- Don’t underestimate the power of faxes
- Follow-up and follow-through are keys to prospecting success
- When to start your day
- Another sign of a good call: did you do more listening than talking?
- Sell during selling time
- That’s it. I quit….Well, maybe one more try
- Give a prospect something for nothing
- Periodically tape-record a random sampling of your cold calls
- Pace yourself
- Don’t do the bulk of your business prospecting during prime business hours
- You have to ask questions
- Email Solicitations
- Call a Fellow Sales Person
- Features never sold anyone
- There’s no magic bullet
- Maintain a good sense of humour
- The P.S.
- Voice Mail (part one)
- The Handwritten Note
- The Birthday
- Phone Calling Skills
- The Sales Blitz
- The Prospecting Appointment
- Voice Mail (part two)
- What to Manage
- When to Give Up
- Lighten Up!
- Start reading now
- The Bigger Sin
- Control what you can control
- Demand More, Get More
- Set sales call objectives for each sales call
- Know the key decision makers at your accounts
- Develop a systematic process for prioritizing your accounts
- Slow Down!
- Buy Morning Tea
- Surround yourself with good people
- Demand More
- Team Building
- Research Your Customers
- Do the Unexpected
- Friday is My Day
- Don’t Mess With the Streak
- Is Your Sales person Doing the Job?
- Don’t Lose Touch
Don’t underestimate the power of faxes
In these days of email, faxes have taken a back seat. Because of that, faxes get noticed. Carefully position faxes as part of your prospecting efforts.
Follow-up and follow-through are keys to prospecting success
Just like gardening, if you don’t water the seeds, the garden will languish. And so it is with prospecting… if you don’t remain in contact, you will never break through.
When to start your day
Sales is not a 9 to 5 job. Oh, how sometimes I wish it was. No, to be an ideal and effective sales person, you need to be the early bird. As your sales career grows, there will be temptations to cruise in later and later. Success allows for such a luxury now and then. But for now, plan on being the first in the office. Not only will this allow you to get some office work done before the phone starts ringing; not only will you make better use of your non-selling time; not only will your sales grow as a result of your new work ethic; no boss will fire a hard-working sales person. How’s that for job security?
Another sign of a good call: did you do more listening than talking?
We are all born with two ears and one mouth. Did you ever stop to think why? Perhaps sales people are supposed do more listening than talking? As you leave a sales call, evaluate yourself in this area. Good listeners are popular visitors. They learn more than their talkative counterparts. They ask questions that allow the customer to provide valuable insight into potential opportunities. Force yourself to become a better listener. Force yourself to stop talking about yourself. Ask more questions.
Sell during selling time
What time is it right now as you are reading this? This sales tip, however compact, is taking up some valuable selling time unless you are reading it during non-selling hours. Most sales people claim to be busy. However there is fat on every bone. A key to maximizing one’s time is to focus on selling activities during the business day and leaving the non-essential work for off hours. You can ensure this by asking yourself several times a day: should I be doing this right now? Good time management stems from planning. Enacting that plan requires being strict about each activity and the time it is being done.
That’s it. I quit….Well, maybe one more try
At what point do you quit on a prospect? After the fourth call? The sixth? After a month? Two? It all depends on the size of the prospect and your level of desire to have them as a customer. There is no magic date or time period. You need to understand that clients take longer than ever to contact. There are simply too many obstacles, such as call screening, caller ID, voice mail and the like. My recommendation is to push hard for four weeks and then back off to a second level of prospecting that includes attempts once or twice a month. You just never know when the prospect will have a need and persistency pays off.
Give a prospect something for nothing
An article that would be of interest and value, information that you received online etc. and transferred to the prospect with a note "just thought you might be interested in this" indicates that you are thinking of them and wish to be a resource.
Periodically tape-record a random sampling of your cold calls
Listen to the tape and assess your tone and voice. How did you sound? Would you want to speak with a person who sounds like you? What about your words? Were they clear and benefit oriented? Taping gives you the opportunity to self-correct your presentation.
