July 07, 2014

Door-to-Door Flyers & Cold-Calling

You might be wondering what the two have in common?  My neighborhood is notorious for receiving door-to-door flyers - and being a Sunday I was home and peered through the glass window as a young teenager slipped a flyer through the handle.  I thought about it and said isn't it so archaic to be doing this in the digital age of social media?  I mean majority of our information is shared by email, browsing on internet, Facebook, etc.  Right?

Well the next thing that happened was that when I opened the door - I started reading the flyer! It got noticed!  Never mind what it was selling - I saved it and have it a second look! 

That wasn't all my Sunday drama - a few moments later a guy who was working at one of my neighbor's house came by selling his services - the pitch: for $150 they can desk my driveway - they are here twice a year and won't come for another year - and they use real tar! 

OK with these two situations I thought - no matter how old this idea is - it stills gets attention!  You see in the age we live in new practices don't replace old ones - they simply enhance them. 

I feel the same way about cold-calling - even with the advancements of social media engagements - a phone call sometimes is needed! 

It's the start of a new quarter for many - I wish you a lot of success - good luck and whether to comment below!

June 12, 2014

How can Business Partners / Channel Reps start prospecting? [Part 3 of 3]

Finally - we're at the third point on how Business Partners and Channel Reps can work on converting their calls to meaningful leads.  While this is by no means the last - expect that there may be additional posts!

I’m alone - where do I get the technical help and assistance from if the customer is interested?

Usually working for a Business Partner / Channel - there is no doubt your resources are VERY limited to the point that you have to ‘fake it’ in many ways.  Many times, you’ll have a customer on the phone who is interested but the hardest thing you’ll be facing is how do I continue this conversation forward?  What if they start asking me a lot of technical questions - how do I respond to them?  You’ve only been trained to a certain point - but you need a bit of help in trying to convince them to go to the next step - but how do you do it with limited knowledge?

A little trick...

Your best bet is to keep the conversation as business oriented as possible.  How do you do that - when the customer only has knowledge on the topic that you are interesting them.  At that point, do whatever you can to sound as interested as possible.  This would mean that you keep your full 100% attention on the phone - looking at no one or paying attention to anyone - the customer is right now ‘KING’  (or ‘QUEEN’)!  Start writing down everything they are saying - whether you think it’s important or not - keep writing down what they have to say. Once they stop talking - instead of moving the conversation forward, just regurgitate everything they said to you - this will give them a lot of relief that you really listened to what they had to say.  If there was any form of misunderstanding on your end - don’t worry - they’ll correct you.  Keep in mind - people prefer correcting than not being heard!

As you’ll start to do this, you’ll become a better note taker - keep taking them.  Another trick to use on them, is to pick something from the notes and ask them to elaborate on it.  So, you can take a line and say, “you mentioned that you need ______, may I ask why that has become so paramount in your organization to look into?”

Always remember to try and keep the end goal in mind - which is to develop a connection with the customer!

Good luck and enjoy!  Please share your thoughts, I look forward to hearing from you!


June 11, 2014

How can Business Partners / Channel Reps start prospecting? [Part 2 of 3]

Let's continue on with the second part of the discussion on how business partners / channel reps can become more efficient in their prospecting efforts.

How do I introduce myself?  Where do I begin?

So the biggest question I had many years ago was that do I introduce myself as the manufacturer or the business partner.  I experimented on both and I welcome you to do so too, but the answer is “it doesn’t really make a difference”.  I’ll explain - there are times it does help - as the corporate name of a larger company gives you some clout, but most of the time the customer really has no concern on who you are - but go ahead and experiment for yourself.  A word of caution: When you do introduce yourself as the manufacturer - it might get you in a little bit of trouble as if they were to check on you and don’t find you - they might not trust you enough to go ahead and do business with you.  And they can easily find you given the digital age we are in - and if they can’t find you - they might assume you’re not real!

