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 

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Voice Mail Week Part III – The Technique and why It Works! (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

In Part I and Part II of this trilogy we looked at context, and how there is more to voice mail than just the message and getting a call back.  So now it is time to reintroduce the technique.  I say reintroduce, because I have shared it before, and as you may have gleaned there was some push back and even more misunderstanding of how and why to execute it.

I suspect that there will be push back again, and I invite the challenges and feedback of all quality from all sources.  The one ask that I do have is: try it before you knock it, a few times, give yourself a chance to succeed.  Try it the way it is presented, no variation, no improvisation.  If you do improvise, and it works for you, great, share what you did, we can all learn.  If you do improvise and it does not work, I refer to the small print, which basically states that we stand by our method, good luck with yours.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Week – Part II – It’s More Than Just The Message0

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Voice mail

In Monday’s video I mention the fact that voice mail is just one of a number of ways to reach out and touch prospective buyers.  There is e-mail, SMS or text message, all forms of social media, traditional snail mail in the form of a letter or card, or other more creative means of reaching out and touching a prospect.  Why is this important, because with all the things buyers have to deal with these days, it takes many more touch points to just get on someone’s radar, or have them react to our approach.

Back around 1999, I read a book that suggested that it takes anywhere from 5 to 7 touch points for the reaction to potentially happen.  Since then, technology has evolved, mobile is pervasive, people are expected to do more with less, more than ever people need to pack 16 hours’ worth of work into a 10 hour day, which makes getting their attention even more challenging.  Because of that, and this is confirmed by some of the things I am reading today, it may take 9 to 12 touch points for that initial reaction to occur.

So if nothing else, say you diminished expectations to no call backs at all, zero, there is still a value to leaving voice mail, it is a touch point, and touch points are compounding.  This is why I don’t worry about the depth of the content of the voice mail message, because it will lead to one of two outcomes:

1. You’ll get a call back, and speak with the prospect (the XXX accompanying video talks to that outcome Or 2. You will achieve a touch point which when executed in context of the overall approach is a plus.

Yet in a recent unscientific poll, only 52.5% of respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked: “When you are prospecting by phone, do you leave a voice mail message on the very first call?”  What a wasted opportunity.  First off, they could be getting calls back from 30% – 50% of people they leave messages for, leading to engagement and sales.  Second, no touch point, no start, and what you don’t start you can’t finish.

One important take away from this beyond the fact that you have to leave a message, is that you have to map out a touch point campaign whenever you target or pursue a potential buyer.  Not only do you have to make the commitment to touch them enough times in a given period to facilitate contact, but plan and write it out, and the of course execute.  My minimum goal is seven touch points in two business weeks.

You can leave a voice mail on Monday morning, follow up with a brief, not Tolstoy style, e-mail after 5:00 pm that day.  Another voice mail Wednesday; the e-mail that follows Wednesday’s voice mail will have one additional element, you will tell them that you will call them again say Thursday at 9:30 am.  I am not naïve, I don’t expect them to be chained to their desk at that time, but, if they were mildly interested in your message but were busy running around this could provide the focus they need.  But more likely they will not be at their desk, and you’ll leave another message.  The BIG BUT and GAIN, is that you will have demonstrated that you follow up on your word, something many sales people are falsely accused of not doing.  Talk about laying a pebble of trust.  So here we are five touch points by Thursday morning, and I don’t think we are near an injunction order.  Repeat the following week, you’ll have more conversations, but it starts with commitment and execution.

Sadly the same survey showed that most sales people give up after three or so tries, priming the pump for those of us who are willing to go the distance.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Week – Part I – Context – Sales eXchange 206 (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

TV Head

Here we are the last week of the first half of 2013, the first full week of summer, what better time to focus on every seller’s second favourite topic, voice mail.  The Discovery channel has their annual tradition of Shark Week, and now we introduce Voice Mail Week.

Because after all, voice mail is the gift that keeps on giving, when done right, and that is what we will focus on this week.  I suspect that this time round will be no different than other times that we have talked about voice mail, and that is mostly because no one really has the definitive answer when it comes to leaving voice mail for new potential B2B buyers.  What we do have however are two different things, facts and opinions.  Opinions usually come from those who have not tried the technique, mine or any, but feel compelled to share their non-experience, mostly in the form of their fears vis-à-vis the issue in question, which I think generally reflects their fear of success.  Then we have facts from those that have tried it, perfected it and profit by it.

Below is the first of three installments (2 video) looking at voice mail and how to use it to your advantage and sales success.  Take a look, take it in, take it on the road, and then let us know.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Time To Grow Up – Sales eXchange 1980

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

grow up

When my kids were young and they would wish for something not real, or as a way to avoid a task, like “I wish I didn’t have to clean my room”, “I wish I could grow up to be a princess”, their grandmother always responded by saying “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride”.  It’s interesting how that expression has great significance and application to many sales people and sales advisors, all now grown-ups.

