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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
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.

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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!

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Voice Mail As A Differentiator1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful Voice Mails are like Bikinis! – Sales eXecution 3091

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Voice mail 3

They always say it is good to borrow perspectives from different fields as a means of perhaps learning something unanticipated about your day-to-day work. With that in mind, I’d like to use a perspective I learned some time back from someone in finance. This individual had an interesting view of financial statements:

“Financial statements are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting, but what hide or don’t show is even more compelling.”

And that’s a great perspective to bring to voice mail.

There is no middle ground with voice mail, you either have those who leave no message, and at the other end are people who don’t just leave a message, but proceed to dump their brains out when leaving a voice mail.

Not leaving a message is just silly, why invest the time and effort in making the call, then listening to the target’s out going message (and most listen), only to hang up without a mark. Those who do leave a big fat message, tell me “well if I leave a compelling enough message, the prospect is bound to call me back”. Ya, because the world is such a rational place, let me guess, they probably call with a checkbook in hand asking “where do I sign?” Right.

If you listen to 90% of outgoing voice mail messages, they ask you to “please leave a detailed message”. And most sellers, wanting be liked and looking to form a relationship, comply. If you thought sales people can “spray and pray” live, they take it to an entirely different art form when it comes to voice mail messages they leave.

Why do these prospects want “a detailed message”? Because they want to protect their most precious resource, time. They want to know exactly why NOT to call you back. The more your message conforms to their request for detail, the more they know why they don’t need to call you back, and they can use that time and energy to deal with one of the other many things they are trying to cram in to their day.

Which is why you want your voice mail to be like a bikini, seductive yet not completely revealing. Seductive enough for you to say “OK, this interesting, show me more”.

Your goal or objective for voice mail is to get a call back and nothing else; a crucial point many miss. This is why we often get the Tolstoy equivalent of voice mail, rambling messages that provide every detail about the caller and the reason for the call. Detail leads to no call back. A lack of detail, where crucial elements are not revealed, think bikini, leads to more call backs, and more of the only measure of success with voice mail, a return call.

The human mind hates a mystery, and will take steps to resolve them, all relative to the context. Ever been talking about a movie with a group of people, and none of you can remember the name of the lead actor. It gnaws away until someone remembers the name, and there is a collective sense of relief.

The best voice mail are ones that create that same feel, a mix of compelling facts, and insufficient data. Info that is compelling enough, but insufficient enough to draw a conclusion. This will leave the recipient with the choice of putting the whole message out of their mind, or pick up the phone, dial the number left, in the hope of completing the picture.

For specific details of a quality voice mail, watch these videos:

youtube Understanding and Leveraging the Dynamics of Voice Mail 

 The Step by Step of a Great Voice Mail

Tibor Shanto    LI Bottom banner

2 Reason To Always Leave Voice Mail – and Get Called Back – Sales eXecution 2852

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Voicemail word cloud

Given that we are sitting in sub-zero temps in the north east, -25 C in Toronto, any call you’re going to make today is going to be a cold call. But if you’re a complete B2B sales professional, you’re probably making cold calls even if it is nice warm and sunny, cause that’s what pros do, not like those cheap plastic replicas that are afraid of picking up the phone and talking to a buyer. And if you are picking up the phone, you’re hitting voice mail, no two ways about it; and if you hit voice mail, you need to leave a message, again no debate about that either. Here are three reasons why.

1.   Pursuit Cadence – It takes a lot more effort to get the attention of buyers these days. Seems one of the side effects of the efficiencies achieved through reduced sales forces, is those who are left have a lot more to do, imagine that. Our buyer are struggling to pack 16 or more hours in to a 10 hour day, and taking bad calls from bad sales people is not on the list. As a result it takes that many more touch point, of different sorts to get not only the attention of buyers, but to get them to act or respond. As a result voice mail becomes one of many opportunities to touch the buyer, and cultivate a response, a response you can capitalize on to secure an appointment (live or virtual).

There is a bookend element at work here, which is first man in – and – last man standing. There are studies out there that show that the first man (or woman) in is that much more likely to get the deal. All the more reason to cold call and get ahead of the curve, and not be one of the saps who waits for the buyer to find their seller. So if you leave a voice mail while others don’t, you mail well end up being that first man in just by virtue of leaving a message.