The other thing I tend to do is be very upfront with them - if you found them on Linkedin - try and reference something about them from their profile and weave it in the conversation.  Once, I was researching an account and found a person that I really thought was the right fit - and I called him up with the following starter, “Hi _____, I came across your profile and it got me really intrigued to thinking that since you are involved with ______ and thought that you might be considering _____ as a future step towards your company’s overall growth”.  

When you start a conversation like that from a genuine standpoint, you start a meaningful relationship.  This is the relationship you take with you as you start to nurture the customer.  Also, while doing this they’ll notice that you are being genuine and will continue to talk with you.  Plus your approach - while not taken by many - will keep them more interested in the conversation.

Always make sure that you trust your gut instincts.  If you feel you are connecting to the person - you probably are, if you are not - call it out and make mention of it.  Feel free to say “I apologize, I may not be communicating the information properly on my end - I meant to say ____” - and finish the sentence in the most simplified terms.  Being genuine is what they’ll enjoy and appreciate you for - even if they have no way of taking your call forward - you never know they might not of a way to connect you to the right person / department.  

Thank you and best of luck!

June 09, 2014

How can Business Partners / Channel Partners start prospecting? [Part 1 of 3]

Introduction

The unfortunate thing about being a Business Partner (BP) or the Channel Partner is that you often get overlooked by the manufacturer and the customer and end up being the 'middle man (or woman)' often trying to balance the two situations.  At the end - most of the time you know you have a better service by virtue of personalization and caring more for the customer as opposed to them being a 'number' treated by the larger companies.  Let me share some of my experiences while working at two BPs / Channel companies (one being The Herjavec Group).

So, when I began my career at these companies, here were some of my questions when I joined them:
  • How can you create pipeline from scratch? Who and which company should I call?
  • How do I introduce myself?   Where do I begin?
  • I’m alone - where do I get the technical help and assistance from if the customer is interested?

I'll try to cover the first point for this posting --->>>

How can create pipeline from scratch?  Who and which company should I call?

When starting out - regardless of what the BPs / Channel Partnerssays - you really want to go after accounts you know you have a shot in.  Many BPs / Channel Partners decide that we are going to go after a certain industry / segment of accounts, etc.  That might be a great method from a strategy perspective, but ultimately - as a prospector that might not fit in with the prospect.  After all - the customers are not concerned with your credentials - they're more concerned on how they can achieve their objectives.  What you really want to do is go after the low hanging fruit first.

At the Herjavec Group - that was me going after accounts in Canada with over 1000 employees as the technology we had could only be afforded by companies of those sizes (so it was approx. 1000 employees equating to $300 Million of annual revenue in 2006-2008).  Try to identify your accounts first - there are many choices in the way you can do it: revenue size, employee count, industry specific, location specific, etc.

If your list has:

Many accounts… (>10+)
Few accounts (<10)
Try to select a handful of accounts, I generally start with 5 accounts and pick the accounts that interest you more over the others - as when it comes time to study them - you are ready.
No need to worry - having a few has it’s advantages over having too many, which is that you can now focus on these accounts rather than being at too many places - and spreading yourself too thin.  

How do I introduce myself?  Where do I begin?

So the biggest question I had many years ago was that - do I introduce myself as the manufacturer or the business partner?  Please be careful here and check with the manufacturer if you can introuduce yourself as an extension of their team or not.  I know for a fact that IBM business partners are not allowed to introduce themselves as IBM as it falls outside IBM's jurisdictions.  However, there are some small niche manufacturers that don't have the length, breadth, and presence as IBM - so they maybe comfortable in you introducing yourself as an extension of their company.

If you find out that, the manufacturer doesn't allow you to use their name - don't worry.  Keep your introduction statement very short, try not to say, "Hello, this is  _(name)____ from _(business partner name)___ a premier business partner of _(manufacturer)____ and I wanted to get in touch with you regarding _(product name)_____, etc."  That's too wordy, keep it short and simple by saying, "Hello, this is _(name)____ calling to discuss __(and go straight into the solution)_. 

