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.
Very few of the sales people I have encountered enjoying walking away from a deal. As a result, they end up working a potential deal for an extended period of time only to have it fall apart.
Here are 11 warning signs that that indicate it might be time to walk away from a deal.
1.Your prospect gives you excuses such as, “We haven’t got to it yet” or “We’re still considering your proposal” or “We’re still thinking about it.”
2. Your prospect keeps telling you that he/she is the decision maker but they refuse to make a final decision.
3.Your key contact no longer responds to your emails or voice mail messages.
4. The company starts making unrealistic demands for discounts or other concessions.
5. Your prospect refuses to engage in a meaningful dialogue early in the sales process and simply demands a quote or pricing sheet.
6.You cannot speak directly with the person who will ultimately sign off on the deal.
7.Your prospect keeps reducing the size and scope of their commitment.
8. Your prospect refuses to commit to any next steps.
9.The company expects you to “compete” in an RFP process.
10.Anyone in the prospect’s company acts or behaves in an unethical manner.
11. Your champion has limited influence within his/her company.
It’s never easy to walk away from a sale especially if you have invested a significant amount of time with it. However, it can free up time to work on deals that have a higher likelihood of maturing to fruition.
The key is to recognize the signs and be prepared to cut the ties BEFORE you have invested too much time.
These are just a few warning signs…what other signs tell you that you should walk away from a deal?
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.
Many parents have a difficult letting go. It’s difficult to watch your youngster leave for the first day of school and it’s equally as heart-wrenching when your kids leave home and strike out on their own. However, good parents understand the importance of letting their kids go.
This concept applies to sales, too.
A sales rep asked me how to handle a situation where a prospect he had been “working” said, “Thanks but no thanks.” The rep thought he should continue making periodic calls or sending emails just in case the prospect changed his mind.
When we reviewed the prospect’s email, it was evident that he had zero interest in the rep’s product so I told him to cut the prospect loose.
“Yeah, but what if…?”
I shook my head and said, “Let him go. Focus on finding someone who IS interested; it’s a MUCH better use of your time.”
Great sales people spend as much time disqualifying prospects from their pipeline as they do asking good discovery questions because they know and understand the value of their time.
You have a limited number of hours in a given day, week or month. Wouldn’t you rather invest that time with people who have an interest in your product or solution instead of wasting valuable time talking to someone who will never buy?
Ever get the feeling that prospects don’t trust you? Or that they’re skeptical about meeting with you or they don’t believe the claims you make about your offering.
Here are 5 reasons prospects may not trust you.
1. Money down the drain
When I worked in the corporate world one of my bosses spent a ton of money on a training program that eventually turned out to be a complete waste of money.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation.
Many people end up buying a solution that doesn’t work for their business. One of my client once lamented that they had invested several hundred thousand dollars for a system that they ended up scrapping and replacing just a few years later.
2. Once bitten, twice shy
This is one of the most common complaints I hear when I speak with executives and senior decision makers.
Too many sales people convince them to take a meeting and they later discover that the product or service has no relevance to their business or that the sales person was less than truthful during their initial conversation.
As a result, they are more cautious and guarded about accepting appointments with people they don’t know
3. Personality clash
I’m an expressive individual which means I have a tendency to talk a lot and tell stories during sales calls and meetings.
This is okay if I’m speaking with someone who has a similar personality. However, if my prospect is a risk-adverse, highly-Analytical individual my approach will do little to instill confidence in doing business with me.
If I want to be effective in these situations, I need to tone down my presentation and focus on facts, figures and data. Plus, I also need to limit my gestures and act with restraint otherwise, my prospect will not trust me.
4. Blah, Blah, Blah
In today’s highly competitive marketplace it is becoming more difficult to stand out from the competition. Your prospects and key decision makers receive dozens of sales calls and emails every day.
Unfortunately, most of these calls and emails sound and look the same.
“Mr. Decision-maker, it’s Bob Prospector calling and I wanted to take a moment to tell you about our company. We’re leading-edge providers of…”
If you want to capture your prospect’s attention (and trust) you need to show how you’re different. You need to demonstrate that you might have a solution to a problem they are facing. You need to give them a reason to return your call and/or meet with you.
