A different fish 800

New Dogs – Old Tricks0

By Tibor Shanto

While politics may be dominating populism these days, it does not hold a monopoly on populism, it is part of, if not the driving force for any like-minded group.  While most tend to limit their exploration of populism to political and social movements, populism, with all it’s positive possibilities and ugly realities, permeates and exists in other tribal groups and movements, like sales.  While others may want to define in loftier ways, in the end, populism at its core, should be “support for the concerns of ordinary people”; unfortunately for those who want to exploit it, it is more a means of “profiting from the concerns (and hopes) of ordinary people, while ensuring that their status will not change in a way that diminishes their opportunity to profit from the concerns of the ordinary”.

A great example of this in sales is the never-ending cry from certain corners, proclaiming, announcing or predicting the death of Cold Calling.  The meanest of these are those who predict, and put that prediction just beyond people’s willingness to remember.

Speaking of which, isn’t it about time we dust off all the predictions from last December and see who wins – loses – draws and who cares.

Read on…

Hey – We’re moving

Yes, all the same great content and more!
Our new home: www.TiborShanto.com. We’ll still keep things here for a while, but this same great post is also available at

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A different fish 800
girl by phone

Social Ends When The Phone Rings0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

The reason you need to integrate social selling, traditional phone work, and other elements of prospecting, is to ensure that you are covering all bases the process of converting a stranger, into a bonified pipeline opportunity. This means using the right tool at the right time, not as some would have you believe, using one tool “über alles”; but rather using the right tool for the task at hand along each step of the process.

Social selling, and the use of social media is key to learning about the target industry, the specific company, certainly for understanding the individual you are pursuing, or more accurately the image your target is projecting on social media. Remember the lessons learned from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. There is no shortage of materials available on how you can leverage LinkedIn, ABM and more, on how to smooth the path to first contact. But for most, especially in outbound sales, there is the point where we must pick up the phone and go direct.

When the phone rings, we enter a different realm, where based on the reality of the situation, “being social” does not play as well, and in fact can be deterrent for the prospect. Whatever interaction we may have with someone prior to the phone, it is usually on their terms, they choose to interact, they set the ground rules, and ultimately pause a conversation, or take it further right away. But when we call them, especially an unscheduled call, at a time we picked, not the target, a different set of dynamics kick in. As discussed here in the past, we are an interruption, and as such, a set of events are set into motion, usually leading to an objection, the bane of telephone prospectors everywhere. Being aware of what we are in the eye of the prospect, we need to take steps to make it easier for the prospect to stay on the call, rather than making it easier for them to blow us off.

There are two things sellers can do, with focus and practice, to avoid being victim of dynamics. Two questions that many feel compelled to ask at the start of the call, that if left out, would help them be more successful on more calls.

girl by phoneThe two questions:

  • How Are You?
  • Is this A Good Time?
    (or any variation of either of the above)

We ask these questions because we have been conditioned to do so from day one; our parents, teachers, and others, have drilled into us that social norm is for conversations to start with one of the above. Well telephone prospecting is different than other conversation we usually have.

I am not suggesting we need to be rude, unsocial, or unconventional for the sake of unconventional, but to take an interruption, where the other party just wants to get back to finishing their seemingly unending days, to a genuine conversation, we need to manage the dynamics of the moment.

The reality remains that the prospect wants to understand “What Is In It For Me”, and that is what we need to lead with. Knowing they are feeling great, or like shit, does not get us any closer to that. Leading with the outcomes they can expect based on your ability to help them achieve their objectives, is more likely to. Being an interruption, and then asking, “Is this a good time?” or “Do you have a few minutes?”, or any iteration, is just stupid by definition.

Of course it is not a good time, they have a ton of stuff to finish, and there is a 90%+ chance they were not thinking about your product or marketing speak. On the other hand, if you lead with specific outcomes, they may recognize their own objectives in the mix. Lead with that, and ditch the “Social Norm” questions, to conversations based in that norm, a cold call is not that.