If the manufacturers allows you to introduce yourself as a manufacturer - then go ahead and begin your intro!  There are times it does help - as the corporate name of a larger company / manufacturer gives you some clout, but most of the time the customer really has no concern on who you are - but go ahead and experiment for yourself.  A word of caution: When you do introduce yourself as the manufacturer - it might get you in a little bit of trouble as if they were to check on you and don’t find you - they might not trust you enough to go ahead and do business with you.  And they can easily find you given the digital age we are in - and if they can’t find you - they might assume you’re not real!

The other thing I tend to do is be very upfront with them - if you found them on Linkedin - try and reference something about them from their profile and weave it in the conversation.  Once, I was researching an account and found a person that I really thought was the right fit - and I called him up with the following starter, “Hi _____, I came across your profile and it got me really intrigued to thinking that since you are involved with ______ and thought that you might be considering _____ as a future step towards your company’s overall growth”.  

When you start a conversation like that from a genuine standpoint, you start a meaningful relationship.  This is the relationship you take with you as you start to nurture the customer.  Also, while doing this they’ll notice that you are being genuine and will continue to talk with you.  Plus your approach - while not taken by many - will keep them more interested in the conversation.

Always make sure that you trust your gut instincts.  If you feel you are connecting to the person - you probably are, if you are not - call it out and make mention of it.  Feel free to say “I apologize, I may not be communicating the information properly on my end - I meant to say ____” - and finish the sentence in the most simplified terms.  Being genuine is what they’ll enjoy and appreciate you for - even if they have no way of taking your call forward - you never know they might not of a way to connect you to the right person / department.  


Good luck and always remember to try and keep the end goal in mind - which is to develop a connection with the customer!

March 30, 2013

Getting yourself upbeat when Cold-Calling!


Having a bad day in cold-calling / prospecting? Wishing to have a meaningful conversation with someone on how your product / services are helping them overcome challenges faced in their industry?  If you are going through one of those 'down' feelings' - you need a bit of 'time-out therapy'.  I call it 'time-out therapy' because it is a moment of pause to get you out of the cycle of having low energy levels and add a strong dose of feeling 'high'.  



Many of us don't realize that while we are focused and disciplined in our work - we lose that sense of contentment - the feeling that you are so happy and satisfied with everything around you, that you can't be more thankful for all the blessings that have bestowed upon you. Might sound crazy - but it works!  If you don’t believe reflect on this - when you are getting service, would you like to receive it from a grumpy expression or one that is beaming ear-to-ear with a smile?  Money is a big driver for salespeople - but we all subconsciously gravitate towards happiness more than money.  I know many will disagree with this statement - but I think suffice to say we all seek inner and outer happiness and probably a big way to achieve it is by money.


How to achieve the expression of happiness / contentment


There are several ways of doing this, here are a few:


  • Music - music can lead us feeling happy or giving that high.  It’s kind of like being at a club on Saturday nights where everybody is happy and cheerful
  • Go for a walk with someone - might sound bizarre, but going out for a walk with a friend and just talking (or sharing of energy) with each other helps out provided you each encourage one another.  Smokers really benefit from this as each time they go out they recharge themselves.
  • Read / watch an interesting article - I always have something as a back-up to motivate me and keep me going, one of my most favorite pieces to watch is Napoleon Hill’s Laws of Success, here is a link to it in case you are interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS9c60wVNSA

Are all these methods the right ones?  No not really, try to find your own ones too.  

I hope I have helped you out in raising your spirits and joyfulness in cold-calling.  Enjoy the moment you are in and try to get back into the groove!

March 25, 2013

Growing an Effective Pipeline - WORK SMART!

Hi Folks - well it's been a while (actually nearly a year) since I last provided an update - I have been busy with a new job that I began at IBM and haven't had a chance to update my blog.  So, I'll start off on working to towards this:


Replenish your pipeline


It's all coming down to the last wire - it's the end of quarter and every sales rep is worried about how the quarter is going to end.  In the tough North American  economy which grows at a very slow pace sales growth is a hard thing to come by as you are focused on closing.  Too many of us forget to replenish our pipeline so we can ensure continuous sales growth for the future quarters.  


