The above is as true in sales as it is in most aspects of life. We all tell ourselves stories, on every subject imaginable. As an avoidance technique, it sometimes works. However, in the area of sales, it generally needs scrutiny.
The default position for most in sales is 'the lazy person's way': a reliance on being fed leads; reliance on e-mail; on using a CRM system as a prospecting tool; on not picking up the phone to inbound inquiries and simply bouncing an email back to the enquiring potential client. I could go on.
I come across a large percentage of people who are too busy doing 'stuff' to get on the phone and drill down on their leads. The excuses run as easily as an open tap. I've heard them all.
Business-owners are amongst the biggest culprits. Do they have any idea how much of an advantage it gives them to call back prospective customers themselves? It seems not. If I had a small business, I would be monitoring all inbound inquiries like a hawk. I would select a few and make the return calls myself. Why not ? It’s a way of monitoring. Please don’t cherry pick the best leads as that is counter-productive. Just pick a couple and do them yourself.
Telling yourself a story can also be applied to researching leads, increasing the number of dials, making strong and effective drive calls, clinching deals, following them up to make sure the client is happy and will return and ultimately.
Telling ourselves a story is universal so don’t suggest to yourself that the foregoing does not apply to you. It applies to you, me, your boss, the owner of the pub, the estate agent, the window cleaner, even the dog.
We all tell ourselves persuasive stories, stories which allow us to project an image enabling us to do things in exactly the way we want at the time. However, that thought process is often very wide of what we should be doing. I hope you agree so far ? Here comes my point.
It’s why so many of us need to stay on track so we employ coaches, advisors and trainers to help us in so many areas of our lives - fitness, diet, sport, hobbies, complexion and, of course, business.
You are not obliged to take my telephone sales advice, but you should be reaching out to someone to help you keep on track. I learned this lesson about storytelling a very long time ago - and this solution works.
An interesting aspect of sales is VALUE and whether both you and your potential client understands the same points of value.
Do you understand the value of your offer? Is it a valuable offer for example? Does the customer see the same value as you communicate? Do you struggle with your value statements where compared to the competition? Do you even know that perhaps others are “cheap” or “cheaper” or even “more expensive” for specific reasons“?
There is often a huge gap in company training on this subject. The end result can be a race to the bottom in the marketplace of selling your stuff! Discounting, shaving margins of service and reliability to a minimum is certainly a style of doing business. It’s pretty lowly when you should be standing tall.
Getting a real understanding of where your product or service fits in on the value scale of comparison with alternatives is so important. The desirability of your offer is really helped with your understanding of why people should pay a little more. The following quotation (written before 1900) exemplifies what you, the salesperson, and your customers, the buyers, need to know.
In getting this understanding you will go a long way in dispelling the “too expensive “ rejection statements. You need to be able to justify the notion that is expounded in this quote. If you can, then Bingo! I promise you this following paragraph is the perfect business sales strategy as set out by John Ruskin (1819-1900):
“ It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is as well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”
If you know implicitly what advantages your company and your particular offer to potential customers are then an understanding of the above really helps you. Part of the sale is getting your customers to understand the same thing! We have mainly all bought cheap stuff at some time or other and later regretted it. Not every time on small items maybe but often on more substantial investments.
Stating your case quietly and efficiently is the key. Let clients know what risks they are not taking by dealing with yourselves rather than what they are taking elsewhere.
Build the value of your offer. This process is helped by inviting a little (a lot) of doubt in the buyer's mind on the “cheap” option they may tell you they are considering.
Think long and hard on value statements.
Being local would be one.
Being a family business would also be one. (Many people like hearing this, they really do. They associate family values with this statement.)
Free delivery is no longer a value statement. For a start everyone knows there is no such thing. There is cost involved in delivering so that cost comes from the price they pay. As I say, nobody is much persuaded by “free delivery”.
You should sit down as a team and work out your values and any hidden reasons people should trust and do business with you. Any guarantees should be exploited as a value.
Long term Boris supporter Dennis the dog has now been brought in to help his hero Boris tie up a Brexit agreement with Europe in 99 days.
It is also noteworthy that Boris has recently said in an interview that the retribution scene in the film The Godfather is his favourite The way he has culled his enemies in parliament has been very swift and final. Al Pacino would smile.
The immediate future is bleak and Boris may need a General Election to crush Labour. Many if his own supporters will be nervous but the Labour Party are shot in the foot with Corbyn. An election later this year will bury him everywhere except London.
Meanwhile, summer is properly here everyone. I will not deny the next several weeks up to the second week in September will be tough for getting hold of people. It is always a tough time for contact. Resilience is the name of the game. Keep up your call rates.
