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don't do this on cold calls

3 Things To Leave Out Of Your Prospecting Call0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Not only do I get to listen to a lot of outbound calls, but I get a fair bit of cold calls, (I guess they did not get the memo that cold calling is dead), and there are a number of things that if people would just stop doing, they would be so much more successful. These aren’t the top ones, or worst ones, they are just the ones that irritated me most this week.

1.  Who Is In Charge Of…?

These are the people who give cold calling a bad name, lazy people who can’t be bothered to go to your web site or LinkedIn and do some basic scraping to get basic info. Even if the above were to leave you wondering, asking this question is just going to make more work, and lead to less results. The receptionist may have a different idea of who is in charge of. As far as he/she is concerned the person in charge of office supply is the person asking them if the need that supply. The person in charge of telecommunication is the one who works on their telco problems, not the one making the decision about carriers. So if you are really unable to find the right person before you pick up the phone, hard to believe these days given the resources available, just ask for a specific title. Not any harder, not much better, but if you have to, it is better to ask for the CTO, than the person in charge of telephones or IT.

2.  What you or your company does

Really no one cares, if they did, they would have phoned you, not the other way around. Beyond the name of your company, no one cares. Tell them what you have done for others with similar objectives, what the economic outcome was, and how it impacted their business. Anything other than that is saying please hang up on me, I prefer to talk about me and my company not you and your opportunities. Instead of who you are and what you do, talk about outcomes, lead with outcomes they are looking for and thinking about, it is about the end, not the means.

3 Your Title (or lot in life)

I rarely laugh at sales people when they call, I know the effort it takes, and they are doing their job, I usually listen, and if they are open, make suggestions. But one thing that always gets a belly laugh is when I hear someone include their title. “hi this Josie Broune, regional account manager for Canada”, or the voice mail version, “hi you’ve reached Mike Smith, Eastern Canada Sales Director at Another Company”.

I am sure your mother and spouse are proud of your title, and for many I am sure your title defines some aspect of your life, but for the person listening it means nothing, in fact those people who hang up on you, for them it means less than nothing.

I am not saying it is not impressive or that you should not be proud, but it adds nothing to the call, which means it needs to be eliminated. I’ve had some tell me that it communicates their capabilities and demonstrates some credibility. It doesn’t. You want to impress, and create credibility, get to what is in it for them, the business impacts you have delivered to others with similar objectives. Start and stay with that and you’ll get their attention, anything other than that, and they are just waiting for a pause where they can shut you down, and if that opening does not come in time – – click.

Don’t do it Len, leave these things out.

there are sellers and order takers which are you

Darwin Comes To Sales – Hunt or Perish2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While people may debate the exact quote or misquote from Darwin, the core concept stands, survival is more likely a question of a species’ ability to adapt than anything else. For the sake of this piece we’ll look at B2B sales people as a species consisting of various subspecies. Different periods, circumstances, and trends may favour one subset over the other, but time will always bring the pendulum (and prize) back to those willing to adapt by building on their experience and skills. In sales that subspecies has always been the Hunter.

Some people don’t like that phrase, let’s be clear, we are talking about hunting revenue, not clients; competing with other sellers, not against the client. I believe many feel uncomfortable with the phrase has more do with how they view their approach and roll in commerce. As many have pointed out before, if three sales people are proposing on an opportunity, one will win, the other two will have hungry babies, I love my babies, I like to feed them, I guess some don’t.

I think it also speaks to their comfort, and, if and how far they are willing to step outside that zone to grow, thrive, evolve their success and that of their clients’.
Based on a recent presentation by a principal analyst from Forrester, the B2B subspecies of sales population count is currently about 4.5 million. But the tribe is about to be culled, in a serious way, the prediction is that about a quarter of those B2B sellers will vanish over the next five years. This is primarily due to the fact that many of the efficiencies achieved in B2C, the Amazonization of buying, will be making their way to B2B. No surprise, no shock, order takers have always been part of the scene, and as machines become more efficient at not only taking orders, but increasing individual orders by leveraging the same technologies and thought processes as we now take for granted on Amazon or eBay.