This is easier said than done - but why is that?  Well - a lot has to do with where you are in the economy.  Is your product what I call a mature product in a mature economy?  Or is it a cutting edge product in an emerging economy?  What do they mean?  


Mature vs. Emerging Economy

Well, mature economy is one that would be classified as a developed one averaging growth rates of approximately 1-3% per year whereas an emerging economy would be one that would be getting more than 5% growth per year.   Examples of a mature economy are Canada, United States, Japan, etc.  while an emerging economy would be Indonesia, China, India, etc.

Mature vs. Up-coming Product

What I would call a mature product is one that has a high percentage of saturation or market penetration - your growth for sales in these would be relatively low.  While a cutting edge product would experience higher growth.  Examples of a mature product would be selling cellphones an upcoming product would be a smartphone.  

Why is this important to know?

Well look at the table below -

New pipeline focus
Cutting edge product
Mature product
Emerging market
Low
Medium
Mature market
Medium
High

Once you know which territory you are calling into (mature or emerging) and the category of the product you are selling (cutting edge and mature) - you can then determine the percentage of time you need to devote on prospecting.  Keep this in mind and try to keep yourself focused.

Good luck and all the best in selling / prospecting!

May 25, 2012

Market Segmentation - Steps to take before Cold-Calling - Tip # 3

Most organizations (if not all) require the use of a CRM tool - be it for monitoring, organizing accounts, keeping notes, etc. I personal think it was the best creation since sliced bread and have used tools ranging from the ever popular Saleforce.com, Sugar CRM, Siebel, ACT!, Upshot.com (yes I am that old - this was probably one of the first CRM's in the early 2000's), Excel (yes some organizations are that archaic!), etc. The one thing I think all of them are missing is a feature to develop a hierarchy of an organization. So at a quick glance/view, you as the key account manager can quickly know where the person is on the chain of decision making, holding the purse strings, influence, etc. Until that gets invented (or may have but I don't know), I have created a formula of my own to help me manage my accounts.

Organizing your contact lists

This is especially great In complex sales as you tend to speak with multiple people and don't know the interrelationships (matrixed organization).  It gets hard to keep track of who reports to who in the hierarchy, and remembering names of the different people in the organization.  I’ve devised a simple technique that’s easy to implement and if looking at your CRM, you can easily identify who each person is.  I’ll give you an example (sorry for the editing):





1 - CEO

2A - VP of IT
2B - VP of Sales
2C - VP of Marketing
3A - Director of IT
3B - Director of Sales
3C - Director of Marketing
4A - IT Manager
4B - Sales Manager
4C - Marketing Manager
5A - Systems Administrator
5B - Sales Rep
5C - Intern




The number is the hierarchy within the organization and the letter refers to the department they belong in.  It’s a very easy technique that helps in knowing how senior or junior a person is and the relationship in the hierarchy of the whole organization. I've not assigned a letter to a specific department, but you can implement them as you go - if you know of two people in the organization place these tags on them. I'll show you how I place them:

Name Athar Afzal  
Title: 3B - Director of Sales

Note: Always place it in the first part of the title and not their name. Name because if you sent them an email through your CRM it would show the tag. First part of the title as you read from left to right and it becomes easier to see it first.

Summary of Market Segmentation

I thoroughly enjoyed talking about the topic of the week on market segmentation. Yes, there is a lot of work to do before prospecting, but I believe there is great value in doing this to work less and achieve more. Look forward to comments!

May 23, 2012

Market Segmentation - Steps to take before Cold-Calling - Tip # 2

 How to find and make a targeted account list (FOR FREE!!)

When you begin to work on expanding your sales pipeline - the first sales technique to implement is to know who to call as this can save you a number of hours of calling and achieving nothing. There are a number of sources you can use to get your lists for free, but before you start - please make sure you have completed the previous tip of identifying your target market.  

Having mostly done B2B sales in Canada, I have retrieved my lists from sources relevant to the Canadian markets, here are a few I have used for the Toronto area:



  • Top 1000 public companies - list of companies measured by revenue (you do have other options to try
  • Top 350 private companies - look for companies that are 100% owned by one entity or family (ex. Jim Pattison Group, Home Hardware, etc.)
  • Scotts Directory - free-trial on-line or you can obtain unlimited use at some Canadian local libraries, employment centers, or municipal business centers.

