Some of you may be familiar with Stu Heinecke, a Hall-of-fame-nominated marketer and Wall Street Journal cartoonist, see example above. Last year I had the opportunity to speak with Stu while he was working on his book “How to Get a Meeting with Anyone”. More recently I joined Stu, for extended conversation on not just on how to get a meeting with right prospect, how to position and extend initial engagement. This was part of a podcast series Stu has been producing. Have a listen, and more importantly, let us know your thoughts.
They always say it is good to borrow perspectives from different fields as a means of perhaps learning something unanticipated about your day-to-day work. With that in mind, I’d like to use a perspective I learned some time back from someone in finance. This individual had an interesting view of financial statements:
“Financial statements are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting, but what hide or don’t show is even more compelling.”
And that’s a great perspective to bring to voice mail.
There is no middle ground with voice mail, you either have those who leave no message, and at the other end are people who don’t just leave a message, but proceed to dump their brains out when leaving a voice mail.
Not leaving a message is just silly, why invest the time and effort in making the call, then listening to the target’s out going message (and most listen), only to hang up without a mark. Those who do leave a big fat message, tell me “well if I leave a compelling enough message, the prospect is bound to call me back”. Ya, because the world is such a rational place, let me guess, they probably call with a checkbook in hand asking “where do I sign?” Right.
If you listen to 90% of outgoing voice mail messages, they ask you to “please leave a detailed message”. And most sellers, wanting be liked and looking to form a relationship, comply. If you thought sales people can “spray and pray” live, they take it to an entirely different art form when it comes to voice mail messages they leave.
Why do these prospects want “a detailed message”? Because they want to protect their most precious resource, time. They want to know exactly why NOT to call you back. The more your message conforms to their request for detail, the more they know why they don’t need to call you back, and they can use that time and energy to deal with one of the other many things they are trying to cram in to their day.
Which is why you want your voice mail to be like a bikini, seductive yet not completely revealing. Seductive enough for you to say “OK, this interesting, show me more”.
Your goal or objective for voice mail is to get a call back and nothing else; a crucial point many miss. This is why we often get the Tolstoy equivalent of voice mail, rambling messages that provide every detail about the caller and the reason for the call. Detail leads to no call back. A lack of detail, where crucial elements are not revealed, think bikini, leads to more call backs, and more of the only measure of success with voice mail, a return call.
The human mind hates a mystery, and will take steps to resolve them, all relative to the context. Ever been talking about a movie with a group of people, and none of you can remember the name of the lead actor. It gnaws away until someone remembers the name, and there is a collective sense of relief.
The best voice mail are ones that create that same feel, a mix of compelling facts, and insufficient data. Info that is compelling enough, but insufficient enough to draw a conclusion. This will leave the recipient with the choice of putting the whole message out of their mind, or pick up the phone, dial the number left, in the hope of completing the picture.
For specific details of a quality voice mail, watch these videos:
The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka
Whether you are an entrepreneur in the midst of launching your business, or a successful business owner who wants to continue to prosper, there are always strategies you can implement to maximize your success rate. Keep in mind, sometimes it is critical for both startups and mature businesses to say no – and doing so doesn’t mean your business won’t be successful.
Here are seven easy strategies that can generate additional revenue:
Implement professional development.
It doesn’t matter what industry you serve, one thing is certain – you need to make the commitment to continuously learn more about trends in your field. If you don’t, you simply cannot provide your customers the top value they need.
If you spend about an hour each day to learn more about your field, you can rise above your competition and build your confidence and add credibility. The hours spent on new exposures each day will add up and eventually place you in a different category than your competition. Make sure to pay attention to what your market wants and needs, and what your customers are saying and never underestimate the power of continuing professional development.
Serve above everything else.
Listen to your customers! A business may know that it is right — but in this industry, the customer is always right. If you have a customer who is unhappy, you need to always make sure to do whatever is in your power to make sure he or she is satisfied. Take the initiative to fix any issues, even if you know your customer was wrong. If you start each day by concentrating on ways to better serve your customers, you will increase your business and success rate. Think in terms of serving and remember that finding success is an addiction, not a lottery.
Offer high quality products and/or services.
If you can offer your customers products that are high quality and not like everyone else’s, you will quickly set your business apart from the competition. Quality is where it’s at when it comes to growing your business. Take the time to plan, implement and deliver high quality products and services each and every day.
Understand your risks and rewards.
One key to success is taking calculated risks to help your business grow. A good question to ask yourself is “What is the downside?” If you are able to answer this question, then you have identified the worst-case scenario and can prepare for it. Take this knowledge and use it to your advantage. There are some risks that can generate significant rewards for your business, and those risks are ones worth taking.