Add to that technology’s role in helping attract “self declared” buyers, the need for this skill-less chore to be performed by humans will disappear, freeing up margins for other revenue and margin generating assets, specifically hunters. I recently saw an interview with an executive from a “lead gen” firm, and he described their success in “generating inbound hand raisers”. Well if they are raising their hands on their own, or in response to advertising, then capturing that demand will default to technology, not only because of the cost saving, but the consistency of performance, and efficiencies gain.

That environment favours hunters over all other type of sellers. The premium worth paying for is the ability to identify “none hand raisers”, engage them, and bring them into to the market, something which on their own they would not have done. Approaching an individual who is firmly entrenched in the Status Quo, and bringing them in to a conversation that ends in them being in a buy/sales process is the skill of the future.

This is not about social selling vs. traditional selling. This is about the ability to understand objectives business people have, engage them based on your ability to articulate how that objective can be achieved in a way the buyer had not considered; how the objective needs to be adjusted, and how your experience has helped others arrive at the desired end by different means. The premium is for expertise that exceeds and defies the buyer’s perceptions rather than playing in into them by solely fulfilling in a more economical way. If you’re not doing that you’ll soon be replaced by a scanner and an app, Darwin would be pleased.

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Not interested

They’re Not Interested – What Now?3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

No one likes objections, the number one reason for sales people hating cold calling is the cold reality of the objections. I get it, but when you think about it there are probably five common objections you will face in telephone prospecting. About 80% of the time, 80% people we are calling will go to one of these five objections. While none are pleasant, especially when you are not ready, the most frustrating seems to be the “Not interested” objection. Seems the most sensible people lose their mind for a second.

I recently had a call from someone for a product, that based on their introduction I felt I did not need, did not want, and would not help me in any way. I told the rep: “no thanks, no interest at the moment.” Sounding somewhat irritated, he asked “why is that?”.

Me: Based on your intro, I don’t see the need, so thanks, but not interested.
Rep: I get that, but why not?

At this point, I said “Well get this” as I hit the end button.

Now he is not the worst I have had, and I figure his frustration was not with my reply but the fact that he blew it and had no clue how to handle it any other way. (He should take my program)

First mistake, he assumed that telling me about his brand, and their Unique Selling Proposition (which other than his company’s name was not unique at all), would arouse a deep and hidden need and desire. I had what he was selling, so need and want were non-factors. What he should have done is align his approach with my priorities, and how they may contribute to them.

I would argue that the main reason someone says they are not interested is that they gleaned little or no value from your intro, and what little they may have, was not enough to displace a current priority. The oldest rule “What’s in it for them”, yet most calls are about “us, and what we do, and we, we, we.” If you offered something of real interest, you would get a different response. Don’t believe me, call five people and offer them $1,000,000 and see how many “Not interested” responses you get.

I am not suggesting that you have to go to that extent, but you do need have a clear idea of how you can impact the prospects business and objectives in a very specific way. And that’s where the work comes in, speaking to those points that are on the minds and the ‘to-do’ lists of byers. Given that there are multiple buyers in each decision, apparently 5.4 buyers, it means work. Generic “we, we, we, ROI of that” no longer cuts it unless you happen across someone who has that specific need at the time you call, not likely, less than a 30% shot. But 100% of businesses and business people have objectives, that’s where the value is, that’s where their interest is.

Want to handle objections better, grab our Objection Handling Handbook now, normally $12.97,
free by clicking here.

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Achieving success with Status Quo Prospect segment

Achieving Prospecting Success by Segmentation – 32

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Thus far in this series we have looked at two prospects segments that are popular among sellers, mostly because they are likely the easier of the three. While most sales people spend 80% of their time and effort pursuing these groups, combined they only make up at most 30% of any given market. The Actively Looking, about 10%, and the Passively Looking, another 20%. So what about the big piece of the pie?