Prospecting is a very time-consuming and arduous task. Allocate a specific amount of time each day (week?) and keep to the schedule. It is always easy to put something ahead of the prospecting activity but make an appointment with yourself and don’t break it.
Don’t do the bulk of your business prospecting during prime business hours
Often the call that is placed at 8AM or 6PM will be received by a decision-maker that has more time to talk. Don’t under-estimate the value of leaving voice mail messages at night. These will be the very first messages that your prospect will hear in the morning, thereby increasing the odds of them placing a returned call.
You have to ask questions
If you want to present products and services that are of value to the prospect and that meet their needs, you have to ask questions. Ask the right questions and the prospect will tell you what they want and how they need to be sold.
Spend the time necessary to clean up your work area periodically. It is liberating to dump the clutter that piles up. You might find some surprises under all of that paper. I once read a book that said the good time manager touches a piece of paper only once instead of putting it aside for later.
Be very careful when sending a client banter-filled emails. The written word is far more powerful than the spoken word. Anything you write can and will be used against you in the future. Seemingly innocent jokes take on a life of their own, especially if they are bounced around within a company. Keep your emails short and professional.
Call a Fellow Sales Person
Do you have an account where you are dying to get in but are unsuccessful in your efforts? We all do, I suppose. I’d bet you would like some inside information to help get the scoop on what is going on that needs fixing; something that you can talk about when the prospect picks up the phone. Here’s my idea: call the company up and ask for the sales department. When you get a sales person, introduce yourself and tell them you are looking for their help. Say you are planning a call on the company and want to know more about them.
If you get a talkative sales person (and gosh, what are the odds of that?), you might pick up some valuable information that will become the basis for a great sales call.
Features never sold anyone
Too many sales people launch into a conversation by discussing the features of their products and services. The only thing that a prospect cares about is what these features will do for them. In other words, speak in terms of benefits and your prospect will be more pre-disposed to listening to your presentation.
There’s no magic bullet
Prospecting takes time and if your sales pipeline isn’t always filled with prospects in various stages of being worked, then you are in for a future sales slump.
Maintain a good sense of humour
Make the prospect smile and you’re halfway there!
Always have the next day planned before you leave the office and the next week outlined before you leave on a Friday. These two simple rules allow you to hit the ground running when you come in to the office. If you are arriving on a Monday and planning the week, you are wasting sales time. Everyone THINKS they are busy and couldn’t possibly fit another thing into their day. Maximizing your selling time begins with good sales organization. It is motivational, as well.
Research the prospect PRIOR to the first call. Get on the Internet and look at their web site. Do a Google search. Understand who they are, what their direction is, and where they are going. There is more information publicly available right now than ever before. There is simply NO EXCUSE for calling on a prospect without doing some research first.
Everyone has a prospecting letter they think is killer. Most of us, however, have no idea what a good prospecting letter looks like. I have seen my share, including some that you can buy from so-called experts that are short on etiquette and long on attitude. In my view, it matters little what the letter says, no one will read it. However, for some strange reason, the P.S. always gets read. If the letter is opened, the prospect will scan the contents and always, always, always read the P.S. Go figure.
So, the moral of the story is to include something impactful and action-oriented as a P.S., like “I will call you during the week of the 16th” or “Remind me to tell you about our new digital capabilities.”
P.S.-See? I told you everyone reads the P.S.
Voice Mail (part one)
Voice mail was created by Satan just after he finished writing Corel Draw and before he allowed Caller ID in the workplace. He’s a busy guy. If you see VM as a problem, you are dead before you start. If you see it as an opportunity, you have the right attitude. Leave messages that say, “I’m different.” Be light, clear, and positive. Promise to call back and then follow up on that promise. Press “0” and ask for the person’s assistant. Don’t give up. Leaving multiple messages shows initiative and drive.