When you open a business, you likely won’t start making money right off the bat. Remember the old saying that “Rome was not built in a day.” It will take some time to let people know about your business. Stay focused and keep your eyes on what you hope to achieve, both in the short and long term time frames.
Engage with your target market.
The most successful brands out there excel at building strong relationships with their audience. Focus on building those relationships before you jump in and start selling. Build authentic relationships with your market – they, in turn will want to buy from you. People like to buy things from people they know well and trust. Always remember that engagement takes time and doesn’t happen in a few days’ time.
Every business needs to continue to work hard in order to succeed. Keep your focus on delivering high quality products and customer service and always be eager to learn more and better serve your customers.
What are your secrets to business success?
About Megan Totka
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at email@example.com
I was watching a pundit wax poetic about how to qualify prospects on an initial prospecting call. I give him credit for acknowledging that the phone and cold calling is still a viable means of reaching real buyers, but I had issues with some other points he was trying to make, namely, qualifying for budget.
To be fair, let me state the assumption I am working with. This is not a one call sales, it is a bit more involved; the site the piece appeared on was a technology related site, and not one that promoted USB cables, but broader systems integration.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think budget should be established before you go too far in the sale. Investing valuable time and potentially resources without knowing if and how you are going to be paid is not what professional sales people do. On the other hand, on an initial prospecting call, one where at best you may establish engagement, or secure an appointment, is budget really the issue at hand? Given that this call will likely lead to the first of a number of meeting, with multiple people with varying agendas; going down the budget hole could be more fatal than practical. With budget usually being the link in the chain between price and value, it would make a bit of sense to imitate some sense of value first, not part of a prospecting call, and if it is, it will be a short call.
Bringing budget up in that first meeting that results from the prospecting call makes sense, but not on the prospecting call. As mentioned, there is a link between budget and value, so there needs to be some semblance of value first. Now of course the problem with “value” is that it is rarely defined, it is talked to, it is talked about, it is probably part of every sales conversation, but there as many different definitions as there are people asked, often more.
One actionable definition to work with is as follows:
Those services and/or products that remove barriers, obstacles, or help bridge GAPS between where the buyer is now – and – their Objectives!
So until you hone in on the buyer’s objectives, and understand how you can move them towards achieving those objectives, it is hard to talk about budget, in a serious way, and I would suspect that unlike our pundit friend, you are serious about succeeding in selling.
Based on the post, I have to conclude that the pundit in question only works with “inbound” order takers, and here is why. Say we wen his way, and qualified based on budget, we would miss out on a whole bunch of sales. We have all had instances where when we first approached a prospect, they did not have “budget for this kind of thing”. But after engaging and together working towards how what you are selling moves them towards their objective, they are able to produce budget. Could be as simple as helping them see how the purchase may be an operating item vs. a capital spend. Or it can be more complex exercise of bringing other beneficiaries into the process. But in that first call, they would disqualify themselves, and you’d miss out on the sale.
Every human being has an X chromosome, and in sales people that X will stand for one of two characteristics. In some it denotes those spend their time and energy making excuses as to why they are not succeeding. In others it is all about how they execute and drive their own success and by extension the success of their customers. But in truly exceptional sellers, the mythical 20 in the 80/20 rule, the X goes deeper, it drive them to experiment and as a result, continuously extend their skills and successes.
Sounds simple, yet difficult for many sales people, and sales organisations. And this is definitely an instance where you have to go past the “messaging”, and explore the action.
While it is easy to look at the front line and find fault, but the ground work, expectations, culture and accountability is the date main of the executive, both sales leadership and other leaders accountable for the success of the company. Often the lack of experimentation is a result of the leader’s inability to distinguish between focus and limits. One can focus on outcomes for buyers without limiting execution, especially when winning deals is about helping buyers achieve objectives, not product differentiation.
Leaders need to lead from the front, not from behind a desk, and this means leading by example. If you as a leader are not will to continuously expand the bounds of you sales and sales approach, how can you expect your people to. Forget all the flowery communications, the old adage of so as I do, not as I say do looms large here. If your activities show as unwilling to grow and expand, then how can you expect your team to?
Change is key to sales success. Front line sales people are trying to get buyers to change, change the way the see things, the way they do things, the things they are willing to do. As I have mentioned in the past, one of the biggest barriers to this is the seller’s own propensity to change. Why would a customer make a change with you when your actions reinforce the fact that you yourself are closed to change. The way you sell informs a buyer reaction and response to you. If you sell the way the hundreds of others who have tried to, and failed to sell to that buyer, why would they change with you when you don’t represent change. But if the example they see from their leaders is resistance to change, how are they supposed to change, and on it goes from there.
