Better Questions = Faster Selling

Hi readers,

This blog is a natural fit after my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-10-best-questions-to-warm-up-a-cold-prospect/

After you have suitably warmed a suspect to a prospect, what sort of smart questions do you need to ask such that your sales cycle is reduced and you are able to close a deal at the earliest, at the same time, creating client delight.

I figured that an appropriate example would be just the right thing to explain a suitable line of action that could get you your desired result.

Questions serve three functions in a sales conversation. First, they elicit more information about the prospect, thereby allowing you to learn more about how (and if) you can help. Second, they move the conversation forward, so that you can continue to ask more questions, and learn even more. Third, they help build rapport with the prospect so that you can more easily move the entire sale forward.

With that in mind, the absolute worst kind of questions to ask are those that have a one word , monosyllabic answer. Example:

Sales Rep: What CRM vendor are you currently using?

Prospect: Oracle.

While the above question does elicit information, it does not move the conversation forward. Making the question open-ended does both. Example:

Sales Rep: What was your decision-making process when you selected a CRM vendor?

Prospect: We put together a cross-functional team which looked at different vendors. We decided that Oracle would be the best choice for us.

Sales Rep: What were the most important criteria for the decision-making?

While the above question both elicits information and keeps the conversation moving forward, it would be even more effective if it also helped build rapport with the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say. Example:

Sales Rep: The economy is tough but I’ve read that your company plans to use sales technology to help weather the tough times. How did your team come up with that plan?

Prospect: Well, we’ve been through some similar situations in the past and, when we got early warning that sales might drop…

In the above question, the prospect has essentially been given the permission to brag about his firm and his participation in helping his firm be successful. Since people like talking about themselves and their achievements, the prospect will probably warm to the subject, and the entire conversation will be more productive. And that, in turn, will make the sales cycle faster.

Personally , an eclectic mix of open ended and close ended questions worked best for me during my roles as a solutions sales specialist.

Based on the vertical that you are engaged in and the product or service that you sell, ideally a set of 10 , a mix of open ended as well as close ended questions work best to help you close your sale with your client, and leaving the client feeling that in you he has a friend and consultant for life!!

Happy selling!!

Steps to qualify your sales leads

Hi readers,

The process of sales involves turning “suspects” ( maybe he could be my client), to prospects ( aha!….I think he would buy from me if I could convince him)…to eventually , clients (YES! he bought from me …wooohoooo!!!)

BUT…in order to actually maximize your productivity, the star sales man has to learn the art of pre-qualifying the list of “prospects” as actual, warm, or hot leads…and thats an eclectic mix of art and science.

I have elucidated some steps that I think assist the sales rep to pre-qualify a prospect and to close the sale…

STEP 1. Define your target industries. Based upon your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out which industries have both the greatest need for your offering as well as the money to purchase your offering. Limit your target to one or two industries at most. Now go through the generic list and scratch out everyone who isn’t in one of those target industries.

STEP 2. Define your target job titles. Within each industry there are “natural” buyers who either purchase offerings similar to yours or greatly influence such purchases. Based on your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out the two or three specific titles that this natural buyer usually has within your target industry. Now go through the edited list from Step 1 and scratch out every remaining prospect that doesn’t have one of those two or three job titles.

STEP 3: Craft a targeted message. Based upon what you know about that natural buyer in your target industries, create a compelling message. You want a message that identifies the problem that keeps the prospect awake at night and which your offering helps to solve. The most effective messages have a high emotional content. For example- if you are selling  a video software service to a client using SMS to broadcast his marketing message, instead of saying that you are the best thing that happened after you-tube you may want to consider…” Would you consider a video software, that could compress a personal video message of upto a minute to a size that could be sent across to all your friends and business associates as a film clip, either through the SMS service or as an email?”

STEP 4: Reality-check the list and the message. At random, call four or five of the prospects on your edited list. Do not attempt to make a sale at this time. Explain that you’re trying to understand how to sell into the prospect’s industry. Ask them to confirm that the targeted individuals inside the targeted industries are actually the people you should be calling and that the message will prove effective. If there’s a disconnect, re-examine your assumptions and return to Step 1.

STEP 5: Help Marketing create better lists in the future. Make your cold calls. If you find (as you probably will) that pre-qualifying your cold calls results in a higher number of average sales per call, save yourself some time and trouble in the future. Ask Marketing to purchase or generate prospect lists that fit the demographic of your proven target. Warning: when the marketing group sees what you’ve done, they’ll probably want you to come work for them!

Happy qualifying and closing!!!