5. Study time
Before you contact a prospect it is essential that you do some homework. I know you have heard me say this before but it is still something that many sales people don’t execute.
Doing some preliminary research can help you discover if your offering is applicable to that company and it can help you better position your solution.
You don’t need to spend hour upon hour researching a prospect but a 15-30 minutes can give you insights that will help you present your value proposition.
What do you think?
What else causes your prospect to lose trust in you or your company? Please feel free to add your comments.
Trying to connect with busy prospects, engaging those same prospects in a two-way dialogue, and reconnecting with them afterwards are just a few of the challenges we face in today’s new sales world.
However, in your zeal to capture new business you may be offending and disrespecting your prospects (and customers).
Here are 7 ways you might be disrespecting your prospect and losing valuable sales opportunities.
1. Call before doing any research
This is one of the most common mistakes sales people make and it really demonstrates that you don’t respect your prospect.
Picking up the telephone and dialing for dollars may be an effective approach if you sell something like telecom services, home improvements, or fundraising.
However, in the world of B2B sales, I believe it is critical to conduct some pre-call research BEFORE you contact someone. That gives you the opportunity to intelligently discuss a business problem they might be experiencing.
Ten minutes of research can make the difference between a quick “No thanks” and “Let’s talk about this further.”
2. Use their name too many times
I don’t know about you but I always feel uncomfortable when a sales person uses my name too many times in a conversation. It just isn’t natural.
Using a person’s name in a sales conversation (face-to-face or telephone) is important. But, using it too often smacks of insincerity and can quickly cause the other person to go on the defensive.
3. Show up late
When you show up late for a sales appointment or meeting with a prospect or customer, you subconsciously tell them that your time is more valuable than theirs.
Business people are exceptionally busy and you cannot expect them to wait for you or adjust their calendar because you got stuck in traffic.
BTW: This is also applies to telephone calls, webinars, and online appointments.
4. Pitch your product without asking questions
There is nothing that pisses me off more than a sales person who launches into his or her sales pitch with first learning about my specific situation.
Yet, the most common approach I see is a sales person who does exactly this and THEN he/she asks questions.
Unfortunately, they have the process backwards.
It is much more effective to ask questions early in the conversation and then follow-up with your sales presentation.
5. Deliver a generic sales presentation
One size does not fit all.
But, many sales people use a generic, canned sales presentation for all of their prospects. Unfortunately, this approach seldom addresses the specific needs of each prospect and it usually fails to result in a sale.
You can achieve much better results by tailoring every presentation to each prospect.
6. Run overtime
You may love to hear yourself talk but it’s unlikely that your prospect does…at least not when you go past your allotted time.
One of the most effective approaches you can take when meeting with a prospect is to say, “When we scheduled this meeting, we allotted 60 minutes. Does that still work for you?”
Assuming they are still okay with the allotted time, make sure that you finish on time or even better…early.
It is far better to finish a sales presentation ahead of schedule and early than to run overtime.
Your prospects are busy and their time is valuable. Earn their respect by ending early and giving them extra time on their calendar.
7. Push too hard
I know many sales people who believe that you need to aggressively ask for a commitment and constantly push prospects to make a buying decision.
In my experience, you don’t need to push people hard. In fact, that is one of the fastest ways to offend someone, especially in today’s business world.
If you avoid disrespecting your prospect, you will be more effective at moving the sales process forward. And that means you improve your odds of capturing the sale.
There are dozens of selling skills that sales people should know. Here are nine of the most important skills every sales person must have.
Without a consistently full pipeline, you will struggle to meet your sales targets and goals. You will experience peaks and valleys and experience a great deal of frustration.
Unfortunately, very few companies actually teach sales people how to prospect effectively. And the vast majority of sales people rely on just a few prospecting methods such as cold calling or networking.
However, there are many other ways to drum up new business including; asking for referrals, approaching customers who haven’t purchased from you recently, speaking at industry conferences, writing articles, joining associations and actively participating, looking for additional opportunities to sell deeper into existing customers, conducting face-to-face cold calls, and arranging weekly coffee, breakfast or lunch meetings.
The key is to dedicate a significant amount of your weekly schedule to prospecting activities regardless of how long you have been in business or in your sales role.
Although this sounds like a fundamental concept, the majority of sales people I have encountered over the last 15 years fail to effectively execute it.
