"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."
~ Physicist Niels Bohr, quoted in the Harvard Business Review ~
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The biggest and most damaging malaise in any sales office is Swamp Fever. It does not cause absenteeism, which occurs for myriad reasons, including migraine, stomach upsets, fractures, curry nights, sick children, sick pets, hospital appointments etc. By contrast Swamp Fever happens only AT WORK.
Swamp Fever always occurs at work, never at home. You need to be present in the office to contract it. It is highly contagious, decimating and debilitating entire telephone sales teams or striking one corner of the room only. If not swiftly treated, it can result in a painful, lingering and loss-making demise. Curiously, though, the symptoms vanish completely at going-home time. Solved the riddle yet?
Swamp Fever is how I refer to Call Reluctance, that ubiquitous and potentially lethal condition all sales people suffer from at one time or another. My observation is that it assumes 20 forms. Simply getting on the phone is impossible for some people until they have been at work for over an hour - not advisable and highly infectious. But that's only one example. If you’re not familiar with all 20 and you want increased sales, then acquainting yourself with the rest is important, since, as I say, it's the most viral and most debilitating scourge of virtually any sales office.
One interesting and disguised form of the disease is ‘being busy’. Some sales personnel go to extraordinary lengths to make themselves too busy for cold-calling, even for returning missed calls from potential clients. The ‘too busy’ guys can be the single biggest headache in the sales office for many business owners. They include some of us all the time and all of us some of the time. Do you work in an office where leads are emailed in by prospects and just nobody gets immediately on the phone ? This is far more common then most business owners get to hear about.
Coaches, directors , managers, account managers, BDMs, anything you care to call yourself - we all consciously or unconsciously render ourselves ‘too busy’ to squeeze in the necessary number of cold calls and follow-ups needed each day, making cold-calling the most compromised activity in businesses the length and breadth of the land.
One of my most regular challenges in client meetings and individual coaching. What’s interesting is that nobody ever calls me up and says ‘Hey, Simon, the problem in our office is call-reluctance’. Nobody says ‘my team is just too busy to pick up the phone’. And the reason for that is you, the business owner. You have somehow been sold the idea that your team is too busy and convinced yourself that this is the case. My mission, therefore, is to get business owners back on track with the following mantra: Do not ever be mesmerised or deceived by call-reluctance. Don't be persuaded into thinking it's anything else than what it is. Hence, I challenge all owners on how many cold calls they actually make themselves to those companies they know they should be doing business with. You sit behind your desk knowing who should be your client.....
As I’ve said, there are at least 20 identifiable forms of call-reluctance . There is a universal tendency to sweep this issue under the carpet. Owners do call me, but it's always about something else. It's about ‘renewing confidence in the team’, ‘a long time since our last training’, or ‘we don't have a sales manager qualified to coach’. In the end, though, it all boils down to several issues including the 20 forms of call-reluctance that can - and do - damage the productivity of sales teams every week. It’s all about call reluctance folks.
So if you have a failing team, or one which is failing to recognise call-reluctance, you either have a manager who’s not spotting it ( the technical term is a completely useless manager who is not leading by example) or you’re thinking that just telling people to get on the phone will fix it. You have directors and owners who just can't fathom it. For a start, if all of them were first to recognise the problem for what it is and then pull in professional help, the revenue increase for a small- to medium-sized company reliant on outbound sales activity would increase by a healthy average of more than 17.5% in under-performing teams. I have dealt successfully with this time and time again. It's my specialist subject.
Call reluctance: the single largest barrier to success. More so than negativity, which is the second largest. The two are connected, obviously.
The law of being reimbursed for one's efforts prevents this particular blog from becoming any longer. The potential increase is there - companies just need the expertise and guidance to extract and exploit it. Working with me you tap into 30 years’ experience of running teams, making calls myself and focusing on this particular aspect of sales. So maybe it’s worth a thought and/or a call? Calls are not conditional: you call and we chat (as the spider said to the fly).
My educated guess is that if you have read this far, Swamp Fever is rife in your office. Otherwise you would have switched off!
So, what has alcoholism got in common with members of a sales team and sales call reluctance?