At the other end is the fact that if you pursue the right opportunities further than others are willing, and let’s face it there are many who give up the chase too soon, you will increase you odds of winning the deal. I have had more than one executive tell me that this is a fact. Add to that many ignore the first few calls just to separate the strong. How hard you work at getting the sale is a clear indicator as to how hard you will work to satisfy them as clients.

2.   Getting Call Backs – Done right, you do get calls back, notice I said done right. The technique I use, and was taught years ago gets me up to 50% of call returned in 72 hours, this not only reduces stress, but builds pipeline. You can learn the technique by watching these two videos.  Make sure to watch part I first, eh?

The reality is that once you are getting calls back, you don’t need any other reasons to leave voice mail.

Tibor Shanto

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Best time to Prospect – Sales eXecution 2391

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

time management

One question I am asked regularly is what is the best time to prospect, be that of day, time of week, etc. While trying to avoid the word depends, there are some variables that will impact the answer.  But what many are really looking for for is that secret answer, “call them at 4:33 on a the third Tuesday of the month, except I. A leap year, then it’s 4:36″.

While with some potential prospects there may be times that will yield more results, I believe it is not a good idea to look for one time over another, especially when that time is selected anecdotally, based on superstition, or as a means of avoiding the activity altogether.  I say this not to be cynical, but because I have seen people target a specific time, and then refuse to make calls at any other time.

Some sellers tell me emphatically that “you can’t prospect on Monday mornings, no way no how”.  Their rationale is that people are just getting back to work after the weekend and “have their minds on other important things”.  But when is that not the case given all the things the average business person has to juggle?  As with many things, there two side to every coin, I find my target audience uses the weekend to decompress, and on Monday are open to the right suggestion(s) as to how to move sales and salespeople forward, for me Monday mornings have proven to be productive.  I have also had just as many people swear that Friday afternoons are the best, as those who tell me its the worst.  

Some struggle to strike a balance between their own habits and those of their targets.  Many sales pundits will insist that you should prospect first thing in the day, giving a bounce to your day, allowing you to spend the rest of  it selling. The theory is sound, in practice it is not alway so.  I worked with an industrial supply company, they had a great work ethic, their manager instilled a prospecting discipline, on the phone from 7:45 am to 9:00 am, every day.  Their conversion rate from conversation to appointment was great, but they were finding it difficult to connect to have the conversations. When I got involved we stepped back and focused on the work habits of their target group, senior people in plant management and operations. What surfaced was that many of these people were either out on the “shop floor”, or in operations meetings first thing in the morning, around the same time my client’s team was diligently calling. Further, we learned that many of the targets were back in their office around 10:00 am, filling out reports, etc.

As a result of this I had them switch their “calling time” to 10:00 am; their conversion of conversation to appointment continued to be great, but their call to conversation rate tripled.  This increased the number of appointments to record levels, but had the added benefit of reducing the amount of time they actually had to spend on the activity. Think of it as a “double double” of prospecting.  As with all things sales, it is so much better to view the world through the buyer’s eyes.

Given that there are more ways to communicate with buyers than ever, there less reason than ever to think of “best times” to prospect. Given that you can send an e-mail or LiknkedIn inmail any time, or that you can schedule e-mail to go out at a pre-scheduled time, you are no longer tied to time,  A well placed voicemail in off hours can yield great returns, without it impacting your “selling time”.  Rather than spending energy to pinpoint the ultimate time to call, use that energy to create quality talking points for when you connect.

Unless you are doing something specific and measurable to realize revenue, (a retweet does not count), the best time to prospect is now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Voice Mail Week Part III – The Technique and why It Works! (#video)0

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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In Part I and Part II of this trilogy we looked at context, and how there is more to voice mail than just the message and getting a call back.  So now it is time to reintroduce the technique.  I say reintroduce, because I have shared it before, and as you may have gleaned there was some push back and even more misunderstanding of how and why to execute it.