I am speaking specially of advice doled out by some sales pundits that serves more to placate and patronize readers than help them improve their selling skills and success, delivering clichés and politically correct feel good myth, instead of proven and practical road tested advice based on experience.  While we all want to make our audience feel good, I think it is more important to provide pragmatic advice that yields measurable results, even when it requires effort on the part of the reader and will often force them from their comfort zones.  I for one do not see a problem in challenging readers and sellers, and do not apologize for creating some discomfort in helping them succeed.  Much better than some of the sugar coated buzzword riddled schmaltz others seem to be peddling in an effort to make sellers feel good and allow them to rationalize their lack of effort, inventiveness and results.  But as we all know sugar highs don’t last.

If you are wondering why I am on about this, it’s because once again I have someone taking a shot at my often debated, never disproven voice mail technique, not because it doesn’t work, it does, but because it does not appeal to their “sensibilities”, a sensibility that leads to no returned calls.  As usual the technique is misrepresented, making it easier to cast in a questionable light, they then schmear a load of subjectivity mixed with value judgment, and raising but not speaking to the specifics of words like “trust” or “ethics”.

The reality is that there are no absolutes in sales, nothing works all the time, every time, most things don’t work most the time, so when you have a technique that proves to be 30% – 50% effective, you have something worth adopting.  What’s more, while the technique may seem counter intuitive at first, those who try it, report back a consistent success rate.  Recently there was a debate in a LinkedIn group, there were many who questioned the technique, who once they tried it, liked it, mostly because it got them call backs and appointments.

Most recently, the technique was again misrepresented, and labeled asinine.  I bet I can find some internal memos at most record companies dating back to 10 years ago that called iTunes an asinine way to sell and consume music.  I bet there were some Blockbuster folks who called Netflix asinine.  Interestingly few are willing to challenge it head on.  One challenger was invited to debate the technique on “This Week In Sales” webcast, but declined, I wonder why; not the worst thing, I had the whole show to myself.

As an industry, “sales enablers”, we keep highlighting the fact that only 50% of B2B reps make quota, well what is our role in that?  If we do not push them to better themselves by trying, new, alternative, and yes at times outlandish but effective methods.  We should challenge our audience, not just dust off the edges of tired techniques that play to the emotion of the reader even while ignoring the fact that what is being peddled are just retreads with new labels.

In the end it is down to the reader, our consumer, they choose how they want to make or not make quota.  In the end the readers are like we the pundits, some know what is Shinola, and what’s not.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Survey0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Survey

As you may know voice mail has been a hot topic in some circles lately, and an ongoing challenge for sales professionals.  I recently got tangled in a flare up about e-mail, as a result of a piece I wrote for Radius, titled: Get More Call Backs: How To Increase Returned Voicemails By 50%.  It got the usual support from those who have used it and engaged with prospects they have been seeking for a while; and the usual disbelief by sellers and pundits, I forgot to mention that you have to pick up the phone and try it for the technique to work.

This got me thinking, how many people actually leave voice mail, so I created the quick survey below, please take a minute to answer four easy voice mail related questions.

http://www.instant.ly/s/OrKVt

Thank you in advance!
Tibor Shanto

 

It’s Your Mini Resume Dude!0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

As some of you may know, last week was have fun with voice mail on LinkedIn, with people taking different reactions to a voice mail technique that gets me a 50% rate of returned calls.  In response to comments on an LinkedIn group, I posted on Friday about a specific dynamic that makes the technique in question successful.  The piece resulted in more comments, so I wanted to take another view that may help some understand what’s behind it, why it resembles something almost every critic of the technique already does without feel they are unethical, misleading and so on.

This storm reminded me of a similar reaction three or four years ago when I suggested that sales people should use text (SMS) as a prospecting tool.  People saw the suggestion as being unethical, underhanded, and just not professional.  This despite the fact that an executive, a prospect, was the one that suggested that I would have connected with him a lot sooner had I not limited my use of his cell number on his card to strictly voice.  But the overwhelming reaction at the time was that text to prospect was déclassé.  But now four years later it is a mainstream techniques acceptable to all.  Maybe time does not heal all wounds, but it does seem to wipe memory.

So I would suggest that when something seems uncomfortable you have two choices, try it and see, or pass an uninformed opinion.  So lets take a different look at the technique in question and see if we can get you to try.

The technique, (summarized here),  is very much like a mini resume.  Much the same way we use resumes to create the opportunity to entice a potential employer to call us back and invite us in for an interview that we hope will lead to employment and a mutually profitable relationship.

