Ever wonder why prospects don’t respond to your voice mail message?
Lately, I have been listening to voice mail messages left by sales people and I have to say I’m not surprised why they don’t get return calls. Few, if any, of the messages were effective.
Here are three reasons why your prospects don’t call you back what you can do to get a different result.
Most of the voice mail messages I listened to were far too long. Some of them lasted more than a minute which is waaaaaaay too long.
Decision makers will delete a message in less than 10 seconds if they sense that it is not important. That means you need to capture their attention in a few scant seconds.
Most VMs focused on the seller’s company, product or service. This is the equivalent of showing up and throwing up. A more effective approach is to identify a problem the prospect may be facing and allude to a solution. Or, ask a question to stimulate their thinking.
No compelling reason
The VMs I heard failed to present a reason why their prospects should return their call.
Prospects are exceptionally busy which means they don’t have the time to return calls. Unless, of course, we give them a compelling reason to do so (see above point).
To get better results consider these three ideas…
1. Limit your voice message to less than 20 seconds, 30 seconds maximum.
2. Create a powerful and compelling value statement.
3. Ask a high-value question that relates to a potential problem they might be facing.
Although you won’t get a return call from all of your prospects, your call-back rate should improve if you change your approach.
Establishing credibility with new prospects is one of the most challenging aspects of B2B selling especially if you sell to C-level executives.
These individuals are inundated with calls and emails from dozens of sales people every single day. They have heard almost every opening line, sales pitch, objection rebuttal and line. Yet to get an appointment or meeting, it is essential to demonstrate your credibility.
Sure, you can try a smoke screen and manipulate their executive assistant to get them on the phone but I guarantee that won’t help you close a deal. In fact, you will quickly lose credibility and the opportunity to move that sales conversation forward.
Here is one little known secret you can use to immediately improve your credibility.
When you initially connect with a prospect on the telephone, chances are you don’t have their full attention. Speaking slower not only helps your prospect hear—and grasp—what you’re saying, it also shows control.
And this control improves your credibility.
Most people tend to increase their rate of speech when they get nervous. Even if you have made hundreds or thousands of cold calls, it’s not uncommon to accelerate your pace when you finally connect with someone. It’s human nature.
Resist that temptation.
Make a concerted effort. To. Slow. Down.
A slower pace gives you time to think. It helps your prospect process what you are saying. And, it increases your credibility.
Try it during your calls this week. You won’t be disappointed.
Contrary to popular belief, cold calling is still an effective strategy to generate new business leads. In fact, I know many companies who rely heavily on this activity to capture new sales.
Over the years I have read numerous books, listened to a variety of audio programs and even attended workshops and seminars on cold calling. What I have noticed is that very few people discuss how to deal with the real issue of cold calling.
It’s not just about overcoming your fear about making the calls, or creating an effective, attention-getting opening or connecting with the decision maker.
Believe it or not, those are the easy issues.
What’s difficult—especially at first—is figuring out the lay of the land, navigating the corporate hierarchy, and getting the information you need so you can effectively position your solution to your high-level prospect.
What most cold calling experts don’t tell you is that you need to invest a significant amount time making multiple calls to a company and speaking to a variety of people BEFORE you actually connect with your decision maker.
It’s not as easy as simply picking up the telephone and asking for the key person in charge.
It takes effort, focus, discipline and a significant amount of mental energy. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand this at first so they are often not prepared for the work that is required to make that connection. As a result, they get frustrated and start believing the myth that cold calling is a waste of time.
Cold calling is challenging. I will never dispute that. And, it’s still a numbers game; you have make lots of calls in order to get results. However, once you realize this you can approach the process with the understanding that each call will take you one step closer to your end goal.
After working with countless sales people in the last 17-plus years, I have noticed that many of them have a number of bad habits that they need to give up if they want to improve their results.
Here are 8 bad habits sales people need to give up if they want to improve their results.
1. Opening initial prospecting calls with “Hi how are you?” This is a lame opening that does little to establish your credibility. It is much more effective to immediately state the reason for your call rather than waste time with this opening.
2. Using too many filler words.
It surprises me how many filler words get used in a sales call or presentation. Words or phrases such as; you know, basically, okay?, as I mentioned/said, plus the inevitable um’s and uh’s. This type of communication detracts from your message and reduces your credibility.
3. Spending too much time trying to establish rapport.
Although it still important to develop rapport with prospects, your busy prospects have very little interest in spending five or ten minutes of their valuable time engaging in small talk. It is better to focus on the reason for your call/meeting; this is often more effective in establishing rapport with a busy executive.
4. Opening sales calls, demonstrations and presentations by talking about their company, their clients, their products, etc.
Regardless of how important you think this, your prospects don’t actually want to hear this type of information, at least not right away. What they really want to know if how you can help them solve a pressing business problem.