To close, I know that years of conditioning is hard to shake, so here is a way to transition from the silly questions above, to starting help them understand what is in it for them in your call. Remember, the problem with questions, is that you have to stop and wait for an answer, which relinquishes control of the flow, you are now completely dependent on their answers. If you get a positive response, great. But if you get a negative “I’m busy”, “Not a good time”, “What do you want?”; you now have to deal with that objection, rather than one based on your real value to the prospect. Rather than a question, make a statement, one that allows you to get rid of that social steam you have pent up. Once you introduce yourself, just name, not your whole resume, say “Thanks for taking my call”. You acknowledge that you have interrupted their day, but unlike a question, you can keep going to your outcome statements.

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Voicemail word cloud

Voice Mail – To Leave or Not To Leave?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Proactive Prospecting Summer – Part 9

I like to hear sales people talk about voice mail, especially the ones who do not leave messages. If you are going to succeed at prospecting, phone will be part of your tool kit. If you’re going to make phone calls, you are going to hit voice mail. You can run from it, like many so-called sales people do, or you can watch the video below, understand why you should leave them, then follow the link in the video to learn how I get 40 – 50 percent of messages I leave returned in 72 hours or so.

Don’t forget, you can take the on-demand version of the Proactive Prospecting Program available on-line at Sales Gravy University.

 

PPP On Demand
Slow and low

Slow & Low – The Right Recipe For Great Prospecting0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Next week both Canada and the US celebrate their respective independence days, which means barbecues galore, and as you may have guessed, an opportune lesson for cold callers everywhere. Most cold callers, carnivores and vegetarians, make the same common errors in executing their telephone prospecting calls, many of these mistakes contribute to their lack of success, making the whole thing a further mess.

Part of the negative cycle revolves around the fact that they are way too nervous, anticipating the worst, as a result many rush the call, leading to the outcome they feared. There are a couple of specific things telephone prospectors do that if approached differently would help overcome the challenge, alter the results and their view of cold calling; once mastered, they will find the whole thing much more productive and profitable. This is where the barbeque lesson comes in, making a good prospecting call is like making a good southern brisket, slow and low.

First thing that happens to nervous callers is they speed up their speaking, going faster than they normally would, and way faster than what makes for an effective prospecting call. This triggers a similar response from the buyer, they get nervous at the barrage of words coming at them, and they look for the exit even quicker. Ever deliver you into (at a nervous pace) only to have the prospects ask, “I’m sorry, who is this, what’s this about?” And before you can answer, you’re on your heels, and the call ends without engagement.

Slow and lowSlow down Man, it’s not a race. I know most want the call to be over more than they want the appointment, but is not about completing the activity (fast), it’s about engaging with potential prospect. Slowing down takes practice, repeated and out loud. Slow down your breathing before you pick up the phone and maintain the pace through the call. If you’re not too macho, get a metronome, and stick to the rhythm. I know sounds silly, till you start connecting with prospects and getting appointments.

The low part has to do with voice and pitch. When callers get nervous their voice gets higher, I’ve heard grown men sound more like their sisters than themselves. This makes it harder for the buyer to comprehend what the caller is saying, and obscures their message. Think about some of the great radio voices or TV voice overs, think about James Earl Jones famous “this is CNN”. As with slowing down, this comes down to practicing, and again out loud.

In a tension filled call, any element of distraction can be a negative and work against you, when you sound squeaky and speak fast, the two just compound in a way that makes it hard to achieve your objective.

One overlooked way to help with these two factors is to have a well prepared script, this will reduce the nervousness, and with practice limit the speed and pitch. Get over the self-imposed fear of scripts, and you’re a long way towards overcoming this and other prospecting roadblocks. Next time you pick up the phone, think brisket, slow and low.

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girl by phone

Objections – Cause – Effect – Resolution2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Telephone prospecting is hard, in fact so hard that most people spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to avoid it. What they are really trying to avoid is the rejection part of the call, “The Objection”. That’s why alternate means of engagement have such a great appeal for the masses (washed or unwashed, you decide), whatever your view of social selling, there is no direct rejection. Somehow, some sellers can differentiate and compartmentalize rejection from being ignored; they may not blow you off in a direct way, they just pretend you’re not there. The net effect is the same, no engagement, no prospect.