Status Quo Segment

Well in this the last of the series, we will look at the at the largest of potential buyer segments, the Status Quo, making up some 70% of most markets, what I like to call, The Play Ground of The Rich and Famous. The reason for that is that those who thrive on prospecting this segment, not only have more fun selling, they face less competition, and as a result make more sales and commissions. Famous, because people talk about them, but fail to follow them into this lucrative segment; one can argue at times infamous because those who linger with the Passive and Active, rationalize their lack of success with the Status Quo, by painting those who do as the anomaly.

There two factors that come to play here. The people in this segment are NOT buyers, they are at best potential prospects. Whereas the other segments are buyers of varying degrees, these people are several degrees removed from the market. So before you can roll out your brochures, white papers and discounts, you need to bring them into the market. Second, most sales people have been told not to “waste time” on this segment, because they are not looking, happy with where they are, and are satisfied, and therefore will not engage with a seller till their status changes, say from satisfied, to dissatisfied. This poisonous bull shit has cost reps quotas, companies millions of dollars, and no doubt contributed to slow recovery from the last recession.

Satisfaction Poor Buying Indicator

Consider this, according to Chip Bell and John Patterson, in their book ‘Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’, present that “75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.” Hmm, seems satisfaction is a poor barometer for potential. This makes it clear that if you know how to engage satisfied customers, you can indeed convert them to prospects, and buyers, but you will need to be proactive rather than waiting to be found or a random event beyond your control to do the work for you.

So what does it take to engage this segment? A complete abandoning of product (or solution), and focusing exclusively on the prospects’ objectives, and how you can help them achieve them. The reason this is hard for some (well most), is that you have to understand how you have done that for some of you current customers. A thorough and detailed review of specific elements of how you have delivered specific impacts and business outcome for clients is the start of the process. Our clients take advantage of our 360 Degree Deal Review.

Understanding where the prospect is looking to be moving forward, not current pain or distractions. If you call these prospects and yatter on about what they need and why you’re the best, you are asking for a click. On the other hand, if you call and speak to specific objectives you have been able to help other achieve, they may engage. This takes work, because you will have to develop different talk tracks based on role, verticals, and other factors. But at the same time, it is not like you are looking at hundreds, but a firm dozen or so that will help you reach out to specific prospects and engage them on their terms not yours.

Objectives over Pain or Need

Simply stated these people are not looking, you need, product, solution and pain, do not resonate. Call and speak to them about a future state they have in mind, with a means of getting there, well you have a conversation, and that’s where it all starts.

Achieving success with the Passively Looking segment of B2B prospects

Achieving Prospecting Success by Segmentation – 20

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

This past Monday we looked at how to tailor your approach to engaging with different segments in your potential buyer pool.  Monday we looked at the readiest segment of three groups you are likely to encounter in the course of prospecting, those who are Actively Looking. The next segment is slightly larger, but brings a different set of challenges, this group is the Passively Looking segment. This group is aware that they will need to engage, to make a purchase decision, but do not have the same sense of urgency as the Actively Looking segment.

Those in this group may be planning an expansion or a new facility to open in 24 months, and what you sell is relegated to be purchased six months before opening; or they have a piece of equipment that will need to be replaced in say 18 months; or any scenario where the potential prospect believes they have the luxury of time. Last time it took them six to nine months to select and buy, as a result their mind set is they have nine months before they need to fully engage. This group may be 20% or more of any given segment.

I find many sellers fall into one of two groups. The first are those who when they hear 18 months, think their “sales cycle” is usually three to six months, so they abandon the opportunity to look for Actively Looking prospects. The second, believe that their “solution” is “so right”, that they spend their time trying to convince the buyer that they should make their purchase now. Ignoring the buyer and their organizations objectives, timing, budgeting and more. They figure if they can create “urgency”, everything will fall into place, after all, that’s what their brochure says.

