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big-box-training

A Rep’s Scream For Help0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

While not daily, on a regular basis over the last 12 years I have been called by VP’s of Sales who were extremely disappointed in the training delivered to their team by another provider. (It is entirely possible that some of my former clients have had similar discussions about me; possible, but nah). As you would suspect, there are a range of ways they share their “experiences”. Some politely take it on as their mistake for not having vetted things better; some will show me the material from the previous provider, pointing out what they thought they were going to get, then highlighting where it missed the mark. And then there is the type of people I like to work with, straight to the point no BS, no ambiguity, just the facts as they see them.

So, it was the other day, I was in a boardroom waiting for my appointment to join, before even sitting down, he threw a competitor’s manual on the table and said: “This is a piece of shit, I need you to clean up and save my team.”

After explaining how they went through a selection process landing on a “Big Box” training company; how they agreed on a plan, why the specific training discussed was important. The “Big Box” rep took copious notes, detailing what the client was expecting, why it was important, how it related to challenges and opportunities in their market, and which habits they were looking to influence and change.

big-box-trainingUnfortunately, it was not the sales person who showed up to do the training, but a “Big Box certified independent trainer”. Fully literate in the theory, the learning plan, armed with numerous examples of “when they say this, you say that”; or motivational ditties like “You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.” The only thing they lack is a minute’s worth of real world selling experience, when asked how to apply “the learning” to a specific scenario a rep presents, they either try to retrofit something that sounds similar, or go to their proven life boat: “Tear down your mental silos, you’ll never get out of the box you’re without a paradigm shift in your sales thinking” In other words “I haven’t got a bloody clue, mate, so I’m gonna put this on you”.

Back at my office, I began to thumb through the pages of the manual the VP gave me, it was apparently left behind by one of the reps. You could relive the experience the rep had that day. Early in the day, the first few pages asking them to commit to improvements, the rep’s choices were in full, clearly written letters, reflecting the willingness of the rep to learn something new. A few pages in, where clichés began to dominate, the rep’s writing began to wither and he was made to write things like: “No, is just the prospect’s way of saying ‘Tell me more’”. By page 73, complete surrender, in listless letters that looked like the last words of a man wondering the desert, in the top margin, two words:

“Help meeeeee”

Needless to say, the owner of the manual is no longer there.  Seems this training was either an exercise in futility or a strange approach to attrition.

Don’t torture your reps, improve them.

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I can I can’t

Prospecting? – “Not As Much As I’d Like To”0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Why Not?

I never understood why sales people and sales leaders who have anaemic pipelines and matching sales results, think they solve their issues by focusing on everything but. They need to stop symptoms, and work on curing the cause.

Success in prospecting starts with fully committing to it, and then actually executing.

Working with reps across many industries, one commonality is the lack of real commitment to prospecting success. When I ask sales people what their high value activities are, prospecting usually makes the list. I am convinced that it is there because sales people feel they have to put it there, not because they believe it or do it. How do I know?

I can I can’tFirst is the answer to my next question to them: “Over the course of your sales cycle, not daily but over the cycle, what percentage of your time is committed to prospecting?” I get answers ranging from 10% to 50%. Removing the extremes, the number usually settles around 25% – 30%. They always glance at their manager as they give me the number, I am never sure if it is for approval, or fear of being called out. Then, when you highlight the fact that 25% of a 50-hour work week is 12.5 hours a week, or 2.5 hour per day.

“No, no, no, that’s too much, I need to do other things, important things.” And there is your first clue, they have no idea because not only do they not do it, and they have no idea what their metrics are, and therefore what they need to do to succeed. And why should they when all the hip pundits have told them that sales is not a numbers game. Instead, it’s a strange version of the game of hide and seek, where in this case you are working to be “found”, and starve if you’re not found. Metrics are all about numbers, much like accountability. In the end, they do commit to a time they need to not just set aside for prospecting, but actually doing it.

Second, when I go back for reinforcement sessions, you find they’ve done bubkes. Nothing at all, not an hour, not what their metrics and quota demanded, they have done no prospecting.