In addition, for international markets, try these:

  • Wikipedia - list of companies listed by categories (ex: geographic regions, industries, etc.), narrow down from that list, or you can simply write "list of companies in __(state region/location)__"
  • Linkedin - this link takes you to the 'search companies' tab, you can specify and it will show all the companies registered with linkedin throughout the world. On the left there is a deeper dive where you can narrow by other categories, these are the ones I like: 
    • Location - you can be as broad as saying 'United States' to as narrow as a small city like 'Albany, New York, United States'.
    • Industry - this is an easy one to select because it will be your target market - like healthcare, education, etc.
    • Company Size - really important as are you selling in the SMB or enterprise space.

There are others, namely Jigsaw and Hoover's, which I shall write in a future blog.


General formula for calculating a size of a company

A rule of thumb I use is revenues by companies - typically for every $300MM in annual revenues there are approximately 1000 employees.  I find this to be the most useful statistic than the profit margin or amount of profit made.  You can of course do the math (proportional math? I forget the name) - so if a company claims they have 50 employees - they are probably $15MM in annual revenues.  

Market size is much larger than you think 

There are many other resources you can use to find companies, one thing I’ve always underestimated in any role is the scope of the market is larger than I initially estimated.  That’s probably due to the fact that the developers of products & services are usually not the salespeople (unless they are the founders) they are more the ‘technicians’, who have had experience in their field and made the product/service to overcome those challenges that come in their role.


Thanks - this week I will probably post one more blog - look forward to feedback!

May 21, 2012

Market Segmentation - Steps to take before Cold-Calling - Tip # 1

Hope everybody had a great weekend (or is having if you are in Canada!) and are pumped up for a great week ahead of opening up new doors of opportunities!  


This week the focus is slightly different than what I have been talking about - on best practices of cold-calling - this week the focus is how to go about preparing your target prospecting list. It’s a beneficial cold-calling technique I have learned that can enable you to do fewer dials for more meetings.  This is also a continuation of a previous blog I had written, which you can view here.

Facing a shrinking prospecting list?

What does this mean? Well - it is a 
phenomenon I call ‘constant refinement’, which means that as you start to go through your target list, identifying opportunities, it starts to become harder (by law of numbers) to keep finding more opportunities within the same list.  Say you start with a list of 1000 prospects to call, as you dig for the nuggets of gold and find them, the next nugget becomes harder to find as you have started to shrink your base of prospects. So you always have to be on the lookout for new accounts to target.

Let’s start - so the first part of your prospect list is to know who your target audience is.  

Identify your target market and familiarize yourself with it.

In other words - who is and who will be buying my product/service.  This is done by keeping an eye on the trends of your product/service in the marketplace.  What market does your product/service serve best with and are there up and coming new markets that might also benefit from your product/service?  


Find industries to target (low hanging fruit).

You can achieve this by finding out the easiest companies to sell your product / service to (low hanging fruit), then prioritize it to the next 'higher' hanging fruit, and so on.  This helps you as you can start to narrow the time spent learning about your product/service.  If you know have the answer, then start to study that particular industry, current events (news), customer case studies, etc.  



Its this preparation that’s very valuable as when you speak to your prospect, you can always include in your call “...would like to offer you the same as we’ve done with [XYZ customer - someone in their industry]...”.  This third party credibility is very helpful for establishing immediate trust.


Hope this is helpful to eveyone! Look forward to comments or questions.



May 18, 2012

Preventing hang-ups when cold-calling - Tip # 5

Last post on the topic of preventing hang-ups (at least for the time being):

Apologize

When you have disturbed someone catching them off-guard - it is likely going to make them a bit irritable.  I've found the best way to diffuse this is by apologizing (and sometimes profusely!).  It bring you down to a natural human nature - in essence telling them that you are down to earth.  It's all about tonality (and I should put an audio file of myself saying it - but not too sophisticated yet!), the way I say it is "Oh, I'm sorry" and this goes a long way of keeping them from hanging up.

