Welcome to The Pipeline.

Brother can you Spare a Sale?0

Last year there was a major controversy in Toronto around panhandlers and others on the street and their impact on tourism and the like. All this was sparked by an unfortunate set of events. Of course the solution proposed by the ever enlightened leadership in the city was to ban all these people. As there was no rug on the street, I guess they were proposing that they be swept under the side walk. This of course stirred further controversy and debate on the street, in the papers and talk radio, my favourite media vice.

I know, you’re reading this wondering what this has to do with cold calling, but stay with me.

One caller into the radio had a great suggestion, they were joking, but I think they missed the brilliance of their suggestion when looked at from my perspective. The caller suggested that we should take all the panhandlers put them in suits, and give them all jobs as cold callers. They clearly had no issues engaging strangers; no fear of rejection; no call reluctance, and they seem to have the proper work ethic as they were putting in a full day of work every day without costly supervision. He was right; there was no flaw in his observation.

When you think about it, why do the people on the street panhandle? You would think that for the majority it is very simple, if they do not, they will not eat; simple straight forward. There are of course those few who are out there because they can make loads of tax free money, and they earn more net panhandling than others do at work. The question still stands, how do they overcome the fear of walking up to strangers and asking for money? As a sales rep we usually only have to ask for the appointment, they go right for the gusto and ask for the close! How do they find the discipline to do it day in day out 5,6,7, or even 8 hours a day? They understand that if you don’t initiate the process, there is little chance of reaching your objective. I wonder if they know their ratio of approaches to cash.

Unlike many sales people, they do not spend time trying to figure out who to call and who not to call. They don’t pretend to be clairvoyant and be able to divine if someone is a buyer or not just by looking at their business cards or faces. They just systematically and consistently approach everybody in their territory; they make the call and deal with the results and the rewards.

They also do not spend a lot of time planning and researching, or any of the other things that seem to consume the prospecting time reps set aside. Once they get to work, they make sure that they have what they need and then spend their time executing rather than rationalizing.

They also do not fool themselves that their “pipeline is full”, “I need to work on what is in the pipe and then I can prospect”, they are never too busy planning and hoping. They execute. They have a system and process and they execute. They don’t worry about interrupting or bothering their targets, they just approach, present their value proposition “need to eat”, and execute. If someone says no, they are that much closer to the next close.

I am not suggesting that we become panhandlers, (although I am sure some of the ones on the main streets of Toronto are making more than sales people in Toronto), but I would encourage everyone to stop and ask why the panhandler can consistently act and execute.

Sell well,
Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Catching up on some Sun and Reading3

Off to the beach for a couple of days, as a result had a chance to catch up on reading a bit, here are some interesting posts.

Skip Anderson has a great post on his Selling to Consumers Blog, titled Words Matter. They certainly do in all sales B2B and consumer. Reps often are not carful on how they phrase things, but taking the time to chose your words, planning in advance pays off.

Over on Paul McCord’s Sales and Sales Management Blog, there is a great post with respect to the effectiveness of training From Classroom to Paycheck–Making Sales Training Work and how to take an approach to getting more lasting results. I have always believed that the effectiveness of sales training depends very much on how well your front line managers can balance the key components of their role, i.e. managing vs. Coaching.

Colin Wilson at his The Entrepreneurial Salesman Blog, writes about the perils of hiring the right rep, and how to avoid them. In Recruitment – avoid hiring mistakes, there are a number of key points, what struck me was the need for a small business founder looking for the right rep, to remove the value spot light from the founder of the business. I remember a recruiter friend tell me to always “hire slow, and fire fast if you made a mistake.

More later, go visit these blogs, and send us your thoughts.

Sell well,

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Sales Blogging to the Power of 107

While there are a variety of reasons I came to do what I do, one key motivator is the ability to help sales professionals achieve consistent success. Now I have the opportunity to take that a step further, in fact 10 steps forward. Ten top sales bloggers have come together to provide insights and advice on all aspects of sales, covering a wide range of specialized expertise.

Over the coming weeks the group will collaborate on e-books focusing on the most relevant topics for sales professionals. That’s just the start, there’ll be lots more, just stay tuned for lot of exciting news and updates.