When I ask how much prospecting they have done since last week, I get a sheepish smile, followed by “Not As Much As You’d Like To”. Well why not, “I wanted to, but I had some important things to attend to.” Like what?

What can be more important for a rep than to ensure they have the requisite opportunities in their pipeline? Sometimes there are other important things, but if they allocated time to all their high value activities, not just the ones they like, they could have avoided the conflict, and got both done. But usually it is some BS, the one they hope will slow me down is that they were working on a deal (does not dawn on them that the deal was one day a prospect). But when one digs deeper, it tunes out the deal they were working on has no next step, has been in their pipeline well past it’s “good through date”, but it has enough life in it to serve as an excuse when they should be executing.

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sell-more-konrath

More Sales, Less Time: by Jill Konrath – Book Review0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In her latest book, More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers, continues what one describe as her journey through sales. Starting by conquering “Big Companies”, then in “SNAP Selling” helping sellers understand and appreciate the world of “crazy-busy buyers”. In “Agile Selling” sellers then get a vision of how agility can help them improve sales. So it only makes sense that the next element to explore is time. It has always been a fact that the one thing A level sellers do differently is time. While everyone on the planet gets 24 hours at the strike of midnight, how they choose to use, invest or spend those 24 hours, is what differentiates them from the also-rans. And that is what Jill unpacks in this book, and in the process helping “Crazy-busy Sellers”.

As with her other works, Jill keeps things real, not only by dealing with the real challenges faced by sales professionals today, which is exactly where the book kicks off, with the challenge. But also, because she leverages her own direct experience. There is nothing worse than sales books where authors can’t relate their own experience, only share observation.

sell-more-konrathJill with this book puts you in the game, not in the stands, making it easier and more likely that the reader will succeed in implementing ideas in the book. Starting with the role of distraction in our day to day success. Just working through the “Distraction Quiz”, had me thinking not only about some of the sales teams I have worked with, but how I roll through my day. By exploring how, where and why our time gets “sucked”, we can then turn to recovering what Jill calls lost time.

My goal is not to give a play by play here, that’s best done by reading the book. I want to make sure that you go out and not just read this “manual for sales success”, in fact if you apply the many things you’ll learn through the course of reading it, it could also be viewed as life success, since your life runs on time. BTW, the appendixes are worth the price of the book alone, but given the rest of the book, they truly are a bonus.

What sets the book apart is the author and her ability to look at elements of sales that others usually miss, or misunderstand, and there by miss its significance to sales and your success. Jill breaks it down, backs it with both experience and research. For me this not only helped me look at some familiar things in a different way, but caused me to explore elements in greater detail, leading to further research; so, it becomes a platform for further learning, better selling.

The biggest challenge sales organizations, leaders, and front line reps face today is productivity, or a lack thereof, one of the core causes to that is where and how sales people and organizations Spend and Use time. Jill Knorath’s More Sales, Less Time: Surprisingly Simple Strategies for Today’s Crazy-Busy Sellers, helps readers with that very core elements. Take the time to read it and benefit from it.

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Voicemail word cloud

Make Voice Mail Work For You In Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sales people are strange when it comes to prospecting, specifically telephone prospecting. Many find all kinds of reasons (excuses) to rationalize (excuse) why they fail to make call in order to engage with prospects to fill the gap in their pipelines. Some tell me they do not want to phone people because no one ever answers the phone these days.

OK, do they have voice mail?

Yes

Great, so you left them a voice mail.

No, I did not.

Why not?

I want to speak to them directly.

Thud – (that’ the sound of me banging my heads against the wall)

Find out how to 40% – 50% of voice mails returned!

Well if you don’t leave them a voice mail, how will they know where to call you back so you can speak to them directly, they would pretty much need to be clairvoyant would they not?

Voicemail word cloudSeems to me, if you are not prepared to give up the phone as part of your prospecting routine, voice mail is your only path to success. Now I know that the “no cold calling crowd” and their “social cronies”, are saying, “duh, we know the phone does not work”. Well not exactly, there are many examples where one cannot master something, like say playing an instrument; that does not mean the instrument is not playable.

