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!!!

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!!

Ten Ways to Make Cold Calling Easy

Hi Readers,

This blog is a natural follow up to the blog that I posted yesterday which drew numerous visits…thanks for your continued interest and for the shares.

Yesterday I spoke of the ways to conquer your fear of cold calling https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/how-to-conquer-fear-of-cold-calling/

In this post I would like to touch upon the topic of ways to make cold calling easy and also FUN!! Yes Cold calling can be real fun and can help you break the monotony of your daily routine!! Dont believe me , then read on….

Many sales professionals dread cold calling, and that included me when I had just come on board as a sales rep with J&J in 1992.

And that dread, unfortunately, makes them ineffective when they pick up the phone to make the calls. If you’re not careful, you can end up in a cycle, where your fear of cold calling creates more failure, making you hate it even more.

It needn’t be that way. Fear (or hate) of cold calling is a very solvable problem,

The following according to me , are the suggested ten best ways to overcome the fear of cold calling…

  1. Make some phone calls. The fear that you’re creating for yourself is far worse than the reality of cold calling so overcome fear by doing.
  2. Make a lot of phone calls. The more calls you make, the more success you will have and the less you’ll notice the ones that don’t work out.
  3. Prepare. Know the goal, what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to represent yourself, your company, and your offering.
  4. Practice. Practice your cold calling conversation out loud and role-play with friends or colleagues. Then focus on your prospect rather than your fear.
  5. Start easy. Begin with your less important leads. Once you feel more comfortable, start working on the more important leads.
  6. Stay calm. If a prospect is rude, remember that they’re probably just be having a bad day and then move on. Don’t take it personal.
  7. Don’t project. Your priorities and your prospect’s priorities are different. Don’t read negative meaning into early conversations with your prospect.
  8. Keep your perspective. Some things are out of your control. But what is within your control is continuing to prospect and continuing to make calls.
  9. Make it a Game. Give yourself 1 point for every “no” answer, when you reach 100, give yourself a prize. (If a prospect says “yes,” that’s a bonus!)
  10. Have fun. The fate of the world does not rest on you and your telephone, so loosen up and be creative.

 

How to Conquer Fear of Cold Calling

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical. Been travelling all over the place to deliver to folks who have retained my services as a consultant.

Well…. recently traveled to a client in Mumbai and he asked me to do a workshop for him for his sales team. As is my practice, I began with personal interviews with the sales team members and realized by the end of the day that the highest common factor ( remember our 2nd grade math!) that impedes their performance was FEAR OF COLD CALLING!

That set me thinking and I began to analyze first the reasons for this underlying fear…and my assessment revealed the following

  • Fear #1: Fear of Sounding Stupid. You’re afraid that once you have a target in your sights , and you are able to muster enough courage to just walk up to his door without an appointment,you will stumble and be turned away from his door by his secretary.  This is not a fear of “rejection”; this fear comes from not having mastered the skill of converting a conversation into an appointment over a telephone call.
  • Fear #2: Fear of Wasted Effort. You’re afraid that you’re not “working” the target correctly; that you are in a random pursuit.  A call here, a call there; leave this voicemail; craft an email, etc., etc. . You’re flailing and you fear your results will correspondingly flail and your efforts will be ineffective.
  • Fear #3: Fear of Lousy Process. You have the same hesitation and take the same deep breath you would take before starting to put clothes on the drying line in fierce a wind storm. Experience says that, even if you’re successful in getting the appointment, there is no efficient way to develop and close the deal.

Post this assessment, my question was- now we know the fears, so now what?

So I came up with a simple 3 point program to help address the fears mentioned and identified above – and these tips are

  • Step #1: Develop Your Skills. Either through available training or available written material work to improve the ability to control the flow of the conversation, to handle pushback’s and to secure an agreement to meet.  You must learn how to deftly and professionally handle the predictable negative responses to a request for an appointment and still secure an appointment.  As a result, you’ll feel the confidence that comes from being able to control the conversation.

Step #2: Adopt a Sales Methodology. Find (or create) a written methodology that sets in place the specific pursuit of any group of suspects, including how many times to call, the frequency of those calls and the messaging used in voicemails, emails, and/or videos. Developing the “Best Practice” model will eliminate the feeling of flailing or being caught up in a random pursuit going nowhere

Step #3: Measure and Adapt. Either manually or with available technology develop a way to execute your best practice and training in a way that enables you to track the pursuit of targets very precisely and in the most efficient way. By tracking activity you will gain control and give purpose to your telephone activity. You can begin to determine how many initial appointments you need to make quota, how many conversations you need to get those appointments, how many calls you need to make that conversation goal.

P.S- Marketing has a crucial role to play in ensuring their sales team members are empowered through various devices ( training, sales playbooks, technology, tools etc) and have the confidence to go out there and get their business and makes their quotas!!

Hope this helps my brothers in the sales teams across the world!!

Hi readers,

When I started my career in 1992, I was introduced to the power of the sales pitch by my mentors who came from the old school. At that time, the sales pitch was king.

The sales pitch had to be perfected to a point that you knew that pitch by heart, and that was THE critical element of hooking the client.

Well, circa 2012, and Solutions marketing is fast gaining over traditional marketing and with that , sales strategy is evolving.

Today, successful sales reps know that, far from being a “sales pitch,” every customer meeting is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to engage with the customer with a long term perspective.

there are 3 simple rules that the sales rep of today can follow in order to evolve from a slick , fast talking, fast thinking sales pro, to a more strategic thinking, solutions oriented, business partner to his customer.