This may seem like a strange question. Alcoholism is a serious illness. I would be the last person to make light of it in comparison to sales teams in telesales rooms. My comparison below is given as a theory.
This is my theory: Alcoholism, in its early and middle stages is the only illness known to man that tells you that there is nothing wrong with you. It tells you that there is something very wrong with most everyone else. It's how alcoholism fools you and how it is so destructive. The way it takes over makes it so that you don't feel that any of the responsibility for your condition lies at your door.
This then is the similarity with sales call reluctance. It is possibly the only profession that really does tell you, in the early and middle stages, how much is wrong with other people. Potential clients, even existing clients, are just not doing what you want, what you expect and what you strongly feel they should be to doing. In its latter stages call reluctance comes in and you hardly pick up the phone, and when you do it's just weak and inconsequential stuff. You stop selling and wait for people to buy. Meanwhile it's all their fault when they don't.
That's where the similarity ends. With alcoholism it usually kills you unless you manage to rehabilitate yourself. It's a sure-fire killer of most either directly or indirectly through accident or organ failure.
The end of the story in sales is simply being fired or jumping just before that happens.
We tell ourselves it's the customer‘s fault, it's management's fault. It's the leads, it's the time of year, it‘s the end of the week, its Chinese New Year, its Christmas, it‘s just after Christmas, it‘s January or it's the beginning of the week. It's all these things and more.
80% of the time it's simply us and our own tiny demon of self-talk. If there is just one other person in your office getting reasonable returns on their cold calls or dealing with incoming calls then the issue is normally us, nothing else. We are to blame for not having the attitude, the resources and the drive for new business.
The secret , if there is one, is to take stock of where you are. Stop and think. We all actually know where it's going wrong. Your desire needs to be very strong. That's number one.
Number two is are you asking for the business? Every call you make are you positioning yourself in such a way that you can ask for the meeting, ask for the advance towards the sale, ask for the sale? Are you willing and able to formulate a proper, concise and persuasive pitch and that ends with “Does that work for you?“.
Do you even have a script? No, you don't is probably the answer. You are way too smart for scripts I am guessing. But you are also probably skint at the end of each month. So why not treat yourself to a proper script and start calling like a professional? It's what I did for many years, using scripts wisely, selling commission only. Most of you would rather dig graves than work commission only.
All the rest of the process and the pitch dies away if you are not positioned to take the business when the opportunity arises. Are you making the opportunity, are you grabbing it at just the right moment? There is such skill involved and my concern is that many, many in sales are just waiting for lucky breaks. The 80/20 formula is rarely more accurate than in a sales team. Where are you sitting is the question? Desire and taking opportunities are where it all ends up. If you have the desire you get the product or service knowledge, you know the stalls, you know the strengths and the weaknesses of your argument and you are ready, like a tiger, to pounce. Or are you? When I visit offices I see very few tigers. I see a lot of sleepy cats. You know this and I know this. I have the answer and you have the question. Our mutual problem is that only you can implement the answer.
Take the positive from the above guys and girls and do something about your attitude to work and your attitude to being a huge sales success. It does not happen down country lanes or in country pubs. It happens inside you. If you can make it happen then Happy Days. Some of you will look at this as a rant and a couple will see this as their personal epiphany. Either way I am looking back from the Winner's enclosure. I did the above and had the epiphany. Fortunately many moons ago.
What's needed here is a grip of steel on yourself. The steel hand in the velvet glove that I mention so often. Only you can do this for you. I and others give you the tips , training and coaching but you have to weave your own spells. It's that complicated and that simple all at the same time. Being mindful of your place in the coaching process is essential. It's about a whole experience moving you forward never to return to the old weak ways. If that's not how you see it you have not engaged in the process. Many cannot, will not or are too lazy.
Expect your results to hot up by following these tips whatever the weather...
Expressing confidence while leaving room for uncertainty - you never truly know how a serious but more truthful conversation (and that's what a great sales pitch is) could really help you get your point across and gain some genuine traction with Ms or Mr Big.
If someone tells you they are absolutely certain how the flip of a coin will work out then they are seriously undermining their credibility. They should not be surprised that you are sceptical.