The problem for many would-be tele-prospectors is that they see the objection as being separate from the rest of the call. They love to brag about their company and product early in the call, (mistake), and are surprised when the voice on the other end say, “no interest”. What they fail to understand is that their intro, the start of the talk track (or script for you traditionalists), has a direct impact on the response.

Nothing to do with the school of sales one is from, and everything thing to do with human nature. The good news is that both parties in this drama are human, giving us ways to deal with this in a way that yields results for both. How we start a conversation directly dictates what kind of response we get. For example, if a parent scolds a child for being late, the child will quietly take in the words, but not the message, offering a meek, if any response at all. Alternatively, if the parent took the opportunity to present a life lesson, taking a conversant tone and carefully selected words, the child is much more likely to take in the message, leading to entirely different (better) reaction and response, making them more open and engaged.

girl by phoneSo while you will never be able to avoid objections in telephone prospecting, or being ignored in other forms of prospecting, you can do things to limit the number of potential objections, and keeping objections to predictable and manageable set. You can then practice how to take away those most common objections that result from your well and purposefully crafted introduction.

Remember, the person you’re calling has literally heard all this before, thousands of times. As soon as they hear a voice buzzing on about “leading provider”, “cutting edge solution”, or any set of words immediately followed by “awesome”, the prospect starts desperately search for their fly swatter, and start flinging objections at the buzzing sound emanating from their phone.

The logical conclusion is that to avoid fatal and unpredictable objections, we need to change what we talk about at the top of the call. Namely, things the prospect was likely thinking about before you interrupted their day. If that interruption is in line with what they were focused on, you will still get an objection, after all, you are an interruption, but it is likely to be one of a handful, literally 5, objections. Focus on their objectives and the impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives, and you will get the predictable response, allowing you to take away that objection in a predictable fashion that will lead to a conversation, which is the first step in engagement.

Once you know the cause, you can resolve it, and change the outcome.

Learn the specifics of handling the most common prospecting objections:

OHH N

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pier

Are your prospecting calls a long run off a short pier?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers are a wonderfully optimistic lot, having drank the Kool Aid about their “solution”, believing that they are indeed the cavalry coming over the hill to heal all that pains their potential prospects. This unbridled optimism and energy works great when you have a willing audience, say a play, where the audience comes with interest and openness to the message. That however is not the reality of a prospecting call, or dare I say, cold call; enthusiasm is not enough, in fact can be your undoing.

In no way do I want to douse your enthusiasm, but I do want to infuse a bit of reality into how prospecting unfolds these days. While I use calls to demonstrate the points, the basics hold true for e-mails, or other forms of “disruptive selling”. You can dress it up any way you like, but if your call or e-mail or other method of approach is not scheduled, and is news to the recipient, then we are disrupting that buyer. Nothing wrong with that, you are practicing Disruptive Marketing; if they taught Sales 2.0 or 3.0 were cool, Disruptive Marketing is just plain Arctic. Take pride in what you do, change the title on your card to read “Professional Interrupter”.

If you are going to interrupt someone, make it count, make every second of the call count, especially the first few. Even in an e-mail, if your subject line sucks, and your opening line is subpar, you’re beat from the start, as the prospect will never take in the real reason you called or they should speak with you. Those first few seconds are crucial, which is why I don’t understand why some many seller, so many professional interrupters, squander those important seconds.

Time after time I hear sales people talk about the most irrelevant things when the prospect unsuspectingly answers the phone. Rather than dealing with and delivering to the most important thing the prospect wants to know, i.e. “What’s In It For Me?” They ramble on about stuff not even their wives care about.

Caller: “Hi my name is Harvey Brown, I am the mid-Atlantic Account Executive for Blah Blah Inc., a Fortune 500 company and award winning manufacture of Machines Learning Widgets”. Frankly who really cares, Mom?