One way is to establish and ,maintain a dynamic, continuously evolving process. This will not only allow leaders to demonstrate change, but drive it through every level of the organization. Central to this is a deal review process, we use one called the 360 Degree Deal Review. This allows organizations to identify and capture movements in the market, and respond accordingly. Front line can expand according to findings, sales and marketing leadership can support that change by introducing initiatives that support the front line, and at same time make the organization as a whole responsive to the market and clients.
New tools can also be introduced, or at a minimum, existing tools can find new life and utility for the front line reps and ROI for the organization. For example, clients who were challenged in getting adoption of CRM, found this approach as a good carrot. Front line sellers see a direct link to their success and commissions. Front line managers become more efficient coaches, driving benefits both up-stream and downstream. The executive finally get the visibility on aspects of the business and trends they need to have to meet their objectives.
Another area where leaders can experiment and expand in in their hiring approach. Looking for reps who are capable, yet different than their current crew. Hiring lookalikes, or people we like just perpetuates things and again confirms the lack of change, if not stagnation. In one example I was involved with, a VP had a habit of hiring only those with “industry experience”, meaning they knew the product, but sold no differently than his current team. After some convincing and arm twisting, he went out hired someone from a very different industry, different style, and a track record of exceeding quota. The goal was to be disruptive and shake things up from within, creating a nervous energy that one can never get from threats or heavy handed approaches. Result was that many of the habits rubbed off on others, managers actively encouraged others to follow suit, we built coaching plans to help willing reps change and grow. There were those who did not like the experiment, and are now working elsewhere, they were replace by others with varied backgrounds and styles, and the culture and success has continued to expand.
If you are in sales, you are also in prospecting. Getting in front of the right buyer is critical for sales success, yet many sellers struggle to maintain and leverage a consistent prospecting regimen. This webinar will show you: why reps are reluctant to prospect; how to help them overcome this reluctance; a proven process for prospecting success; how to deal with email and voicemail; and a means of creating sustained change behaviors in your team members. You will learn why looking for need and pain will limit prospecting success, and what you have to introduce into the call if you are going to overcome apathy and complacency in buyers. You will also learn how to deal with the most common objections you will face while prospecting.
Join me this Thursday August 20, at 4:00 pm Eastern for a webinar full of actionable insights.
The primary, and one can argue the only purpose of a prospecting call is to gain engagement. It is not, as some pundits will tell you, to build rapport or start the relationship, or set yourself up for the future. These latter outcomes are things we sometimes have to settle for, but there is no doubt these are a distant second place to the primary goal; the singular objective and measure of success is to schedule a meeting, (live, phone, web, what have you), anything short of that is second place, which as you know is first place for those who missed the primary objective.
Adopting that attitude is key, as attitudes influence your actions, and how you act on that initial call will determine whether you engage with your potential buyer, or join the ranks of the Also-rans. The attitude is that we need to meet because there will be a mutual advantage to both as a result of the engagement. In the long run, the buyer will be closer to their objectives, and you will have a buyer. In the short term, they will learn from you, as they would from any encounter with a subject matter expert, and that is what you are; and you will learn something from them and their business. But none of that happens if you fail to engage.
Attitude also influences the message, what you say right out of the gate, most sales people, with help from the marketing team, tend to blow this important opportunity, and as a result the call. Listen to B2B sales people make prospecting calls, as I have done with hundreds of reps, thousands of calls, and you will discover that most end up delivering the wrong massage in the wrong way.
While everyone will tell you that the call has to be about the buyer and their “What’s in it for Me”, it rarely is. Most calls start off with an introduction to the company, what “we” do, and how “we” do it, how great “we” are, and then, well into the call they finally introduce the “what” may be in it for the buyer. Something like:
Hi Buyer, I my Name is Alfred E. Newman, do you have a few minutes, I am the North East Account Manager at YetAnother Corp. We are a leading manufacturer of something you already have, our clients recognize as being reliable and customer centric. We help them reduce the total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.
Now that last part is good, assuming the person you called is still awake, considering the precious seconds you wasted with boring non-relevant data. I know it is hard, but on that first call, in those early seconds, no one cares about us, our awards, place in the market, how we do things, seriously, they don’t, no matter what your marketing folks tell you.
