Boss choosing employee

Why Make The Call0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

One reason many give me for not wanting to prospect, is the fact that fewer people are answering their phones, and as a result it is not as effective as other forms of prospecting. Part of that is dictated by what state or mode the buyer is in, Actively Looking buyers may be more prone to a call, while, Status Quo buyers, are less likely to answer or engage. But I believe the conclusion many draw from this, i.e. “telephone prospecting is ineffective”, is flat out wrong.

First having a single form of approaching potential prospects, especially “not interested” buyers like Status Quo, is just stupid. Anyone that tells you that their chosen means of reaching prospects is just stupid. There are as many effective means as there are people; not only that, but individuals’ response/reaction to approaches will vary based on specific circumstances. So having one method, be that strictly phone work, strictly referral, or strictly social, is just asking for failure. The best prospectors, who are usually the best sellers, know that their prospecting toolkit has to have as many tools as possible rather than limited to one. For example, I worked with one executive who when traveling would be more likely to respond to texts, leaving e-mail and voice mail for the hotels in the evening, while back at the office he would be much more likely to answer the phone, and hit e-mail regularly.

Now it is true that less people are answering their calls as they come in, I have not seen anyone, even the most social of sellers, present any data that suggests that people check their voice mails less. Meaning a good voice mail can still have an impact, and lead to a return call. I regularly get 40% – 50% of messages I leave, returned in about 72 hours. So don’t blame the technology, blame the user.

But let’s dial things back a little, and let’s for a moment accept a complete falsehood many sellers have bought into: “voice mails do not get returned”, there is still merit to leaving a voice mail, and making the call. Why – touch-points.

Based on different inputs, it can take anywhere from 8 – 12 touch-points to get a response from a prospect. (BTW – no guarantee that the response will be positive, we still have to work to get the appointment even when they respond). In that case, the voice mail, even when not returned, still serves a purpose. Combined with other means of communication, each touch-point compounds the ones that came before it and improve your chances of speaking to the prospects.

The same executive referenced above also shared that he specifically ignores the first three attempts by sellers, because he knows most will fall away after the first three touch-points, and the ones who really want to speak to him will continue to demonstrate that and their creativeness as they deliver the 4th, 6th or 9th touch-point.

Work out your pursuit plan, and keep a couple of things in mind. Mix things up, you have access to office phone, mobile phone, text, snail mail, LinkedIn, and more, the only shortage to variety is your imagination. Do it frequently and consistently, meaning don’t wait a week after your initial touch-point, a couple days is good. Go for eight yes 8, touch-points in the course of two business weeks. If you find that harsh, start by adding one more touch-point to your current weekly routine; in a few weeks add one more, and so on till you hit your minimum 8. (See example).

Cadence 1

Yes phone work has changed, and so should you, make the call, just know why.

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Snake oil

“Fake Sales News” Lead To Fake Sales!4

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We here in Canada have not been spared the phenomenon of fake news, although we are still working on making it the art form it is elsewhere. Sure, you’re all thinking about the fallout from the election in the former colonies to the south, but I am speaking even closer to home, specifically the fake news making the rounds in sales circles.

Who hasn’t mistakenly (or just through sheer curiosity) clicked on a Never Cold Call Again link. The experience was usually based on the bias the person had long before they clicked. Those who have a serious fear factor when it comes to picking up the phone, felt their inaction would be validated, and those of us who have made loads of money smiling and dialing, see these sites or posts as a source of amusement in an otherwise productive sales day, selling to people we cold called.

The problem with fake news, sales or political, is it is all amusing when it stays on the web, where it can be a source of entertainment for some, or a source of excuses for others.  But when these fake posts and articles begins to ooze into the real world, it costs people sales, their jobs, drive companies to bankruptcimpacts the economy, and the next thing you know we need to cut interest rates again. As with political fake news, these posts are full of repeatedly debunked, but the peddlers of fake news, political or selling, have mastered the mantra of “let’s not cloud the issue with facts.”

For example, many “cold calling is dead” proponents regularly point to stats that suggest “social sellers” convert and close more business by a factor or XX%; while at the same time pointing to the low success rate of cold calling. Now I don’t have counter facts, mostly because I am busy working with sales people who work for people I cold called. When you live in the real world, you have the advantage of experience and the ability to evaluate facts as you see them, not vicarious stats and experiences.

Snake oilI share another recent experience as an example of fake news and fake sales. I visited a sales leader a few weeks ago, (using a combination of social selling and traditional selling, I think those of us who do not have a social selling book or webinar, just call that selling). A few minutes in to the meeting he asked what I thought about “social selling”, I told him I see it as a part of a big tool kit, and that while I do not label myself as a social seller, I was 8th on the list on forbes.com.

He then told me that he had engaged a local social selling expert, apparently, they were “world famous in Toronto”. As we explored how the two approaches may be harmonized, he told me that he wasn’t sure about social selling, but he had read so much about, the stats were impressive, and he felt he would give it a try. What he said next was the most telling. He said that he had to try because he was given ‘a real good price because” name omitted to protect the innocent, “was in the process of collecting logos, and made it real cheap.”