From the prospects’ perspective, you are almost at the end of the pier, and you haven’t even turned the corner of saying anything of interest to the prospect. With this approach, by the time you get to anything they may be able to evaluate and base a meeting on, the prospect has certainly checked out mentally if not hung up. In the case of e-mail, you can bet your last dollar that they have deleted your e-mail by now and have moved on.

What’s in it for them is not who you are, what you do, who you sell for, or what you sell. What’s in it for them are the outcomes and impacts on their business. So, start your call with that.

pier

Start with the very end, and then use your sales meeting to work back to why your product. Lead with the impacts on their business, what it will look like after they buy from you, don’t focus on what they are buying from you. If they don’t see the “how things will be different (better), then they could care less about what you sell. To do this you need to inject it into the call early, and not waste time giving long rambling demographical data that will make you run out of pier long before you can deliver the impact.

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Looking in

Where’s You Next $1,000,000 Deal Coming From?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

To do something right, you need to set time aside to understand things, to come up with a plan, and then finally doing it. All of these are elements of success, and they all require time to complete. This is why I want the sellers I work with to not think about time management, a really silly concept, but instead focus on time allocation.

To do that you must first know what are the key activities you have to do over the course of a sales cycle, prospecting, research, play-off pools, account management and more. This will vary from seller to seller and impacted by what they sell and to whom. Next you have to figure out and understand how much of your time needs to be allocated to each activity, but again only the activities you need to succeed, so I’m thinking maybe the play-off pool should come of the list. First thing you have to accept is that there is no right number, just your number. Some will have to allocate more to an activity than you, and for other key activities the opposite will be true. The only number that counts is yours, and the only thing that counts is how you improve it, because next year, your quota is going up, but you ain’t getting another second in the day to work with.

Once you have that together, you need to make sure that it makes its way into your calendar, and in the proportions you came to above. So if you had for example 20% of your time allocated to prospecting, (and were able to validate that with your metrics), then over the course of a four week sales cycle, assuming you work a 50 hour week, you will set aside, bank if you will, 40 hours over the four weeks for prospecting. If you don’t block that time in your calendar in advance, like you would with other important things, like say client meeting, pipeline reviews, and oh yes, play-off pools, it won’t get done.

Now some will tell me that they wanted to prospect, but couldn’t get around to it cause too many things came up. Things like what?

Seriously, what’s more important than ensuring you have enough fuel in the tank to take you to your destination? I don’t see a lot of sales guys heading out for Miami with only enough gas to get half way there, and no plans or means of acquiring more fuel before they run out.

The most common things is closing a sales or looking after customer issues. But if you had allocated the time for closing and the time for managing accounts, then why take from an equally important activity. I know closing is important, sexy and rewarding, but wasn’t that once a prospect?

Looking inTalk to wealthy people, and they all say, they put a specific amount away for retirement and other things that were important to them, before they would spend money on other less important things. So what’s important than filling your pipeline with your next opportunities, think of them as baby deals.

If you wanted to prospect, you would set time to do it, just like you do for closing calls, upsell calls, or vacation. These things are all in your calendar now, are the hours you will prospect next week? No!

“I’ll prospect as much as I can, depending what else I have to do”. Wrong, you should prospect as much as you committed to, based on your conversion rates and other metrics.

No, carve out and protect time to prospect, and then fit in all the other activities around it.

I ask reps, if you had a call set, where they were going to sign a $1,000,000 deal, what would I have to do to keep you from going? Yet when it comes to finding the next $1,000,000 deal, ah, that’s not that important.

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Question Direction

Questioning The Path You Are On0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The fate of an unscheduled call to a prospect, a cold call, is determined in the first few seconds of a call, one can argue even before that. By before that, I mean the hundreds if not thousands of practice calls the prospect has had to hone their craft and perfect their means of blowing us off. One can argue that the callers, the sales people have also had the opportunity to practice; true, but there is practice with a goal and purpose in mind. For example, the prospect, has the singular purpose of blowing the interruption, and every call they get is an opportunity to practice, unless the caller does something different.