The 10 best questions to warm up a cold prospect

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical from my blogs…been busy on-boarding in my new avatar as Vice President Business Development of a great technology startup that will disrupt the social media space in the remote , rural , under-served, economically deprived, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets. The company I speak of is called GramVaani media (http://www.gramvaani.org/)

All this while I have addressed a distinguished gathering at the Rockefeller foundation‘s , Rock Talk event, and participated at the RMAI round table.

During all this, I have had the opportunity to engage with a group of very bright, young women who are raring to have a go at key account management and sales with a great new  platform that is poised to disrupt the wedding services space in India.

They posed a very good question to me- what would be set of some basic key questions that could warm up a cold prospect in the first meeting, agnostic to the vertical or the profile of the prospect (client). And I started to think on this and came up with this list that I believe would serve many who have the same question bothering them.

here goes…

  1. What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
  2. What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
  3. What don’t you like about your current situation?
  4. What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
  5. Have you spoken to other solution providers to address your current specific challenge?
  6. What can you tell me about your priorities and your options?
  7. What obstacles are there in the way of this initiative moving forward?
  8. What will be your criterion of evaluating different options if at all?
  9. How much have your budgeted for this proposal/project?
  10. When do you wish to start?

Try these questions with a cold prospect and write back to me with your inputs and comments…

more than happy to ideate with you !

Happy reading

How To Make a Flawless Cold Call- PART 2

Hi winners!

This is part 2 of my blog titled- How To Make a Flawless Cold Call

This part will cover points 4 through 6 and complete the series for you.

I hope that the points that I have raised have helped you make some quick notes and create a personal playbook that you can refer to, wherever you may be, which part of the world you may be working today and in the future!!

These points sure helped me succeed in India and Africa…so the logic is, if they worked in these 2 very tough markets, it should be a cinch in the mature markets of the US and Europe ….right??!!

So here goes….

STEP #4: SCHEDULE THE RIGHT TIME

You’ll never get the cold calling done unless you schedule a regular time each week to make the calls.  The trick here is scheduling your cold calling at the times when prospects are most likely to agree to a future meeting and thus become a potential customer.

The “right time” varies according to whether you’re working from a static list (like one built from the search of a database) or working on leads being fed to you from a web site where potential prospects are constantly coming and going.

If you’re working from a list, the best day to call is Thursday while the worst day to call is Friday.  In addition, the best times to call are 8am to 9am and 4pm to 5pm, while the worst time to call is 1pm to 2pm.

If you’re working from a website feed, the best time to call is within 5 minutes from the time that the potential prospect was viewing your website.  Turns out you are 4 times more likely to successfully qualify a lead if you call within 5 minutes than if you call between 5 and 10 minutes. And you are 21 times more likely to qualify a lead if you call within 5 minutes than if you wait for 30 minutes.

STEP #5: GET THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Most of your success in cold calling will depend not upon your product or the quality of your leads, but on your attitude as you approach the cold-calling process. Here are five tips to help you achieve the best attitude for this part of your job:

Use a headset, not a handset. You want both hands free so that you can talk as if you’re talking in person.

Sit up straight and smile. If you’re slumped and frowning, the prospect will “sense” it, even from a distance.

Visualize success. Think of a time when you won a big sale. Put your mind and memory and emotions in that place.

Practice your script. Practice what to say if you reach a gatekeeper and what to say if you reach a decision-maker.

Lay aside your sales goals. These get in the way if you focus too much on them. It’s about the customer, not about you.

STEP #6: MAKE THE CALLS

You are now ready to make your cold calls.  Remember, cold calling is a process of disqualifying leads, not finding prospects for your pipeline

This is a VERY important point. As my boss often pointed out to me, “cold calling” is a “discarding” or “disqualifying” process, like panning for gold or digging for diamonds. You have to turn over a lot of dirt before you find the gems.

If you fail to get this, you’re destined to get frustrated. So, rather than trying to get as many leads as possible into the pipeline, use the cold calling process to avoid wasting time and effort on people who will never buy.

Because of this, you must make a point to make every cold call into a “win.”  It’s a BIG WIN every time you can scratch a “lead” off your list, because that means you’re not going to be chasing wild geese around mulberry bushes.

 

Hope you liked my posts….keep writing and keep connected!

How To Make a Flawless Cold Call- PART 1

Hi confident cold callers!!

I bet I got your confidence up by many a notch after the last 2 blogs on the subject of cold calling jitters and how to win!

So I thought that it is now the right time to discuss some key steps that will help you make flawless cold calls and deliver results!!

I have a total of 6 points to discuss with you and I shall do that in 2 parts- THIS IS PART 1, which will cover the first 3 points..

STEP #1: TARGET REAL OPPORTUNITIES

 

If you’re going to cold call, you need to target people who are likely to buy.

There are many ways to get lists of leads, but typically you’ll either get them from your marketing group or you’ll have access to an online service that allows you to pull potential prospects off the web.