Please remember that your work is a “contact sport”. Initially, it’s all about getting through to Mr. Big without being delayed and fobbed off. “ Does he/she have an assistant? ” can bring the required advance in a call. Also, try hard not to ask for “a good time to call”. Pause and let them tell you or simply ask what time does Mr. Big get in? You are probably one of many trying to get through so politeness and honesty and resilience are essential.
Receiving That First Enquiry
I would like to pass on something really useful to each of you dealing with enquiries from potential clients . You know them as "inbound" enquiries.
I know them as gold dust. That's because most of my career was spent earning commission payments making "outbound" calls and making a living the hard way. Inbound enquiries are simply the best.
You should be making the most of these enquiries. Salaried telephone agents make it so easy for themselves with email responses. It is simply not the best way and never was. People buy people and they genuinely buy into constructive call backs. When you see an intriguing email always call it. If a company wanted an email robotic clerk they would not employ sales people. Sales, good sales, up-selling and cross selling are best done on the phone. Deep down everyone knows this.
The way so many people deal with inbound enquiries remains seriously unprofessional to me. Many people are flawed where such enquires are handled so lazily, so often and by so many. Allow me to explain my method as this will improve your conversion rate and in turn your KPIs be they weekly, or monthly. The end result is more commission for you which is what you ultimately care about, whoever you are.
Let me set the scene : You are now having a weekly check on your figures (KPIs) and you end up with a percentage success figure which you go away and try and improve for the next week. Or this is done monthly. Correct ?
Every huddle or sales meeting ends with a promise or thereabouts to improve. Whatever way the KPIs work out you can't just look at them and say or be told they need to be better. You need to take action....you need a plan to make advances to improve these figures.
Just saying that KPIs will improve never cuts it. I say that again, saying something will improve will not make it happen unless you change something around what you are doing. It's about process.
Where my help can come in is in what you do to improve. What I do for myself is also what you can do. I do it very well [my former and current clients often say] and you could do it very well. It's no good just thinking and agreeing you need to be better. Have a plan.
You set your sights on increasing the conversions from leads/ phone enquiries . You will maybe say you do that now, but without much tangible change in what you do each day. You may well focus better on the people you speak to and well done for that.
I have a process that will guarantee you increased conversions from people you currently do not speak to. It's no good just telling the sales manager or director that you will improve unless you have a process of improvement . Are you with me so far?
The process is easy. Every day you may get leads and you may get inbound emails. The aim is to speak to them all. That's certainly not possible with bad numbers and the odd hours people make themselves available so you email confirmation of the enquiry. Never, ever try to sell in this email. Now, the important part is what follows.
Check with yourself how long you currently leave them if you have not had the first conversation.. You don't have to tell others just yourself. This is where serious improvement can be made. My guess is that you currently leave them as long as you would leave someone you have spoken to ? That's after you send that first email. So this is what you change. This is the one specific aspect that you change.
By all means send the email but carry on trying that number over 2 days. If you get hold of the enquirer then well done. However, if you don't someone else from somewhere else may step in and take that order is the most likely outcome. Never give up on an enquiry.
Try early, try late. Try every couple of hours. Where you need to tell anyone who questions you that you are responding to an enquiry (so it's not a cold call). The proof of this paragraph is that when you do eventually get back to Mr Big a week or longer later without having spoken before (Just his enquiry and your email reply ) you find he has bought elsewhere. Maybe no fault of yours, in your opinion, but you missed the chance. This happens to all of us. That's why you need to be fully on your best game with the initial enquiry to prevent this happening. The main thing to stop is the easy life of responding to an email with a sales email. That's the bad practice you need to hound out of your working day.
The above paragraph is key to improving performance. Salespeople, managers and directors are all as guilty as each other in very often only half doing the follow up job. I base this on knowing hundreds, yes hundreds of sales people, managers and directors. I have been there myself. Sometimes I am still there myself, all of us in sales get trapped in this one. The improvement I outline above is always the way to make a conscientious advance and replaces where we let ourselves off the hook. If we drive ourselves to make that contact back after an inbound enquiry results over time will always be better than thinking and acting by email alone. The email ping-pong trap is the easiest to fall into with sales and it is generally a poor strategy.
For me personally it will rarely happen now as I know the game and my part in it. A lead is like gold dust and I treat them all that way until that person verbally disqualifies them self. Anyone who has gone so far as making an enquiry is a VIP for me. So you treat these leads accordingly and you won't go far wrong. You make a point of getting them speaking to you in the shortest possible time frame. Email if you must, but still hammer your phone for a conversation within a day or 3 at the outside. It should be a reflex action. The enquiry is your passport to getting put through.
Every enquiry should be acknowledged by phone immediately you see it. That's another golden rule. You do send an email confirming receipt if you cannot speak instantly to the enquirer. So many make the mistake of thinking they will look too eager with a quick call back. Not true, it will make the sale easier. Email does not replace the power of a good call to an enquirer.
