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Tom's Talent Blog

Bad News: Your Sales Rep Isn’t Very Good On The Phone. Good News: Here’s How They Can Be

Posted by Tom Erb on Oct 9, 2013 10:43:00 AM

VoicemailAs a former sales person, sales leader, and now sales consultant and trainer, I’m probably a little more critical than some when it comes to sales reps calling on me. But I’m also more compassionate and always willing to give a sales person a chance to prove themselves.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of them fall flat on their face. I would estimate that 90-95% of the solicitations I receive from sales people are at best generic and at worst depressing. I’ve recently been bombarded with particularly bad sales approaches, whether it’s been through voice mails, live calls, emails, or LinkedIn messages. The one I just received this morning was so bad it has compelled me to write this blog (which is a good thing, because I needed to write it anyway). What was wrong with the call? A lot, which is in a way impressive since she was on and off the phone with me in just 27 seconds.

First, she called me on my cell phone. I’m fine with getting cold calls on my office phone, but for some reason it bugs me to get a cold call on my cell.

Second, she was less than friendly. It was obvious she didn’t want to be on the phone, and came across almost as if she was doing me a favor.

Third, she asked me if I received her company’s email from last week. In fact I had noticed the email, because they actually sent it to me twice and it looked like a scam. She didn’t ask me if I read it or had any questions about it, just did I get it. A live sales rep calling to make sure I got an email is an expensive method of email service quality control.

Then she jumped right in and asked if I had any interest in oil. When I said no, she hung up. No further details, no additional questions, just a dial tone.

Now you might say that’s an extreme example, but I can assure you its not. The overwhelming majority of sales rep calls are, well, underwhelming. Here are 5 common mistakes your sales reps could be making today.

1. They have no idea what they are going to say when they get on the phone. Sales reps tend to be averse to scripts because they don’t want to sound rehearsed, so instead they sound like they don’t even know what their company does.

2. Their message is generic. I’ve talked with hundreds of sales reps in the industry and 99% of them have the same message, which is a variation of “just calling to see if you use temps!”

3. They don’t generate any interest. The only reason a prospect would consider calling a sales rep back is because they left a compelling reason that could satisfy a need or want. Just asking me to call you back because you asked isn’t really realistic, and in reality it’s awful presumptuous.

4. It’s all about them. Just this week I had a voice mail from a sales rep I had never heard from before who said “I need you to call me back”. Well I’m sure you do, but I don’t need to call you back. Too many times sales people focus on all the reasons why a conversation or meeting would be great for them, rather than focus on how it would benefit the prospect.

They give up after one or two calls. I would say I rarely get a third call from a sales rep, but the term “rarely” would be too generous. In all of my years being on the receiving end of cold calls, I can remember just one person that tried to reach me more than 3 times. Just one! And yet there are multiple studies that have shown that the overwhelming majority of sales aren’t made until after the 5th call, and many aren’t closed until the 12th call or more. It’s like running 20 yards of a hundred yard dash and wondering why you never win a race.

There is some great news in all of this – your competitors’ sales reps are making the same mistakes. So with just a few adjustments in approach, your sales team can quickly differentiate itself. Here’s three ways sales reps can dramatically improve their results:

1. Provide value for the prospect in your message. Dangle an impossible to find candidate in front of them, demonstrate your expertise in their industry by giving an example of other successful engagements, relate your service to something specific going on in their organization (growth, project, etc). The key is to show them (quickly) how they can benefit from talking with you.

2. Keep following up. Many people won’t respond to you after the first contact even if they are interested in what you are selling. Create a follow up schedule that hits your prospect with different types of communications (phone, email, letter, newsletter). An easy schedule to follow is:
- Make the first contact, wait two days
- Make the second contact, wait three days
- Third contact, wait a week
- Fourth contact, wait two weeks
- Fifth contact, wait a month
- Sixth and future contacts, schedule quarterly at a minimum

The goal is to be “pleasantly persistent” and to make sure you finish the race.

3. Don’t ask for, or expect, a call back. The reality is that it’s not their job to call you back – it’s your job to get hold of them. Having them call you back is fantastic, but even with the most compelling voice mail message it’s unrealistic to expect callbacks on a regular basis. Instead of asking for them to call you, let them know that you will be calling them back on a specific day during a range of times. That way, when they see your number on caller ID they’ll be more likely to answer the phone. It's a great way to measure if your message is compelling enough, as an increase in live calls will indicate the effectiveness of your voice mails. A decrease means your message still needs work.

Contrary to what some say, sales isn’t just a numbers game. Sure, if your sales reps make enough bad or uninteresting calls they will ultimately connect with someone at just the right moment and make a sale. But having a compelling message that resonates with the prospect, and being persistent in contacting those prospects will result in more connects, more discussions, and ultimately more wins.

 

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Topics: Prospecting, Sales Activity