That's so true with sales pitches. The absolutely certain cheeky chappy or nervous wreck on the phone are the biggest turn offs. You lose before you even the start the race. Be cool, calm and above all be collected. Collect your thoughts and look at your script before going off on a rambling monologue about having all the answers. Take this tip folks.
You will work with people doing this, maybe you? Imagine you, yourself, as a business owner and a young, or not so young, nervous , bubbling cold caller gets through to you on a subject that really is of interest to you as you have been struggling for a long time with a certain aspect of the business. And this call could be the beginning of the answer.... so you listen to the opening lines...
Your interest will quickly turn to suspicion or disdain if your young caller starts telling you about the certainty they have that their company can instantly transform your own company. They tell you their products and services fix everything, they have the answers and you would be mad not to buy and yes it does this, that and everything else...some of which will be totally inaccurate.
They ignore the fact that you have had the issue for a long time and usually never ask such a question about you or how long or what type of issue you are facing. They give you the battering ram pitch. They predict everything with certainty and they are wrong.
In your personal life you will have these feelings with people who predict the outcomes of sporting events with certainty, the weather with certainty, movements on the stock market with certainty, the outcome of elections with certainty. Forecasting anything with certainty. Forecasting the Winners of horse races is my best example. It's all puffery. It's all nonsense as it's the same with a sales pitch.
Don't forget, everyone has more belief in people who express an opinion with confidence rather than wet and woolly people who seriously doubt themselves ("I'm not sure but I think....") . That is too far down the road of not being certain, so avoid that please. Use your loaf... that is not what I am suggesting.
The point is that total certainty in a position where total certainty is not a truthful option to offer is not going to score you many, if any, points with mature business owners and managers.
People prefer polite, confident but measured advisors. ( I am 80% sure that Dusty Carpet will not be beaten in the Derby is a way of getting your advice across every time. ) That's when they will see you for a meeting or take your advice properly, even seriously.
Try and work this into your pitch. Don't come across as the guy or Girl with the answer to everything and immediately. That is crass.
Be the person who is confident, even 80% sure but not making wild claims of being the perfect partner. That's why you need the meeting...
Follow the advice and your success rates when making cold calls to meetings and getting in front of people will soar.
Start changing some of your work patterns guys. Some of you really do need to step up and perform well now. The woolly pitches and garbage chat have to go. Start listening to your own calls if you have call recording. Please don't just agree with me and then go back to being yourself on the phone. My help is about making you change to be a top caller as I was. Ignore me and you float around the bottom of the fish tank for evermore.
I feel sure you are mostly potentially better than floating at the bottom of the fish tank and I urge you to prove it.
Confidence in the field of telesales canvassing, telephone selling, and meetings making has long been the biggest issue for most practitioners of each. Sales managers and business owners often scratch their heads in dismay when looking at sales figures. Part of this is often the very unrealistic expectations from people running a company who are never involved in the grunt work of making the calls. Those that do make the calls are eager to please but just can't get far past the target setting meetings without some form of rot setting in early.
As often as not, everyone starts out on the wrong foot. It's not just you, it's everyone. Happy days when targets are met but I am focusing on the struggle that often occurs.
I get many owners saying that they listen to their team and seriously wonder what they are doing and saying as they garble their way through introductions and pitches. Everyone looks at confidence and ultimately everyone sees the problem as a lack of confidence . However this normally has to be explained to them and the right procedures and process introduced. This is what I do. I take Rag, Tag and Bobtail and make them a fighting machine.
Am I right or wrong? A lack of confidence is indeed the main reason for the woeful figures many telephone sales teams return. For me it's simple to see where the problem is. Not because I am a know-all but because I lived through this multiple times with many teams. Over ambitious targets aligned with underperforming teams . Also about 25% of those tasked with meeting making and selling over the phone suffer a more than average need for approval. They cannot stomach perceived rejection and secretly desire permanent affirmation of their value in life . Not a great way to be for telephone work is it ? Some need a push out of the business, sad to say.
I ask everyone to take themselves back to their education. In every case if examinations and University degrees have been passed it is greatly due to the pupils and undergraduates having done work at home. It was called "homework" at school and college and we all did it and most of us passed the exams. But now?