I suspect that there will be push back again, and I invite the challenges and feedback of all quality from all sources.  The one ask that I do have is: try it before you knock it, a few times, give yourself a chance to succeed.  Try it the way it is presented, no variation, no improvisation.  If you do improvise, and it works for you, great, share what you did, we can all learn.  If you do improvise and it does not work, I refer to the small print, which basically states that we stand by our method, good luck with yours.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Week – Part II – It’s More Than Just The Message0

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Voice mail

In Monday’s video I mention the fact that voice mail is just one of a number of ways to reach out and touch prospective buyers.  There is e-mail, SMS or text message, all forms of social media, traditional snail mail in the form of a letter or card, or other more creative means of reaching out and touching a prospect.  Why is this important, because with all the things buyers have to deal with these days, it takes many more touch points to just get on someone’s radar, or have them react to our approach.

Back around 1999, I read a book that suggested that it takes anywhere from 5 to 7 touch points for the reaction to potentially happen.  Since then, technology has evolved, mobile is pervasive, people are expected to do more with less, more than ever people need to pack 16 hours’ worth of work into a 10 hour day, which makes getting their attention even more challenging.  Because of that, and this is confirmed by some of the things I am reading today, it may take 9 to 12 touch points for that initial reaction to occur.

So if nothing else, say you diminished expectations to no call backs at all, zero, there is still a value to leaving voice mail, it is a touch point, and touch points are compounding.  This is why I don’t worry about the depth of the content of the voice mail message, because it will lead to one of two outcomes:

1. You’ll get a call back, and speak with the prospect (the XXX accompanying video talks to that outcome Or 2. You will achieve a touch point which when executed in context of the overall approach is a plus.

Yet in a recent unscientific poll, only 52.5% of respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked: “When you are prospecting by phone, do you leave a voice mail message on the very first call?”  What a wasted opportunity.  First off, they could be getting calls back from 30% – 50% of people they leave messages for, leading to engagement and sales.  Second, no touch point, no start, and what you don’t start you can’t finish.

One important take away from this beyond the fact that you have to leave a message, is that you have to map out a touch point campaign whenever you target or pursue a potential buyer.  Not only do you have to make the commitment to touch them enough times in a given period to facilitate contact, but plan and write it out, and the of course execute.  My minimum goal is seven touch points in two business weeks.

You can leave a voice mail on Monday morning, follow up with a brief, not Tolstoy style, e-mail after 5:00 pm that day.  Another voice mail Wednesday; the e-mail that follows Wednesday’s voice mail will have one additional element, you will tell them that you will call them again say Thursday at 9:30 am.  I am not naïve, I don’t expect them to be chained to their desk at that time, but, if they were mildly interested in your message but were busy running around this could provide the focus they need.  But more likely they will not be at their desk, and you’ll leave another message.  The BIG BUT and GAIN, is that you will have demonstrated that you follow up on your word, something many sales people are falsely accused of not doing.  Talk about laying a pebble of trust.  So here we are five touch points by Thursday morning, and I don’t think we are near an injunction order.  Repeat the following week, you’ll have more conversations, but it starts with commitment and execution.

Sadly the same survey showed that most sales people give up after three or so tries, priming the pump for those of us who are willing to go the distance.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Voice Mail Week – Part I – Context – Sales eXchange 206 (#video)2

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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Here we are the last week of the first half of 2013, the first full week of summer, what better time to focus on every seller’s second favourite topic, voice mail.  The Discovery channel has their annual tradition of Shark Week, and now we introduce Voice Mail Week.

Because after all, voice mail is the gift that keeps on giving, when done right, and that is what we will focus on this week.  I suspect that this time round will be no different than other times that we have talked about voice mail, and that is mostly because no one really has the definitive answer when it comes to leaving voice mail for new potential B2B buyers.  What we do have however are two different things, facts and opinions.  Opinions usually come from those who have not tried the technique, mine or any, but feel compelled to share their non-experience, mostly in the form of their fears vis-à-vis the issue in question, which I think generally reflects their fear of success.  Then we have facts from those that have tried it, perfected it and profit by it.

Below is the first of three installments (2 video) looking at voice mail and how to use it to your advantage and sales success.  Take a look, take it in, take it on the road, and then let us know.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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