You cannot call a lead "too quickly".
Two points I am not covering here. One is where the enquirer is not the decision maker which you don't know in advance. All the better for hammering for the conversation. The second point is I am not mentioning is how you structure the call and draw people in. I naturally reserve that for those I am working with. It varies from case to case. I do usually manage to nail the process for clients that results in a higher percentage of enquirers going for the next step. I have many compliments on the strategy I can help with.
The bullet point in this blog is that whilst you may have to email some people through necessity it's very important to get that conversation with them in the quickest possible time. Please don't leave them alone by thinking they will naturally call you following your email. You have to persevere as explained above.
When implemented for all call backs and contacts this is the surest way of increasing conversions , making advances and lessening the likelihood of the potential client going elsewhere. The answer Is the phone in your hands. I hear all the emailers responding in horror. My reply remains the same as ever ; The lazy man's way forward is email.
Please don't just change your methodology for a week and then slip backwards. Backsliding to your default position at your sales desk is what 90% of salespeople people do. Get yourself into the top 10% zone.
Backsliding into old habits, old behaviour is very common unless coaching is being provided on a regular basis. As mentioned KPI meetings where everyone agrees to do "better" next month is the oldest and most redundant line in the sales manual . Implementing change in process and moving callers on your team through the gears is how you do it.
The challenge you have when you decide to improve your results is NOT that there isn't information available to you that would help your progress—and quickly. There is more than enough information, and every resource you need to know about for sales, already well known and published many times over. If a lack of information was your obstacle, it would easily be overcome. The Internet has every sales tip known to man on it. Every single tip is within your grasp already. How to use those tips is where coaching comes in and having a good coach is important. It's important for education, for style, for content, for serious financial benefit and for the good growth of each company. Selling without a coach on board is like sailing without much of a rudder. That's where I like to think working with Simon Kenna comes in. The results you want are not out of reach because you say you don’t have time to achieve them. All you have is time. Nothing has changed in centuries. Everyone has the same amount of time, it's the one thing we share. It does not matter how wealthy or poor you are we all share the same time. Big people, small people, male or female, young or old ...we all have the same time.
Time is all anyone has, not just you. That's a very simple concept. Not having time is an attitude you may have to what needs to be done to achieve your goals. Not having time is the oldest and weakest excuse in sales. You make time and you use time effectively and it's a constant challenge. Prioritising your time, making time, having time, call it what you will.
What you do with your time is a decision that only you make. It doesn’t matter where you are now or where you want to go. You have the time to accomplish much, much more than you believe possible. Did Shakespeare have time ? Did Michelangelo have time ? All of us have time. In sales what is not acceptable is knowingly not making time to prospect, to cold call and to really get to grips with new business and new clients. Way too much focus is placed on doing 'stuff' and focusing on existing clients ... all too easy. Researching leads should be a criminal offence when it takes all day and doing this instead of mainly making calls in that time. Researching people to call is homework. When you are at work you need to be making money. That means making calls. Do a stack of homework, don't overdo it but cut out one hour an evening or early morning instead of some other activity. That behaviour separates out the winners from the pack.
The distance between where you are now and the results that you want are also not likely the result of your inability to do what is necessary. It is almost a certainty that you can do what you would need to do to have what you want, if only you had the time ! What prevents you from having what you want ? What's the real answer ? Is it really time or is it this :
The comfort zone :
The answer is an unwillingness to do what is necessary to have what you want out of your sales funnel. That unwillingness often comes from the strong desire to seek comfort over discomfort. Even if you have the information, the time, and the ability, the pull of what is comfortable drags you right back to doing what you’ve always done. It’s familiar, it’s easy, and it requires little effort—and all without the discomfort that goes hand in hand with growth. Stop right here and re-read this three times. It is the truest thing you will read about salespeople. It is also the truest observation I know of people in general where lack of achievement is concerned.
What should make you uncomfortable is being comfortable. The real danger isn’t in failing, losing, or taking more time than you expected to produce the result you want. The real danger is slipping back into what is familiar, and in doing so, producing a result that is far less than you are capable of and living with the regret of not becoming the person who comes after the one that is reading this article. I defy anyone who knows sales and salesmen to tell me there is any single word in this synopsis that is not 100% correct. I meet a lot of comfortable people, I really do. Successful sales people are edgy , always looking for the advantage but maintaining an excellent status quo with clients, prospects, and those they work with.