As soon as we get into the workplace there is this train of thought that tells us that it's our employers duty to train us and pass on knowledge and all this has to be done in the employers' time only. Nobody in sales reads much and the idea of self-improvement is not a part of many people's agenda anymore. You may be thinking this is a bit of a rant but it's useful to know. Most people I know working in telesales simply pitch up at their office and shoot from the hip in a highly unprofessional and undisciplined way. There are exceptions, and I have helped many of them.
The best people will always be the best people. Usually they are packing more into their days. They are packing some time in at home researching on the internet and they are alive to learning opportunities and have a sparkling outlook not seen in the rest of a team. They come to work buzzed up for the challenges of the day.
This, of course, is the crazy bit. If you are to excel in the workplace and be confident on the phones then there is nothing that will help you more than firstly practice and secondly your own homework done at home just the same as you did at school. I am referring in part to the company website. You learn it backwards. I am referring to product knowledge and any brochures, any handbooks that your company has. You learn them backwards. Industry journals, White papers, your competition's websites and products. All these things are the key to your success with regard to confidence. Please stop blaming other things for your lack of confidence. Confidence reigns supreme when you absolutely know what you are talking about and your clients are not tripping you up or holding their phones in disbelief as you continue to spout garbage, confusion and your basic lack of knowledge or interest (or both).
The answer for all of us is to become experts and very much in our own time not our employer's time. That is the answer to phone confidence and your lack of it. It always is the answer and it always has been. Homework guys ! Do some serious homework every week. Put this into practice and you will thank me one day for this advice, although that day is hardly going to be today!
Do the above and then have confidence in your products and in yourself. That all comes from the additional product knowledge and self discovery. Trying to get better at actual selling requires commitment rather than the idea being put on a wish list. You cannot wish yourself better at sales and meeting making.
One final point that was illustrated very clearly to me by a stranger at a dinner party recently. This person, female, appeared as being very gregarious and once she knew what I do for a living couldn't wait to tell me how she had a high powered job but worked from home. In her forties and was petrified of cold calling and yet was one of the most confident people I have met in a long time. Her reason was fear of the phone apparently. The more she carried on selling me her ideas of her shortcomings the more convinced I became that this had little or nothing to do with lack of confidence. Her particular issue was a catatonic fear of rejection.
Many, many people, cannot deal with rejection on the phone. With proper coaching I am able to get about 50% of people over this problem. Only 50%. Due to upbringing and past experiences some will never get past that fear of rejection. These are needy people who need positive and permanent confirmation of their own worth. I am often explaining to people how their attitude on their phone calls would be very, very different if they were appealing to or instructing their own children or partners. It's a way of showing people how they need to seriously 'up' their commitment to the job in hand of persuading others. It's not about them it's all about how important they take their communication and effect on others. As with advising your children not to step out into the road from a pavement too quickly. You will never get that instruction wrong but you will get your phone sales pitches wrong. It's just often not important enough to you. You are hoping to make calls and just get lucky. Sad, but true.
Meanwhile most people can get over these fears and phobias provided they have some drive and ability to take on board some straight talking. This is where an experienced and fluent telephone sales coach can really help.
Your confidence issues are never insurmountable. You have to take measures to become an expert on your subject and then it all kind of flows very easily. Neither your boss or I can do this for you. Get weaving on yourself and your company and its products and services is my very best advice. Become the company expert. And stop being precious about rejection.
"Look after your prospects or else your competitors will do that for you".
A number of Manchester United players do not have the mental fortitude to represent the club according to manager Jose Mourinho. As usual this was said before quite a big game but does have a "ring of truth" to it. They went on to win the big game which proves his motivational skill once again. The following rant did the trick. I can use it as a direct comparison for telephone teams.
The United manager admitted that his squad were worryingly bereft of players with a winner's mentality, which is one of the reasons why they have fallen so far behind Manchester City, the Premier League champions this year with a record 100 points.
"How many points separate us from Manchester City? It's not two, three or four. It's a lot of points" said Mourinho when asked if there was a lack of quality or an issue with the mindset of his players.
"We need both things," he said. "Some of the people have to be more consistent and we need more quality. I trust some more than others that can bridge the gap. Some players, I am convinced, they are going to make it. Some, I have good hopes, that they are going to make it, and some others I don't believe are going to make it”.