The Handwritten Note
Mixed in with your prospecting process (What? You don’t HAVE a prospecting process?), make sure you are including something as personal as a handwritten note. Keep a box of stationary nearby and fire off a note to prospects and clients from time to time. Perhaps they have had an occasion that warrants the personal touch that a note brings (birth, death, anniversary, etc). Bring sales to a human level and your prospects will respond in kind.
Do you remember the riddle, How many birthdays does the average man have? The answer was: One a year. One of the more helpful aspects of the Palm OS software is that it allows for inclusion of a contact’s birthday. Remembering such a day will put you in good stead with your clients and prospects. Find a way to learn someone’s birthday and then get it into your records. Imagine being the only one to remember someone’s big day!
Phone Calling Skills
The ability to form and foster a relationship over the phone is key to the success of a sales person. Yet most of us HATE the phone with a passion. Well, campers, you’d better get over it because it’s not going away. Mastering the phone will make you efficient and better utilizes your time, especially when prospecting. Learn how to improve your phone persona. Speak with confidence, listen to the tone of the other person, and ask questions. Make the phone the centrepiece to your workweek. Then, when you do go out of the office, maximize your selling time, too.
The Sales Blitz
Okay, this one is not original but quite effective. Pick a day of the week and put every sales person in your office on the phone from 9-12noon doing nothing but making outgoing calls. Either give them leads or make them come prepared. Keep track of the results as you would any prospecting call. At noon, chart the number of appointments each rep got and award a prize. Then, bring in lunch and sit together as a team. Tell stories, both of success and hang-ups. Make it a ritual.
The Prospecting Appointment
Look ahead in your calendar and make an appointment to prospect. That’s right: look at your prospecting time and efforts as if they were an appointment. Book the time right in your calendar. Would you break an appointment? NEVER! So, don’t do it this time either. You will be more likely to be consistent with your prospecting efforts if you see them as an appointment.
Voice Mail (part two)
Hate voice mail all you want, it is not going away. So, you will need to learn to deal with it. Voice mail messages need to be powerful and of value, especially when prospecting. It’s not like the customer is actually going to return your call, but at least you need to stand out from the other 10 sales people who have called that day.
It is hard to know what to say in that terrifying moment when the prospect picks up the phone, so be prepared. Go to their web site prior to making the call and learn something about them. This will give you a talk track to follow and make you able to come out with something more than, “My name is Bill and I sell X.”
What to Manage
If you had just two things to watch for in a sales person, make those two things where they have been and where they are going. By 5pm Friday, tell the sales people to provide a copy of their appointment schedule for the week past and a copy of their appointment schedule for the week ahead. Using this simple managing method CONSISTENTLY gives the sales person no place to hide. Gaping holes are exposed and this allows you to work your managerial magic.
When to Give Up
“Never give up! Never surrender!” However, there is a time when you want to throw in the towel in your pursuit of a prospect. After a while (my number is six attempts), prospecting becomes stalking. You do not want to risk angering the potential client. Make your last voice mail, “Listen, I hope I have demonstrated in my persistent efforts to reach you my strong desire to do business with you. I will, however, back off and try again at a later date. If you would like to reach me, my number is…”
We are sales people – not brain surgeons. Understand this and don’t take yourself so seriously in your prospecting efforts. In other words, don’t be afraid to just be yourself on the phone. Use humour in your letters. Leave a light-hearted voice mail message. Would you want to do business with a complete stiff?
Start reading now
It’s dangerous if you’re not reading. Change is a warning signal, and you need to learn about changes in your business. Any change is an opportunity for you or your competition. When staff or company needs change, salespeople need to respond quickly to ensure that their products continue to meet customer needs. Reading the newspaper is a source of knowledge about change. When you read the newspaper, you learn about changes in business that impact your customers’ businesses and then your own.
How else can you easily learn about mergers, strategic focus issues, competition, growth and failure to meet business objectives? Remember sales and business books, too. Even incorporating 15 minutes a day of additional reading will have a positive impact on your business knowledge and ultimately your business.