Unfortunately, sales people make it easy by conforming to basic elements of calls that accelerate the outcome, allowing the prospect to get back to what they were doing, and the seller to be frustrated, and use it as an excuse to reaffirm their belief that cold calling does not work. The solution, is changing the way one makes the call. Unless we change the path or direction of the call, we risk falling into a familiar pattern that the prospect has practiced hundreds/thousands of time. Given that sales people do not like to practice, review the “game tapes” and make adjustments, the prospect will always have an upper hand.

Everything counts, right from the first breath, which means it has to be counter to expectations, especially those of the prospect at the other end. Starting with a rambling introduction about your company, and who you are, is just setting yourself up for failure. I mean really, does it make a difference to the prospect that you are the Mid-Atlantic Key Account Executive? I am sure your wife or mother or both are really proud. You know what the prospect thinks, “Add another title and notch to my belt.” As I have said before start with the outcomes first, outcomes tied to their objectives, and impacts you have delivered for others with similar objectives. Start with the ending, the outcome, the impact they will see in reaching their objectives, and those impacts on their business. It’s even worse when it comes to handling objections.

Most think that handling objections is somewhat like a tennis match, the prospect lobs their objection over the net, and we have to lob it back. No! If you want to change the path and direction of the call, the objection, then you need to not fall into the pattern set by the prospect to accelerate the end of the call.

Question DirectionInstead of just lobbing back a response to their objection, keep it, and throw back a question instead. In the above tennis example the prospect is in control of the flow, and therefore the outcome. One way to wrestle control away, and more importantly change the path or direction of the call is to ask a question. Questions demand answers, there is no law that they have to answer, but condition, especially social conditioning tends to kick in, and they will answer. Questions get people to think, when their mind is racing to get past the call, a good question related to something they were thinking about before the call, like their objectives, will get them to slow down, focus, and usually provide an answer.

We call these Impact Questions, for two reasons. One is that most are closed-ended, so we needed to do some rebranding. More importantly is that because they relate to specific impacts on their business, they have a direct impact on the prospecting call.

It is important to remember that what we are working with here are dynamics, including flow and momentum. You need to fine tune your listening skills, not for words, but all the other things going on in the call, think of it as nuance. When you ask a good question, not every prospect will answer the same way, giving you an opening to ask for engagement. But they will all pause, a momentary break as they digest the question, and process that indeed it does relate to them, and not just another walking brouchure on the phone.

Impact Questions, strategically place in a prospecting call, as part of the intro, as part of the reason to meet, and certainly as part of the taking away objections, will help you change the direction of a call, a sales meeting. If you find yourself on a path leading to a brick wall, use Impact Questions to change the direction, the outcome, and the health of your pipeline.

We’ll be looking at some specific use of Impact Questions, and objections in the monthly edition the Pipeline, sign up here.

businessman with umbrella and thumb down rain

Rejection In Your Face4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

In the late 1990’s or early part of the last decade, I remember reading a piece about a study in one of the Scandinavian countries, who were early adopters of text messaging, SMS. It pointed to the fact that more and more young people were choosing to initially interact with potential dates using SMS, one of the key reasons that rejection was easier to deal with when it was not direct, in your face. The rate of rejection or acceptance did not change much, may have even gone up as it is easier to ignore a text message. But the lack intimacy, direct contact, not having to be in direct contact at the time of rejection, made it more bearable, despite the result.

There is no doubt that the reason sales people do not like to prospect, specifically direct prospecting, for instance telephone prospecting, is rejection. Who can blame them, no one wants to be rejected, and it is only compounded when that rejection directly impacts one’s ability to earn a living, eat and generally succeed in their chosen vocation. This is why so many sales people and companies spend time and money trying to avoid objections. The thinking being, “if we can avoid rejection, we will have greater success.” Understandable but hardly practical, if you are going to make unsolicited calls (cold or pre-warmed), you will face rejection. If you are going to play football, you will get tackled, you will get bruised, and if you have any intention of succeeding, you will get back up and ready yourself for the next play. Not so for many in sales.