Mourinho believes that the fact that United have lost away from home to all three of the teams promoted last season proves the lack of mental strength.
"When you lose against all the teams that were promoted it doesn't smell right to me" Mourinho said. "I have to try to succeed in getting every player to have the same mentality as I have - to face every team in the same way”.
Unfortunately for Mourinho he feels he will be facing the same mental fragility next season too. " Unless you have a perfect squad you have to keep players you don't love. - I say 'love' footballistically and players you don't totally believe have the same level of the squad".
When asked about a footballer's most important attribute Mourinho said "The most important quality is to be a man, MAN capitals, a proper man, and football is not full of them. And not just football, society is not full of them."
What interests me about the interview is the parallel universe of football as described here and the business world and sales teams. We are all part of squads the same as being in football teams. The question I will pose here is where are you in Mourinho's estimation of the mental "level" of the squad ? Are you above the line or below the line? One of your challenges in any sales business is to ensure you end the week, the month or the year above the line. You all should be able to think of six new ways or improvements to existing ways of working that will bring you above the line. I want the best of you to email me your ways that should ensure you end up top of Mr. Mourinho's mentality team sheet.
This challenge is not about company targets as many things can affect that. It is about being above the line. We can all accomplish that. I am currently reading a sales book of 1981. It’s called Shut Up and Sell. The authors says if you are a top salesman how many books have you read on sales and motivation? He thinks it needs to be 30 or 40. I personally have 200 on sales, psychology of sales and persuasion. Many reading this will never have owned or read a single book on sales. You will hang around the shallow end of the sales pool all your life on that basis.
Get to grips with your life and your sales ability with the help of others or quite simply quit and get a job with the local council. Some of you should not even be in sales. It's a sad truth. Others could be so much better and it's all about how much we need and how much of yourself you devote to this career or is it just another job to fill out your twenties and thirties ? I meet many who are suffocating themselves with negative thinking or externalising all their sales failure to price, product or anything they can grab hold of. Get a huge grip on yourself before your personal clouds become terminal. Selling is 100% about being up for stuff and opportunities so don't blame others for your own inability.
That's the challenge from me. For the few at the top of the tree you need to keep this up. In sales you are only ever as good as that last stellar performance. Consistency is a hard task master and is maintained by the guys at the top who have process, flexibility, focus, drive and a winning smile.
Think about it. It is within almost all of you to be at the top.
Expect a performance boost of 15- 40% if you conform to each of the following tips...
Part of my life is spent "going on a bit" with people. I am sure this is quite annoying to some. Trouble is, it works. However, where it works, it works really well and we all end up happy. Truly. This is because I focus on where people need to be with their work and their attitude to it. I focus on their focus and check that their focus is in the right place to achieve the very best. I help people produce their very best version of themselves.I have struggled with many over the years yet some of the hardest nuts become my best supporters. Coaching is what I do and I don't mind the struggle. Some reading this have experienced that struggle and now enjoy "Happy Days". You have told me so. For others my suggestion is to please start taking the uncomplicated advice offered. I do meet resistance. I do meet defensiveness. Finally I can meet obstructive and defeatist people. They are all part of the rainbow of personalities that life throws up. Only the terminally defeatist and continuously obstructive cannot be helped. They have no focus. They don't see it that they need to change and stop being the person that is not attracting other people in sufficient quantities. A lot of us are just inexperienced and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Everyone starts somewhere and the talent you have is mainly already inside you. It just needs coaching out of you.
If you are not the best, and that's most of us, I suggest you shadow the best in your office if there is one ! Invariably they won't mind. It's only poor people who mind helping others sometimes. Shadow the best but don't be a pest is my advice. Also the 'best' comes in many forms in sales. You can still be the best in certain attributes even if not the best overall.
Sit next to the best if you can. Do observe how they are often very orderly in their own way. Very on the ball, very disciplined (maybe not with paperwork) on the phone in their own way and have perfected a certain methodology on the phone. That good performance is backed up usually by a great ear. They listen well.