It is true that few answer their phones these days, especially between 9 – 5, because they are working, and if they do answer, then you’re an interruption, their version of that call you get in the middle of dinner for duct cleaning. But, and this is a big but missed by many, that does not mean the phone is not an effective tool, one that will get you meetings with prospects you are targeting.

People use their voice mail as a triage tool to ensure that they preserve their most important resource – time – for their most important objectives and related tasks. I do it, you do it; you get back from two or three meetings, and you listen to your messages, and do one of the Three D’s:

  • Delete
  • Delay
  • Deal with

I have come to learn that phone now works in a different way, just as you want to qualify, so does the prospect. Voice mail, allows them to stack a bunch of calls together, and deal with things based on their merit. Problem for many in sales, the messages they leave, usually have little merit in the eye (ear) of the prospect.

Voice mail is a different environment, a different mode of communication, and requires a different approach to getting results. The reason many messages don’t get returned, and get Deleted, is the message just misses the mark. Many of the people who gave up on voice mail did so because they left the wrong or wrong type of message.

The message they leave is almost always the same intro and content they would use had the person answered the phone. This is usually designed to be part of a dialogue and to encourage further dialogue. But given the environment, the dynamics, and the goal of the message, your voice mail needs to be very different than your live conversations.

Once I was taught the technique, adopted it, and adapted it to change with the market, my success changed. I now regularly get 40 – 50 percent of messages I leave, returned within 72 hours, I now love voice mail, love talking to people who call back, and having them as customers. So, come join me on the dark side, leave voice mails, get appointments.

I know, you want to see how this is done, no problem – Just go here!

a-different-fish

Pain Leads To No Gain In Prospecting!0

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece titled “No Pain – No Game?”, playing off the old weight exercise motto. In case you didn’t bother rushing to read the piece, it suggests that if you can only sell to buyers who have a self-declared pain or need, you will be in trouble, as 70% of the market, the Status Quo, is immune to the pain argument.

But there is a further reason why reliance on pain for sales success could in fact be painful (in the form of missing quota, not making enough commission to buy your girlfriend or kids the winter solstice gift they really want).

Many successful business people, especially small business owners and entrepreneurs have a different outlook than the average sales person or corporate employee. Because they are not cocooned in the comfort of corporate safety, with a few given responsibilities. They know it will not be easy, it will not be 9 to 5, it will not be a straight line to success, they don’t get a weekly paycheck or a Friday Beer Lunch while they are “waiting to make things work”, like many sales people who fail to deliver quota. They know to succeed they will need to face some challenges and adversities. They are the business living version of “No Pain – No Gain”.

a-different-fishSuccessful business people are more stoked by the possibilities long term success brings to let a few temporary, often expected setbacks occur. They have heard all the negatives, potential risks, financial ruins, and still decided to push ahead, commit money, time resources, and sweat to realizing their dream and vision. They have planned for roadblocks and detours, you pointing them out is just boring to them. Unless, you can show them how you will help them realize their vision for their business, for them as individuals, you will be chewed up and spit out, all in a very social way. Given their drive, do you really think a little pain is going to stop them? Or do you think they want someone who can help them work past the pain. The business athlete knows how to work through pain to get the results the average person does not. Even senior people within corporate settings have demonstrated characteristics that have allowed them to distinguish themselves from the also-rans.

The people heading up organizations, entrepreneurs and serial small business owners are not your usual breed, they have different filters, they work hard play hard, win hard, they’re not in business to socialize, they do that after they achieve their objectives. So, if you fail to take that difference into account, and fail to adjust for that, because you have been selling to middle management or users, and that will not work when you are dealing with someone who not only has the vision, but more importantly the balls to act, and do things that most others clearly have difficulty doing or lack the will and/or knowhow to do. The pain and headwind that may scare some, is an expectation for many of your buyers, focusing on pain, rather than objectives, and how you specifically can help them achieve them, will lead to more pain for you than these buyers are willing to deal with, because they know what is beyond that, and that’s what they want to talk about.