Let’s look at resumes, they exist to communicate in a concise way you capabilities vis-à-vis the position, anchored in our history in similar positions with similar company.  If you have been an A/R manager with one distributor, and a position opens up with another company you want to work for, you submit your resume featuring your experience with their competitor.   The potential employer, like most, will begin to begin to sort the hundreds of resumes they receive based on who they think will fit their requirement; and one of the most common means of selecting those that make the consideration list is their experience with similar companies.

As we all have been told, it is important to keep resumes short, using highlights, and then expanding once in the interview.  Depending on the source, some will tell you to keep it to two pages or less, a small amount of space to include past experience as well as other attributes we may have that would make us a suitable candidate.

It is also often a topic of discussion, that many resumes are the stuff of fiction and or embellishment.  Very different than the technique in question, which repeatedly emphasizes the need for honesty and ethical use of past experience.

It seems interesting that in the age where people are actively participating in micro-blogging, they would find problems with micro messaging when it comes to engaging with prospect.  I suspect the reality is one that is all too familiar in sales; sales people complaining that clients hang onto the Status Quo irrationally, while they do that very same things when it comes to embracing new or alternate – non-middle of the road – sales approaches.  Almost ironic as the group professes to be the home of fresh sales ideas.

Oddly,  one very vocal opponent, using words like misleading, deceiving, and so on, has held IT sales related positions with four or more different companies in the last 10 years, I bet if we looked at his resume, we would see all the previous companies he worked for, his related capabilities, and his accomplishments prominently listed in his resume.  Where is the difference?  Why is it OK to dangle past companies in one form, but not another?  We know the answer.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Did You Get My Voice Mail?7

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Voice mail

Yesterday I got a call about a piece I wrote for Radius titled: Get More Call Backs: How To Increase Returned Voicemails By 50%.   Seems it has stirred up a discussion in one the LinkedIn groups, one I did not belong to, (since joined).

Whenever I do a piece on effective voice mail techniques, three things happen:

  1. It get a lot more hits than most other posts – telling me that this continues to be a challenge and hot button for sales people.
  2. In the first 24 hours a slew of feedback telling why the technique won’t work, it is gimmicky, unchristian and a range of other labels.  These comments come predominantly from people who do not like to cold call, don’t know how to cold call, never leave voice mail when given the opportunity, and are pissed that they are not getting return calls, when I, and those using my techniques do.  These are folks who have not studied the dynamics at play in effective voice mail, generally have a less than sufficient prospects in their pipeline, and BTW, have not tried the technique they are commenting on.
  3. Within about 48 hours, I get a bunch of e-mails from people who tried the technique, got a calls back, got an appointment with someone they have been trying to connect with for sometime without success, and they now have one or more new prospects in their pipeline.

The real difference between the two is the latter is committed to continues improvement, willing to invest time, effort and practice to integrating new techniques to their selling tool kit.  They understand it takes work to fill the pipeline, and if the state of their pipeline is going to change, it requires change in their approach and habits.

The first group, the doubters, fail to take into account and understand the dynamics involved in leaving effective voice mails.  Let’s look at one specific factor.

Most people these days are jammed, need to pack 16 hours into a ten hour day, they don’t have time to listen to your rambling voice mail, telling them about how great your something is when they already have that something.  Since at any given time, about 5% – 10% of your market is actively looking for your something, that’s the total potential of people who may have an interest in calling you back.  By leaving a conventional voice mail, chances are less than 5% – 10% may call you back, unless they already have a vendor in mind, in which case no call back.

Let’s face it, the reason most people want you to “leave a detailed message”, is so they can know exactly why not to call you back, and they don’t.  So no matter how polished your message is, the more content it has the less your chances of getting a call back.  So despite what one of my most recent critics suggested in the LinkedIn discussion, saying I “should spend some time doing research on the buyer so they can leave a message that’s in line with their expectations.”  There is an idea, waste time researching to not talk to anyone, hmm?  The most effective voice mails are those that are counter intuitive.

The mistake many make is trying to sell or get an appointment via voice mail, WRONG! Good luck if you have never spoken to them in the past.

The only purpose to leaving a voice mail is to get a call back – again to get a call back.  When that call comes, you can then proceed to getting the appointment or engagement if you are in inside sales.  GET THE CALL BACK! THAT’S IT!

I would argue that the only way to do that is to create a bit of curiosity, one that would create an environment where with little effort, the person you are calling can make a call to resolve their curiosity, THE CALL BACK, once you have them on the line, then you bring your sales or appointment setting skills to play.

The technique in question results in me getting 50% of voice mails returned.  That may piss off some people not willing to try, but really what’s the issue, the method is there, you don’t want to use it, don’t knock those who do, just because they have a healthy pipeline, and fat babies.

Read the article
Watch the video

Try it, and then talk!  

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

De-Socializing, Relationships & Stretching Sales Time101

As the debate about whether “Relationship Selling” is dead or not rages on, there are some things you can do as a seller to protect and stretch your selling time and results now, regardless of which way the coin lands.