What they DO care about is “what is in it for them”, more specifically “how will this help me get to my desired outcomes or objectives?” Which is the last part of the above intro. Which is why I say “turn it upside-down”; start with the outcome, what’s the tangible for the, meaning the “the reduction of their “total cost of production by 8% while reducing their manufacturing process by 6%.” The stuff before that is just filler for you, not for the buyer who may not be awake by the time you get to it.
Lead with that last part, it is more likely that they were thinking about that before you called; but many sales people can’t bring themselves to leave out the filler, the puff-pastry that brings nothing to the call but the risk of rejection, discouragement, and a lack of prospecting success.
Ask a group of sales people what they want to know about their prospect, and the majority respond “I want to know about their pain or needs”. In theory a good concept, in practice highly over rated and ineffective. As discussed before, at any given time, only a small percentage of your total potential market is in play. The various estimates range from as low as 3% to 15%; so if we go with 10% for the sake of this piece, we are likely very generous. Of that 10%, almost all will recognise or admit to a need, and for some that need is in fact driven by or rooted in pain. So even when you perfect uncovering the pain and need, you are playing with a very narrow slice of opportunity. Not to mention a very visible and highly sought after slice, one that every sales person is pursuing, much like a lazy wild cat targets the weak of the herd.
A further 20% or so, don’t have an immediate pain or need, but they recognise that they will need to make a purchase decision 12 – 18 months out. Extremely good sales people, may be able to get a few of these folks to accelerate the need or heighten the pain, and thereby accelerate the purchase decision. But in the vast majority of instances, these people are future business, i.e. not this quota cycle. Having said that they are a good group to work with, as you have lots of runway to build a “relationship” and set yourself up as the obvious favourite when they going into buying mode.
This leaves the 70% plus, of the target market, the status quo, the complacent ones, the ones with no pain, no need, and no desire for a solution. Probing for pains or needs here gets the familiar “all set, we’re good, no need now, not interested” response; sometimes they’ll make you feel good and ask you to send them something. When was the last time you got paid for that?
For many of these buyers, the only immediate pain is the sales person sitting across from them, and the way that many of those sales people sell. While many pride themselves on having “evolved” from asking silly questions like “what keeps you up at night?” From the buyer’s stand point many of the techniques used by many are no better even though they changed the wrapping.
Some fall pray to pundits who will have them go in and try to “create” pain or make the buyer feel inadequate by asking things like “wouldn’t you agree that ….?” or “What would it be like if you could….? But buyers are hip, they see when you snap on the rubber gloves and “probe”.
One pain many buyers complain to me about is the complete unpreparedness they experience when meeting with reps. Rather than truly understanding the buyer, doing a bit of work in advance. Actually research the industry and current and future trends, how those impact the buyer’s company and the buyer, exploring more than just their social stream and LinkedIn profile. Absent pain, you need to look forward, the “value” you bring as a seller is helping the buyer face and win in that future, kicking them in the shin or higher brings a pain that does not lead to sales.
So if you want to use pain to win sales, it needs to be the “pain” of the effort you put into properly engaging a buyer who left to their own devices feels no pain, and is more like in search of something that will help them achieve their objectives, while avoiding the pain that is bad selling.
We all have deals we know we should have won, they had our name practically written on them, all we had to do was complete, yet in the end, the commission went to a rep from another company. First you need to do is dig in and understand why you won, much like you would when you win, or when the prospect takes no decision. While many do this, the findings are only as good as the answers to the questions posed allow. Meaning if you set out to review the wrong thing, you will reach the wrong conclusion, go back out and still lose the next similar deal.
The questions you pose in this review are important, but as or more important is who asks the questions. For example sending a rep back to ask why they lost the deal leads to a predictable yet useless response: PRICE. It is useless because it is usually not the case, but the most efficient way for someone to blow through the exercise. Think about it, they just made a decision they are not about to change or undo, as a result any time spent with talking reps who clearly missed the point to start with is hardly a good use of time, especially when for many, implementation and successfully delivering is often as or more risky than the purchase decision itself.
It is better to have a party not directly involved in the transaction be the one to go back in, say someone from sales ops, or better yet someone from marketing. The key is someone who can transcend “the deal”, and truly look at things from the buyer’s perspective. Going back in and asking all the product centric, “what we do, how we do it”, question, spiced with “my company” statements, will not only confirm to the buyer that they made the right decision, you will not learn anything that will help you win in the future. If you don’t think you can do this, there are companies that offer
Sending the rep in, only to hear it was price will just lead to the average rep coming back and telling you and anyone who will listen, including other reps: “I told you, we’re overpriced, that’s why we can’t close sales”. Not something that leads change and improvement moving forward.