And so there we are, fake sales. Because there is a difference between selling it, and socializing it before you give it away. And so once again it is about the revenue, not the sale, because this fake sale, much like the fake news that are void of facts, this fake sale had no revenue.

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Revenue

It’s The Revenue, Stupid0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently had a conversation with a VP of sales who asked me what I thought of social selling. Not sure where he stood on the topic, I shared my view that for me selling is selling, I don’t have the need like many marketers, to categorize or qualify things. As a longtime proponent of the movement to unhyphenate sales, I have felt that tagging a label on sales, be that Solution Selling, Consultative Selling, Sales 2.0 or Social selling, were just stupid distractions that served little else that the book sales of the person who coined the phrase, rarely those who jump on the bandwagon. As in music, there are many genres, but in the end, there is good music or bad music; there is successful selling, or unsuccessful selling, the rest is theater, theater that distracts from the core issues: Revenue.

Being that we are at the height of earnings season, and that we were both Jewish, I decided to do the tribal thing, and answer a question with a question: “When you look at your quarterly results, do you break out revenue as “Social Revenues”, “Traditionally sold revenue”, “Revenue from resourceful sellers leveraging all resources”? We all know the answer is NO! Revenue (as long as it is attained legally and ethically) is revenue.

RevenueChanging the narrative to revenue from sales, puts a whole different light on the subject, especially when you consider that most companies have revenues that well exceed the amount of revenue generated by their sales teams. How is that other revenue attained, how can sales help increase revenue in all channels, not just one, the one they are in? In the end, this all comes down to a simple process of Plan – EXECUTE – Review – Adjust – EXECUTE some more, and over again. I will be the first to admit this may not be as exciting, chic or trendy as social selling, it is much more effective where it counts, revenue.

Labeling or hyphenating sales not only brings unneeded complexity to sales, because now we are doing thigs to satisfy a system rather than for revenue, it also opens a number of opportunities for distraction, and wasted time and energy. I recently met a VP of sales at a company selling an enterprise application, he did not know his BDR’s conversion ratios, but seemed to be up-to-the-minute on the number “likes” his Facebook page had. OK, I thought, and asked “How much is each Like worth in top line revenue?” No idea. Yet when I interviewed his Director, he felt part the BDR’s challenge was that they were spending too much time on social media, learning everything there is to know about leads they were provided, failing to reach out to those leads instead.

Revenue is not hyphenated, revenue is not Social. Revenue either exists or does not. Where it does it is due to execution, and where it doesn’t it is due to excuses.

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Disapproval thumbs down by a male executive.

3 Reasons Your Voice Mails Fail0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Voice mail is not going away, mostly because people will have to answer their phones rather than being able to screen calls and preserve their time and sanity for things other than bad prospecting calls. Leaving you to make one of two choices:

  1. Not to telephone prospect, thereby avoiding the dreaded voicemail
  2. Learn how to leave proper voice mails and prosper from the dreaded voicemail

True to Pareto’s principle, the majority of sales people chose option one, and do not make calls; and based on stats, it seems do not make quota, am I the only one making the connection here? Here are three reasons your voice mails are failing, and how to change that and your prospecting results.

1. Intent

Every action you take in sales has to have a purpose, and intended outcome that moves the opportunity forward. Most have the wrong intent when it comes to voice mail, if they have an articulated intent at all.

There is one purpose for leaving a message, and that is to get a call back, that’s it, nothing else, one singular measure of success, a call back.

But if you listen to most messages, sales people reach for (and miss) much more. They overload the prospect with a bunch of unnecessary information, which lead to everything but the prospect wanting to call you back.

Your message should not be geared to getting an appointment or schedule a call, it should not be to introduce you, your company or product, certainly not to sell. Again, One Singular Purpose: get a call back!

2. TMI

Too much information, yes, building on the above, ask yourself why someone would call you back if your message contains everything they need to make a decision. Think about it, 99% of outbound voice mail greetings contain a request for “detailed information”, and why do they want that information? So they know why not to call you back. So as you’re waxing poetic about how you’re calling from a Fortune 500 company, a leader in the area of Blah Blah, they are looking around thinking they already have a Blah Blah, they are not currently looking for more or a new Blah Blah, so they 76 your message. Leaving you to believe that voice mail does not work, when in fact the problem is the message you leave, while your words say you want to speak, the underlying “message” communicates, don’t bother.

3. Be Counter Intuitive

The are uncomfortable when they lack enough information to make up their mind, which is why point 2 above is key, information works against us. The human mind hates a mystery, a situation where they may not feel completely compelled to call you back, but are also left with the feeling that if they don’t they may be missing out on something. In that scenario, some will ignore the message, but almost as many will act to solve the mystery. My goal in voice mail is to leave just enough of a message to create a curiosity, and the only way to satisfy that curiosity, is to pick up the phone and find out.

Focus your intent, provide only enough information to drive that intent, don’t worry about being different, and don’t pay attention to those who have not picked up a phone for years.