The Bigger Sin
Inconsistent prospecting is sinful regardless of your sales experience. You start. You stop. However, not following up on those prospects you have already started is far worse or letting too much time go between call attempts is far worse. Three weeks go by between contacts because you got busy and you expect the prospect not to notice? At the beginning of the relationship-building process, all you have is your word. If you leave a voice mail message that you will call again shortly, keep it. It’s not that consistently beginning on new set of prospects isn’t important, it is. But once you start, keep going.
Control what you can control
You cannot control the weather. You have no say in whether a prospect will let the call go to voice mail or avoid you altogether. But there are some things you can control, such as your readiness for the call in case the client DOES pick up, the tone of your voice, the number of times you contact someone, and the powerful statement you are about to make. Do your best to control what you can control and let the rest go.
Demand More, Get More
Are you pushing your veteran sales people enough? Sure, we expect a lot from the new sales people, but what about the experienced sales persons? The most difficult sales person to manage is the one who is satisfied with his or her income and has no desire to reach for a higher level. Regardless of the motivation method you use: carrot or whip, they respond only if they choose.
As a manager, are you demanding enough new business activity as you should? Note that I did not say, “suggest,” I said “demand.” Your veteran sales persons need established prospecting goals and then accountability in order to continue growing. It is good for them (they will lose ten percent of their business each year) and vital to the company. Stop coddling and start driving expectations.
Set sales call objectives for each sales call
You’re in trouble if it’s difficult to set call objectives for your sales calls. Your job is to bring value to your customers. Another greeting by a smiling face is not a source of value. Objectives that add value to your customers’ operations involve avoiding costs, reducing costs, or simplifying an operation for your customer. Planning before the sales call should include the steps to accomplish your objective. Having difficulty establishing your call objective is a clue that you might not be giving your customers a reason to do business with you.
Know the key decision makers at your accounts
It’s a bad sign if you don’t know the key decision makers at all your accounts. The economic decision maker reaches decisions based on cost. The technical decision maker decides based on specifications. The user makes decisions based on satisfaction with using your product. If you’re only calling on one decision maker, if you’re unfamiliar with all decision makers, or if you’re unaware of each of their concerns, the red light goes on. Pay attention when your contacts move on and are replaced by others.
You need to re-establish relationships with the new contact by identifying their key concerns and motivators. Forgetting to do the work to make a new contact loyal will leave you vulnerable to the past loyalties they’ve established with other suppliers.
Develop a systematic process for prioritizing your accounts
Your selling time should be given to your accounts based on their probability of buying, their importance to your sales goals, and their need to see you. You need to ask and answer, “When is this account likely to buy? Is this a strategic account because of location, a particular product or volume? Is this a significant problem that warrants my time now?” In all cases the answer will determine what you should be doing and how much time you spend with each account. In all cases determine that your customer’s needs are met with your lowest cost solution.
If a phone call will work, why make a sales call? All customer contacts should be made after you identify your sales priorities and determine appropriate levels of service according to those priorities.
Do you find yourself saying what you would have, should have or could have done after you fix a problem? This is a sign that you ignored a danger signal. It’s so much easier to avoid a sales problem than to fix it. When you hear yourself saying, “If only I had called on that new project engineer earlier I wouldn’t have lost the account” it’s time to start looking at your other business. You’re probably missing some warning signs there, too.
In our nervous haste to leave a voice mail message, we often times speak so quickly that the client cannot understand a thing we say. Answering machines and voice mail are usually always digital, making the playback sound tinny to begin with. Slow down! Speak slowly and clearly, especially when you are reciting your phone number.
Buy Morning Tea
As an account manager, consider buying morning tea for your best clients every couple of months. Food always tastes better when someone else pays for it.
Surround yourself with good people
As a manager or sales person, you need advisors. No one is expected to be an authority on everything. So, you’d be well advised to form a team of people around you who have their own particular specialty. Find someone who makes you laugh, someone who keeps you loose, someone who knows about accounting, a marketing guru, a sales expert, etc. As time goes on, lean on them for a new perspective, support, advice, or motivation.