The challenge is winnowing down that list to the prospects who are most likely to buy.  There are three general criteria that are always important:

  • Target Industries. Based upon your experience (and that of your colleagues), figure out which industries have both the greatest need for your offering as well as the money to purchase your offering. You should limit your target to one or two industries at most.
  • Target Job Titles. Within each industry there are “natural” buyers who either purchase offerings similar to yours or greatly influence such purchases. Based on your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out the two or three specific titles that this natural buyer usually has within your target industry.
  • Trigger Events. For most products (especially B2B) there are key events that signal a likelihood to buy.  For example, if you sell services to help companies integrate normally-incompatible computer systems, a corporate merger or acquisition will usually open up a sales opportunity. Other trigger events are job changes, reorganizations, big sales wins in the prospect’s firm, etc

STEP #2: CREATE A WINNING SCRIPT

An effective cold calling script has the following characteristics:

  • It is about 30-45 seconds long.
  • It includes absolutely no small talk.
  • It delivers a specific, compelling reason for the prospect to want to continue the conversation.
  • It uncovers a problem in their business that you can help them fix.

If the prospect (not you) identifies something that is having negative ramifications on their business (a problem) AND they are serious about getting rid of that problem, then you “may” have a possible reason to continue.  If so, you can set an appointment to explore the possibilities of helping that prospect in some way get rid of that problem.

An effective cold calling script has the following structure:

  • Tell them your name and company
  • Ask permission for 45 seconds and tell them they can end the conversation after that if they want to.
  • Get right to the point
  • Help then identify their business problems by offering a short “menu”

STEP #3: PRACTICE YOUR TECHNIQUE

Many sales reps “sound like” sales reps — and that can be a big impediment to making the sale.  If you’re selling to decision-makers, you need to sound like a decision-maker, not a sales rep.  Every time you sound “like a salesman,” you’re communicating that you’re only there to sell and your credibility flies out the window.

So how did you find these points?? Write back to me , comment on this blog and wait for PART 2!!

Getting excited about Cold Calls!

Hi “cold feet Claude”

Is cold calling getting the better of you lately?

Is , trying to sell a product or service to an unknown and unqualified prospect getting to be so confronting that it freezes you  into a state of inaction? Are you daunted and stopped dead in your tracks at the prospect of making cold calls?

Well , Claude, you are not alone, and I have been there!!

Sadly, as the need for cold calling frequently accompanies the launch of a new business, or the launch of a new offering, such inaction

(caused due to numerous reasons)  can have dire consequences for your personally and definitely for the business.

Let’s try to fix it by looking at what actually causes our dislike and then introduce some new strategies- shall we?

  • Not surprisingly, the biggest reaction that’s generated by cold calling is the fear of failure. We know the incidence of sale is extremely low; we know the chances of even getting to the decision-maker are slim; is it therefore any wonder we are fearful of failure?
  • Running a close second, is the fear of rejection. No one likes to be rejected at the best of times and less so when the rejection is at best, abrupt and at times, downright rude.
  • The third fear is that of giving offence. It’s natural we don’t want to be seen as a nuisance — after all, this is not the atmosphere we look to foster with a potential customer.

So, we know cold calling has a low success rate; we know it generates fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of offending. How can we combat this and move forward with any degree of positive action?

I reckon the answer lies in our measurements of success.

Imagine you set yourself the goal of making twenty-five cold calls to set up meetings to promote your business.

Now let’s assume that twenty-three of the calls are met with either rejection or total failure to connect with a decision-maker.

In this scenario, the chances are you’d be feeling pretty miserable. You might feel like you’ve failed in twenty-three out of twenty-five of the calls. And you’d be right.

Imagine instead, you had approached the exercise with this goal:

‘To attract people who are genuinely interested in hearing about my work’

By choosing your language carefully and not linking your goal to a finite number of calls or sales, it is possible to switch the emphasis away from the fears of what may be coming (failure, rejection, offence) and more towards your sense of what you’re actually hearing.

By listening out for those ‘who are genuinely interested’ it is possible to quickly disqualify anyone appearing unsuitable or disinterested. Through these means, you’ll move more quickly to the next call and with a greater sense of purpose. What’s more, you’ll do so without being rendered inactive through fear.

Too easy? Try it and you’ll see why successful telesales people are able to make call after call, seemingly totally unfazed by any of the classic fears.

Confession– This piece is motivated by a patch in my life as a sales professional when I went through this rut myself and it was a friend of mine who worked in a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firm who put me through the paces and taught me how to overcome my fears on cold calling.

This piece also helps young sales reps to understand how to qualify a serious lead through the process of cold calling, which is very important!