), as a seller who values their time and is intent on exceeding quota, you have at least minimally qualified the person and the opportunity before you picked up the phone. The company meets your criteria, you done some background work on the company and the individual you are calling, checked out their social activity, and have prepared for the call. If so, then you objective for the call is to get the meeting to initiate the sale, anything short of that is not a win. And that needs to be the attitude when you are on the phone – you and I need to meet, we’ll both get value!

Not only will that attitude come across on the phone, but it will inform what and how you present things to the buyer. Everything you say driving the need to meet and talk further, that you can add immediate value to their ability to meet their objective. Not in an overt way, but very specifically challenging the prospect to meet, and remember challenge like provoke can be done in a very positive way, it need not be a negative. But most sellers are so scared of the phone, so scared of rejection, so unprepared, they see any permission to end the call as a good one. The difference between the winners and the rest, is that the winners see the meeting as the only good outcome, while the rest want to get off so fast that they see the right to send, second prize, as the best way to achieve their objective, which “How fast can I get off this call without hearing no? Send you some stuff, sure that works, thank you.”

“Hey Boss, I looks like they’re interested, I am putting it at 25%!”

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Join me - Return On Objectives #Webinar

 

Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Unavoidable – Sales eXecution 2380

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

One of the most frequent questions I am asked all start with “How do I avoid…?” Many are surprised when I respond “Why do you want to avoid it?” The answer is obvious, they either don’t know how to deal with something, so they look for ways to avoid it. Or the know how to avoid it, but don’t want to do what it takes for number of reasons.

The former is easily fixed, they can be taught, they put things into practice, and over time they don’t even remember that they were trying to avoid it, and now speak like experts. The latter is a bit of a challenge, all too common challenge.

Some things you can avoid, in Renbor’s Objection Handling Handbook, I talk about specific way to present things to prospects, especially while prospecting that allows us to steer the discussion in a certain direction, or better yet, initiate the conversation in a way that eliminates a specific objection. For example, (and there are others in the book), when you follow up on information you sent a prospect, and they say “Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, give me a call next week”, you can take that away and avoid the objection by starting your call like this:

“Bob, it’s Susie, I am following up on the information I sent you as you requested last week, you probably haven’t had a chance to read it yet, have you?” Just the nervous laughter is worth the call alone, but you have avoided the response by taking it away.

But there will be things in sales, unpleasant things, which not only you can’t avoid, but should not want to avoid. People want to find a way to avoid the most common objections while telephone prospecting. I can understand why, but I would argue that there is more upside in learning how to deal with it, and benefit from that, and benefit in a much more profitable way than if you were able to avoid the objections.

For the sake of full disclosure, there is one proven sure proof way to avoid objections faced in telephone prospect, works every time, but it does have big risk associated with it, really big risk. The method is not to make the call. Works every time, and oddly the chosen method of many. One just needs to look at some of the “be found” stuff being offered as practical ways to generate engagement and prospects.

The side effects, are fewer opportunities, and missed quotas, in my view, infinitely worse than any punishment faced while prospecting. Just today I got a note in my inbox from CSO Insight, that only 58.2% of reps attained quota. Give me a stern “not interested”, or “I am good, all set”. That I can deal with, take away the objection and drive engagement.

The other dark side of trying to avoid things, is that you fail to set in to motion other practical elements of a sale. Sure you avoid the discomfort of one thing, but that prevents you from getting to what is behind it. Does the old expression, “you need to crack a few eggs”, remind you of anything? You need to hit that first domino

The biggest down and dark side, is that failure at times is the cost of growth. None of us learned to ride a bike, play hockey, or ask someone on a date without falling a few times. You may succeed in avoiding some unpleasantries, but mostly you’ll avoid success.

Note – someone pointed out that I have been deliver the Sales eXchange for the last 200 plus weeks, and while there is information exchanged, the topics and the themes are more around sales execution. And with their input I have introduced a slight change to the series, and moving forward it will be called Sales eXecution! Because after all in sales, it is about Execution – everything else is just talk!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

Cold Calling is “IN” Again! – Sales eXchange 2346

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

frozen calls

Sadly I am at an age where I find myself saying “I remember the first time that was cool”, I have seen thin ties come and go enough times enough time to know not to throw out any ties, because it is only a question of time before someone says, “wow, that’s a cool tie, is it new?” The only thing I can’t remember if it was 1987, 1993 or 2007 when I actually first bought it.

Well it seems that cold calling is coming back into fashion. Not only do you find people dropping euphemisms when referring to the activity, companies popping up all over the place to perform a service many are needing but forgot how to execute. Many closet callers are coming out and proudly proclaiming not only that they regularly part take in cold calling, but that it producing results that exceed the expectations many, and helping many exceed quota.

Amazing what an Arctic Vortex will do.  Here we are less than two weeks into the New Year, and the signs are all over that cold calling is cool again. Just last week I had a notice for a webinar from one of the original Sales 2.0 gang, inviting me to a webinar on cold calling.  BTW, if you want to attend a webinar from someone who never wavered from cold calling, click here.

Other pundits who not so long ago wrapped themselves in the Sales 2.0 cloak, before dawning top layer of social selling, are now shedding their load, and freely speaking about the virtues of cold calling.

What is truly refreshing in some of their proclamations, is not so much their embracement of this staple and age old tool of sales success, but more importantly their abandonment of the “Us vs. Them” dribble that often dominates the debate.  The former stance that cold calling is dead, and it is all about the new thing, is now more reasoned and tempered, and sounds more like those of us who were out in the cold for a while.  Namely that it is about a blend of approaches and means of engaging with potential buyers, not one means vs. another.

Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the economy is showing some life, revenue expectations by Wall Street and companies themselves, are causing people to realise that they will need to be more than found if they are going to make quota, they’re actually going to have to go out and find some potential buyers who are not currently in the market or expressed that they may care to be.

In a recent LinkedIn group discussion asking if cold calling is dead or not, the comments were absent of the usual posturing about how cold calling was bad or dead.  The tone was more logical, again, putting cold calling alongside social selling and other techniques and tools that make up a successful tool kit.

LinkedIn itself, seems to be leading the charge back.  Despite a recent article “Cold Calling is Dead, Thanks To LinkedIn”, seems to have jumped on the band wagon.  As with most leaders and pundits, the measure of their commitment lies in what they do, not always in what they say.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, let me point to a recent advert for a sales position at LinkedIn, promoted on LinkedIn. When it comes to Responsibilities, just look at what is number one on the list:

LinkIn CC wr

About the only thing that could make cold calling more fashionable is to call it Zombie Calling!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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