This became even more clear during an unsocial discussion with a proponent of social selling. He was trying to convince me that there is less rejection with his approach than with telephone prospecting. While neither of us had the stats to prove or dispute, what was clear is that his focus was not the rejection itself, but more how he did, or did not, have to deal with it. Much like the adolescent lovers in Scandinavia, for this person, and I suspect for many who exclude telephones from their prospecting routine, it was more about how direct the rejection was.

“I don’t mind if they don’t respond, I just don’t want to have to deal with the reality of it.”

Which is another example of where the driving factor in executing a sales is not the desired outcome, but how it “feels”. It feels good when someone puts a like on your LinkedIn or Facebook post, allowing us to pretend that those who choose not to like it, who ignore and reject the message, just don’t exist. But from a desired outcome perspective, no different. So why not go direct?

One of my first sales jobs required that I make 160 dials per day, speak to 30 people, and get a yes from ten. My manager helped me by highlighting that if the 100 people who “rejected” me through the week were all in the subway car with me on my ride home Friday, they would have no idea it was me who they blew off on the phone. To this day, I look at the people in the Starbucks line, and wonder which one blew me off on the phone that morning.

While rejection may not be fun, it is part of sales, and will happen no matter which approach you take, it just a question of how direct, and how you deal with it, choosing not to deal with it does not change things. The real question is what is more important, achieving desired outcomes, or???

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Hot and cold phones

What’s The Difference Between A Cold Call and Warm Call?2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

The simple answer is that one is scheduled, and the other is not. Some may add that in a warm call the recipient may be aware of the person calling and the reason for the call, usually in the form of a referral. Some may add that one can “warm up” a call by doing research and having something relatable for the recipient, so they don’t blow you off as quick.

But the reality is that the difference is in your head.

Any unscheduled call, be it from a referral or from an overly informed rep, is an interruption. That’s why I tell people that I work with to reorient how they think about their work. If you are calling people who do not have a call scheduled in their calendar, you are interrupting them – next time someone asks you what you do for a living, I want you to say with great pride – “I am a professional interrupter; I interrupt people in the process of helping them achieve their objectives and delivering positive impact on their business.”

Download your copy of the Objection Handling Handbook

The challenge for most sales people, and the reason the call leaves them feeling cold, is that they are unprepared for the series of events and reactions their interruption sets into process.

After having research the company in an effort to warm the call, they figure that they have something relevant to say, and fail to take into account the interruption. So they wax poetic, all the while the prospect is thinking “how can I get back to work”. This is just compounded when they are usually talking about “solutions”. Given that 70% or more of the market is not looking for a solution, the interruption just seems worse when they deem the message to be irrelevant. Add to this that they have heard this same approach a thousand times before. So what can you do, focus on Objectives, not pains or needs; every business has objectives, align with those, and you’ll go from an irritating interruption, to an interruption with possibilities. Yet few research, they continue to research for problems some may have that fit their solution, rather than the other way around. You want the reaction to be “I was thinking about this”, not “WTF is this guy talking about”, leading to a click or objection.

When the objection comes, most sales people take the rejection personally. After all, they spent all this time researching the company, the person, and god knows what else, and at the moment of interruption, it seems all for not. As soon as it is personal, people get defensive, and it’s all downhill from there.

Managing and overcoming objections on a cold call starts long before they come up in the call. We interrupt, that triggers specific reaction. As before, if the initial narrative was a “solution” based intro, most reps defend and double down on that narrative, thus accelerating their fate. But if the intro was based on Objectives, doubling down on those allows you to expand your potential value rather than limit it.

If you can accept that you are an interruption, and focus on objectives and impacts, you will be in a position to manage and take away objections, and move towards a conversation – a sales conversation about their objectives, not pains, needs or solutions.

Download your copy of the Objection Handling Handbook

Hot and cold phones
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