  • RULE #1: Always seek the truth.  You want to find out if you really have something that can help the customer.  To do this, the meeting must be a quest to discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Quick tip: your customer knows that you’re telling the truth when you’re not afraid to say something negative (but true) about your product or company.
  • RULE #2: Always keep an open mind. When you walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your product or service, the customer will sense you’re close-minded and become close-minded in return.  If, by contrast, you’re open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, the customer will sense that you’ve got his or her best interests at heart and will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
  • RULE #3: Always have a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a mere sales call.  This means that you should be listening to the customer at least half of the time that’s spent at the meeting.  Furthermore, the dialog should be substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or chit-chat about sports.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Sales Teams

Hi Readers,

New of impending fiscal cliff in the US, continued bad numbers from the Eurozone, Worst GDP numbers from India in a decade do not make our work in sales any easier than yesterday.

Selling is hard work, but it’s even more difficult when the sales team starts exhibiting dysfunctional behavior in the face of serious challenges from the economy, clients and competition!

In times of crises like this, Sales reps and sales teams exhibit behavior that I jocularly refer to as “sins”! And I am giving away advice free to those who care to read and listen on how to cope with this bad behavior!!

  1. OVERCONFIDENCE. When everyone wants to make big numbers, there’s a tendency to sell too much, too quickly.Solution: Before closing, always make certain that the customer really needs your offering and that your firm has the resources to deliver promptly. Key take away– measure your selling pace, and DONT Push the sale; it will rebound on you and your client will vanish from your Rolodex!
  2. GRANDIOSITY. If you’ve got a terrific offering, it’s all too easy to pretend that it’s a panacea. While some products do arguably “change the world” they’re few and far between. Solution: Focus on helping the customer, rather than converting them to a “product” religion. Key take away– Leverage your EQ, keep a balanced approach to sales, look at the long term and sell a “solution” as opposed to a “great product”
  3. HUBRIS. Sales professionals know what worked in the past, but the memory of past success blind the team to changing customer requirements. Solution: Become obsessed with customer satisfaction and measure it through an objective customer survey.Key take away– DONT delve in the past, that is history; learn to learn new skills everyday, absorb the changes around you, adapt your self according to the change and display dexterity in making your offer to your clients.
  4. DEHUMANIZATION. Sales technology is great, but if it becomes too pervasive it can hinder the person-to-person interaction that is the core of relationship building. Solution: Use technology sparingly and use face-to-face communication for key customer meetings. Key take away– Remember, the product or the service does not a sale make, YOU DO!
  5. OVERWHELM. During times of change, there’s a tendency demand more from everybody on the team, and management may pile on extra offerings, making it difficult for keep abreast. Solution: Stay focused on what the customers are buying today. Key take away– KISS, Keep it simple and sweet! Always works,…….
  6. STOVEPIPING. In every company there is a tendency for sales to view itself as the only group that’s really important; meanwhile, other groups start viewing the sales team as arrogant. Solution: Get other groups involved in the sales process by inviting them to meetings with key customers. Key take away– Humility is a life long mistress for the successful sales star and a future leader. Collaborate with your internal teams that support you in your efforts to get your quotas, share accolades with them and give them their due for their unstinting support to you.
  7. STRESS. Sales is, by nature, a stressful activity. If a sales team isn’t careful, it can end up creating a sales culture where stress becomes habitual, like a drug. Solution: Make humor and laughter an integral part of your personal sales process. Key take away– De-stress over a round of golf, do Yoga, meditate, shake a leg….get a life beyond your quotas, commissions and job!!

 

Dont be a sinner, become a SAINT!!!

The 7 Myths of Selling to Smaller Firms

Hi readers,

Forget G-15, Forget OECD countries, Forget the mature, developed economies of the Western Hemisphere, the future belongs to the newbie emerging economies.

The BRICS and MINT are the way to go!!

BRICS- Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa/ MINT- Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey

Do you know what is largely driving these economies even in these trying times?

An entrepreneurial spirited, and driven, SMB segment! Yes, these economies are largely fueled by small and medium firms that are driven by first generation entrepreneurs,  often betting their own financial resources to chase their dreams…

The SMB segment is fast emerging as a focus for major B2B focused businesses across the globe.

B2B businesses who wish to successfully convert SMB clients often find it challenging to generate traction and business in this fast growing segment and for lack of a comprehensive understanding of this segment, and its long term business implication in their business eco-systems and respective economies, they often lose out.

Sales reps who have had qualified successes while working with larger firms , often use myths to justify their lack of success in the SMB segment and thats where they need to revisit their sales process when working with SMB clients..

Selling for an SMB can be challenging, especially if you’re used to working for a larger firm.  There’s usually not much in the way of sales support, and people often end up doing multiple jobs. All of that is manageable, however, providing you have the right attitude about your job.  This RIGHT ATTITUDE is best explained by mentioning the 7 myths that hinder your sale to the SMB client, and what you need to do to redress this and succeed!!

  • Myth #1: Prospects won’t buy from us because they’ve never heard of us.
  • Truth #1: It’s an advantage when prospects lack negative preconceptions.

 

  • Myth #2: Prospects won’t buy because we’re new in the business.
  • Truth #2: Prospects are always interested in something new and different.

 

  • Myth #3: We can’t compete because we’re only a tiny handful of people.
  • Truth #3: It’s an advantage not to have a bureaucracy to weigh us down.

 

  • Myth #4: Customers won’t buy because our product is new in the market.
  • Truth #4: In today’s world, true innovation is (almost literally) priceless.

 

  • Myth #5: An enterprise CEO can’t possibly be interested in speaking with us.
  • Truth #5: It’s in a CEO’s best interest to learn what we’ve got to offer.

 

  • Myth #6: Prospects are asking us to do a lot of work to get their business.
  • Truth #6: We have the right to ask for major concessions in return.

 

  • Myth #7: Big companies have more resources, so they’re likely to win.
  • Truth #7: Big companies frequently bite off way more than they can chew.

Lets get us some SMB business now!!