For now allow me to introduce the group, I encourage you to visit their profiles at Sales Management 2.0, poke around this great site, and explore each of the members’ individual profiles at:

Brad Trnavsky – Creator of the sales social network Sales Management 2.0
Craig Elias – Creator of Trigger Event Selling
Colin Wilson – Sales Pipeline Expert
Ian Brodie – Professional Business Services Advisor
Karl Goldfield – Lead Generation and consultative sales training expert
Nesh Thompson – Sales system developer
Skip Anderson – Sales Trainer and Selling To Consumer Expert
Jim Klein – Business Coach and Sales Trainer
Tim Rohrer – Media Sales Expert
Tibor Shanto – Above the Pipeline, Sales Strategy and Sales Execution Expert

Sell well, (even better!)
Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments Part 5 of 5 : Do IT! (Actually 6 including last week’s Extra)14

DO IT! We’re not being cheeky; the number one reason for lack of appointments is lack of action taken, lack of effort. It’s something most reps don’t like to do, so they find any number of reasons not to do it. A sales manager at wireless company captured it very well when he said “there is always a battery that needs to be driven across town just when its time to prospect”. Sometime the greatest creativity shown by sales people is demonstrated in the way in which they avoid making the appointment setting calls.

But as with any professional endeavor, there will be necessary aspect of the drill that are not meant to be fun, yet those who excel understand that they have to incorporate it into their game.The best way to minimize the grief is to improve your skills, master it and thereby have to spend less time at it while still achieving the levels required to be consistently successful.

The accepted wisdom is that reps do not like to cold call for fear of rejection. Strange because most reps have a closing to initial meeting ratio that is very much in line with their contact to appointment ratio, that is leads to prospect conversion; generally around one in four or five. Yet you never hear reps say they are afraid to engage with prospects or submit proposals because they may get rejected. So why then when it comes to finding prospects. That’s a whole other posting. Simply, when it come to proposals, once all is said and done, just as they should with prospecting, they just do it!


Sell well,

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments: Extra – e-mail3

Yes that means that Part 5 will follow, which I guess makes this really Six Proven Ways to Get More Appointments: Bonus!

If you have been following this series to date, you may get the view that I only see the phone as a means to getting appointments, and that is certainly not the case. In today’s business environment it is important that you use all methods available to connect with potential prospects. Which these days includes e-mail.

Like other methods of communication e-mail has both pluses and minuses, but they can be managed.

In light of the fact that no matter how we get to lead, phone or e-mail, we are certainly an interruption and therefore must keep that top of mind. The target is likely trying to juggle a host of things and is not really looking to add more to their day, especially a sales pitch. The downside to e-mail, like voice mail, is that it is impersonal and easy enough for the recipient to deal with (read erase or delete), without even having to deal with the content or sender. So unless you have a message that is compelling enough, you’re dead in the water right there.

Now compelling does not mean a long verbose work that competes with Tolstoy or Puzu, it means something that will get the person to respond. With e-mail as voice mail, the goal is to get a response and convert that response to an appointment. Where many fail is that they try to get the appointment through e-mail or voice mail, which is not easy. Getting the person to respond is easier, and once they respond and you are talking to them directly you can go for the appointment.

Adding the challenge is the fact that their phone is likely to be the same utensil as their e-mail that is a BlackBerry. This is both good and bad. The good thing is that they take it everywhere, and look at it consistently; even in the middle of meetings they called. On the other hand it does generally lead to an instant response, which comes with its own upside/downside. Upside, if the response is positive, they tend to hit that reply button; and the conversation begins. Downside, if the response they formulate is negative, they just delete the message and you have to figure out why. Which is not the worst, as you just try again either by phone or other method.

The further challenge is that you have to articulate a message that will NOT CAUSE them to delete it, ideally respond right away, but Not Deleted is a win too; and you have to do this in a 2 inch by 2 ½ inch space, the BlackBerry Arena. A strong subject line and a clear succinct message. A specific goal of getting a positive response or at least not getting deleted.

This can be achieved by using a strong reference, perhaps a third party of mutual interest, perhaps a competitor. A useful quote from their executive or someone of specific interest to them. What ever reference you use, it has to be current, relevant to the target and has to be ethical. The subject line needs to be a call to action that relates to the message in the e-mail or voice mail. (see example of voice mail at Leveraging Voice Mail to Make More Sales! For e-mail, it would be similar, a call to action in the subject line, something brief and to the point in the body, ending with the repeat of the call to action. For example, I recently prospected a senior person at one of the banks. He was quoted in the daily paper about an initiative his bank had aimed at small business, let’s call the initiative Growing Biz.