Many sales people ask low-value questions that do little to engage their prospects in the sales conversation. Examples include:
“Are you the decision maker?”
“What’s your budget?”
“What do you know about our company?”
“Are you interested in saving money?”
“What are your needs?”
Unfortunately, too many sales people still ask tired, out-dated questions like these. As a result, they fail to differentiate themselves from the competition or demonstrate their expertise.
True sales professionals know how to ask high-value questions. Questions that encourage their prospect to share details and information about their business that, in turn, will help the rep effectively position their solution. High-value sales questions can transition into tough, penetrating questions. Questions that make your prospect sit up and think. Questions that cause them to say, “That’s a good question.” Questions like:
“What goals are you striving to achieve this quarter?”
“What challenges are you experiencing trying to reach those targets?”
“What are those problems costing you in terms of lost revenue, customers, market share, etc.?”
“What impact is that having on your business? On you?”
“How important is this project compared to the others on your plate?”
“What could potentially prevent this from moving forward?”
“What internal challenges do you need to deal with before this project gets the go-ahead?”
When you develop the ability to ask high-value questions, you will stand out from your competition while also learning more about your prospect’s specific situation.
You can ask all the questions in the world but if you don’t listen carefully to what the other person tells you, you are wasting your time and losing valuable sales opportunities. Active listening means actually hearing what people tell you. It means asking clarifying questions when the other person says something vague or that requires elaboration.
True listening means that you stop multi-tasking during a telephone conversation. Don’t type notes into your computer, scan emails or anything else.
Focus your full attention on the other person.
Listen for underlying meanings, clues and cues and respond accordingly.
One of the most effective ways to show a prospect that you have listened (and heard) what they have told you is to quickly recap the key points they mentioned as being important.
“Um, I’d like to, uh, discuss how our service can, um, help you, uh, reduce employee turnover.”
Not a very compelling to begin a sales presentation, is it? Yet, this type of opening or presentation is not uncommon.
Two aspects of presentations need to be considered:
A. The content. Too many sales people include far too much information in their presentations and open them by talking about their company instead of the buyer’s situation. Resist the “include everything but the kitchen sink” approach and only discuss the aspects of your offering that are critical for your prospect to know.
B. The verbal presentation. Consider your pace, timing and actual delivery. The more important a potential sale is for you, the more critical it is that you verbally rehearse that presentation. Watch your body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
The best way to improve your presentation skills is to video-tape a presentation and watch it afterwards. It can be painful to watch yourself in action but it is the most effective way to see how you actually deliver a presentation.
Developing a connection is still important in today’s sales environment even though we rely heavily on technology. People still buy from people.
Creating rapport with someone means connecting with them.
This does not mean that you talk about a photo on the desk or an award on their wall…that approach is severely outdated.
Instead, you need to be able to speak your prospect’s language. You need to demonstrate that you understand the business problem they face.
For example, if a client has experienced a significant decline in their profit margins due to changes in the marketplace you need to be able to talk about that problem—intelligently.
When you execute this properly, you not only develop rapport with the other person, you also position yourself as an expert.
You can also establish rapport by outlining the goal of your sales call, confirming the time that’s been allotted and then finishing early. No one will EVER complain about a sales meeting finishing early!
Objections are a natural part of the sales process. However, how you respond to them can make or break a deal.
First, it is essential that you outline the objections you hear most frequently. Then determine the most appropriate rebuttal. However, before you respond follow these three short steps first.
1. Empathize. This means verbally stating that you understand, respect or appreciate the other person’s concern. “Mr. Smith, I understand that you have budget issues to deal with.”
2. Clarify. Restate the objection back to the prospect in your own words to ensure that you clearly understand it “So you see the value in this product, it’s just that the purchase exceeds the budget you had allotted, correct?”
3. Seek permission. Ask the other person for permission to offer a solution. “Mr. Smith, would it be okay if I took a minute to discuss a few options?”
Follow this process and you will find that most people will be more receptive to hearing your solution.
If you want to achieve long-term success in sales you MUST be persistent. However, there is a significant difference between being persistent and stalking someone.
Persistence means finding creative ways to keep your name in your prospect’s mind.