Second is great delivery. The best have summed people up mentally as they go along. Often right, sometimes wrong. Percentage wise they win. They convert enough to make their style work for them. They accept that they don't win every call. By delivering the same level of excellence to each potential client they attract those who will place an order. That is consistency. Consistency in delivery is very important. Be the best every time when speaking and listening. That way you capture almost every opportunity. If there is no opportunity you move on. The best are quickest to spot the "no opportunity" and recognise it and move on. They can see where a potential client has disqualified himself.
Every call is won or lost. Either you persuade the potential client to do something or that same potential client or his gatekeeper persuade you they are not doing something. This is a simple and very true outcome. Write this down, seriously write it down and remember. Either you win or the potential client wins. No banana for second place. You can always learn from second place but you will never get the banana. A win is not necessarily an order of course. A win is a positive outcome, an advance in the process from before you made the call.
Remember this: Not everyone wants to even consider buying from you, the cold caller. They may have an existing relationship. They are happy to pay a little more for the great service they are currently receiving. They really don't want to talk to you to save a measly %. What you should be doing is attempting to be the nice guy and build the platform for the future. I have told every single person that buys into me that what you should be doing with happy people is position yourself for when their supplier drops the ball and they become unhappy. We all drop the ball, not just rugby players. I have done it and frankly if you have not done it you are from another planet. Or more simply, I do not believe you.
I always tell my clients that focus is their single best ally. It's the best word you can use in an interview . So, if you have focus tell your interviewer. In your work you focus on the next call all the time. If you focus on doing the next call to your best then your morning looks after itself. That way your day looks after itself and so on. This is exactly how to work. You need no other ideas on making the best use of your day on the phone. Focus.
Focus is all about the small stuff. Look after the small stuff as well as you can and watch the big picture of a great month unravel. Bring targets down to the immediate future. Have a target to fulfil in the morning. Again, it's that simple. Daydreaming on weekly and monthly targets is just that. Stop that stinking thinking and focus in the here and now.
Your target by the way is not a number of sales or meetings set. That is the outcome of doing the work and is a yardstick you are judged on . Your own personal target is calls made, time recorded being on the phone. That's what should be your target each day. Clearly you need good prospects to be calling and I am assuming that here. Doing the work and doing plenty of it is the key. Your target is to be busy, be industrious, make the calls and with the right enthusiasm and a smile on your face. These are the attributes of a focused worker.
When you consider all the opportunities you have to let yourself off the hook each day you will understand that focus on what needs to be done is the most important ingredient. If you cultivate this attitude everything else will follow. Percentage wise the focused salesperson will always win in the end. You cannot win everything and you will not expect to but you will steadily climb any ladders put up in front of you is my very experienced guess.
Final tip. Cold calling is like the spin of a roulette wheel. As long as the wheel itself is not fixed in favour of the casino your chance on winning anything remains the same from one spin to the next. Each new call is a new opportunity. Try hard not to be influenced by the past spins of the wheel this week. Keep an open mind on each new call. This is a hard hitting message and only because it's so important. My message is not to give you a hard time but rather to suggest you give yourself a bit of a hard time.
Those of you working with me and interested in getting your scripts correct will have my advice available to help you craft and deliver the best lines to entice your potential clients over the phone. You have to write them of course and then we can improve them as time goes by to deliver what you need in order to get positive responses! You need to be realistic on outcomes. You also need to be creative and draw in help from colleagues.
For those members of the wider business community reading this blog here are a couple of reasons for having a script and a few tips.
There is little you will hear on the radio or watch on TV that has not been scripted in some form, either completely or partially. Same thing for the theatre. So there is an enormous clue in there. Scripts work, good scripts work even better. Not having a script is like swerving around on a runaway horse.
Only a small number of companies are using a script for telesales and even less using a methodology for their teams to be delivering a concise and clear message that is truly consistent each time they deliver it and across the board. A good script leads to a commitment. Most people doing the same job in sales are seemingly selling something different to their colleagues ! It's not just what you sell it's how you promote it that draws in the clients. It's how you distinguish the features and benefits as the old story goes. Knowing when to push on with what you say and absolutely, and consistently, knowing when to shut up. The ability to shut up in sales is one of the top traits of the best in sales.