Subject Line:

Growing Biz call the week of August 11

Body:

Dear Mister Executive,

I am Tibor Shanto Principal with Renbor Sales Solutions, over the last three years we have helped XYZ Bank (with link to case study) set more appointments with Canada’s small business owners. I read about The Growing Biz program, and am writing to set up a call to discuss how we may help you and ABC Bank reach your objective.

How is Tuesday August 12 at 9:30 am?

Got the response that 9:30 does not work, but he was able to talk at 8:30. Response, no delete.

If they do delete, you can always write again or call, just don’t give up to soon, remember it takes 5 to 7 touch points for you to even register on their radar, don’t be like the reps who give up after two or three tries.

Sell Well,
Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments Part 4 of 5: Leverage2

Leverage: As you are working with clients, or calling prospects, you are in a position to glean a lot of useful information that is current and relevant to a given sector or type of buyer. Why not use that information right away to generate more appointments.

While not every call turns in to an appointment, and not every appointment or client meeting turns in to a sale, they still can add value to your Above the Funnel success. You can leverage each conversation into valuable and usable information and action.

Each person you meet with in a B2B situation is likely to have at least two things of value, usually three. They generally have customers, they have suppliers and they know others in their business. It is easy to convert these in to referrals. Add one simple question to your sales routine: “Who else do you know that would find value in the kind of discussion we just had?”

Very different than asking who else they know you might be able to sell to. Jargon, buzz words and trends, all things that can be gleaned and leveraged in your adventures trying to gain new prospects and opportunities. Even if you have no luck with one prospect, take what you hear and use it on the next target in the same vertical, region what have you. As you build your knowledge of trends and other things related to a particular sector, you can call people in the same sector that you have tried in the past, and demonstrate the interest you have in their sector, how you are keeping up with developments and why they should rethink meeting with you. This especially works if you present it to them in the context “I was thinking about you and the impact ………would have on you company” (project, initiative, tax, cost of fuel, the elections, what-have-you). People really respond when you tell them you were thinking about their issues and how you can help rather than just as an order.

You can also call new prospects and lead with something current and relevant, distinguishing you from the horde of reps whose initial prospecting call is generic with little or no relevance for the prospect. The more folks you engage with based on their points of interest, the more you increase your probabilities and resulting appointments.

Remember, leads are recyclable, so leverage them over and over, sometimes it will lead to an opportunity with that specific lead, other times with others, but you need to work and rework each lead in multiple angels and directions, a good lead has many lives and lots of value to be leveraged beyond the obvious.

Sell well,

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Great read on Org charts3

Blogs are great for a number of reasons, one the make you reexamine things and think, they introduce new ideas, and often, as is the case with today’s post, you see something you have been thinking about, and someone posts on their blog that captures the very essence of that line of that.

A couple of days ago on Dave Stein’s Commentary on Sales Leadership talked about Selling Through the Customer’s Organization (Chart).

This is so accurate, yet more often than not when we discuss org charts and the political landscape, participants look at us like we had two heads. Take a look, take the advice.

Sell well,

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments Part 3 of 5: Preparation and Recycling8

Preparation and Recycling: this is probably the most straight forward instalment in the series, but when adopted, it is the one with the greatest return. Since most sales people do not like to prospect to begin with, they like preparing for the activity even less. But at the end, anything worth doing is worth doing right, and in sales and prospecting that means taking the time to prepare.

With prospecting preparation is just as vital as at any point in the cycle. This goes from a simple thing like having a complete calling list ready, including name, title, number, potential value statements, references, potential voicemail message, but most importantly the ability to anticipate and deal with objections.

While these may seem obvious, many sales people do not take the time to be ready, and as a result get distracted, rejected and dejected. I fully believe that it is not rejection that turns people off on cold calling, but the knowledge that they have not prepared, especially to avoid and handle objections, and therefore failure is inevitable. Most reps who have a proper process for prospecting have similar success ratios as they do with closing, roughly 1 in 5, yet you never hear sales pros say that they have a fear of rejection when it come to proposals or closing. Why, because they have properly prepared for the proposal, and as such can deal with the results.

Having the things listed above, having an understanding of how to relate to the person you are calling can dramatically increase the resulting appointments. As with any of the things discussed in this series, the better you are at getting the right number of appointments to drive your business, the less work you will have to do, and the less dreaded cold calls you will have to make.