My pet theory on time. : The most common excuse for everyone in the 21st Century is not having enough time. But time is here and it is here now. We all have plenty of time but how we use it is the issue. Claiming not to have time is something all your clients will be telling you, you will be telling your boss, your boss will be telling me and I will be telling my dog, Dennis, when he wants a good long walk. Time and lack of it is simply turned into an excuse. Please see it as that when people say this to you. It means you are not important enough, that is all it means in the 21st Century. So you have to make a strong enough case for people to give you some of their precious time. There are a host of reasons there is no time in an office. It's too dull and meaningless to list them. What you need to do though is prioritise phone time. Get off the computer inbox for 90 minute bursts of undistracted phone time and watch your results grow. For a telephone conversation you do not need three screens open in front of you. To focus properly on the call you need none. You need to focus. Be prepared with several calls to make. Making calls is about rhythm. You build a rhythm by allocating solid blocks of time.
I have said it before but lack of time and saying you don't have time for certain aspects of work is a reworking of the school story when homework was not done. "The dog ate my homework" was a common excuse. That is what we must all conquer now with the process of getting ourselves out of our comfort zones to do what we must do to get new business from new clients and not rely on new business from existing clients. Everyone has the Hunter gene in them. Not having time to hunt means you go hungry in most situations.
Bottom line is not to use time as your excuse and not to let others off the hook with their " no time issues" I am a serious believer in the very old saying " If you want something done then ask a busy person ". Stay with the genuinely busy people over the daydreamers because they will get things done. Put my thoughts into action over just 4 weeks and you guarantee yourself more business. Just reading this blog and agreeing with me means simply nothing happens. Use your time wisely and be your own time keeper.
A rhythmical series of calls over 90 minutes is a great use of time in your prospecting. Simply no distractions, call after call and you slow down when you gain interest. Clients of mine will know my process for making these prospecting calls and recording results in a way that allows you to keep the sustained rhythm throughout a calling session. As clients know, there really is a process for doing this and making best use of your TIME.
The following is pretty good advice on the thorny issue of leaving voicemail and sending email. It is all about attitude and persuasiveness. Here are ten observations. They are not rules. Your own company may give you rules, mine are simply experienced suggestions:
1. Number one is to never usually email when you could call first. Why would you email someone instead of a friendly, businesslike callback ? Sending email to inbound enquiries is lazy. A call sets the whole transaction on the right rails. Before email, it was the priority for everyone when they got written or faxed enquiries to call. Please don't even think of questioning this advice. Take the conversation onwards from their enquiry to a call. However, there is another tip in here. You may not be able to reach Mr Big when the email enquiry comes in so please acknowledge with an email and encourage a call back. Meanwhile keep trying. Don't rest on relying on your email reply. This is sound advice.
2. You may have to try several times over several days to get hold of the person you need. You should send an email to confirm receipt of the enquiry or order. Call backs are routinely needed for orders too. These call backs give the opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling. Both extremely important. No matter how well you think you know the buyer or how insignificant you feel the enquiry is you should call them to "open" or "confirm" the sale. Don't, avoid the callback is another suggestion. You are letting your company down when you do this. Top of the list for this is best practice and it's also very courteous.
3. The email you send has to have one key ingredient at the end. That ingredient is "a call to action" . However obvious the enquiry is you need to acknowledge it by phone and by email first sometimes. This is my personal rule and served me and still serves me extremely well on the phone. Sending the email is a fall back when you cannot immediately get through and must be done the same morning/afternoon of the enquiry. Email is not a substitute for the phone call. No "call back " is a missed opportunity that sometimes up to 80% of company sales staff fail to acknowledge. Mainly through a fear of flying or simply being lazy. It's different for customer service. For customer service you and your colleagues need to be selective on who gets a call and who gets an email.
4. Competition . There are always several people waiting to take your clients and your prospects away from you. Don't forget this and never take a client or a prospect for granted. Another big reason people change suppliers is that your opposition slips in with a very enticing phone call.
5. Your best competition will be trying to get an edge over you, trying to be more competitive and will take even your most seasoned clients given half the chance. A major reason for continuous dialogue. Dialogue is your insurance policy. Please try hard not confuse regular conversations with email. Do not call too often.
6. The opportunity to "up-sell" and "cross-sell "can only be fully exploited by a personal visit or a phone call. Thinking email will sell for you is the biggest single mistake being made by internal or "inside" sales agents. I run into it a lot . My suggestion is that phone calls sell and persuade people whereas as email confirms everything and is great for attachments. Don't swap these two around.
7. Instead of asking when someone is likely to be available (which is a rubbish question) ask what time they get in. That's the great question to ask. You allow people 10 minutes for Mr Big to settle in and you call. This may involve you making early calls. There is real value of having this as part of your routine.
8. The strength of calls following enquiries is very powerful. Now you can really motor past any barriers raised by gatekeepers and their colleagues. You have a passport to speak to the person who got in touch. Accept no pushing away tactics. The power is in your hands this time. My line is nearly always "This is Simon Kenna (K-E-N-N-A). I am returning Mr Bigs's call or email. It's all about how you say this with confidence and really does work.