The most scripted sounding people are, not surprisingly, those who have no script who talk about not wanting to sound scripted ! They often, but not always, regurgitate the same amateur garbage presentation delivered at 100 miles an hour to everyone they speak to. They miss things out in every call. I hear it in offices across the land. They have made their own style up. Sometimes it works well but often it is poor in comparison to what should really be being conveyed across the board. They also miss the point that whilst they are overfamiliar with what they are saying it is usually the first time their prospect has heard it. A bit of a mismatch often occurs.
Old style sales companies, the names of which will be lost to most reading this, based their phenomenal sales success on scripts . (The most famous being NCR in America. The National Cash Register company). Yellow Pages would have been another, The Ford Motor company another. These were cornerstone companies in sales. Much of their fantastic methodology has been lost in the digital age. People buy from people, they always have. A point worth remembering.
Every unscripted call made will be full of garbage phrasing, pausing, umms and ahhs and when people ask questions they will reply with "well, to tell you the truth" or "to be honest". Don't take my word for it. Listen to this stuff in your own offices.
There is a pitching process that will be individual to each company. If you don't have that process you will be struggling. I give all my clients the process that we discuss and will most likely be the template for their future success on the phone. It's not usually straightforward and indeed does vary from one company to another even within the same industry.
Role play with a good friend at work is great. First thing in the morning. Role play with anyone in authority at your company is not going to work. Role play with me is not going to work either ! Only with a friend please. My website and every sinew of my body tells me to advise no role play with anyone you feel subservient to and are not on very good terms with. Not only does it not work it rapidly becomes counter-productive. This is my personal opinion.
Better than role play for most people is the following. It's the best free tip you will get for the telephone. When you have your killer script you need to practice it out loud in front of a mirror. If it does not sound right then it will not be right. Like an actor on stage in a play you have to keep practising until you get it right. Or at least you feel you have it right. It can always be modified once you have experience of using it. Always be listening in your calls for what works and what clearly might hit the buffers with potential clients.
Finally, please don't think you are too smart for a script. The smartest people I have ever known in sales have used scripts. Scripts for me are a no brainier but people without brains will rarely have a script. Try it, ask for advice and make it your own. You will not look back.
One of the best and easiest scripts to construct is a SKELETON where you list down the main points of your script in the shape of a fish bone and starting at the tail you work towards your eventual goal with script which is represented by the head. Draw the fish bone and add your key points. Using this will prevent you or the client meandering too much. This method is easy and completely works.
The above is just a simple guide to the subject. Getting it right will be one of the main challenges for any telephone sales team and any meeting making team.
Please don't read this tip and forget it. I am in touch with a lot of people who are picking up stuff from me and running with it. I hope that includes you.
If you are truly followers of my advice you will implement what I am advising. It is certainly NOT as easy as it seems. You need to make a real effort every single day to be a Top Smiler. Smiling we can all do outside of work. Getting the knack of this in work where there is often not much to smile about is a true challenge. Don't dismiss this challenge as something you "do all the time ". None of us do. I struggle sometimes. Yet I know it is what I should be maintaining. An easy smile makes my work so much easier. You will find this too.
Business owners and managers should take notice of this post and constantly urge good humour and smiling in the team. I see many, many business-like offices where, frankly, it's just all too serious. Sales is a contact sport and it is incumbent upon each of you to lighten up. A lightened-up salesperson is the professional way. It really is. Smile as you dial, as the old saying says.
Never frown, never be too professional, too formal or just too clever.
Many, many pieces of medical research point to smiling being the absolute deal maker in conversation and so it is in face to face sales and also telephone sales and making meetings. (Don't forget always make meetings do not set appointments). You make appointments with Doctors, Dentists and Lawyers. In business you should be arranging MEETINGS. I really hope none of you are still appointment making? Arggggghhh!! Ask people for a meeting, stop being so formal.
Studies have repeatedly shown that smiling or frowning can make people feel happier and more anxious respectively. The secret of smiling is perhaps that it helps people relax. That is, it helps you and the client to relax. Consciously trying to 'relax' never really works although we all tell each other to relax. The thing with smiling is that when you really practice it and do it then, of course, you end up relaxing. Being relaxed is, in my book, the easier way to get your sales and set your meetings. This is true no matter how many brochures, facts and figures you have. You win with a smile.