I would caution that you have to be realistic not confuse “preparation” with “deep research” for each appointment setting call, that would be a waste of time at this stage. If your numbers are 12-6-1, (12 dials to reach 6 decision makers resulting in one appointment), and you spend 5 minutes researching each call, that’s 2 hours of research for 1 appointment, not a good use of time.

Recycling is another key; most reps do not have an active lead management process. But in these days of climate change, it is important that you recycle your leads and use the right ones for long term value. We recommend a process of Touch > Contact > Engage. An approach designed to managing your leads, an organic replenishment plan. Recycling leads, ensures that you benefit from the fact that today’s dud is tomorrow’s cash cow, understanding that more is not best, just a start, you still need a means of brining new leads in to you base. Remember even in these days of global warming, the inconvenient truth is that you need prospects to sell, and that means cold calling leads.

Sell well,
Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments Part 2 of 5: Voice Mail25

Voice Mail: ALWAYS LEAVE A VOICE MAIL MESSAGE!

A lot of people don’t believe in leaving voice mail, and that’s alright, because if you do, you’ll get more appointments.

There are a couple of dynamics at play. A lot of reps say “I never get a call back”; “No one ever returns voice mails”. Not true, I get return calls from 5 out of 10 messages I leave.

But you can also benefit from the ones that do not call back. Studies have shown that it may take anywhere from 4 to 7 approaches for someone to respond or deal with a new matter. Other studies have shown that most sales people give up after three attempts at reaching someone (usually with a manager saying move on in the background).

Now if you do not leave a message, then you may have tried 3 times, and let’s say you’re one of the keeners who tries 4 times, as far as the prospect goes you’re at zero, because they have no way of knowing that you called, because you didn’t leave a message or “calling card” telling her you want to talk to her. You also don’t want to be at the other end of the spectrum, wasting your time dialing someone dozens of times, not leaving a message, then finally connecting and letting built up frustration out on the prospect, as though it was their fault that you called and called and called, instead of leaving a message and having them call you, like every other person I leave a message for does.

Another thing to consider is that a vast majority of reps, who do not leave messages, still listen to the entire outbound message on the voice mail, so why not take a few more seconds and leave a message.

It’s a no brainer, on the one hand, even if they don’t call back (within 72 hours), you are on the prospects radar (yes initially at the fringe) but still better than the superstars who don’t leave messages; on the other hand a 50-50 shot of getting a call back, good odds, and certainly many more conversation leading to more appointments.

If by chance you do miss a return call from someone you left a message for, not the time of their call to you, and aim to call them back in the same time frame, another way to shifting your calling hours, in addition to those detailed above.

Plain and simple, the goal of a voice mail is to get a return call not the appointment; once you are talking to the prospect, you can go for the appointment. So get call back, and then go for the next step. Read Leveraging Voice Mail to Make More Sales! To learn what makes an effective voice mail.


Sell well,

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

Five Proven Ways to Get More Appointments Part 1 of 519

One can make a case that any phase of the sales cycle is key to success, but it would be hard to argue that for the vast majority, nothing happens without appointments. No matter how good one sells, it can’t happen alone, you need prospects, and that all starts with the appointment. Our Appointment Making Program deals extensively with the art and science of getting appointments with decision makers on a consistent basis. In the next few posts we will be putting a focus on the on some key aspects of getting appointments and prospecting. Yes there is more to prospecting than cold calling or appointments, and we will be discussing many of these in other posting. But in the next five posting (counting this one) it will be about five proven methods to help improve your appointment setting skills and numbers. Some of this will be straight forward, some with a new spin, but put into practice they will get you in front of more of the right people, right prospects you want to sell to. Today we will start with using time to your advantage:

Shifting your calling hours: Many trainers suggest that you do your calling first thing in the morning. Theory being that you “get it out of the way” first thing, and then go on about your day doing what you do best and like to do: sell. The reality is that you need to shift your prospecting calls to when your target audience is more likely to be available. For some services like ours first thing in the morning is best, first thing being 7:00 to 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. However if your target is a plant manager, service manager, traffic manager, VP ops, you are not likely to find them in their office in the morning, mid-day is probably a better time.

With a bit of research and keeping track, you can typically learn when is a likely time not only to find your target by their phone but also in a position to listen to your approach, and respond in a way that serves your mutual needs. A little preparation, segmentation and planning goes a long way. Please be clear, we are not excusing you from making calls at all times, just encouraging you to call targets at a time that will yield best results for you. Next time round, Voice Mail, till then,

Sell well

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline

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