We are a social creature, just witness the growth in social media and its impact on selling.  Relationships are laced with social rituals, customs, and expectations.  Some expectations and social norms, asking someone how they are when you first get on the phone, asking them about their plans for the long weekend, summer holidays, you get the picture.  Others are self imposed. But the one thing they all have in common is that they consume time.

I have dealt with time in a number of ways, because after all it is your most valuable resources, and as such you need to be cautious as to how you spend it, because you can only use it once.  And while everyone can talk about the big time wasters, how to mitigate them, you can often do small things on the fringe to get ahead.  Five minutes here, five minutes there, and if you claw those back you can gain an hour of selling time by the end of the week.

The challenges is that some social norms or conventions that are present in selling, and consume time unnecessarily.  People do them without thinking, and in the process “spend” (think of time as a currency), more than the value they gain from their spend.  So here are a couple of small things that you can do, that add up, but may at first seem socially uncomfortable.

You know when you are talking to a client, good client, always telling you what’s going on in their company, ribs you every Monday about the outcome of football game, always so pleasant, never fails to ask about the kids; you have a great relationship.  You promised them that you would have an answer to their question by morning, simple thing, the dimensions and density of the new part, and expected delivery date.  You got the data as you are supposed to, you call, and it unfolds in the usual way:

You:    Hi, how you doing?
Client:    Great, we’ve been so busy, and you know George is finally back, and blah blah blah… (90 seconds)
You:    I know exactly what you mean I remember blah blah blah… (35 seconds)
Client:    Especially when blah blah blah… (35 seconds)
You:    Anyways, I have that info for you … (60 seconds)
Client:    That’s great, listen Hun, you be good, what are you up to this weekend, I am thinking of seeing that new movie…. blah blah blah… (60 seconds)
You:    Ya, I heard that too…blah blah (35 seconds)… well have a good one

Five minutes to transmit two bits of data!  I could have done it in a 15 second voice mail, with all the social wrapping.

Rather than calling during prime time, what we call face time in sales, I could have called at 6:40, pulling in to my driveway, leaving a voice mail with the same data, and they would have had it as promised by morning.  Small change, lived up to my commitment, same friendly social “hey we have a relationship” voice, everything good, and I have saved five minute.  Time’s money – how much did I just save?  Well if I invest in prospecting, and score a prospect, tons!

This leads us to the second change in habit I will encourage you to adopt.  Stay away from promising to have things to them “by the end of the day!”  Most of the time, you do literally that at the end of the day, and they don’t deal with it before morning.  Instead, promise this:

“It’ll be in your inbox when you come in the morning.”

This takes the pressure of you do have everything done by 5:00, and regain control of your time by allocating the right time t the right activity.  If it is there when you promised, when they open their inbox, than you are still a pro, lived up to your commitment, the client doesn’t care if you sent that e-mail at 6:00 pm or 10:30 pm, it is there when they expected!  And you just got an uptick on your ROT investment.

Don’t forget to Join us in Houston, October 18 for the Proactive Prospecting Workshop!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Houston, We Have The Solution!74

On Thursday October 18, The Proactive Prospecting Workshop is coming to Houston, specifically to Four Points by Sheraton Houston Southwest, at 2828 Southwest Freeway, Houston.

If you are in B2B sales, and need to engage with more new prospects, mark this date on your calendar, then sign up for this full day interactive prospecting program.

Whether you are with a small company or large,  veteran or just launching your career, this workshop will give you the fundamentals needed to connect and engage with more qualified buyers.

We leave dogma at the door, this is not about old school vs. new school, this is about executing a proven methodology for prospecting more effectively and filling your pipeline with the quality prospects in the right  quantities.  This is the same program that has helps thousands of sale professionals improve their skills and increase prospects and sales.  Sales professional in dozens of companies are using the methods and process delivered in the Proactive Prospecting Workshop to deliver consistent results.

What you’ll learn…

  • Overcome the fear of cold calling
  • Develop techniques for making successful cold calls
  • Take a proactive role in filling your sales pipeline
  • Write effective e-mails – Leave voice mail messages that get returned
  • Handle Objections – win more  appointments

To learn more about the results sellers have realised just click here to read success studies, or watch what they said after attending the Proactive Prospecting Workshop.

Every New Customer begins as a Prospect!

Start filling your pipeline with Real Prospects!

Learn more at www.proactiveprospecting.com
Sign up today, seating is limited to 100 people!

Early Bird Specials Available – Multi-Attendee offers
ADDED BONUS – 500 FREE leads from LeadFerret.com
The Proactive Prospector’s Guide to Objection Handling Booklet

www.proactiveprospecting.com
Call – (855) 25-SALES

Sign Up Today! And always be confident when asked:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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