5. Talking about aspects of your company that have little or no relevance to your prospect or customer.
Many sales people—and their managers—feel compelled to discuss details about their company that simply bore their audience. For example, you may be a global leader in a particular industry but if prospect is a small regional company, your global presence probably doesn’t mean anything to them.
6. Chasing a lead that has little possibility of turning into a sale.
You only have a limited number of hours in a given day, week or month and spending them trying to close a deal when the other person lacks any buying interest or motivation is not the best use of your time.
7. Shooting from the hip. Practising your sales call, presentation or demonstration is not a glamorous activity. However, a few verbal rehearsals or run-throughs of an important presentation can mean the difference between “Let’s do it!” and “Thanks, we’ll think about it.”
8. Relying on closing a “whale”.
Every sales person wants to bag a whale. The big account that will ensure they meet their sales targets. While it’s a lofty target and one that every sales person should strive for, it is a mistake to rely solely on closing that big deal because it can lure you into a false sense of security. I have seen many big deals take a turn for the worse at the eleventh hour leaving the sales person empty handed at the end of the month or quarter.
Giving up these habits can be tough. After all, they’re habits. And habits develop…gradually… over time. However, if you want to achieve better results and increase your sales you need to work at giving up these bad habits.
One way to tackle this challenge is to focus on one habit at a time. Rather than attempt to eradicate every bad habit at once, which is a recipe for failure, it is much more effective to concentrate your efforts on eliminating a single habit.
One sales person I recently worked with needed to reduce his use of filler words during his online demonstrations. It sounded like an easy task but it took him almost 3 weeks of concentrated effort and constant reminders from his colleagues to improve his approach.
Good sales habits are important if you want to succeed in sales. However, it is equally important to give up your bad habits.
During the last 17 years I have heard hundreds of voice mail messages that sales people leave their prospects and I have read even more prospecting email messages.
When I talk to sales people I often ask them how many people get back to them. Unfortunately, it’s a VERY small number. Minute in fact.
The problem is that most sales people don’t think like business people.
They focus on their agenda which is selling something instead of changing their approach to demonstrate how they can help a prospect solve a problem. They leave messages that sound like every other sales person who calls.
One of my clients—a Vice President of a mid-size company—said, “This one sales person keeps calling and leaving me messages but as soon as I hear his name, I hit the delete button. And when he sends me an email, it goes directly into the junk folder.”
I seized the opportunity and asked my client what it would take for him to return a sales person’s call or respond to an email.
“He needs to give me a good reason. He needs to demonstrate that he actually knows something about my business and the problems I’m dealing with and that he might have a solution that I haven’t considered.”
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
It is and it isn’t.
If you want prospects to respond to your voice mails and emails you need to stand out from everyone else. You need to demonstrate that you have done some homework or research and that you know something about their business objectives.
A sales person I know recently sent an email to a senior executive. Prior to sending the email he did some research and he referenced that newfound knowledge in his email. In less than 24 hours received a response from that busy executive and he opened up a dialogue.
It’s not rocket science.
But it is a shift from the traditional “let me tell you about us” approach.
Show your prospect that you are worthy of speaking with them and they might return your call or respond to your email.
During a conversation last week with a colleague and friend, we discussed the difference of our intention versus our impression when speaking with new prospects.
Most sales people have good intentions when they make a cold call to a new prospect. Their goal is to open the call in a positive manner and to establish immediate rapport with their contact so they can move the conversation forward and get an appointment.
So, they start the dialogue with, “Hi, how are you today?”
In most cases, the prospect mutters something like, “Fine” and then asks how we are doing to which we reply with some personal information about how our day is going, what we did on the weekend, or some other extraneous or irrelevant information.
Unfortunately, this approach seldom gives the person we are calling the impression we intended.
You see, as soon as you utter the words, “Hi, how are you today?” your prospect automatically thinks “sales call” and they go on the defensive and start looking for ways to quickly end the call.
Your intention was good; however, the impression you created wasn’t positive.
It is much more effective to launch into the reason for your call instead of wasting your time with trivial conversation. Your prospects are busy. They don’t want to engage in meaningless conversation.
There are other situations when your intention was good but it didn’t make a positive impression including:
Giving your customer ALL the details about your product to ensure they had all the information they needed to make an educated buying decision.
Contacting your prospect too frequently without adding any form of value to the sales equation
Telling jokes or using humor to create a bond
Calling a customer to “check in” or “touch base”
I could go on but I trust you get the idea.
In today’s ultra-competitive business world, you need to make sure that your intention is making the desired impression with both new prospects and existing customers.
Yet without constant and consistent prospecting your pipeline will eventually dry up and so will your sales.