Then I say one of the following after apologizing:


  • I didn't realize this is your area of expertise
  • I must have not had my records up to date
  • I probably mixed you up with someone else, etc.

The only thing, I don't apologize about is taking up their time, I never say "sorry to take your time/disturb your day, etc.".  Why - there is no point, you are in the sales profession and you are going to take up their time.  It's almost as if you are apologizing for choosing your profession  - don't - be proud of it!

This ends the series on my tips on preventing hang-ups while cold-calling, I hope it's been valuable.  I have appreciated the feedback I have gotten so far and look forward to more.

Have a great weekend folks!




May 17, 2012

Preventing hang-ups when cold-calling - Tip # 4



The next tip I will be sharing is an extremely controversial one and something that I have been told can backfire.  Nevertheless - I still use it!  Why, after the warning above?  Well because, it hasn't backfired and I'll explain why.  Let's reveal tip #4...


Mention someone else's name as a reference

What does this mean - well for starters it means that you can build your credibility by mentioning to the recipient that you are calling as 'so and so' asked you call them up.  Why this is controversial is that maybe you never spoke to a 'so and so' and randomly picked their name up!  How do you get this name?  I typically select someone that has left the organization, you can find them from the following sources:


  • Linkedin - go to the company tab and on the right there is a place where you can see "Check out insightful statistics...", once you go there you can view the departures from the company
  • Jigsaw (now owned by salesforce.com) - if you are familiar with it, you can get names from the graveyard, which is free to retrieve
  • If neither of the above work, then I select a name of a person in the company that works in another department because you can say they thought you might be the right person
This is controversial no doubt, but I view this is a way to get you foot in the door!  Comments (am sure - there are going to be a few!).

May 16, 2012

Preventing hang-ups when cold-calling - Tip # 3

Hump day! Hope your week is going well - this one is short, so here is tip #3:


Ask a thought provoking Question: 


The third part of preventing a hung-up on a cold-call is to come up with a question, this is harder as it must fall into the following logical parameters:
  • Must be broad enough for them to know the answer, but yet narrow enough that it relates to your product/service. 
  • Has to be an open-ended question, but again not too open ended that other person would have to spend more than a minute answering you
  • Something that they would feel compelled to answer.
Now the above is more subjective than objective, but try to internalize the points above to see what I mean by them.  Once you've done that, you will start to realize this is more scientific as you are going to develop a hypothesis and then test it out till you get the right questions.  It doesn't have to be a long complicated statement, perhaps between 1-3 words can get the right question.  Good luck!

May 15, 2012

Preventing hang-ups when cold-calling - Tip # 2



Let's continue with more helpful tips on preventing hang-ups, so here is tip #2:


MAKE A MISTAKE!


I have found this to be extremely helpful.  Why?  Because inherently people like to correct others - so if you are in a call - make sure you purposely make a mistake as the other caller instead of hanging up will try to correct you.  By doing this, your goal is to do the following:
  • increase phone time and have them become warmer to you
  • get them to speak more
  • gives them the upper hand of feeling special by making them feel they know more
When all of the above happen, then they might drop their guard and let you have a better chance of letting you ptich to them.


How do you make the mistake, here are some suggestions:


  • So it needs to be carefully planned, one of the easiest ways I have done it is by calling someone else other than my target person within the same department and make a mistake that assumed they would be handling the responsibility.
  • If you know of a fact about the company, make a mistake by stating the opposite of the fact, for example, you can say that they had looked into a similar product or service but make a mistake on the reason why they didn't go for it.
Anybody have some more ideas?  Any agreement/disagreements?

May 14, 2012

Preventing hang-ups when cold-calling - Tip # 1

This week I wanted to do something different - as part of my strategy on helping people improve their sales by increasing their pipeline, I am going to pick one topic and discuss it for the week in bite size chunks.  Hopefully this should make the reading a lot more easier to digest!