The reality is that the Passively Looking buyer segment is full of potential as long as you understand what you are dealing with and adjust for it.

The first thing to take into account is that while at ties you can shorten the buyer’s timelines; it is the anomaly rather than the rule. This does not mean the first group has it right, you should not walk away or park the opportunity for later. But you have to be real and understand that most likely the deal will come in later, usually next year’s quota, not this year. But that’s not a bad thing, having a number of good and real opportunities lined up for next year will pay dividends. Even better, you have a real long runway to work with the prospect, educating, becoming a great resource in process of becoming their emotional favourite. You have the opportunity to prove your worth long before they a) have to pay for it; b) before the crowd shows up and starts pitching price. This is why the first group tends to lose, by the time they come back, when they estimated the buyer will be actively looking, you have built your credibility and dependence.

The other distraction for many is the “all or none” approach. They are so fixated on the “big prize”, that they miss opportunities to build a commercial relationship on small pieces at a time. Sure we all want to share the big solution, but the buyer has made it clear that is not going to happen for a time. But the more you understand their objectives, and how they plan to achieve them, the more you can introduce other ideas, things they have yet to consider, again challenging the premise, not the individual. In the process you can get them to consider things they can use now in their current setting, these can be small add-ons, software that enhances their current solution, ways of testing alternatives, and more. The result of this may not be big revenue, but it makes you a vendor, and incumbent, someone that will very much be included in the big discussion when it comes. And if the current incumbent waits, you could also be the one that sets the agenda for the big buy. A bit of revenue now, the set up for the ultimate decision. If you can make quota from others, ready to act now, position yourself as the emotional favourite with the Passively looking buyers, you will succeed now, and moving forward; everyone wants a blended pipeline, don’t they.

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Pie chart representing market segments for prospecting

Achieving Prospecting Success by Segmentation – 12

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As we start a new quarter, it makes sense to step back a second and think about how you are prospecting f. Few aspects of sales are one size fits all, which makes it a challenge for those who are looking for that one secret to success in sales. Buyers fall into different groups, and how you sell to each needs to reflect that, this does not mean you have to reinvent your sale for each buyer, groups or segments based on their attributes. Falling to align the effort and approach to each segment can lose you sales, or almost worse, have you spend more time and energy closing sales with a longer sales cycle than necessary.

Broadly speaking there are three segments for B2B sellers, and most sales people are adept at selling to two of these groups, unfortunately not only are these group small, they have other undesirable features.

Prospect Segment One:

The first group, anywhere from 3% – 12% of a given market, let’s round off to 10%, are Actively looking. These are the buyers you read about, having completed 57% of their journey. In essence they are coming to you, informed and ready, not just ready to buy, but ready to play you off competitors, ready for buying on price. As a result, when prospecting here is more about countering preconceptions than bringing them to the market, they are already engaged in a journey, you need to engage them and getting to consider you and your market view. This is where the Challenger Sale concepts will help you, anything short of that you are destine to be an order taker, with the terms being dictated by the buyer. Your goal is to disrupt their current path, and put them on a better path to their objectives, one they were not aware of or considered.

What You Need To Know

This is less about product, as the value comes from you being a true subject matter expert. The research you need to be just about the company and the individuals involved, but more about how others have fared trying to achieve the same objectives. What are the common misconceptions leading companies and byers to pursue the wrong solution. At the same time what have you and your company been able to specifically do for other clients. To challenge is not to wag your fingers telling them they are making mistake going with a competitor, especially since the product is likely the same. It comes down to showing them why and how you have helped others achieve their end through different means, how you have accelerated their success, especially pursuing a path either not obvious to many.

Research you have to do here is in your wins, losses and deals that petered out before completion. As a subject matter expert you are not only a conduit to best practices, adding a value dimension. It is not about having a shot at the beauty contest, it is about changing their view about which contest they want to be in. If you do not change the path they are on, you are locked into the path they put you one, taking orders and cutting prices to make you quarter. Then start it all again.