I was excited to read Weinberg’s book because I do not consider myself a good prospector.
Put me in front of someone who is interested in my services and my closing ratio is very high. But, put me in a room with a telephone book and telephone and I’ll sit there all day watching the ceiling.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Weinberg takes a very direct approach but his writing style is very conversational. As I read the book, it felt like he was sitting beside me offering his coaching experience.
Here is how simple he makes new business development…
1. Select targets
2. Create and deploy weapons
3. Plan and execute the attack
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that but Weinberg does take the mystery out of new business development and presents practical ideas that anyone can apply to improve their results efforts.
Selecting the right targets is critical and Weinberg suggests that many sales people are not effective in developing a workable list of prospects. And part of this can be attributed to the fact that they don’t take a strategic approach.
He offers ideas on how to target companies. These include starting with your existing customers, using the local business journal, online research platforms such as Hoovers, tapping into the power of LinkedIn, trade shows, conferences, and associations.
He outlines 20 different weapons you need to use if you want to succeed at developing new business and the one weapon he spends significant time discussing is the Sales Story.
Weinberg says, “A compelling, differentiating, client-focused story is a prerequisite for new business development sales success. It’s our best opportunity to set ourselves apart from the competition; to beautifully package our offering; to gain the prospect’s attention; and to position ourselves as experts, value creators, and problem solvers.”
He goes on to explain how to create a captivating and compelling sales story AND he provides several clear examples to use as a guideline.
Of course, what book on new business development would be complete without a chapter or two on cold calling? And Mike offers some excellent and practical advice to make your proactive calling more successful.
But wait! There’s more!
Weinberg continues and discusses exactly how to conduct a successful sales call. Of course, along the way he also provides some real-life examples to demonstrate how it’s done.
This is a book you’re going to read more than once.
Not because it’s well-written (it is) and not because Weinberg’s writing style is very conversational (it is).
You will read this book several times because it contains a wealth of practical advice that simply can’t be absorbed in one sitting.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post called, “How to Waste Your Time When Cold Calling.” It sparked some conversation and several people asked me what they CAN do to improve their cold calling efforts.
So, here are 9 things you can do that will help you achieve better results when making cold calls. Please note that this is for B2B sales situation and not mass calls in a business-to-consumer setting.
1. Target your cold calls
The first and most important way to succeed at cold calling is to use a targeted list. Flipping through the telephone book or picking up the telephone to dial for dollars is not an effective way to prospect via telephone.
People who achieve the best results use a carefully targeted list of companies who have used or need their product, service or solution. Ask any cold calling expert and they will tell you that the quality of your list with have a direct impact on your results.
2. Research before you cold call
Once you have a good list of companies to contact, you need to do a bit of research. This research will help you determine the best approach to take and how to capture your contact’s attention.
For example, as a sales trainer, if I learned that a company recently downsized their sales team, I would use this information to craft my opening.
3. Refine your cold call opening
Your opening needs to be short, concise and to the point while also demonstrating how your prospect might benefit from your offering.
If we use my example from the previous point, my opening might sound something like, “Mr. Jones, Kelley Robertson from Fearless Selling calling. I read in the national paper that you just laid-off one-third of your sales force. Our research has shown that companies often experience an immediate decline in morale when this happens and their sales suffer as a result. What’s your experience been so far?”
The key is to open quickly and keep your opening as short as possible…ideally no longer than 20-25 seconds at a slightly-slower-than-normal pace.
4. Avoid the pitch
If you noticed, I didn’t immediately launch into a pitch about my services or what I do. Instead, I gave my opening and followed it by a question.
Now, the chances are my prospect will ask, “What do you do?” or “Who are you?” or something similar before answering my question.
Don’t get tricked into talking about yourself yet!
Instead, give a brief reply and ask your question again.
“I specialize in helping companies keep their sales team motivated and up-to-date with the latest selling strategies. When I saw that you had downsized I thought it would be appropriate to contact you. How has your team’s morale been since the lay-offs?”
5. Speak slower during your cold call
Most of the sales people who call my office tend to speak to quickly and they also change their tone while calling.
When you slow down your pace you come across more natural and your tone will become more conversational. Plus, it makes it much easier for your prospect to understand you.
6. Engage them
One of the keys to cold calling is to engage people in a conversation and the most effective way to achieve that is to ask questions.
However, you need to lead into your questions and start with softer questions. You can’t open a conversation by asking, “So, what are the three biggest challenges you face right now?”
You need to demonstrate to your prospect that having a conversation with you will be worth their time.
7. “Send me information”
Many prospects will say, “Send me information” in an effort to end the call. However, before you agree to this, you need to ask at least one more question.
Sending generic information will not close a deal for you so I suggest that you say, “I’d be more than happy to send you information. What exactly do you need to see?”