Starting off this week, I would like to share tips on how to prevent hang-ups with cold-calling.  Sounds far-fetched?  Of course!  But over the years, I have noticed that I no longer get hang-ups that frequently and while self-reflecting, I wanted to share a tip each day of this week on how I've been able to overcome this.  Comments of course welcome (you are welcome to agree or disagree) and am sure most people know these methods, but let's summarize some.


ASSUME ALWAYS - DON'T ASK FOR PERMISSION!


In many cold-calling trainings I have taken, trainers have insisted that this is the way you start a conversion:


"Good morning/afternoon________, my name is _______ from __[XYZ]___ Company, do you have a few minutes to speak?"


Errrrr, I get so frustrated when that is asked to initiate a sales call.  Why do we ask for permission to speak - yes I realize people are busy, but you are immediately giving away power to the other person, a chance of denying you the opportunity to pitch.  After trying this tactic out and experiencing failure upon failure, I decided to change MY mindset to the call and assumed they wanted to speak with me.  


But before I share this with you, it's important to note, don't approach the call from an angle of mentioning your product name or service or telling them the value of it.  Instead, start with a pitch like this:


"Good morning/afternoon ______, my name is_______ from ____[XYZ]___ Company, calling in regards to discussing ____[what the product/service actual does do, don't go into a detailed conversation on the savings, efficiencies, or what you call your product]____.  Are you or have you looked into implementing that in your organization?"


I feel this is a much better starting point of a conversation.  Comments/opinions?

May 09, 2012

Handling long stretches of rejection when cold-callling.

There was a comment on a recent blog I had done on how do you handle long stretches of continuous rejection.  Is it time to change strategy or is it a numbers game?  It came in from an 'Anonymous', so I want to thank the person as I think it creates better conversations and at the end I hope we can all help each other out and improve our conversion ratios.  If you haven't had the chance please read it first here.


First off, I am going to start to answer the question - the answer is...it can be both or even something else!  Sorry, I know you wanted something straight forward, but it depends on your unique situation / scenario.  I will try to present what I mean by each of the possible scenarios I have experienced and you are welcome to add to these.


Numbers and strategy game - yes both are true; however, before you start pounding the phone even more aggressively to generate the calls/meetings when experiencing a dry patch, examine the downward trend and what led to it.  For example, if it took you 'X' calls to get 'Y' number of appointments and you're now at '4X' calls and 0 appointments, then perhaps one or some of the following might be preventing you from going further:


  • Target list - many a times, you've gone through the target list and you go through it again and again, if you keep up doing that your conversion ratios are going to weaken.  If you are at that point, I would advise you to try and develop a new target list, perhaps changing the industry, geography, size of companies (move to larger or smaller ones) as by now you've had quite a bit of experience in knowing the full value of the product/service you are pitching. 
  • Competition - may have changed and a competitor may have introduced a product that better fits the market.  In the age of cloud computing, it's becoming easier for companies to sign shorter term contracts, provide a free promotional period, offer more versions of the product to offer flexible payment options.  You want to find out these and communicate it to the marketing and management teams to see where it would be most wisest to spend marketing dollars towards. 
  • Market forces - is there really a demand for your product/service?  Many a times sales people get hired and the quota they are assigned is not based on demand by the market, but growth required to satisfy investors.  Remember in order to justify your quota - there HAS to be sufficient demand of your product.  For example, years ago I had a brief stint in selling accounting software specific to the construction industry.  Now the software was based out of Oregon, but my territory was the Greater Toronto Area.  It didn't sell nowhere close to target - why?  Well, no construction company in the East coast was savy enough to buy such an expensive tool as it was too advanced for them, while companies on the West coast were comfortable using it.  You might be in an industry that is too early on, either weigh it out or take the difficult step of moving out of selling this to somewhere else. 

Sometimes, sales don't go in the direction we'd like them to go, I would say give it one more shot, then go with your gut rather than exerting more pressure on yourself to work harder.  Take a step back and soul-search how you can better sell it OR it might be time to move on.  Comments...