9. Planning. Please don't pick up the phone like Dolly Daydream. Make sure it's a positive and persuasive sales call that you make and not a bored clerical call. Plan each call for several outcomes. You all know this to be true. Once you have your call plan it can be repeated again and again when you get a great workable template.
10. Finally, be the person that your clients want to deal with. Don't be haughty, dull or ineffectual. Be persuasive, go the "extra mile". Typically buyers jump out at you if you find their pain and help them. You really must sound as if you care. Unless you have any contrary advice from your own company I urge you to trust me on the above. There are many more things to know and put into practice but this list is an encouraging starting point if you are new to sales on the phone and a good reminder if you already "know it all". Thirty years later and I am still discovering new ways into conversations so keep your mind open and that is the trusted way of closing the sales.
The process outlined below will guarantee you increased conversions:
I would like to pass on something really useful to each of you dealing with enquiries from potential clients. You may know them as "inbound" enquiries. I know them as gold dust. That's because most of my career was spent earning commission payments making "outbound" calls and making a living that way.
The way so many people deal with inbound enquiries remains seriously strange to me. Many people are palpably mad where such enquires are handled so lazily, so often and by so many. Allow me to explain as this will improve your conversion rate and in turn your KPIs be they weekly, or monthly.
Let me set the scene: You are now having a weekly KPI check on your figures and you end up with a percentage figure which you go away and try and improve for next week. Or this is done monthly. Correct? Trouble is the number of leads vary each week. Some convert long after the week they were counted for etc etc. So it's in no way acceptably accurate. But it is the best system you have maybe. Or you have a truly reflective KPI figure and still you are looking to improve.
Every huddle or meeting ends with a promise or thereabouts to improve. Either way the KPIs work out you can't just look at them and say they need to be better. You need to take action...make advances to improve these figures. Just saying that KPIs will improve never cuts it. I say that again, saying something will improve will not make it happen unless you change something.
Where my help can come in is in what you do to improve. What I do for myself is also what you can do. I do it very well [my former and current clients often say] and you could do it very well. It's no good just thinking you need to be better.
You set your sights on increasing the conversions from leads/ phone enquiries . You will maybe say you do that now, but without much tangible change in what you do each day. You may well focus better on the people you speak to and well done for that.
I have a process that will guarantee you increased conversions from people you currently do not speak to. It's no good just telling the sales manager or director that you will improve unless you have a process of improvement. Correct?
The process is easy. Every day you may get leads and you may get inbound emails. The aim is to speak to them all. That's certainly not possible with bad numbers, the odd hours people make themselves available so you email a quote if you have the information. Now, the important part is what follows.
Check with yourself how long you currently leave them with the quote if you have not had the first conversation.. You don't have to tell others just yourself. This is where serious improvement can be made. My guess is that you currently leave them as long as you would leave someone you have spoken to ? So this is what you change. This is the one magic aspect that you change.
By all means send the email but carry on trying that number over two to three days. If you get hold of the enquirer then well done. However, if you don't someone else from somewhere else may step in and take that order is one likely outcome.
Try early, try late. Where you need to tell anyone who questions you that you are responding to an enquiry (so it's not a cold call). The proof of this paragraph is that when you do eventually get back to Mr Big a week or longer later without having spoken before (Just his enquiry and your email reply ) you find he has bought elsewhere. Maybe no fault of yours but you missed the chance. This happens to all of us. That's where you need to be fully on your best game to prevent this happening.
The above paragraphs are key to improving performance. Salespeople, managers and directors are all as guilty as each other in very often only half doing the follow up job. I base this on knowing hundreds, yes hundreds, of sales people, managers and so on. I have been there myself. Sometimes I am still there myself, all of us in sales get trapped in this one. The improvement I outline above is always the way to make a conscientious advance and replaces where we let ourselves off the hook. If drive ourselves to make that contact back after an inbound enquiry results over time will always be better than thinking and acting by email alone.
For me personally it will rarely happen now as I know the game and my part in it. A lead is like gold dust and I treat them all that way until that person verbally disqualifies them-self. Anyone who has gone so far as making an enquiry is gold dust. So you treat these leads accordingly and you won't go far wrong. You make a point of getting them speaking to you in the shortest possible timeframe. Email if you must, but still hammer your phone for a conversation within a day or three at the outside.
Every enquiry should be acknowledged by phone immediately you see it. That's another golden rule. You do send an email confirming receipt if you cannot speak instantly to the enquirer.
Two points I am not covering here. One is where the enquirer is not the decision maker which you don't know in advance. All the better for hammering for the conversation. The second point is I am not mentioning how you structure the call and draw people in. I naturally reserve that for those I am working with. It varies from case to case. I do usually manage to nail the process for clients that results in a higher percentage of enquirers going for the next step.