Are we getting too soft on our sales people? Often times I sense fear in a manager’s voice. They are afraid to push their sales people, especially the veteran players. There is a sense that the sales person might leave and take his/her sales volume with him/her. Sales people at all levels need expectations and goals, followed by accountability and consequences not only in order to grow but also to stay satisfied in their job. Give a busy person more to do and they will find a way to get it done.
Push the underachiever hard and they will either rise to the challenge or quit because of it. Stay soft as a manager and you will be the one at the disadvantage.
We all complain about Time Management and constantly strive to work on getting more done in less time. However, one of the biggest time wasters occurs because we are doing things at the wrong time. Most emails do NOT have to be answered the second they are received. Many phone calls are made in prime selling time, rather than from the road. Learn to “slot” projects accordingly. For example, if you know you have an hour’s drive coming up tomorrow, how can you fill that hour with “level 2” phone calls (people who do not need a call right now but still need to hear from you).
Keep the entire week’s activities in mind when you are making out your to do list. Make the most of your selling time and still get those little chores done. The key is ask, “What is the urgency of this call/project and when best to get it done?”
As a manager, you are expected to have many skills. But you do not need to be an expert in every field. Make it an ongoing task to develop contacts in many different areas: finance, HR, motivation, compensation, training, etc. Surround yourself with good people and then rely on them to fill in the areas where you need help.
Research Your Customers
I talk a lot about the need to research your prospects before you call them, but what about your customers? Have you visited their web site? Do you understand their challenges? You would if you spent some time with a mouse and an Internet connection. There is information available that even some of the employees don’t know about. Read the annual sales report and take special note of the CEO’s words. They provide insight into the company’s direction. Opportunities to get involved with new projects are right before you. Take advantage.
Do the Unexpected
Keep a pad of paper and envelopes handy at all times. Jot personal notes of encouragement, thanks, birthday congratulations, praise or recognition whenever needed to customers, fellow sales people, prospects, even bosses. There is nothing like an unexpected letter and no one handwrites anymore - everyone remembers the big dates. Be the one who remembers the little one.
Friday is My Day
Make extra prospecting calls on Fridays. It is the quietest phone day of the week and the one where you are most likely to get noticed. Business owners everywhere tell me their phones are the least busy on Fridays. That is your clue to make a call or two or ten.
Don’t Mess With the Streak
Some days, sales people get in the zone. Everyone you call picks up the phone. Orders come in. Referrals flow your way. If you are hot, keep going. Keep making calls. Pull out the names of people whom you haven’t been able to reach and call them. There is no rhyme or reason for it. It just is. Don’t question it. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t mess with the streak.
Is Your Sales person Doing the Job?
Most managers would answer, “Yes” only if their sales volume were up to the expected level. But that is only the first of four criteria. Sure, that’s the MOST important, but it is not the one and only. After all, would you fire a sales person that is on quota? If volume is not there, look for sales activity. All sales activities can be measured. That is the blessing and the curse of sales. If the selling activities are being done correctly and in quantity, the sales volume will sure follow. Would you fire a sales person that is busting his tail making calls, even if the sales weren’t coming? But if the volume is not there and the activity level is low, look to sales skills.
Surely, you wouldn’t fire a sales person that has the tools. Good sales persons can talk themselves into a good job and deserve the chance to back it up, at least for a while. Finally, if nothing else is going their way, look to desire. How could you fire a sales person that wants it bad? Now, if the volume, activity level, skills, and desire are all missing and you are still willing to keep them on staff, fax me an employment application. I want to work for you!
Don’t Lose Touch
Get into the habit of calling all existing customers periodically, even if it is just to leave a voice mail and say hello. No matter how much or little they buy now, people have a tendency of moving from job to job. You just never know when someone has an unspoken need. It is good business to stay in touch.