May 07, 2012

Overcoming frustration while cold-calling for leads.

You are all excited about starting a day where you are going to start filling up your pipeline (as you may have won / lost deals and it's time to replenish).  These would be new opportunities / relationships opening up doors for you to understand what new interesting and exciting things are going on in this world.   So you start, during your allocated time to call up your target accounts - motivated and blocking out all non-productive thoughts.  You do this for a few days, weeks, months - call, no answer, call no answer, you get the pattern!  So how does one stay so motivated while overcoming this block?


1. Prep work (research) - Do lots of this and the best time is to do it during the evenings or weekends (I know a salesperson never stops working!).  What you want to try and find:


  • Description - get a brief summary of what the company does
  • Call List - get 3-5 contacts (based on their position titles)
  • Phone numbers - you can always call these numbers at night and right down the prompts using 'dial-by-name' directory to get you to speak to person as fast as possible. 




2.  Mindset - this is a challenge as you are staring at a near empty pipeline and it's hard to come down off your past laurels of success - and rejection is the last thing you want to see!  Try to shift the mindset and think of yourself as a detective (like CSI, James Bond, or even Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She wrote!).  As a detective, you are trying to uncover challenges your target account is going through, through careful questioning, you can identify their pain-points and pitch accordingly.


3.  Numbers - a lot of sales organizations tell you "it's a numbers game", but how do you implement it?  To motivate you before every call, motivate yourself.  It might sound funny, but it can get you excited to speak with  a prospect if you say the following:


  • One dial/call closer to an opportunity! (it is the law of numbers, if someone picks up after 8 dials, say T-X number of dials left!)
  • This is the prospects lucky day to get a call on a valuable product/service they didn't know about!
  • This call is worth 'X' number of $$$ for me - it's quick math, but take your average deal size and divide by how many calls it took to get it (guess this number) and put a value on the call.  Write it down if you have to and imagine it coming into your bank account.
I hope this has been helpful to you as it is for me.  It's about making it more fun and productive to get your pipeline filled.  Please share more ideas!



May 01, 2012

Matching and mirroring in a cold-call

So, I got a comment (the first ever!) on one of my blog posts and thought it would be an interesting discussion to begin this post with - in a cold-call how important is matching and mirroring?  Many people say that in order to carry a conversation in a cold-call (or any sales call) matching and mirroring the prospect is key or should be considered a major strategy.  What I would like to present are 3 reasons that warrant a discussion on the merits of match and mirror in a phone call.  If I have missed any or if anyone would like to add - please comment!


Intimidation - in my world and experience of selling to technical people, they are typically not aversed in sales and so they get intimidated with the salesguy that's speaking with them ESPECIALLY if you are over-energized!  In this scenario, I try to lower my energy, the challenge here is if you get too low, you don't sound too exciting to speak with.  VERDICT - find a fine balance and during the phone call try to slowly increase your energy level (by standing up from chair, pacing, etc.).  It would be interesting if this matches other industries though. 


Genuineness or humbleness - if you look at sales, it's the formation of a relationship with another person.  When you are in a relationship - you are there because of who that person is and accept them for who they are.  If you take a look around at your circle of professional friendships (not personal), you'll notice that there is a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, but yet we all get along very well.  It's about getting to know the person inside and appreciating them - and that's what ultimately gets the long-term relationship sale!


Personality matches - people require information differently based on their natural or adjusted styles (adjusted being in response to their environment).  The one I use is the DISC profile, which is fairly easy and simple tool to use as it divides people up in 4 categories.  It might be difficult to gauge people on a phone call, but senior people are probably more likely to be dominant, while researchers, accountants, etc. are more likely to be cautious fact oriented (you can read more about it at here at the Wikipedia article).  By guessing, you can be good at matching and mirroring the language and tone of the conversation.  


While, I have not answered the question on the importance of matching and mirroring, I think the clear answer is go with your gut as you don't want to sway yourself in too much of a different direction.  I leave this blog with the following question, if you were selling to someone, who was an exact replica of you and no matching and mirroring was required - do you think they'd buy?