The bullet point in this blog is that whilst you may have to email some people through necessity it's very important to get that conversation with them in the quickest time. Please don't leave them alone by thinking they will naturally call you following your email. You have to persevere as explained above.
When implemented for all call backs and contacts this is the surest way of increasing conversions, making advances and lessening the likelihood of the potential client going elsewhere.
And why I may be the guy to help you get your team going…
1. The number one reason is that telephone sales staff need effective and sustained coaching in the first place so the word "extra" is a little superfluous. Sales coaching from a seasoned professional is great to both drive results and have a happy team working in an enjoyable environment. With me you buy 30 years "hands on" experience of everything 'telephone sales'. That kind of experience is a rare commodity. It may sound grand to say I have seen it all, and I cheerfully admit that I still get surprises which is what makes my work enjoyable. There is always someone new. Something new, some new way of people not doing what they should be doing to gain new business.
2. Cold call training and inbound call handling often rests simply on a brief introduction for the new person into the team and being handed a script, or nothing, and a suggestion of listening to others and an instruction later to just 'get on the phone". Again the question of 'extra training' should really be a reinforcement of induction telephone sales skills training. What I can do is coach people to sustained success. That explanation is as near to what I do as you will get in this blog! I am not giving away my methodology here. When people start they should be taken under the wing of someone there, even the MD, who knows how to pull in the business effectively.
3. Extra or ongoing training and telephone coaching is a requirement for all members of the team. We all have our own shortcomings and foibles either in content, tonality, delivery, telephone fluency, pace, geniality, shutting up, persuasiveness, laziness, phobias, irritability, getting going, clock watching, keeping on track, motoring and achieving the basic premise of the calls. There is a lot more to coaching in telesales and telemarketing than the usual carrot and stick approach. For example do you have any idea how much people's attitude to their work is affected by their lifestyle? Few people get that.
4. The whole telephone sales show must be designed in such a way that the sales department is full of the leading actors and the rest of the organisation is the support and chorus. People selling on the phone should have a day planned out that involves a very high percentage of contact time, a reasonable amount of down time and very little administration work. This policy is unlikely to fail if the whole company is signed up to the real understanding of the role of the telesales team. Without meetings set and without new sales and new clients the rest of the company will eventually not have jobs. That's a great way to see it. I move telesales right up the food chain, everyone then gets it. This department is the engine room of the company. The department rarely gets the respect it deserves.
5. Coaching is necessary to keep the team on the rails. Many influences affect the performance of individuals in the team. Many of these influences are nothing to do with the job in hand or even the workplace. As an experienced sales coach I can spot body language and speech variations that indicate someone is derailed from their best performance. Time spent communicating with a telesales team individually as their "buddy" in business really works in a skilled coaching arrangement. I cannot guarantee this for everyone.
6. "Telephone selling is just a numbers game". This is one of several classic old wives tales in sales. Selling is not a numbers game although a number of calls have to be made to achieve any sales. The real "game" is the one of performance. Without the performance when the occasion demands it the sale is lost irrespective of how many numbers have been dialled.
7. "We are all salesmen, every day of our lives. We are selling our ideas, our plans, our energies, our enthusiasms, to those with whom we come in contact. Thus the man of genial personality is bound to accomplish more than the man without it". (Charles M Schwab, American Steel Magnate, 1862-1939).
If this needs explaining to anyone in terms of additional telephone telesales coaching or anything connected to the sales process then you are doomed. Neither I nor anyone else will be able to help your team excel in their chosen field of work.
8. Just offer extra coaching to your sales room and see how few of your team will leap at the chance. This will clearly show you how ready they are for change. In my experience only a couple in 10 will really embrace the idea and a couple will be really scared or aggressive about the idea. If you can persuade the ones in the middle to see the light then extra telesales coaching from the outside and additional specific telephone sales training will help them enormously.
9. Aim high, that's the key with an existing or brand new team. Break down the goals into bite size achievable targets. You may need help in quantifying what to aim for and how long a period of time it will take to achieve these goals. Unrealistic goals are very bad in phone sales and management need to be careful of setting realistic goals that can often be reached but not too easily either ! Also driving people is a skill. Commission, bonuses and threats are not always all that is involved. Sometimes the main driver lays outside these areas.
10. An outside periscope evaluation of your team on the phone can help quantify and qualify where extra coaching will be of benefit on an individual basis. Where I come across very bright, enthusiastic staff I have often been able to galvanise their performance beyond all expectations of management. Without meaning any disrespect most company owners have a lot on their plate and by outsourcing this specific area of helping the telephone team excel they will help themselves greatly. The feedback I get proves this. Please check my reviews on Google.