If you are wondering what to ask about, here are two steps. First, get out of your head, your view of the world, and get into the buyer’s. Rather than thinking about what you or your company sells and more importantly why you think that, turn the telescope around and ask “what are companies trying to achieve, why, and how can they best get there; how can I contribute to that?” Sales and marketing people are often surprised how when looked at through that key hole, how badly off target they were with their questions and messaging. The other steps is know what to focus on. The simplest way to start this turnabout is to go to some of your best clients, current clients who have choice yet continue to do business with you, and ask them why they do, what they like and how that helps them achieve their objectives. You’ll find price is rarely in the top five things, and less so top three reasons. What you’ll hear about are things relating to your innovativeness in helping them achieve objectives, including R&D they benefit from, ability to understand and help their business, ease of total relationship, including issue resolution, ability to add value to their offering, and more.
Getting it right ensures more sales, more margins and winning team. This may take time and effort, but so does losing deals.
While in Canada e-mail has been neutered by our supposed business friendly Prime Minister, in other parts of the free world, e-mail continues to be an effective way to initiate engagement with new potential buyers. And while some may be shaking their head in disbelief, done right it contributes to prospecting success, but as usual, its down to what and how – the execution.
First thing is defining success. Many believe that success is the prospect calling you back and asking “where do I buy?” But remember “Prospects are Created – not Found”, e-mail plays a role in that creation. In an environment where it could take 8, 9, 10 or more attempts to get a response from a potential buyer, a good e-mail can be a good touch point, and lead to an initial contact, then engagement, purchase, relationship, kids, divorce, and all over again.
But let us approach as we would going for the Holy Grail, a cold e-mail that leads to engagement. What are the three crucial elements?
- Subject Line
- Body of Message
- The Close
Do all these well and you have a shot, miss the mark on one, and you’re beat.
In light of the fact that most e-mail these days will be viewed on a hand held, we’ll present things from that standpoint, the good news is that if you do the mobile e-mail right, it also translates to success for those reading it on a desktop or tablet.
1. Subject Line – if the party you are writing does not know you, the Subject Line becomes the first pint of triage. It will determine whether they open it, save it for later reading (ya, later, OK), or just delete it at the speed of light. As a result you have two choices, you can mix them up, see if you see a pattern based on role, industry or other factors.
First method, not mine but based on a study of some 30 million e-mails, suggests that having nothing in the Subject Line. Nothing or ‘RE:’ followed by nothing. In some ways it makes sense, human curiosity, drives people to bring down the thumb find out.
But my preferred method takes this further and drives the two elements that follow. I like to use the final call to action, The Close, element 3, as the Subject Line. So if at the end of your e-mail you propose a call Friday at 2:30 pm, then use that as the Subject Line, but add a question mark at the end.
Subject: Call Friday at 2:30?
The natural instinct is to see if you had in fact forgot a call, or scheduled one in error, or if your admin had put something in that you missed. The effect is the same “Did I miss something, let me check this out, let’s take a look.” Leading is to element 2.
2. Body of Massage – the body needs to have two must things, first brevity, second no fat.
I can’t emphasise the importance of being brief. Two lines at most. I want you to be guided by the “Two Flicks of the Thumb Rule.” The first flick is to scroll down once; the second is either Reply or Delete. Which is why we have no room for fat.
The best way to achieve that is to include and highlight only those things that speak to the prospect. Nothing about you, nothing about your company, just how you can help them deliver against their objectives. This is harder that it sounds, because as sales people are geared to talk about their value prop, and other irrelevant things.
Based on your research, previous experience, and those things you learn from 360 Degree Deal View, Identify a specific impact or outcome you can deliver based on your assessment of their objectives, and speak to that.
“I am writing to schedule a call to share with you how we helped Close Competitor Inc., add an additional service call for each of their trucks on a daily basis, leading to an 8% increase in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets…“
Which brings us to the third element, The Close.
3. The Close – is your call to action, the ask from the call, and as we know from the Subject Line, it is a call Friday at 2:30 pm. So continuing from element 2:
“…leading to an 8% increased in revenue, 11% increase in margins, and a 12% improvement on return on assets. I will call you for an introductory call Friday at 2:30.
Alfred E. Neuman”
The important thing to remember is that this e-mail may be one of a number of touch points, and it is important that it is planned in context of a complete pursuit plan. If this e-mail is the first contact, what will follow, if you had phoned prior, how does this e-mail fit in? The specific version above is geared as a first e-mail, if you had called and sent a previous e-mail, you will need to vary it.
But for first mails, with a realistic expectation that there will need to be more touch points in the process of creating a prospect, this is a good start.