Persistence means not allowing the first few no’s to prevent you from pursuing high-value, legitimate sales opportunities.
Persistence means asking for the business, the appointment, or the right questions when necessary even if the prospect is going in a different direction.
To succeed in sales you need a plan.
You need to be organized.
You need to be able to outline your day, week and monthly schedule in order of priority.
You need to juggle the demands placed on your time because it is virtually impossible to get everything done that you need to in a given day.
This includes contacting your most important and valued customers first and investing more time with them than your low-value accounts. It means managing your time so you focus on completing the most important tasks first (i.e. prospecting) rather than spending time on things you enjoy doing.
Lastly, sales people need to have focus.
There are a multitude of distractions that threaten to challenge your focus. Email, telephone calls, text messages, problems, paperwork, and traffic are just a few.
Being able to maintain your focus on the big picture as well as the smaller details can make the difference between success and failure.
This also applies to each sales call and meeting. Determine the key objective for each call and focus on achieving that objective.
Selling in today’s hectic and complex business world requires tremendous effort and energy. It is highly competitive and stressful. However, you can improve your results and achieve a much higher return on your investment by developing and applying these essential sales skills.
Could your team use some help improving these skills? Feel free to contact me and we can discuss the best approach to take: 905-633-7750.
In today’s get-rich-quick and solve-your-problems-fast world, many sales people want an immediate solution to fix their sales woes and increase their sales. They reach for the first-aid kit looking for a Band-Aid.
Contrary to popular belief—and what you see in infomercials—there is no quick fix or Band-Aid solution to increasing your sales.
In the last six months I have talked to a wide range a front-line sales people who have all achieved an above-average level of success. And they all have one thing in common…
They work hard.
They are diligent.
They don’t rely on the first-aid kit. They don’t look for the Band-Aid fix.
Achieving long-term success in any type of sales environment requires hard work. Here are a few of the things we need to do if we want to enjoy a long and successful career in sales.
We need to prospect for new business every single day.
We need to have the courage to ask tough, penetrating questions to get to the heart of a prospect’s problem.
We need to be able to present our solution in terms that resonate with each customer or prospect.
We need to look for ways to stand out from the competition.
We need to embrace and become familiar with new technology.
We need to be diligent in our follow through and do what we say we will do.
We need to constantly upgrade our product knowledge.
We need to anticipate potential objections and plan appropriate responses or create a presentation that addresses those concerns.
We need to recognize that prospects are busier than ever and adapt our approach accordingly.
We need to use a variety of approaches and media to connect with new prospects and existing customers.
We need to constantly upgrade our selling skills.
There is no quick fix to achieving long-term success in sales. However, if you are willing to throw away the first-aid kit and stop looking for a Band-Aid solution you can enjoy and long and successful career. And, if you are prepared to work hard, you can accomplish even more.
What did I miss in this list? Please feel free to add your comment.
Connecting with new prospects has never been more challenging and it is unlikely to get any easier. As a result, many sales people resort to using deceptive tactics to get past gatekeepers, have their emails read, or their calls returned.
A few days ago I received the following voice mail, “Hi it’s Shane calling. I’m interested in discussing sales training with you. Please call me at…”
Naturally I returned the call as soon as I could. However, I quickly learned that Shane wanted to sell me his product…he had no interest in discussing a sales training program. When I questioned his tactic, he said, “Well, it worked didn’t it?”
A colleague also encountered a similar situation earlier this week.
He received an email that asked his opinion on an issue that was related to his business. My friend replied with his perspective only to get a pitch from the other person that asked him to promote the sender’s product.
I just finished reading a new book on cold calling that was sent to me by the author. In it, he proudly states that he actively deceives people in order to connect with decision makers and it’s obvious that he believes this is a credible sales strategy.
These dubious behaviours cause a hidden consequence for honest sales people…they make it even more difficult to connect with important prospects because they are becoming more skeptical every day.
That means we need to find ways to stand out from deceptive sales people.
We need to show that we shouldn’t be lumped into the same category or painted with the same brush as those other people.
We still need to be creative but we have to be creative in a professional manner.
We need to use a variety of approaches and each strategy should demonstrate our expertise and professionalism.
Deception has been around since humans first inhabited the earth and ethical sales people need to take action to stand out from those less-than-honest individuals .