11. "Extra coaching and training? No, my team are just lazy, I need to fire a couple and keep the rest on their toes". All I can say is good luck with that approach. Flying in the face of all the evidence outlined here. Far too many telesales teams are run on the revolving door principle. This simply allows managers to have lazy days and stay completely off the hook in regards to staff retention and betterment of the department. Getting the right bodies on the seats at the get-go is the best start and then a pragmatic approach to success and failure within an individual by careful monitoring of what's really going on.
12. So, if you call me and arrange a phone meeting you will end up speaking to me, a 30 year phone veteran now helping many others. You will not speak to any carbon copy of me and I do not run a team of teachers doing my coaching for me. I do it all and welcome new calls. Call me and speak to a live person who will take your details and you will be contacted directly by me normally within 24 hours. If we have a successful call and you see the synergy that is possible then we book in my visit to your premises anywhere in the UK. That's the process . Always have a process is my free tip here. I give people processes and it works in many environments. Please note, success cannot be guaranteed. I have failures though this is always a failure in people to reach out for time tested help. It is worth noting though. You will need to provide the raw material of reasonably well recruited staff. But you know that.
This advice is crucial and applies to everyone who is involved in SME type B2B telesales…
The more information you have the better you service the prospect and also the better you select your own products and services for their use. If estimating for a quotation it's crucial you get all their information and details that you need before submitting your plans and estimate quotations.
(Estimators often would not describe themselves as sales people. That is one huge mistake.) Anyone submitting quotes or estimates is in sales. You are in the driving seat for one brief period before submitting your stuff. Use that time very well to get what you need by way of information from the person you are quoting to.
An essential thing you need to establish is the format of follow up, the process. This has to be embedded like many other things in sales. Every company should have its own process. Here are three strong things to organise...
1. How is this decision going to be made? A huge question that many sales people shy away from. It’s so important to get that clear. If you don't know how a decision is going to be made you are well behind in the process. Always know how the decision will be made. It's an easy question and nobody objects. Various answers can be given but they have to be the process, nothing film-flam, no dodging the answer. or you don't send the quotation. You hold on to it. It's your work and your property and if your client is flippant - or don't buy in then they are generally not for real. So do not send quotes to anyone who cannot answer how the decision will be made. You can never win with these people. I would get that before working on the estimate. It's a complete no-brainer.
2. Are other people involved? They often are, and the rule is to ask and get their email addresses to forward the same information to. This needs to be a rule it's not a tip. Always ask if you can include others in email responses. So your Mr Big is meeting another Mr Big. This is where you need to get your information across to each Mr Big.
3. When will this decision be made? Organise and diarise with them your follow up. Always make the first suggestion that they will have questions and can we put a time to discuss in the diary ? Be very flexible but very precise. My rule is if that no follow up is agreeable to the other person...i.e. "We will call you if we are interested" then I send nothing as my job has not been done. You have to engineer a sale here. The sale is them agreeing to call you back. Be very strict with yourself on process. It always pays off. So what I am saying here is send nothing if no follow up can be agreed. You are going to fire blanks and may be used to simply beat the incumbent supplier about the head. Remember this: Anyone who is serious will give ground on passing on information that you need. The opposite means don't ever send. It has served me well. Very, very occasionally I have been followed up and then try again to get what I need. My judgement is good.
Any diarised call back from a client means an instant call from you to ask if you "missed their call?" This is important stuff so please act in a way that means you are not fobbed off. Once they have your quote or information they often go cool on you. That's the reason why the process described here is so important. How many times have you quoted or simply sent your information and that's the end to the contact? My rule is not to send anything unless a follow up is sincerely agreed. There is a genuine skill to be learned here.
Easy isn't it? That's the point it's not easy. Far too many estimates, quotations, brochures, website details are sent over to potential companies with none of the above being quantified or the 'next steps' established. This should be a natural process and here are the ways to achieve the above.
Whilst you are talking to them is an obvious good time, the focus being talking to them. Please don't expect to get results by emailing. Sales is about speaking to people. Getting through is another subject and for this article I am assuming you have done this.
So as you go through your pitch or as you prepare your estimate you talk to them and try and elicit the above information. You may get some of it, you may not. You need a reminder pinned up of what you need from each person you are selling to or estimating for. Please do this.
The very best time to get any of the unanswered questions is just before you give them what they want. Always remember if they don't really want what you have this becomes harder and you must question yourself on why you are not further down the line with the prospect before sending.
With estimates in particular you have put plenty of work in so need to ensure you are not the third quote which is just making up the numbers. Experienced estimators can work out if they are making up the numbers. Develop this skill. Speak to your MD for his method.
The above is the sales work. It means getting outside your comfort zone. These days as many as 50% of all internal sales people never once step out of their cosy comfort zones.
Their process is purely mechanical as they crank through the work in the belief that sales is a numbers game. Nothing is further from the truth. Numbers are involved, plenty of calls, but the skill and the achievement of outcomes is all about the above skills and your own sales personality. That's where a sales coach comes in very handy!