8. Use a referral
It is much more effective to connect with a prospect if you both know someone in common. Whenever possible, use your existing network to connect with new prospects.
It’s all about the numbers
Regardless of how you slice or dice it, cold calling is a numbers game. Recognize that the majority of calls you make will NOT result in a sale.
9. Start cold calling immediately
Very few sales people enjoy cold calling so they procrastinate and work on other tasks.
However, it is much more effective to get started first thing in the morning because it creates momentum and gets the unpleasant task out of the way.
Set a goal of making a certain number of calls or booking a specific number of appointments and don’t quit until you achieve that goal. If you’re new at this, set small, attainable goals and gradually work your way towards larger, more challenging targets.
Cold calling is still an effective way to generate new sales leads and revenues. Use the ideas in this post to improve your results and stop wasting your time.
A few moments ago I received a call at my office from someone trying to sell me a solution for my call centre. As soon as I answered the call, the sales person asked for the person in charge of my call centre. Once I said that it was me, he launched into his pitch and he droned on for almost a full minute.
I normally hang up when I get calls like this but I waited until he was done before I asked, “Do you know how large my call centre is?”
“No, that’s why I’m calling.”
I couldn’t help but ask, “Why did you call me?”
After a brief pause he said, “I’m calling businesses in the area. We offer…” and he restated what he thought was his value proposition.
I was tempted to hang up immediately but I thought it would make a great blog post so I decided to continue the conversation.
“How many telephone stations are normally required for your solution?”
“At least 25” he replied.
“And how do you determine who to contact?” I asked.
“Well, uh, we have a list of local businesses in the area so we reach out to them.”
“Uh-huh” I said. “How do you know if these businesses actually have a call centre?”
A tone of exasperation crept into the caller’s voice as he said, “Like I said we’re calling local businesses to see if they could benefit from our service.”
“So tell me how your service could help me.”
Once again, the sales person pitched his product and what he thought was his value proposition.
When he was done, I asked my original question about the number of telephone stations they needed and he reiterated his response.
By this time I didn’t feel right keeping him on the line any longer so I said, “Oh, I only have one line.”
After a significant pause, he said “Sorry to bother you” and he hung up.
I have no doubt he was pissed off but here’s what went through my mind.
After delivering his pitch, he let me control the call.
He did not ask any questions; in fact, he simply responded to my inquiries and kept repeating his pitch. He had no idea if I was a qualified buyer.
He had no idea how many telephone stations I had in my call centre (I don’t have a call centre) nor did he ask before he started the call.
Cold calling can be an effective way to generate new sales leads but YOU have to manage that call.
Your goal during a cold call is to determine if the person you are calling has a need for your service or product. That means you need to ask them a few questions BEFORE you launch into your sales pitch.
If the sales person who contacted me had asked, “How many telephone stations do you have?” he would have quickly learned that I was not a qualified prospect and he could have saved himself several minutes of frustration.
That was the opening line in the movie Confidence and it was accompanied by a shot of a guy sprawled out in a parking lot looking quite dead.
I have watched hundreds of movies over the years and this opening line rates as one of the best. In fact, it’s one of the openers I still remember even though the movie was released in 2003.
So what does this have to with sales?
The faster you capture a person’s attention (prospect or existing customer), the more likely it is you will move the sales process forward. This applies to telephone conversations, voice mails, face-to-face conversations and networking meetings.
The other day I listened to a horrible voice mail message on Art Sobczak’s blog. The caller was not prepared. He did not articulate his value proposition. He did not explain how he could help the person he was calling. And most important, he failed to capture his prospect’s attention.
In today’s ultra-competitive business world it is critical that you find ways to stand out from the competition. That means you need to grab your contact’s attention—usually in five seconds or less. Otherwise, you will fail to capture that sale.
You need to develop an opening that piques their interest. And the best way to achieve this is to demonstrate that you might have a solution that addresses a key problem they might be facing.
Here are a couple of examples…
“Mr. Smith, Bob Jones calling. I understand that you are currently merging with XYZ Company. Research has shown that employee productivity drops by as much as 34 percent during mergers which usually leads to an increase in sick days. If you’re struggling with this issue, perhaps we should talk.”
“Mrs. Statham, John Roberts here. Many companies experience pressure to offer significant discounts in order to capture a sale. If your sales team is faced with this challenge we might be able to help. We specialize in helping sales people respond effectively to those requests and our clients report an immediate improvement to their margins after working with our program. You can reach me at…”
The key is to identify a potential problem your prospect might be facing and demonstrate how you might be able to help them solve that problem.
If you can achieve that goal, there is a greater likelihood that you will get a meeting and be able to capture a sale.
So, how do you get—and keep—your prospect’s attention?