Serial entrepreneurs are serial sales winners, and winners know that there is an element of fact to “No Pain No Gain”, a smart seller focuses on the gain, not the pain. Click To Tweet

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pipeline-insurance

Pipeline Insurance2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Insurance is one of those things that everyone has but nobody really wants. In some ways, we feel that we are throwing money away, until that rainy day or unforeseen event arrives, and we are all too happy to have the insurance. As much as we hate the experience, we do it because we know that it’s the best way to ensure that we don’t have a sever disruption, financial or other, that will negatively impact our lives.

Rich people are always over insured, the rest of us have to be more selective, what do we need to ensure, and can we afford to leave “exposed”, risking come what may. When times get tough, cash-flow is squeezed, most people pull back on discretionary spending, then less discretionary spending. This includes things we consider “good to have”, but when the immediate expense is greater than the perceived risk, or having to go without, we cut back on those things. When you’re feeling good in your 40’s, but tight for cash, you may feel you have to make choices; you’ll likely forgo disability coverage in favour of car insurance, as you need to drive to work daily. As cash becomes tighter, you make more choices, not always in line with your long-term goals, but just enough to get you through the here and now.

It is a lot like prospecting, we all hate to do it, especially the traditional type, where we have to engage with prospects who are not lined up at our door, or downloading the latest ditties of wisdom your content teams pinches out. But oh we like prospect when we have them, there is nothing like a full pipeline brimming with opportunities. Assuming they are all real opportunities, some will close, some won’t, but one way or the other they all have to be replaced; and replaced by a multiple of your close ratio. Simply, if your conversion rate of opportunities that go into your pipeline is 4:1, every time you close one client, you will need to replace it with four prospects. The condition is that they have to be real, a lot of sales people keep opportunities in their pipeline even when the chance of the closing are low and declining, because the illusion of opportunities allows them to make choices, similar to insurance choices above. In this case, it is forging prospecting in a regular and disciplined way.

But as you work your magic, and close the deals in your pipeline, which I know takes time and effort, giving you plenty of reason to make choices about how you use your time. The consequences of not prospecting are off in the future, if you have a 3 month cycle, and you have “a lot” of opportunities, you’ll tell yourself that you can afford not to prospect. “Look at all the money in the pipeline, I need to focus on that, I can prospect next week, or when I close all this.” But by the time you do close them, it will be too late to replenish without a gap in income.

Time to get insurance to avoid this void, in the case of your pipeline, the best insurance you can get, is prospecting!

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very boring phone call

Or – You’re Just A Boring Prospector0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 
I get to listen to a lot of phone calls made by a whole lot of B2B sales people. Some are selling bleeding edge services to prospects with bleeding edge expectations, others are selling traditional products that are as exciting as watching paint dry, or listening to call recordings. There are always things we can change and improve from a skill and techniques standpoint, in fact, I consider a week less productive from a sales development success perspective when I have not learned some new thing to improve my prospecting.

But the one thing no one can teach you is a zest for what you are doing. A zeal for success, not just your own, but that of your prospect. Add to that all the silly and self-limiting things sales people do on the phone that throttle their message, especially when they want to come across cute, overly courteous (to the point where it extinguishes any chance you had to begin with), non-threatening, and all the self-imposed barriers to prospecting and sales success. But it is I the zest and zeal that are lacking in most calls, and the result is nothing short of boring. The main reason clients hang up is they don’t want to hit their head on the desk as they fall asleep listening to the drivel on the other end of the line.

Emotions are contagious, our state, our intent, our feelings are all contagious, and are all in play when making a prospecting call, much more so than in other forms of prospecting. Which why when done well, telephone prospecting is still the most effective means of engaging with a prospect other than a direct introduction. The ones who tell you telephone prospecting is not effective (for them), are the ones who can’t do it. The ones whose emotions and mixed bag of feelings, and by extension everything they are projecting on the phone cause them to fail, and draw the second most obvious conclusion, “hey this is not working for me”. The most obvious one being, they don’t know what they are doing and stinging out the house.