Use this daily checklist to keep you on track and on your toes…
1. When you come to work in the morning are you ready as an actor would be to go on stage? Or are you recovering from the night before? Or are you distracted by all the things going on in your life and not really connected to your day at the office? Attitude is the most important key indicator to telesales performance.
2. Do you sit up at your desk or do you slump into it and remain crumpled for most of the day? Posture and agility are indicators to performance
3. Are you even dressed as a successful person or sitting there with weekend clothes on, even a coat or baseball cap on? Dress and smartness is a key indicator to performance. Shoes or trainers? You decide but you know the answer. I have never known anyone who wears a coat in an office to survive more than a couple of weeks. Be warned. Dress properly for work.
4. Whatever time your day starts are you ready to start? Think of athletes toning up their muscles for the race ahead. Or is your desk a mess full of food, handbags, shopping and open social media? Preparedness is a key indicator to performance. Get to work early, please don't be the one rushing in with a minute to spare. People who do this consistently do it and it's a real sign that you don't even want to be there. Stop that behaviour now.
5. Do you have a morning meeting where the team discuss the order of the day and important strategies to be followed and generally encourage each other forwards? A meeting ensuring everyone is ready to give their best is an empowering part of daily preparation for phone work. Get one going even if you have to ask the boss to instigate it. It is one of the bigger indicators to a good day ahead. Everyone comes in ready and on time for the meeting.
6. Are you geared up to reply to emails with phone calls? Do you have any real idea how much more powerful a call is than email? Are you seriously looking at email and working out the best strategy and timing of a call back to advance this sale or appointment? Thinking straight is a key indicator to performance. Simply keeping the ping-pong of email going is the pits in a telephone sales office. Get some action going.
7. Is your head clear, is your voice clear, are your eyes and body alert for the mental gymnastics you will be doing for the day? If you are not in tune then snap out of that mood and really focus on your job please. Do not indulge in any negative gossip. Avoid the bad apple in the team and if you are the bad apple do please try and grow up. Otherwise you will be hitting the exit quickly in a well run office.
8. Check your enthusiasm. That's like a driver checking they have fuel and oil in the tank before setting off on a journey. Are you seriously geared up for that first call so that you hit the ground running and jump all the fences and maximise every opportunity thrown your way right from that first encounter with a new company, new lead, new person, new problem. Your golden client, the cornerstone of your month could be that first person you call today.
9. Are you in tune with your call backs and when and how they should be made? Have you encouraged all your potential clients to call you back and are you diarising them to call back especially where they have not taken your hint to call you back. A key element in all calls is to attempt to get the recipient to call you back. Ask around, ask me about this. It is a dynamite strategy.
10. The seat you occupy is valuable to the company. More and more companies are focusing on the value of the seat rather than the person occupying it. Be very careful and very mindful to stick to the suggestions given above. Continued employment is dependent upon results these days not who you are or what you say you know. It's all about results. Use the above as a template for the start of your day and generally you will have more success, more luck, more results and more income.
These ideas are not for you to be defensive about. They are what I learned to be essential and personal to longevity in a telephone sales office seat. Just turning up and shooting from the hip or turning up and not picking up the phone with expertise and enthusiasm will guarantee the loss of your seat at some point. Be the man or woman who gets it where what is required is provided by you each day. Be very competent.
Final point. Curries, heavy drinking etc and anything else that induce sickies are not allowed between Sunday and Thursday nights. Get yourself to work on time as if your job depended on it. And be very fit for the work. Passengers on your bus will be easily spotted.
None of the above check list is difficult. You know this and I know this. Just be professional and do it. I am often either thanked for this advice or totally ignored. The people who thank me are usually still in the job six months later. It's your choice.
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 are more than enough sales training tips and information, and every resource you need to know about for sales. Most is 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 training 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 in your company. Selling without a coach on board is like sailing without a rudder. That's where I like to think professional sales training 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 if 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.
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? Has Stephen Hawking got time? All of you 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 servicing 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. If you are not on commission or a sales bonus then that last part does not apply.
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 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 and prospects.
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 has 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 for 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 though, really zoom in. Be prepared with several calls to make.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. 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". Say that to your busy clients and you will get better results. 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.