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Coulda

Are You Shoulding All Over The Place?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In every walk of life, you hear people saying “I should have done this” or “should have asked that”, and a whole bunch of other should haves. We all have moments of realization after the fact, you leave a meeting and just as you get on the freeway, you remember you should have asked a question of the prospect, or you should have highlighted something. Worse is when you are sitting in the room, know you should ask or state or do something, but you don’t, only to rationalize later with the familiar tune of the “shoulda coulda woulda” blues.

So beyond the obvious question as to why didn’t you, there is the more important question of when are you going to? This question applies to both moving forward, and to recent events.

I often have sellers tell me they should have… something, usually in a way that suggests that they can’t change or remedy things. It is true that you can’t turn back the clock, but there is nothing that says you can’t go back and fix or redo. There is nothing preventing us from going back and asking for or just creating a do over. The fact is that unless you were rude and asked not to come back, not you right, you can go back, and often going back could be the difference.

If you do find yourself singing the “shoulda coulda woulda” blues, try this. Callback the prospect (or prospects) and tell them the truth, “you know Henry, I was thinking about you and our meeting yesterday, and I realized that I was remiss in …not asking, not discussing, not presenting, in rushing…” It never ceases to amaze me how responsive people are when you take this approach. First you are flattering them by not only telling them, but demonstrating that you were in fact thinking about them, their objectives, and how you can positively impact them. At the same time, you have an opportunity to introduce new ideas, and extend the conversation, and show how you are not like the others.

A slightly more fatal version of this is when sales people tell me that they know they should do something but don’t do it. This could be for any number of reasons, but it is usually fear or ego. While ego is important in sales, it should not get in the ways of success, a little humility not only goes a long way, but opens doors others don’t even see. If you know you should do something, be that something with a current buyer, or make a prospecting call, or anything, do it. As long as it is legal and ethical, the worst thing that can happen is the deal does not move forward, which no worse than not winning a deal because you should’ve. So stop shoulding all over your success, and do it, you’ll either win a customer or learn a useful lesson, and learning is something you should always be doing.

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Voicemail word cloud

Voice Mail As A Differentiator1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you’re in sales, you know that a crowd favourite is differentiation. Companies, marketing folks, sales people all want to differentiate, which is not an easy thing in a climate where differences are few and subtle. Often the only real difference is the sale itself, since products tend to be often all but identical. The “sale” has two main components that allow for differentiation, the individual involved, and how they execute.

The first is important, but not as much as people make it out to be, you’d have to really go out of your way to play-off someone to the point where they won’t buy your product. As rare as that may (should) be, when it does happen, the buyer can usually procure the product through other means, depriving the “bad seller” of both the satisfaction and the commission. This leaves execution as the key differentiator.

Yet most sales people seem to almost go out of their way not to be different, either in the way they do things or don’t do things. They spend time and effort to meet a social norm and construct not of their own making or choosing, all in an effort to fit in and not be different from the herd perusing the same prospect. I have written in the past about sales people constantly telling me “oh, I couldn’t do that.” Or the more inclusive “you can’t do that.” When I point out that have checked with the federal, provincial/state authorities, and municipal lawmakers, and there is no law preventing them from in fact carrying out the act in question, they still tell me they can’t do it, and why, it is different. Isn’t that what you want to be when the person you’re calling has heard it 6,000 time before.

Rather than taking the opportunity to be a breath of fresh air, they labour at being “more of the same”, but a little shinier. Jumping on every bandwagon riding through town all in an effort not to be different.

Take voice mail as an example. One of the reasons many will give for avoiding telephone prospecting is the pervasiveness of voice mail. I could see this being an issue in 1987, but not since. The logical thing would be to develop a method for getting targets to call you back, not to avoid something because it is there. Add caller ID to the mix and it is clear that you need to do something different than your competitors, and different than what the target is expecting from a sales person.