It’s not all bad or sad, there are things you can fix, practice and change. You can think about leading with some solid and relevant outcomes for prospects based on past experience. You can teach sales people to focus on clients’ objectives, not features, and what our company does. It does not take much to help sellers to understand that it is all about the end, not the means, which erroneously most sales people lead with on the phone.

The one thing that sellers have to change on their own is to stop sound boring (in fact stop being boring). All the steps many take to make themselves more appealing, less threatening, plainly said, more beige, just makes them boring as, well you know what. You have to pity the poor bastard who answers the phone, only to be greeted by series of inconsequential words that sound the same as the last 5,000 or so call, I mean is there a faster cure to insomnia and no-sale?

So next time, ask yourself and be honest, is it the telephone that does not work for prospecting, or are you just boring on the phone? Click To Tweet

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Two IT spceialists working with a computer

Do Buyers Care?4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Last week I posted a piece on LinkedIn, based on discussions at CEB’s Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable this past August, titled “Why Do We Need Sales?”, Exploring the relationship between marketing and sales, and how it needs to evolve and change with relation to the markets they serve. The response on LinkedIn was positive, with the exception of one person who missed the concept of “metaphor” (you always need one to prove the rule). One response, from Leanne Hoagland-Smith, got me thinking about the issue from a different perspective.

Lee, pointed out that “97.7% of all US businesses having under 20 employees, marketing is truly part of the overall sales process.” That perspective is leads to a different question:

Does all this naval gazing and philosophising about sales and marketing role, contributions, hand-offs, and all the sleepless nights spent pondering the nuanced difference between account based marketing/selling vs. key account selling/marketing.

Picking up from Lee’s comment, it is probably true that a vast majority if not all those 97.7% don’t have the luxury of having two people for the roles, and more likely that the person in charge of sales and marketing is usually wearing a host of other functional hats. I am betting that they don’t set time aside to consider the fine points of the discussion. It is safe to say that that these companies, especially for the 23 million businesses that are “nonemployer businesses”, that they need sales, because without them they’d go bankrupt.

Perhaps the next question should be what do we need sales to do? Why? Because it seems that of the things that prevent sales in small companies, are similar to those things that get in the way in big companies. Sure, there are factors that are unique to big companies, unnecessary complexity created by their own companies vs. the market. You would think then if that barrier was removed, as it is in small companies (unless the owner’s nephew attended a social selling webinar), you would see an improvement in how they sell, but there isn’t. Bringing us back to execution.

The biggest barrier to sales success is not sales people’s inability or willingness to sing Kumbaya with their marketing cousins, it is their inability to execute those things that have to be done to win the deal. Which is an interesting parallel.

You often read about small business owners or entrepreneurs and the actions they are willing to take, often going over and above, to build their businesses and to compete with the big boys, even global players. As you explore it a bit further, what you can conclude is that one of the reasons small businesses succeed, is they don’t waste time worrying about things that don’t contribute, and spend their time doing everything they can to win. The lack of roles, and inability to pass the buck and duck accountability, leaves them with one choice, getting it done.

It would be interesting to get the buyer’s view on this, I suspect they would base their experience on the title on a business card, and more on the quality of the engagement, independent of whether it was sales, marketing, or the garage guard.

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no-rules

There Are No Rules In Sales3

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s hard not to laugh sometimes when I hear sales people say something like “Well, it’s supposed to go like this…”, or “I was told to do it that way, cause when we do that the prospects do…” But instead I am empathetic to their plight and innocence. Empathetic, because some manager or pundit told them that if they took a specific step or action, the prospect would react in some specific way. But we all know there are no rules in sales, especially rules that prospect will behave in any way just because of what we may do.

Now pundits have books to sell, and managers have their own agenda, a common one they share is their need for you as a sales rep to act on what they say, hard to do if they mentioned that there are no guarantees, usually because there are no rules.

