I just received at least the 10th email this week from a different sales rep trying to sell me prospect leads – and its Tuesday. Now as a sales professional, trainer, and coach, I tend to probably be at the same time more critical and more sympathetic to sales reps trying to do their job. I’m critical in that I dissect their message and approach more than most. But I also feel sorry for many of them because I can tell by their email that they are either new, untrained, or misguided. And when I talk to sales reps about their sales activities, most sheepishly admit that they know what they are doing isn’t working, but just don’t know what else to do. Unfortunately many of the sales activities that we utilize cause more harm than good, labeling us as “salesy” and irritating the prospect.
Sales is a process. And like any other process, it is only as good as its weakest step. If you are great with one or two steps of the process but weak in others, you will still struggle. But if you focus on improving in each area, you will exponentially improve your sales results. Here are the 5 critical sales steps and how to improve.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the key to more effective cold calling is to warm them up by providing compelling, valuable information prior to your first call. One of the best ways to do this is by sending a personalized, well-written email. But where do you get the person’s email address? There are actually a variety of ways, but it does take a little digging and sometimes a little guesswork. Here are 5 ways that you can uncover your prospect’s email:
We are always looking for that silver bullet – that one thing that will get us in the prospect’s door and close the deal. Or better yet, that will have the prospect beating down our door. Well I won’t go so far to say that I have the silver bullet. But I can tell you with a high level of confidence, and proof, the single best way to differentiate yourself in the eyes of your prospects is through Public Speaking.
There are currently no less than three reality shows on TV about finding Bigfoot, the elusive creature that falls somewhere in between humans and apes on the evolutionary chain. For decades people have sworn that they have seen, been attacked, hung out with, and dated them (ok, maybe not that last one). There have been grainy videos, out of focus photos, even plaster castings of their footprints. Yet no one has ever actually produced definitive proof of their existence.
That pretty much sounds like the One Call Close. The One Call Close conceptually is awesome. You make your very first cold call to a prospect, and walk away with legitimate, fillable orders. That sounds great! Unfortunately it almost never happens. I’ve worked with hundreds of sales people making literally millions of sales calls, and it has happened so infrequently I can’t actually think of a single specific example. (By the way, skill marketing is different, and can be an effective way to close business more quickly. See my previous blog on Skill Marketing to learn how.)
The problem is that this myth is still so pervasive in staffing that it affects the way sales people approach the sales process. They treat the first phone call like a one-time event with a win or lose outcome. I either come away with an order (or at least an appointment), or I failed. Salespeople are trained and managed to close on the very first call, and so they come across as a pushy, phony sales person.
Have you ever played the card game War? This is the simplest of simple games, in that the 52 card deck is dealt out evenly between two participants, and the object is merely to flip over your cards, one by one, with the winner of each hand being the one with the higher card. There is no strategy, no skill, and no advantage that one competitor has over the other (unless one of you gets a chance to stack the deck).
How about Chess? This is essentially the opposite of War. It involves strategy, intellect, patience, and skill. A more advanced player has a significant advantage over a novice, and will consistently beat their opponent. The premise that the game is built on is that your very first move, and all subsequent moves, sets you up for future ones. It’s all about positioning yourself early and often so it is easier to win later on.
Cold calling is about the least efficient way of selling, and its only getting worse. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, a 2013 study by Connect and Sell analyzed over a million cold calls and found that the ratio of voice mails to live connects is now 22 to 1. My experience coaching and training hundreds of sales reps supports this number.
Why is this ratio so high (and climbing)? Well there are two main reasons, and both revolve around technology. The first and most obvious reason is that everyone has caller ID now, and they are just choosing not to pick up. The other reason is the proliferation of ways people communicate, from office phone, to cell phone, text, email, social media, instant messaging, etc. People are overwhelmed by communication, and they have to find ways to filter much of it out. So, Mr. Cold Caller, you lose.
So what should you do? Well, if you’ve read my previous blogs, my first recommendation is to wean yourself off the cold call habit altogether. But that takes time, so in the meantime here are a few ways you can reduce that ratio and make your calling time more effective.