The result of not getting questions answered is poor numbers and missed targets. Knowing your numbers is essential. That's not for this article.
If I can persuade a few of you to really focus on what is featured here I know you will thank me, or certainly should thank me. The above takes confidence and energy. Are you confident and energised for most of the day? That's the sales business. The above advice separates out the swimmers from the sinkers.
The many (but not all) possible issues that could be slowing your telesales office down…
1. Being too busy for cold calling. This is basic avoidance. Surgeons are not too busy to start and complete open heart surgery without distractions. Leadership comes from the top everywhere. Don't be pressuring others to do what you don't do. All MDs are the best ambassadors, or should be, of their company. There isn't a person anywhere who could not call a potential client. But how well ?
2. Being too senior for making calls. My personal favourite. I see it at every single company I visit. The words manager and director in your title should mean you lead the way. You pick up the phone and make COLD CALLS to live, potential clients. Leadership always comes from the top, or should. Nobody is too senior to pick up the phone.
3. Pseudo reliance on LinkedIn and website browsing for information. Simply call the company. LinkedIn is a fudge. You use it when all else fails not as the first thing for every call. You are wasting time. You connect to websites during the call not before the call.
4. Massive over preparation for calling. We all know what this is. Calls need to be one after the other not 10-20 minute gaps. Before computers Telesales was far more efficient. We made far more calls (and we made much more money).
5. Low probability expectations. You don't expect to win. Therefore your calls become weak and yielding. Expectation of failure clouds every call. You can snap out of this is the good news. Watch Jordan Belfort on YouTube explaining tonality. Start using these ideas . They are essential.
6. Letting oneself off the hook. As above but you are not mentally prepared to win, you are ready to display yielding behaviour. You are ready to collapse even as you dial. You are just not in warrior mode. You would rather be making the tea. You are the guy likely to spend the day emailing to info@
7. Letting gatekeepers off the hook. You get fobbed off. You yield and get fobbed with the suggestion of " Send an email to info@". You fail to engage with gatekeepers as you have been advised to get past them not to get on with them. Golden rule here. Never send as much as a piece of cheese to info@ , ever.
8. Letting subordinate conversations happen without retaliation. Essentially pitching the assistants all day. Yielding behaviour. This is nothing new. It has always been present in a telephone sales environment. Pitching the lower divisions thinking that you are pitching the Premiership guys. Be self aware on this, even where you have to do it.
9. Allowing Mr Big off the hook. Being fobbed off with an email request. You know when it happens and you also know how often it happens.
10. Not following up and following up late. The key is to ask your prospect to call you back. This is a real skill and needs plenty of resilience. This has the be taught in my experience, but what a skill!
11. Not scoring any points with advances in the conversation. Just going through the motions and putting the phone down without a single advance. That's a fail.
12. Calling when everyone else calls. Building yourself up for fails. If you can't get people you find out when they get in in the morning and call then not when they will be "available" and call then. People are rarely " available" when you are told they are. But 10 minutes after they get to work is a great time to call. Get in early yourself for these calls. It's the job. This is a golden rule in telephone calling for sales. Please follow it.
13. Not coming into work fully charged for lift off early. You see this every day. People taking as long as a football match to crank up (90 minutes) before making a call.
14. Being on the internet/ mobile device when calling. No focus. Calls need real focus. It's OK to be on the site of the person you are calling but nowhere else please. Focus. Before screens people were able to focus and succeed far better with new business calls. That's not Earth shattering news it's just the facts.
15. Daydreaming. Self explanatory and particularly day dreaming whilst staring at a screen.
16. Wrong office layout. Wrong people sitting next to you, those who never make calls. A disaster. The accounts department, HR, Operations etc. Sit next to salespeople only.
17. Stopping before getting started. Never building the required rhythm during the day. 10-15 minutes between calls is the give-away. Calls need doing quickly whilst making notes and all data entry done at the end. Be very modest with data entry. It wastes so much time.
18. Stopping at a winner. Do you think famous sportsmen stop at a winner ? Whole offices can stop when one person gets a deal. Please avoid this.
19. Self talk. Telling yourself you are not good enough, not up to it, or blaming the leads are all versions of self talk and you need to keep it in check.
20. Claiming too many interruptions. That's not being organised. You have not isolated your diary or yourself from your colleagues or your inbound calls. Making calls puts you in the same position as an MD being in a meeting. That means no interruptions.
Make no mistake I am the first to know how hard it is to run, optimise and manage a telephone sales office. It is not easy. The above are some simplistic cause and effect situations. Please feel free to contact me for more information on your specific issues. An investment in my help can be like fitting a proper hinge to a door. Suddenly it’s starts opening and closing a lot easier.