Studies continue to show that less 20% of Sales Qualified Leads actually close, call that handshake to close, less than 20% – so even if pretended there are rules, they clearly don’t work if the measure is success. I suspect that that as long as sales continues to dependent on interaction between two or more people, rules are hard to articulate or impose.

no-rulesI keep hearing, buyers have changed, and one reason for that is their greater access to information, information about you, your competitors, and if you’re active on Facebook, where you had and what you had for dinner Friday night. You know what else they have access to, sales and sales related info. You think only sellers buy and read sales books; you think that sellers are the only ones who can subscribe to sales blogs and update. I bet more buyers read sales blogs than sellers who read blogs about purchasing, or role specific sites that speak to the different functions covered by the 5.4 people likely to be involved in your sale. There are no secrets.

With buyers who have gone through a few buying cycles, are likely more familiar with “Seller Personas” than many sellers are with buyer personas. In fact, I know buyers who place bets on which category of sales the next person to visit will wear. Based on what they see, they too adapt a persona, just to mess with and see where the seller goes with it. The only time they are genuine when dealing with a genuine individual.

To be genuine, you need to understand what you are doing well, here defined as things that people respond to, and what is not getting you traction with real buyers. By real, we mean, not exclusively price driven, and does indeed buy in a realistic timeframe from when you initially engaged. Since people differ, leading to differences in experience, your best shot is to commit to a formal process of reviewing all the opportunities that qualify to be active in your pipeline. As you gather and grow data, you will be able to bell curve the data and begin to see what works more often, and what doesn’t. As you approach similar situations, you will be able to use those things that have worked in similar situations in the past. Think of it as trial and error with the unfair advantage of data and experience. It will take a bit of work in the form of analysis, but given the apps and tools available today, gathering the inputs is easy. I guess the only rule may be that there are no silver bullets or codes to crack, just act-review-apply learning. A simple but effective rule.

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script

Scripting Prospecting Success0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There are a lot of things sellers say in the course of telephone prospecting. But given the nature of the call, the reality that we need to get to engagement from an interruption in a relatively short time, it is important to think about what you’re going to say and why. One way is to actually use a script, yes, script, maybe it would help if we called it a plan you can follow to ensure success in an endeavourer, in this case engaging with a potential prospect. One reason to have a script is to ensure that What you say in the call is always tied to a Why, a Why for the prospect, and from the prospect’s perspective, not yours.

scriptI know many don’t like scripts, they see them as old school and limiting, when in fact the opposite is true. They not only help you stay up to date, and when you are good, forward looking (sounding), but done right and used right they expand the possibilities rather than limit them. A well developed script is a template, it ensures that your message is delivered in the way you planned and want to deliver it. Those who want to succeed at prospecting without a plan, (a script) remind me very of actors without a script. Now some actors may do improv very well, some will in fact go and practice improv to sharpen certain skills, but for the money, the best actors use scripts. Name your last Oscar winner that went at the part without a script; yet to the audience, they nailed the role. Well if you want to nail a call, you need a script.

Much like in the movies, you don’t see the script, you just see the results. Unlike the movies, where actors rehearse their parts, make changes based on how it went. They work with the screen writer to adjust it so it works in the context of the scene. I don’t see many sales people rehearse, and even less do it out loud; or work with their colleagues, be they from product development, marketing or elsewhere in the process. Nor do I see them going back and listening to the recordings so they can see what works for the audience (read prospect), and what is turning the audience off.

Much like many plays or movies get dated fast, so do calling scripts. You need to continuously update them based on who you are calling, what their objectives may be, or in different economic conditions, and at times even based on location and local slang. You need to prepare different iterations based on the changing facts on the ground. When I say prepare, I mean just that. Sit down and write out your scripts, each version, each change. It has been show that we retain more when we write it down.

Once you have written it, let it sit overnight, think of it as the prospecting version of marinating. Then go back to it, and if you like, you need to do two more things. First, read it again, (out loud), and then see how you can make it more conversational, not read, like the telemarketers you hate. Use a friend to tell you if it sounds like you, or a telemarketer, keep rehearsing till it’s you. Second, and more important, once you are happy with it, and have it down, put it away when you are on the phone. If you have practiced/rehearsed, then you don’t need it out, you’ll turn to it and read it on the first bump, instant death. You may stumble, but that’s human, and they like it when you are scripted and human, not so much when you are winning it, and sound desperate.

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