Want to learn how I get 50% of messages returned within 72 hours? Click here to learn the method in detail.

IDeen

Resolve to be a Contender Not Column Fodder0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

If you are in B2B sales, you have, knowingly or not, been column fodder. I often ask sales people if they know what that means, and for the most part most do not. While some of you may know what I mean, others may not so let’s define. It is a situation where a buyer has decided that they will give the business to a specific, usually favoured, vendor. These same buyers, also know from experience or set expectations, that their boss (or the owner), will want to see some comparables before approving said purchase. So they set things up in a spreadsheet for presentation.

Column A – This has all their requirements
Column B – The chosen vendor, the one that will get the deal short of divine intervention (bad news for atheist sellers).

But they know the boss is going to ask to see options, so this buyer engages with two other vendors. Asking very specific questions, questions matching the requirements in Column A. This line of questioning often fools sales people making them believe that the interest is real due to the specificity of the questions, and the degree of engagement by the prospect. (I know earlier I called them a buyer, but that is only true for the vendor in Column B, if you’re in C or D, they are and will only ever be prospects.) In the end the buyer presents these in a way where Column B is all but assured that they win the deal, and you and one other rep serve as column fodder.

But it does not have to play out that way. You can take steps to either avoid playing the game, or play it to disrupt and win. Contrary to what some may think, I think the prudent course is to avoid playing the game, and spend the time and energy prospecting for potential buyers who are willing to engage based on merit, not the need to justify a purchase from someone other than you.

First thing you can do is to ensure that you are interviewing the prospect as much as they interview you. While it is the prospect who should be speaking more, it is the seller who should set that into motion with good questions that not only bring light to the issue, but challenge the prospects pre-conceptions, and direction. With Fodder calls, not only is the rep talking more than the prospect, but the prospect is driving the direction, asking the questions, and keeping the discussion in predetermined petametres that deliver the desired result, fodder, not knowledge.

IDeenIf it is a real curiosity, you could get to the root of things by asking a combination of:

Where they are now?
How they measure the situation?
Where they had planned to be?
Why the Gap?
Quantify the impact of addressing the Gap?
Quantify the impact of inaction to address the Gap?
Extrapolate Rewards over entire the course of ownership/benefit?

If you can’t change the path the conversation is on, you need to seriously think about walking away. If the conversation is nothing like the ones that lead to closed deals, you have to ask why, and then react accordingly.

I have some reps tell me that they “play” along, believing if the chosen vendor drops the ball, they will be “next in line”. Problem is even if that happens, human ego often prevents the buyer from coming back Column C or D, a new search is much simpler for them.

Last thought, that time you wasted playing Fodder, not only could have been spent with a real prospect, but you’ll never get it back.

Be a Contender in 2017!

See you next year!!

Think outside the box concept on a white background

Getting Out Of Your Sales Box2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Given today is Boxing Day here in Canada, and that I am off enjoying the holiday (the bargains), I thought it was a good day to reprise a piece from 2010 about thinking out of the box. Enjoy!

There is a lot of talk in sales and in marketing about ‘thinking out of the box'; this is big with me because I am sure that when they put me in a box I’ll be dead, and that’s not good. But all too many in sales people are stuck in their boxes, they may say they think out of the box, even when they are too afraid to come out of the box. It’s so warm and cozy, easy to explain, not like outside the box.

Now being in sales, and having the ego to go with it, you’re probably sitting there thinking “phew, can’t be talking about me, I always think out of the box, hey even that sales tech said so last week before I bought her lunch.”

Well let’s test things and find out, shall we?

Answer the following question: What’s one and one?

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting

Write your answer here: _____

One more, what’s three and three?

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting

Write your answer here: _____

So, what did you put down, 2 for the first one, and 6 for the second?

You’re so in the box!

The first one is obviously eleven; and the second is thirty-three.

Absolutely it is a right answer, look, just step out of your box a minute, yes you can keep one hand on it for security if you need to.
Look here man, 1 and 1, or 11, it’s eleven. Again, 3 and 3, 33, thirty-three, right?

Of course it is, if you said two, you choose to only partially listen to what I was asking. Thought you heard one plus one, right? This was amplified by the echo chamber that is your box, and bam, an answer that misses the opportunity presented. How many times do you faced this same risk with customers, thinking you understood what they were saying only to blow it?

In sales, you must float on or ride your experience, not be weighed down by it; like a surfer on a big wave, you can use it to be propelled forward, or be crumbled by its power. You need to interpret and react according to the specific situation, be creative in responding, not predictable with your comebacks.

You need to use and leverage language and imagination in moving sales forward. But if you insist one and one is two not 11, then you need to relax and open the lid a bit more, a lot more. By leveraging language and imagination you will not only challenge yourself to creatively resolve challenges, but also encourage your buyers to step up and step beyond their limits, especially in how they limit their view of their challenge, and things that limit their perception of “a” solution.

It is one thing to say you think or act out of the box, another to execute. Many talk beyond their box and then be as conventional as ever in their execution. Selling is about change, step out of your box if you expect the buyers to abandon theirs.

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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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