For years I have been sharing a method for leaving voice mails that get returned, I generally average 40% – 50% of messages I leave being returned within 72 hours. Just this past Tuesday I left five messages, got responses by end of the day, and one appointment, and a follow up call in April; I hear sales is not a numbers game, but even then, that’s good no? Those who try it, execute it the way it is presented regularly improve their return call ratio, and increase appointments and pipeline.

The problem is that the methods I use is different, not comfortable, at first, then when you get sales it all changes. The great thing is that when prospects call back, I have already differentiated, and can continue to be different, and deliver an experience for the buyer that is different, and better than what they have been conditioned to expect from those who talk, but don’t act differentiation. The method has been challenged, ridiculed, mocked and dismissed by a whole bunch of people who have not tried the method, a behaviour not that different than the rest of the 80% they are claiming to be differentiated from. It is always the same, a few years ago someone wanting to feel good about their insecurity shared my method in a LinkedIn group, there was a rush of condemnation. But then a few days later, a bunch of people who tried it in the real world, chime in about the success they had connecting with people they have been trying to reach for some time. Being different takes work, and requires you to step away from the comfort of the crowd.

Click here to learn more about the different but effective voice mail technique, and start differentiating.

video intro 2016

Checking Not Doing Will Give You More Sales #video4

 

Time is the currency of sales, your most precious resource – how you spend it will determine your success, or…

The video below provides a great way to spend your time better, and save for things that will make you more productive and earn you more sales and success. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

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executive woman talking on the phone in her office

Good Things Happen To Those Who Call – Sales eXecution 3290

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 
Over and over different sales people tell a success story that starts with them saying “I got lucky the other day, I called this guy, and he is ready to move forward.” Or “I’ve been calling this guy every few months for the last couple of years, and I finally got a meeting with him.” While luck may have played a small role in it, especially the first scenario, the fact remains that even luck has to be met half way.

Timing is the second most critical element in the first case above, the most critical, was making the call. The simple reality is that if you don’t make the call, you can never take advantage of timing, whether by luck or by design, such as a trigger, not just a random event, but any trigger. Which leads us to one of the key flaws in the cold calling is dead argument. Cold calling here is defined as any call to anyone who does not have you in their calendar. This does mean there is no reason to speak with, it just means the call was unplanned, not unmerited.

For every stat that suggests that prospects will not take your call, there as many stats that show that decision makers and recommenders are open to input and are actively seeking expert advice in ensuring that they make the right choice for their company. Buyers are very much like sellers, some are lazy and go with the popular flow, others take their mandate seriously and consider all viable resources. The question for sellers is “how do I become viable or relevant to a prospect?” Calling with the usual script that sounds a lot like: “This is Us, We do this, you ready to buy?” will seal your fate the second you open your mouth.

As with any campaign, and that is what prospecting is, a campaign to engage with qualified potential buyers, the goal is to create buyers. Yes, prospects are created not found, and once you have a prospect, you need to convert them to a buyer. This is why those who wait for buyers to realize they want or need to buy, or who are 57% through a buy decision, end up dealing with order takers, not sellers.

The second scenario above is a great example of a prospect being created. A consistent flow of touch points, direct and specific communication, and regular interactions, lead to a prospect being created, without having to wait for a random event. Those calls spaced between other forms of communication add a dimension missed by those who don’t pick up the phone and call. We learn different elements and evolution in the prospect’s world. Each bit of information and intelligence gained is ploughed back into the campaign, each time making you more viable, more relevant and more on target. So when the moment comes that the prospect decides to engage, it is not just timing, not just persistence, that could be achieved through various forms of automation and drip approaches. It is the personal contact and added knowledge gained and the refinement of each call that makes one stand out from the also-rans.

Again, it is not this vs. that, you can work with marketing, leverage and be social, but if you don’t cold call, you’ll be missing a crucial element in creating a prospect. Sure, you can wait to be found, or you can put calls into the mix and make good things happen.

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